Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, September 28th, 2008.

Forests and Trees and Gimmicks

Bush Administration, McCain-Palin, Obama-Biden

A USA Today/Gallop Poll just came out that says Obama beat McCain in the Friday night debate. This has to be disorienting for righties, who no doubt were whooping and high-fiving when the debate ended Friday. McCain was tougher, after all.

They probably believed also that patching together all the times Obama said he agreed with McCain would make a sure-fire winning video. Maybe it is — for anyone who didn’t watched the debate and thinks YouTube is a brand of toothpaste. But those are either non-voters or McCain voters, anyway.

Right now they’re pushing a controversy over the bracelet Obama wears bearing name of a soldier killed in Iraq. Obama blanked out for a second over the name — you try being on national television, with the lights in your face, and see what you blank out on. I doubt he planned to bring it up and only did so because McCain bragged about his bracelet to prove how much the troops love him.

Now they are saying the father of the soldier claims Obama was asked not to wear the bracelet. I’m skeptical; the soldier’s mother gave Obama the bracelet, not the father, and the soldiers’ parents are divorced. Divorced couples are not exactly famous for frank communication with each other.

Even if the claim is true, this is the kind of gimmicky crap that comes under the heading of “distraction.” I don’t think the electorate is in the mood for it now. It hardly balances today’s headlines about McCain’s ties to the gambling industry — read it; the headline might have been “John McCain: Maverick Reformer or Shameless Opportunist?” Plus, there are more details out about the financial relationship between McCain’s campaign manager and Freddie Mac.

And the righties are focused on a bracelet?

Joan Vennochi writes at the Boston Globe about the bracelets:

McCain is the old soldier who sees the world through the prism of the Vietnam War. He still doesn’t question the premise of Vietnam or the Iraq invasion. He still wants to win both. He said Stanley’s mother made him promise that “You’ll do everything in your power to make sure that my son’s death was not in vain.”

Comparing it powerfully as always to his own combat experience, McCain said, “A war that I was in, where we had an Army, that it wasn’t through any fault of their own, but they were defeated. And I know how hard it is for that – for an Army and a military to recover from that – we will win this one and we won’t come home in defeat and dishonor.”

Obama had to glance down at the bracelet around his wrist, as if to remind himself of Jopeck’s name. But Obama got to the fundamental question for the next president: “Are we making good judgments about how to keep America safe precisely because sending our military into battle is such an enormous step.”

If you listen carefully to what the two campaigns say about any issue, the same theme emerges. McCain sees trees, not forest. He latches onto gimmicky fixes, like firing the SEC chairman, or seems not to understand (or care) that congressional earmarks didn’t cause the Wall Street crisis. Tellingly, it’s McCain, not Obama, who mistakes a tactic for a strategy.

Obama, more often than not — I think his health care plan is an example of “not” — has a deeper understanding of the complexities of issues and proposes comprehensive strategies to address them. As president, he might not always make the best decisions, but I think he can be trusted not to make the worst decisions.

I can’t let David “Call Me Bwana” Broder’s “Alpha Male” column go without a comment.

It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama said that McCain was “absolutely right” about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgment of his opponent’s wisdom, even though the two agreed on Iran, Russia and the U.S. financial crisis far more than they disagreed.

That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator — an impression reinforced by Obama’s frequent glances in McCain’s direction and McCain’s studied indifference to his rival.

Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know.

How many times can Broder prove himself to be a complete ass before his professional colleagues notice? Some others pointed out that McCain’s body language signaled fear, not dominance. Although I’m not sure he is afraid of Obama as much as he is afraid of his own temper. I think he couldn’t look at Obama because he feared he would lose control if he did.

The Times of London reports that the McCain campaign wants to stage Bristol Palin’s shotgun wedding before the election. A “McCain insider” thinks a highly publicized wedding would shut down the election for a week. I am skeptical about this report, also, and don’t expect it to happen. But it is the sort of stunt a wingnut political operative would think of.

The real verdict on the debate will be apparent as more polls bring out their post-debate results, and it’s possible later polls will be less favorable to Obama. I don’t want to celebrate yet, but I’m cautiously hopeful.

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