by Kevin Flynn - Saturday September 27 2008 08:58:29 AM
... On this night, Obama emerged as a candidate who was at least as knowledgeable, judicious and unflappable as McCain on foreign policy ... and more knowledgeable, and better suited to deal with the economic crisis and domestic problems the country faces.
...Obama seemed plenty presidential...
...Obama was more concerned with strategy, and an overall vision for the country—he was the one who brought up the damage done to America's standing in the world, and also the one who insisted on putting the war in Iraq in a broader strategic context: it had hurt America's overall position in the middle east by empowering Iran and allowing Al Qaeda to regain strength in Afghanistan. As for McCain's remark about Obama not knowing the difference between a tactic and a strategy—McCain was wrong. The counterinsurgency methods introduced by David Petraeus in Iraq were a tactical change, a new means to achieve Bush's same strategic end of a stable, unified Iraq. If Bush had decided to partition the country, or to withdraw, that would have been a change in strategy.
...The problem with McCain's aggressiveness was that it almost always involved misstating Obama's positions—on offshore drilling, nuclear power, talking to our enemies, raising taxes on the middle class, attacking Pakistan ... the same list of untruths McCain has stuck with throughout the campaign. Or he'd try to make petty distinctions, like whether Obama's initial statements on Georgia were tough enough.
When Obama chose to criticize McCain it was on big things—supporting the war in Iraq, opposing alternative energy, standing by the Republican trickle-down philosophy of taxation. In this way, too, Obama was strategic and McCain tactical.
McCain was also confused about what "preconditions" means in diplo-speak. The Bush Administration had, until recently, set a precondition for talks with Iran: that the Iranians had to stop processing nuclear fuel. Obama would talk to the Iranians—as Henry Kissinger and James Baker would—without setting that condition. (Diplo-speak only vaguely resembles English: precondition is redundant, all conditions for starting a negotiation are pre-.)
...Obama did speak in a stronger, firmer voice. He was clear, straightforward and not at all professorial. He looked directly into the camera.
Obama did everything he had to do, with few if any mistakes. I thought McCain did less so.
From the New York Times:
From the economy to foreign affairs to the way they carried themselves on stage, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama offered a dramatic contrast to the nation in their first presidential debate on Friday night, mixing disdain and often caustic remarks as they set out sharply different views of how they would manage the country and confront America’s adversaries abroad.
...For the first 40 minutes, Mr. Obama repeatedly sought to link Mr. McCain to President Bush, and suggested that it was policies of excessive deregulation that led to the financial crisis and mounting economic problems the nation faces now.
“We also have to recognize that this is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by George Bush, supported by Senator McCain — the theory that basically says that we can shred regulations and consumer protections and give more and more to the most and somehow prosperity will trickle down,” Mr. Obama said. “It hasn’t worked, and I think that the fundamentals of the economy have to be measured by whether or not the middle class is getting a fair shake.”
...Mr. Obama seemed calm and in control and seemed to hold his own on foreign policy, the subject on which Mr. McCain was assumed to hold a natural advantage. Mr. Obama talked in detail about foreign countries and their leaders, as if trying to assure the audience that he could hold his own on the world stage. He raised his own questions about Mr. McCain’s judgment in supporting the Iraq war.
“You like to pretend like the war started in 2007 — you talk about the surge. The war started in 2003,” Mr. Obama said. “At the time, when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong.”
...[Mr. Obama] answered questions directly and affirmatively, typically looking right into the camera as he spoke.
...Turning to Mr. McCain, he said: “John, it’s been your president who you said you agreed with 90 percent of the time who presided over this increase in spending, this orgy of spending and enormous deficits and you voted for almost all of his budgets.”
From the Associated Press:
Now they take the themes from an intense first debate back to the campaign trail, looking for some edge in a tight presidential race. With 38 days left, McCain is headed for Washington and the dispute over a Wall Street bailout, while Obama plans to visit Republican-leaning states where the Democrat thinks he can make inroads.
...Interest in Friday's debate was amplified by suspense about whether it would even take place. McCain had said he wouldn't take part unless the financial crisis was resolved, then reversed course and decided at the last minute to participate without a deal.
...Obama, a 47-year-old serving his first term in the Senate, challenged McCain frequently and offered himself as someone who can be trusted to make sound choices.
Obama noted that he opposed invading Iraq, while McCain supported it. He said McCain has voted with the unpopular President Bush 90 percent of the time. He argued McCain backs corporate tax breaks and lax regulation that have contributed to the Wall Street economic crisis.
"We have to recognize that this is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by George Bush, supported by Senator McCain," Obama said.
Obama sought to connect with voters who might have doubts about a relative newcomer to national politics, a black man with an exotic name and background. He talked often about the struggles of ordinary Americans — "the nurse, the teacher, the police officer who, frankly, at the end of each month they've got a little financial crisis going on."
...An early opponent of invading Iraq, he stressed that his position was prompted partly by worries that it would distract from hunting down Osama bin Laden, and he said withdrawing from Iraq now would free up resources to re-energize that hunt.
Obama suggested McCain might overreact to national emergencies, noting that the Arizona senator has talked about "extinction" for North Korea and joked about bombing Iran.
The candidates stood behind identical wooden lecterns on stage at the performing arts center at the University of Mississippi for the first of three scheduled debates with less than six weeks remaining until Election Day. The two vice presidential candidates will meet next week for their only debate, and Obama and McCain each put in a plug for his own running mate.
From the Boston Globe:
On the eve of tonight's debate that is supposed to focus on foreign policy, Barack Obama's campaign has up a new video from veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speaking directly to the camera, they vouch for Obama. One says he knows that the United States has the best fighting force in the world.
Another says that Obama knows "that success is Iraqi security, not a 100-year American occupation," referring to a much-circulated comment that Republican rival John McCain made in New Hampshire this year that he could see US troops in Iraq for another 50 or 100 years in a peacekeeping role as in Korea.
And another vet says that Obama knows that Osama bin Laden must be caught.
The latter part of the spot features Tammy Duckworth, one of the Democrats who won congressional seats in the antiwar tide in 2006.
"We deserve a strategy that honors our sacrifice," Duckworth says from her wheelchair. She lost both legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade near Baghdad in November 2004. She says that Obama knows the need to care for veterans.
The Obama campaign also announced this afternoon that senior military leaders, veterans, and military family members supporting him will fan out to 27 cities to talk up his foreign policy plans in advance of tonight's debate.
"More than 14,000 military personnel and veterans have donated to the Obama campaign during this election cycle -- equivalent to an Army division."