Post-Debate Thoughts

[ Posted Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 – 20:56 UTC ]

Tonight's loser in the debate was... the media spin.

Both candidates had the same pre-debate tactics, and both attempted exactly the same thing. They both tried to "psyche out" their opponent by warning how hard they were going to fight. It didn't work for either of them. Neither one of them really took the bait, and the entire debate was a snoozefest compared to what it was billed as.

But aside from that, the debate itself was notable only for how the candidates walked all over Tom Brokaw's flashing lights. They both realized early on that Brokaw was just not going to penalize either of them for going over their time limit, and so they basically ignored him for most of the debate. He even tried to plead at one point "Gentlemen, you may not have noticed, but we have flashing lights around here" (all quotes are taken not from transcripts, but from hastily-jotted notes, I should point out, all transcription errors are mine). Brokaw actually had the funniest line of the night as well, when the candidates went to shake hands with each other at the end of the debate, and Brokaw had to tell them to get out of the way of his TelePrompTer.

Before I get to the actual content of the debate, I do have one odd observation. Or perhaps that should be "one observation of something odd." Ahem. Anyway, after the debate was over, the spouses joined the candidates in the central stage, and they all shook hands with each other. Then John McCain, Barack Obama, and Michelle Obama all worked the crowd, shaking as many hands as they could. Cindy McCain stood well away from the public, with her hands prominently behind her back. She did shake Brokaw's hand, but I didn't see her shake the hand of a single member of the public. Now, this is one of those intangible things, and it's the candidate's wife not the candidate, but I wonder if anyone else will notice this in the next day or so.


The Debate

I normally don't spend time here talking about John McCain, but I will say this for him -- he learned the lessons of the first debate. In the first debate, he didn't talk about the middle class, he wouldn't look at Obama, and he came off angry and dismissive. Tonight, he talked about the middle class (or at least tried to), he acknowledged Obama on the stage, and he never got as angry or emotional as he appeared in the first debate. He was, however still dismissive, and one particular moment might stick with people. McCain was talking about health care, and he referred to Obama merely as "that one," while pointing vaguely in Obama's direction He was talking about energy, and he said "You know who voted for it? That one." This struck me as incredibly disrespectful, and apparently I wasn't the only one. The CBS group of uncommitted voters told Katie Couric how it sounded to them: "childish," "aggressive," "wasn't respectful," and one man from New Hampshire said this debate has pushed him into Obama's camp, saying it was "picky, childish" of McCain. McCain also followed this up with a cheap shot at Joe Biden by asking whether health care should cover "hair transplants." McCain looked, at times, kind of lost on the stage, and meandered a bit when talking. And he kept waiting for audience reactions (laugh lines, applause lines) and looked a bit confused when there was no response.

Barack Obama I thought had a great night. He was only shaky once or twice, he only lapsed into professorial demeanor once or twice, and he appeared for the most part to be genuinely trying to answer the actual question. McCain did a lot worse in this respect.

Both of them were pretty subdued, actually, both in voice and in body language. There were no real confrontations, they both looked fairly relaxed, and both looked comfortable talking with the voters.

Obama did a much better job tonight of hitting McCain with his record, without overdoing it. Several times -- on alternative fuels, on children's health, etc. -- Obama threw McCain's votes in his face. This is good, and shows Obama also learned a few lessons from the first debate. Obama stood up for himself, and even tossed a subtle zinger or two at McCain (such as naming General McKiernan, whom Sarah Palin called "McClellan"). But his best moment of the night was when he came back at McCain on being "serious" about foreign policy by bringing up McCain's "bomb bomb Iran" moment, and McCain's calling for the obliteration of North Korea. This utterly undermined the point McCain was trying to make, and it threw McCain obviously on the defensive.

I wonder what the lady who asked the question that prompted this exchange thought of the two candidates' answers to her question, personally. She asked about Pakistan, and whether we should go after targets in Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government. She seemed sincere, which is why I wonder what she thought of the two answers.

Obama did slip up a few times, at one point saying that Bush's foreign policy had "made us more safe" when he obviously meant to say "less safe." But overall, for both candidates, it seemed pretty gaffe-free.

They both closed well, although I'd have to give Obama the edge on his final answer versus McCain's.



I am always leery of loudly proclaiming who "won" and "lost" debates of this type in general. I thought neither candidate overwhelmingly "won" and neither overwhelmingly "lost." I thought Obama did a better job answering the questions he was given, and connecting with the audience. But McCain was much better than his first debate, and much calmer. Since neither one was the clear and away winner, I think this helps Obama. McCain really needed a big win, and he didn't get one. He tried introducing a big new idea (some sort of mortgage help), but without details left many confused what he was really talking about (I expect the McCain campaign to try to use this to revitalize themselves in the next few days, though). McCain may have slowed or even stopped his dramatic fall in the polls, but he probably won't turn them around and start the momentum going his way full force, either. Obama did nothing to damage himself, and once again looked mighty presidential to America. We'll know more in a few days from the polls, but I didn't see anything tonight that made me think this debate will in any way be a game-changing moment for John McCain.

Which means Obama may have sealed his victory tonight. Only time will tell.


-- Chris Weigant


21 Comments on “Post-Debate Thoughts”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Watching this town hall - well, as much of it as I could handle - left me wishing that we could have another VP debate...or, better yet...wouldn't it be great if the candidates could debate each others VP...oh, least one of those would really get my juices running!

    While I agree the neither candidate rocked the house...or the boat, for that matter...according to some of the insta-polls, it seems that at least half of the Independents are breaking for Obama, maybe more...if that continues, and why shouldn't it, we may soon be able to breath a sigh of relief, or two.

  2. [2] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Obama did better but he still needs work for the next one. Though he was good at answering the questions for the most part, he had too long of a wind up and too consistently it included an attack on McCain first then give an answer. Also, it would be nice for them to actually answer a question from time to time rather than twisting it to their prepared talking points. The questions are predictable enough. Obama should have a few really good well thought out policy specific plans that can pulled out through out the debate. Alternate the attack and talking point answer with just an answer but in a politically realistic and detailed form that takes up the exact time given. I think this would be a powerful combo.

    Obama had his annoying moments, but it paled in comparison with McCains talking down to us like we were idiot childern. That just doesn't work. At all. Hopefully he keeps it up.

    And no, John I'm not your friend.

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    BashiBazouk -

    I'm interested, since I was kind of neutral and most of the web seems to think "Obama won;" what were Obama's annoying moments for you? I thought Obama's weakest moment came when asked to define an "Obama Doctrine" where he kind of floundered for a while, but ended strong. But, like I said, I'm interested in what you thought Obama's bad moments were.

    Elizabeth -

    Tomorrow's column will be a fun one. Poll time!


  4. [4] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Chris, one of our shortcomings as partisans is the inability to see forests for trees. We're blinded by our self-enforced objectivity, so we pretend there's a boxing scorecard. It doesn't work that way. Taken as a whole, I have to say that McCain improved, but not as much as Obama; he ruined McCain tonight, and McCain ruined himself. "That one" and the non-handshake are going to dominate discussion at the water cooler. This or that 'fact' will be utterly forgotten, but everyone will remember that McCain seemed winded. No one will recall his talking points, but they will all remember him stalking around the stage channeling Gollum from Lord of the Rings. (And yes, I stole that from Bob Cesca.)

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Osborne Ink -

    Did McCain not shake Obama's hand? I gotta go review the tape on that one. I was flipping channels at that point, and saw the end of the exchange -- where McCain pivoted to Cindy, and then Obama shook Cindy's hand. I must admit, though, I missed the beginning, and just assumed that McCain and Obama had just finished shaking hands. Wow. If you're right, that's shocking.

    I still say Cindy came off as elitist in the first few minutes afterwards. Also, both McCains seemed to rush for the exits, whereas Barack and Michelle looked like they were staying until they had shaken everyone's hand who wanted to.

    Anyway, someone fill me in... did McCain actually refuse to shake Obama's hand?


  6. [6] 
    BLaws wrote:

    Yes, McCain refused to shake his hand. It was very clear on the video. Obama went up and extended his hand, McCain just motioned towards Cindy and didn't take Obama's hand. So Obama shook Cindy's hand.

    When you add in the following things:

    McCain nearly immediately turning his back on the black woman who asked the one question.
    McCain telling the young black guy "You probably don't even know who's these companies are" on a question he just asked about.
    McCain calling Obama "that one"
    McCain refusing to shake his hand.

    I think you are going to see this start to play in the media more. If they start tossing in how McCain opposed MLK day... It could be a very troublesome problem for McCain who is now trying to paint Obama as "other", "dangerous", "radical", "different". It might backfire big time.

  7. [7] 
    BLaws wrote:

    As for Cindy not shaking hands with the crowd...

    I noticed it, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt in that she just recently had a broken wrist, reported to be from an aggressive handshake, so it might still be tender enough, physically or emotionally, that she is uncomfortable shaking hands.

  8. [8] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    I think what annoyed me about Obama's performance was the over all cadence of his answers. As I said before the wind up was too consistent and repeated too often. After a few questions I was thinking: Ok, I get it, McCain voted or didn't vote for such and such. Just answer the dam question.

    It would also impress me if either candidate would give a real answer to the more esoteric questions to which there is usually one, maybe two per debate. Last night's example: that last question was seriously dodged by both candidates. If they could give a real answer it would show the ability to think on their feet, get away from the talking points and give themselves a bit of humility which if done right plays well with the voters.

  9. [9] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I was disappointed that both candidates tried to avoid answering many of the questions. I was also disappointed that neither seemed to have a "doctrine" ready. This campaign has been very long and these candidates have had plenty of time to develop some substantive policies but yet again all we got was vague fluff.

  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    BLaws -

    OK, a few handshaky points. Cindy's wrist... I had forgotten that one, and retract my earlier comment. You are right -- she's got a good reason not to be shaking hands right now. This is hard, but I have to offer my apology to Cindy McCain.

    That's number one... Number two...

    McCain and Obama did actually shake hands. Almost nobody caught it on camera, but I hear ABC did. It happened when Brokaw was trying to read his script (talk about not being able to be spontaneous, eh Brokaw?). They were in Brokaw's way because they met in the middle of the stage and shook hands with each other. The later incident did appear to be a McCain snub, but in reality he was just presenting his wife to Obama so they could shake hands. If their mikes were live, you might have heard "My wife just broke her wrist from a handshake, so please be gentle shaking her hand" from McCain, or something similar.

    How's that for a mea culpa?

    Michale -

    You know, I hadn't added all those up, but you may be on to something here...


  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    Michale -

    You know, I hadn't added all those up, but you may be on to something here…

    OK, now I am confused... Do you mean 'fstanley'???

    Sorry, I haven't been around..

    I have been over on HuffPo nuking and totally devestating the hysterical Left claim that someone yelled "KILL HIM" during a Palin rally...

    Almost 1200 posts.. I think it's a personal best for me.. :D


  12. [12] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:


    That should have been "BLaws."

    Looks like it's my day for apologizing all around. Sorry to both of you for the mixup...


  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    I haven't really been following the story, so I don't know all the facts, but I did hear the Secret Service is looking into the guy. They check out all threats of this nature. So I don't know, one way or another, and will wait for further info.

    I'm more upset, personally, that Palin supporters called a cameraman a racial epithet (unspecified, but we can all guess what it was) and told him to "sit down, boy!"


  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hey Michale!

    How many deletions did you get in that run!?

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Isn't it funny how the more you pay attention to Joe Biden, the more you start talking like him!? And, don’t the phrases just kinda grow on ya after a time? :-)

    I don't laugh very much at what Governor Palin has to say - "she represents a fatal cancer on the Republican Party", after all - but, the other day I couldn't help but laugh out loud when she said, at one of her rallies, "Ladies and Gentlemen..."! She probably had an ‘OMG What did I just blurt out’ moment...I sound just like...OMG! Well, you know what they say...imitation is the highest form of flattery.

    I guess, in the Governor’s case, it may come from studying and dreaming about Biden's speeches for the last month or so in preparation for the VP debate and general campaign.

    I promise one thing - I’m never gonna say ‘my friend(s)’ again...

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:


    The ONLY reason the USSS is "investigating" is solely because of the reports on the blog.. Over 1200 posts and not ONE SINGLE person has been able to produce ANY proof of the "Kill Him" yell. Here's my latest:


    Here's the thing, LynB...

    I was a cop.. I investigated things.. I was also a military/intelligence analyst.. I analyzed events and people..

    In this case, you have DOZENS of "witnesses" who claim to have seen and heard this video.. They swear up and down and six ways from Sunday that it's clear as a bell...

    Now, let's look at the facts..

    FACT #1... Not ONE of theses DOZENS of witnesses can substantiate their claim... Not ONE single person...

    FACT #2... There is NO investigation of these events going on by ANY agency, save the USSS. And THAT investigation was SOLELY prompted by comments made in blogs about the alleged threat..

    FACT #3... The USSS & EVERY LEA that was present at the rally reported NO SUCH threat or statement was EVER made in their presence. And you can bet that their presence was substantial..

    FACT #4... Not ONE person present at the rally reported such a statement was yelled out..

    These are the facts of this incident.. They are undisputed...

    Now, given these facts, what would ANY logical or rational person conclude, let alone someone with a background in these things??

    Using Occam's Razor, what is more likely??

    That someone yelled out "KILL HIM" loud enough to be recorded on video, yet NO ONE present heard it, including a dozen police agencies..

    Or this is simply a hysterical ploy concocted by the Left in order to cast aspirations on the Right...

    Which is the most likely explanation??

    That's where things stand now..

    I have to say, it's pretty piss poor of the hysterical Left to try to pass one over on the general public, if that is indeed what is happening...


    I am up to 650 DELETIONS to date.. :D I think I amassed at least a couple hundred today and yesterday alone.. But, out of 3700 posts, that's not too bad...

    Here is the thread if anyone wants to join in... :D


  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    "650 deletions...not too bad"? That's nothing short of a cryin' shame. It really makes me wonder why we even bother posting there anymore...damnit, we're better than the HP speech inhibitors!

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    I actually don't mind it TOO much. Yea, it's annoying when I spend a lot of time on a post, only to see it discarded.. But I back up everything I post and, if I see it didn't make the cut, I resubmit it. Usually, I get a different Mod and it'll make it thru.

    It's actually good for me because, as you know, I can get a bit passionate in my dealings.. :D The HuffPo mods prevent me from getting too out of control and actually help me maintain my reputation as a cool and calm and rational poster. :D

    It's actually fun being the voice of logic and reason amongst all the hysterical people over there. :D


  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ...true, that...

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well, the thread over at HuffPo seems to be dying down, so I thought I would share my last (sheeya right! :D) post there... Note that it is in "HuffPo Format" (250 Word Limit) to give the HuffPo virgins an idea of how hard it is to post there.. :D

    As an aside to Elizabeth, I am up to 672 deletions. :D

    PART 1

    Well, since this thread is dying down, allow me to summarize for any newcomers who don't want to read thru 36 pages of comments.

    Yes, some mean and nasty things were said about Obama at Palin & McCain rallies. People yelled "Treason" and "Terrorist" directed towards Obama and that is simply deplorable.. Palin & McCain should have immediately and forcefully corrected those dirtbags and state unequivocally that such rants are unwelcome and untrue...

    However, I am constrained to point out that equally nasy and mean things have been said about McCain and Palin. These things are EQUALLY deplorable and have no business amongst civilized peoples. The simple fact that ALL of these nasty and perverse comments went UNCHALLENGED in this forum is a testament to the bigotry and hypocrisy amongst the majority of posters here.

    In short, ya'all should be ashamed of yourselves, both for the perverse and nasty attacks and for the hypocrisy in condemning such attacks from the Right, yet indulging in the exact same kinds of attacks yourselves.. It's shameful..


    PART 2

    Now, to the main thrust of the commentary. The alleged incident where someone yelled "KILL HIM" in reference to Senator Obama.

    By examining ALL the available evidence, it is clear that said incident never took place. This is evidenced by the FACT that, despite overwhelming incentive to do so, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON, in over 1200 comments and 36 pages of comments, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON could provide verifiable evidence of the incident. This, despite the claims from DOZENS of posters who claim to have seen, FIRST HAND, such a video, not ONE of them could substantiate the claim that the video exists.. It's exactly like the claim from the rabid Clinton supporters during the primary that DOZENS of people saw that "whitey" video, but no one could come up with any verifiable proof...

    Finally, we have the fact that there were DOZENS of LEOs and USSS agents present during the rally and, despite the fact that it was alleged that the "KILL HIM" statement was yelled "loud and clear", not one single authority heard this.

    It simply defies logical and rational belief.


    PART 3

    So, to sum things up.. Yes, some mean and nasty things were yelled out at McCain and Palin rallies. Just as some mean and nasty things were posted about McCain and Palin in this commentary thread..

    This simply proves what I have said all along. When it comes to hurtful, hateful and perverse name-calling, the hysterical Left is no better than the hysterical Right.

    As to someone yelling "KILL HIM" at a Palin rally in reference to Senator Obama? By a clear, logical and rational examination of the evidence, this simply did not happen.

    I might also point out how hypocritical in the EXTREME it is for people to come into this blog and whine and cry about all the lies coming from the GOP and then turn around and perpetrate this hurtful and hateful lie. If Senator Obama were to learn of this fraud perpetrated here, I am sure he would be ashamed of each and every one of you. I am sure that Senator Obama would be disgusted that you people would stoop to the level of Republicans...

    I am completely in agreement with how I am sure, Senator Obama would feel, as a fellow American, these actions, this fraud that has been perpatrated within this thread is shameful and disgusting

    Whatcha'll think?? Laid it on a bit too thick?? :D


  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:



    It actually made it past the moderators!!!

    I am simply amazed!!! :D


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