Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Un-Great Debate

There was much excitement brewing in the Abbey household as last Friday's presidential debates were officially said to be on. We celebrated the fact by going out to eat at a local Maharishi owned place that sells mostly vegetarian dishes and ordered the only pizza with meat on it off the menu (fire roasted chicken) and ate it out front in the tables along the sidewalk. The gelatos from next door fell through when of the six flavors listed, only one remained so we went home, warmed up the television and put the littlest non-voting Abbey to bed.

Overall, the debates were disappointing as they mostly sounded like campaign sound bytes with a lot of patting themselves on the back. Although I though Obama held his own quite well and McCain kind of flopped, I still would say that it ended in a draw, at least for me. Having seen quite a few of the polls about the debate, I guess I'm in the minority since most have Obama as winning the debate. I took some notes while watching and here is my summary on the candidates.

McCain Positives
  • Announcing a spending freeze on all but essential areas has been sorely needed for eight years now. Government has grown more in last eight years than probably anytime in history. As a Constitutionalist, this is exactly opposite of why our founding fathers created the government the way they did. They fled hear and fought wars because governments took over more of our daily lives than necessary for national defense.

  • Although I don't believe McCain will follow through on this, he did say he would veto all earmarks. What is an earmark and what is essential will of course be up for discussion should McCain win the presidency but I hope it will be better than all the previous presidents in my lifetime that just signed the bills anyway.

  • He said he was against government-sponsored healthcare, which again as a Constitutionalist, I think is what our founding fathers had in mind. Anyone who thinks the government can create a better healthcare system that what we have already only needs to look at Fannie and Freddie to know that everything the government touches turns to a giant ball of red tape, politics and excrement.

  • Opposes torture & Guantanomo Bay. We have a long way to go to regain our trust in this world.

  • I think he sincerely believes in the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that the current occupant for the most part has ignored.

McCain Negatives
  • Enough about the surge. Put enough fingers in the dike and you can plug all the holes but that doesn't mean the problem has been fixed or will be fixed when the time, if ever, comes to withdrawal.

  • Obviously the current occupant and McCain both think that all these preconditions need to be set in order to talk to an axis of evil head of state. Obviously neither of them has the balls to look them in the eye and show them who is boss. The only preconditions that need to happen is that no guns are brought to the negotiating table. But McCain and the current occupant's idea of preconditions is that they must meet all our demands before we sit down and talk with them. Hardly seems like a strategy to peacefully negotiate things.

  • McCain mentioned that defeat in Iraq would increase sectarian violence. Huh? Sectarian violence increased the moment we stepped in expecting to be seen as liberators (as McCain believed) and offed Saddam Hussein. Does that mean we are already defeated?

  • I dislike his my passport has more stamps than yours so I'm more qualified argument. Especially since his running mate Palin only got a passport last year. I think a good leader requires a good mind, not necessarily travel experience.

Obama Positives
  • Saying that we shouldn't have gone into Iraq because we didn't know the cost, have a strategy, and hadn't yet finished the job in Afghanistan. Obama also said we didn't use our military wisely in Iraq and I agree with this statement as well.

  • Finally answered the reason of why he vetoed the funding for troops in Iraq which is exactly the same reason McCain also vetoed a bill funding soldiers in Iraq, because of time table language being included or excluded, depending on whose party you belonged too.

  • I believe Obama's belief that war in Iraq has only strengthened Iran is correct too and was one of the major reasons why I was against overthrowing Saddam.

  • His willingness to engage in direct diplomacy at a place and time of his choosing but without preconditions is also what needs to be done. It doesn't mean we have to automatically capitulate anything, but merely to look them in the eyes and let them know we aren't scared.

Obama Negatives
  • "I have a bracelet too…" comment. Good grief, talk about sounding like a grade-schooler.

  • Couldn't keep on topic. In one two minute response to a question on Iraq, he also brought up the subjects of China back to Iraq again and then off to economy, healthcare and national security. He did a good job of remembering the highlights of his platform but sure couldn't answer a question directly to save his life.

  • Doesn't seem to have a clue when it comes to fixing the size of government and kept on talking about how he wants to spend more on early child education for kids younger than school age. Um, shouldn't that be the responsibility of parents? I certainly wouldn't trust the government to do a better job of teaching my child the colors and shapes than I could.

  • Showed disrespect by calling John by his first name instead of Senator McCain. Disrespecting one person shows a likelihood of future disrespect to others in my opinion.

  • Although I don't know if this is a negative, Obama kept saying he agreed with things McCain had said. I don't think this is a very good campaign strategy. I think he should have phrased things like, Senator McCain's idea is good but it would be better if…" and finished the sentence.

I marked down McCain as winning the debate on spending and Obama winning the debate on Iraq and Iran. I thought it was a draw when it came to Russia and Afghanistan as they both agreed a lot there and I thought they both flubbed the current economic crisis questions. Both answered questions like they would rather have teeth pulled than answer directly, both interrupted the other many times and both were heavy on the adjectives when describing the others persons policies and light on the supporting proof. I got tired of Obama raising his finger signaling his objection to McCain's comments and I got tired of seeing McCain’s face looking in dire need of a bottle of Pepto-Bismol during Obama's comments.

I think most of this can chalked up as opening night jitters and I expect the remaining two presidential debates to be better. I'm sure their handlers are spending lots of time showing them clips of their performances and coaching them on how to better answer questions. Until then, I am awaiting the vice presidential debates in two days with a sort of morbid curiosity. If I were Palin's advisor, I would tell her to lay low and not expound upon her "qualifications" for holding the office. Biden will pounce all over her. If I was Biden's advisor, I would tell him to lay low and not get all worked up and shoot off at the mouth as he has a tendency to do. But I have a feeling the VP debate is going to be a train wreck just the same and I'm going to be standing there watching it happen.


sage said...

Good insight Ed. I'd forgotten about Obama's "I have a braclet too" comment! Of course, he knew it was coming because it's part of McCain's litany... As for the Palin/Biden debates, it might be our best entertainment value for the week.

R. Sherman said...

I wish these were true debates with clear positions on broad philosophical issues. The candidates could stake out their positions and defend them with evidence and logic. Then, we would get a much better idea about each candidate's views, instead of dealing with whether one is wearing a bracelet or whether somebody know the current price of milk at the Piggly-Wiggly.


The Real Mother Hen said...

I don't believe that McCain will STOP spending. What he probably meant was that he would STOP spending on things he thought should stop, like medicare and education, while continue to spend on MILITARY and other crap. Govt spending is the artificial way to push up the GDP, ie to give economy a false sense of hope; no one is willing to freeze govt spending. The local papers here declared a tie too - since there are plenty of Republicans on the east side of the Cascades :)

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - I'm hoping the VP debates have entertainment value. The P ones last Friday sure didn't.

R. Sherman - What is it with lawyers that makes them sound like you (logical) up until they get into politics and suddenly they don't make any sense? :)

Mother Hen - McCain did make three exceptions to his freeze in spending. I believe they were veterans, guaranteed entitlements, and something else. My mind fails me on this third one. Medicare and the military probably both fall under these categories. Not sure how he would interpret education.

sage said...

I'm waiting with anticipation to see how Sherman answers your question! :)

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - I'm guessing an answer something along the lines of absolute power corrupts absolutely.

geri said...

Ed, interesting review. I thought I heard "military" as one of the exceptions for McCain's spending freeze.

I thought McCain did better than expected, maybe because of his drama about not going to the debate
made me think he was prepared enough.

I already expect the VP debate to be entertaining too except that I have this nagging feeling that Palin (and the McCain camp) might pull out some of tricks as she seem to have a record for doing, just like what this article has said.

geri said...

Correction on McCain:

"I thought McCain did better than expected, maybe because of his drama about not going to the debate
made me think he wasn't prepared enough."

Murf said...

The bracelet incident was funny along with Obama's constant "Yes, let's move to the next question" comments which always followed the moderator's similar comment. As for McCain, I thought it was interesting how he very rarely looked at Obama. I'm sure that will change for Round 2.

Can't wait for Thursday!

Ed Abbey said...

Geri - That was an interesting article and from what I've seen of her interviews with the press, it is right on the money. I have yet seen her answer specifics on any issue. She always skirts around it and as someone possibly voting for McCain, the oldest president ever if elected, that scares me.

Murf - I forgot about that but you are right, Obama was always eager to go to the next question.

Beau said...

Great analysis Ed. I'm not quite as analytical, but then again you're an engineer, right?! Looked like a draw to me, and we'll have to wait for more. On a different note, I think folks underestimate Palin, and I expect that Biden will not attack her but make a greater mistake in patronizing her. We'll see if he can hold is tongue...

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I wish I could comment on the debates, but I was locked up in a play rehearsal and couldn't get out. I just wanted to say that I am glade to find Ed Abbey's blog. It was a bit of a shock to me to go to Hayduke and find a nast message from blogspot.

Ed Abbey said...

Beau - Engineers probably make poor political analysts because in our world everything is black or white with little to no gray area.

3 Score - Yeah I did switch blogs and left my old one up for awhile to let people know of the switch. Those like you who missed that period have to find an old comment of my and go in via the backdoor. Sorry for the inconvenience but glad you made it.