Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Aftermath of the Debate

Well, McCain won the debate. But Obama won the presidency.

The might as well have played Hail to the Chief at the end of the night because this election's over. McCain didn't lay down but he might as well have. If that was the best, last punch he has to throw then he's so off his game that Obama could be caught in bed with a sixteen year old girl at this point. A live one. A white one. And he'd still win the popular vote by one or two points.

McCain might have had a more solid debate but he's talking completely to the conservative base now. They're all he has left. But what worries the wingnuts is not what worries any of the rest of us. So all those points McCain was scoring missed the mark wildly. He can hammer home his message about a treaty with Venezuela. He can work Obama over wanting to hold diplomatic talks with anyone who's not a slavering lapdog of American hegemony. But he doesn't have the same snappy answers when it comes to the issues that actually matter. It's hard to go on the offensive when your ideas have been discredited and rejected by the overall populace – especially when they're so fervently embraced by that base. But McCain has the wrong plans when it comes to the economy. When it comes to health care. And, if you ask me, when it comes to just about everything.

McCain's performance during the debate was pretty much his campaign in a nutshell. Disorganized, erratic, and lurching from point to point with no rhyme or reason at all. Obama, on the other hand, was just like his campaign. Cool and steady. If you don't happen to completely disagree with his entire philosophy of government, as I do (Or, you know, things like being lied to. I'm with Young Mr. Klein, next election, let's just decide this on penalties.), then the points may have favored McCain. But the optics favored Obama.

I watched on C-SPAN as soon as I saw they'd be going with a split screen all night long. I watched each candidate intently. Observed their reactions while the other was speaking. It was revelatory.

Obama was active and engaged. Filling out his notes, gazing calmly at his opponent, flashing a wide smile or a brief chuckle when he made his latest outrageous point. When he spoke, he looked at McCain, he looked at Schieffer, but he also made sure to look into the camera. Speaking to the American public. Looking them in the eye, gazing directly at them, and making a personal connection.

McCain, on the other hand, was shifting and squirming. Barely able to contain his frustration. His impatience. His anger. When he listened to Obama he did so with this queer smirk on his face. A kind of “can you believe this shit?” kind of grin. But rather than being a response, it was a rictus. It didn't matter what Obama was saying, McCain was looking through him and wondering just how the hell he was losing to that guy. When he spoke, he was rambling. His attack lines jumbling into one another. Veering wildly from one to the next. One minute promising to freeze spending. The next promising to spend huge sums of money to bail out homeowners. Saying that Obama's connection with Ayers (ha!) and ACORN (HA!) should be explored. And then saying that he wouldn't be the one to do it. When he spoke, he looked at the moderator. But he didn't reach out beyond the screen and into living rooms around the nation.

McCain spoke to the pundits.

Obama spoke to the people.

McCain won the debate. But Obama won the presidency.

And, really, that's what you walk away with.

One candidate looked confused. The other one looked...presidential.

No comments: