Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Debate

I'm not sure debate is the right word. Debate after all implies a real difference of opinion, a divergence of intellectual perspectives. I didn't see much debate last night. I saw a great deal of pandering, made all the worse by McCain's insistence on turning the Republican party into Democrat Lite. I saw slightly different versions of the same political program- that the government needs to act to save the economy and we need to punish the greed on Wall Street and the corruption in Washington. The only real debate was about which candidate could make the greater populist appeal.

The worst moments of the evening? One was John McCain echoing what Joe Biden had said last week, that the government should step in and change the terms of people's bad mortgages. But worse still was Obama's discussion of his health care plan, in which he basically promised better health care for more people for less money.

My already palpable dislike for John McCain only grew last night. The man has no philosophical soul, made all the more obvious throughout the evening. Even on foreign policy, where McCain clearly has the edge in expertise, he reduced himself to the talking points of Obama's willingness to invade Pakistan and Obama's willingness to sit down with foreign leaders without preconditions. Rather than making the concise point that statements like these reflect Obama's inexperience, McCain plowed ahead as though they were cornerstones of Obama's foreign policy.

And on the domestic issues, he was just plain bad. When asked about his priorities if elected, McCain wouldn't answer the question, saying that America could focus on all priorities at once. When asked about the budget, McCain continued to stick with safe answers, combining a promise to freeze spending across the board, with promises to trim the defense budget. It's a cowardly answer because it avoids pointing out any cuts which might be politically unpopular. Of course McCain can promise to trim the fat in the military, because he's Mr. Military. Even on health care, where McCain does tend to think in a more market-based direction, his answers were a mixed bag.

McCain mentioned the need for entitlement reform, even telling the audience he knows how to get it done- of course, he never expanded upon just what that would mean, but he did promise to sit around a table, with Democrats and Republicans, and fix social security and medicare. And unless I'm remembering incorrectly, he promised to return to that big bi-partisan table to fix any other number of big issues he has the hidden answers for. And finally, as if to make the night complete, when asked at the end of the debate what he didn't know, John McCain's answer was that he doesn't know the future.

Obama impressed me slightly more than McCain last night, if only because he actually answered more of the questions. In particular, when it comes to priorities, Obama actually said 1- Energy, 2- Health care. I'm not sure it means anything, but I just can't get over the fact that McCain wouldn't even answer the question. I already mentioned Obama's plan for health care, which is a disaster in the making. (It's based on the California and Massachusetts models, which, several years in, are both already horribly over budget.)

On the current economic crisis, Obama sunk back into the usual liberal talking talking points, blaming deregulation (what deregulation?), and the last 8 years of the Bush administration. Little a mention was given to the federal policies of easy money and home ownership for all that quite clearly has played some roll in this crisis.

On foreign policy, Obama was a disaster, unable to articulate just what an Obama foreign policy would be and just when the U.S. should use the military to resolve humanitarian crises around the world. I don't think McCain actually came across as much better, but in the very least, his experience did manage to get through.

Obviously, I haven't hit on everything here, but suffice it to say, my general reaction is disgusted all the way around.


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