Saturday, September 27, 2008

President Bartlet Would Kick Their Ass

"Sure, I'm a fictional character who's words are scripted by one of the most gifted writers in Hollywood who is a top-notch progressive, but this ain't economics or rocket science, folks."

Its a case of unattainable expectations, watching the first few seasons of The West Wing on DVD.

My wife and I listened to the first half of the deabte, on economics, in the car. Neither candidate is a debater, although Obama has a slight edge in pushing coherent and logical points. He was calm and professional, but Obama's debating skills aren't very hot. At best, he's only a C level rhetorician. McCain however sounds as though he's been trained to debate by someone using Pavlovian techniques - rewards for barking out conservative sound bytes and electrodes when he wanders off. The net result was only a slight attempt to string together quotes and points of common rhetoric with some commonality.

The visual debate was very Nixon-Kennedy. McCain looked old, beady-eyed, angry, & ill-mannered; Obama looked New Presidential, took initiative in being gracious, and looked like he was there for something positive.

Carter, Reagan, LBJ, & Nixon could have beaten Obama. If your joy is great verbal dialog, you would have turned the TV off last night and gone to bed crying for the republic.

Independents however, ate Obama's performance up. Most swung for Obama by the end of the night, even though Democrats and liberals widely criticized Obama for not picking up on obvious attacks against McCain. But that's part of the illiberal double standard of the modern American - they later excuse aggressive conservatives and rhetoric while excoriating attack ads and negative campaigns, particularly from Democrats. Annony at the Home Base hit it exactly: "The independents reacted positively to talk of cooperation, diplomacy, bipartisanship, compliments of the other candidate, etc. They reacted negatively when either candidate put down the other. . . very, very clearly the Independents LIKED that Obama was deferential, respectful, and agreed with McCain when appropriate." This played big with my Republican-favoring independent parents.

Appealing to independents has been Obama's schitck from when he started to run for the Illinois Senate, and independents want to hear this baloney claiming bipartisanship and respect. We on the left want to see our candidates smack the right around like it deserves.

I highly recommend Chez this morning, even though he's stuck on the, "Obama should have left McCain in little bloody chunks all over the stage" meme.
But the glass-half-empty viewpoint -- and have you figured out by now where I fall? -- is that it was Obama who faced a doddering, erratic, panicked opponent who's not only completely out of touch with the problems of modern America but who spent the past two weeks making questionable judgment call after questionable judgment call, and yet he didn't completely mop the floor with him.

Barack Obama had ample opportunity last night to leave John McCain in the dust, and yet for whatever reason he didn't do it. He's smarter than McCain, more eloquent than McCain, and infinitely more personable than McCain; in my mind this should've been a blowout. But then maybe I'm being too harsh -- expecting too much from what's traditionally a very staid affair.

My biggest complaint -- and I can't help but feel that this is a pretty subjective view -- is that Obama allowed McCain to get away with far too much: He let McCain claim that he was naive and "didn't understand" over and over without hitting back hard; he never bothered to bring up the elephant in the room -- McCain's bizarre political stunt that may have contributed to the collapse of the bailout negotiations in Washington and almost killed the debate itself; and, worst of all, he kept agreeing with McCain, saying "Well, John's right about..." Even if you believe it, for God's sake don't begin every other answer by verifying it. You issue a statement like that maybe once just to show that you're magnanimous; you don't say it several times and leave yourself open to a cleverly edited ad that the other guy can throw on the air by morning. ("Even Barack Obama knows that John McCain is right!")
And so we come back to the illiberal double standard - independents suck the gooey sugary creme filling when Democrats admit commonality with their opponents, but the same independents excuse later Republican aggressive, and sometimes factually challenged, advertising claims that the Democrats agree with them. This crap is a major reason why the Democratic Party has it's American exceptionalism and war on, just slightly less than the Republican.

I initially criticized the Obama campaign last year for it's willingness to appeal to independents and the current frames in modern American political rhetoric. It's not a real change to American politics. Obama doesn't challenge the status quo in framing issues - it is factions and opinion shapers outside the Democratic Party making minor changes in the electorate. American exceptionalism and militarization is still the rule. Coinciding with Obama's drive up the political ladder have been the deep failures of Republican policies finally occurring to the marjority of the electorate. Right guy, right place, right time.

The problem is that this is not a recipe for real change - Bill Clinton may have been a Democrat, but his administration managed to do little to nothing in terms of changing the American electorate. There's no drive to act boldly and change the debate.


Anjha said...

I thought that it was an excellent debate and I thought that Obama was by far more statesman-like.

Americans are dying to have the American mystique restored in the world; I think that Obama is appealing to that.

Also, as I said to husband, the independents and especially the younger people want this bi-partisan, "You're right John" crap. They do not want the bickering and crap, they just want our representatives to go to DC and get something done.

People like me - I want the Dems to have 75 seats in the Senate and 300 in the House and the presidency and to screw the Right just like the Right have been doing to us for the last generation....but the younger people don't want revenge. They want collegiality and to get shit done.

I would like to see a debate where McCain and Obama negotiate something. What if we let them negotiate this bailout deal last night? Then I think we would see them in action and we would see a far better negotiator in Obama.

Anjha said...

BTW, did you read this?

I thought it was excellent.

I loved Bartlett and I cannot tell you how many times during an episode that husband and I would look at each other and say "damn, I wish he were our president."

idiosynchronic said...

That's the magic of TV for you. Reality never looks as good. And since Sorkin wrote most of it, it's probably my favorite MoDo column of all time.

I love this line: "Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song."

After the week I had with my day care, this hits way too close to home.