Final (Thank God) Debate Comment Thread

Presidential historians like to note that people who listened to the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy presidential debate on the radio thought Nixon had won it, but the rest of America, who saw it on TV, took a look at the pale and sweaty Nixon next to the handsome and collected Kennedy, and gave it to the Massachusetts senator hands down. This debate was sort of like that. Everyone seems to agree that McCain gave his best debate performance yet, pressing Obama on issues and even getting some good lines — but on the split screen, he looked angry, agitated and a little weird. Whereas Obama did his Obama thing: stayed calm, stayed cool and stayed looking like he wasn’t going to go off on an uncontrollable spasm of anger. The end result: in a whole bunch of snap polls, Obama carried the debate by close to 2-to-1 margins.

The big difference between this debate and the Kennedy-Nixon debate, mind you, is that back in 1960 there was no YouTube, which allows people to make their favorite “angry, unsettled McCain moment” mashups from now until election day. McCain has totally lost control of his image; it’s in the hands not of pundits but of sporky college sophomores, uploading little videos long the merry day. That really is the new wrinkle (so to speak) of this particular presidential cycle.

I’m not going to say “it’s hard to see how McCain comes back from this,” because three weeks is three weeks and who knows what’s going to happen, and I’m superstitious about smugness and hubris and counting one’s chickens not just before they hatch, but before the eggs are laid. There’s still an election to have, and Obama and everyone else has to work for it. I don’t think Obama needs to be told that; I think many of his triumphalist pals might have to be taken aside and to keep their mouths shut and heads down until November 5.

However, I am going to say that I don’t think McCain gets out of the hole from here. Pro pundits say that this last debate didn’t change the dynamic of the race, but when you have one candidate snap polling at a 2-to-1 advantage to the other, that’s an odd thing to say. The dynamic changes, it just changes further to the advantage of Obama and to the Democrats generally. At this point, I don’t think the question is whether Obama’s going to win; the question is how big he’s going to win, and whether his momentum gets him 60 Democratic senators going in.

The comment thread is now open to your thoughts about the last debate; I’m also particularly interested in whether you see a path for McCain out of his particular hole, after this last big chance to make his case to voters. I can’t see one, but maybe I’m missing something. Let me know if you think I am.

142 thoughts on “Final (Thank God) Debate Comment Thread

  1. McCain symbolizing the last gasp (so to speak) of the Conservative movement that began in the late 70′s, much Jimmy Carter represented the last of that particular breed of liberalism.

    McCain can’t dig himself out of the hole he is in simply because he standing in a pit created by 25 years of Conservative thinking, thinking that is now finally proven to be a total, utter and complete failure.

    He can’t argue economic policies vs. Obama. The evidence of that failure is all around us. He can’t argue foreign policy because that failure plays out every day in in Iraq, Afghanistan and Georgia. He can’t argue cutting taxes because they just added another digit to the national debt clock.

    What is there left for him to do? Personal attacks and scary black man images, both of which aren’t sticking with a public tired of high gas prices, endless wars and dwindling paychecks.

  2. A friend of mine (who, unlike me, actually gets a vote as she’s an American citizen) was incandescently furious when McCain made that fingerquote gesture while dismissing women’s health concerns as “an excuse for pro-abortion extremists”.

    That said, I don’t think anyone pro choice was likely to vote for him in the first place, but still…

    Also, even if this had purely been a radio debate, McCain’s “Buwhat?” when Obama countered his “Fining Joe Plumber the small businessman” rhetoric (As immortalized here) would have been pretty damning.

  3. Several things really jumped out last night. McCain’s constant smug look (it seemed to say “i can’t wait till he stops talking so i can zing him again”) was a really big irritant, and reappeared again and again during the debate while Obama was speaking.

    I feel in my heart that someone wrote the “I’m not President Bush. If you wanted to run against him, you should have run 4 years ago” thing, and McCain had it ready to go. It was not an off the cuff thing. I did think Obama’s retort was eloquent and to the point.

    McCain’s pro-abortion extremists statement was an “Oh No he didn’t!” moment for me, along with his ‘hurt feelings’ regarding being compared to George Wallace. wow. too bad. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well, you know the rest of *that* chestnut. Again, I thought Obama’s reply was eloquent and to the point – their hurt feelings don’t matter to the voting public – voters want to know what their policy is and what they plan to do.

    I wish McCain hadn’t brought ACORN into this. Precious time was wasted on this lie. Oh wait – that’s why he did it. (!) If you bring up lies your opponent is forced to refute, then you don’t have to talk about your non-existant policy differences from W.

    Last, I love Bob Schieffer. I thought he did the best job of the 3 debate referees. I actually liked that he brought the mud-slinging statements out and made the candidates address them.

  4. I think the only way Obama can lose a this point is if someone uploads a YouTube video of him snorting coke through rolled-up Qu’ran pages while Bin Laden and Hillary cheer him on.

  5. Given the latest computer models and polling data (e.g. fivethirtyeight.com), I think it would take something monumental for McCain to pass Obama, and short of Obama eating a live human baby on his half of the splitscreen, that just wasn’t likely to happen in a debate.

    For McCain to win at this point, I think that Obama needs to make a disastrous mistake or have a distatrous past mistake discovered (e.g. a sex tape featuring himself and William Ayers). Some people have speculated that a national security emergency (a terrorist attack, a sudden spurt of open aggression by China/North Korea/Iran/Russia, etc.) might swing the race back, but given the increased confidence in Obama and the reduced confidence in McCain that the polls are showing, I don’t think even that would do it.

  6. I “watched” most of the debate with my back to the TV and most of my attention on Bridge of Birds. McCain sounded pretty good.

    Then I wandered over to look at the TV. What was up with McCain’s machine-gun blinking? Was he trying to send subliminal messages by morse code?

  7. I can’t imagine that last night’s debate changed any minds among the “Decided” and I can’t understand why, at this point there are still “Undecideds”. The differences are fairly glaring.

    And yeah to what BeVibe (3) said. McCain repeatedly looked like he was thinking, “Ooh, Obama just opened himself up for me to use talking point #32C.” It was more than a little creepy.

  8. I didn’t really like McCain’s performance, but not for the reasons I’ve seen mentioned everywhere else. Every time McCain got to have the last word, he’d save up all of his attacks until the end so that Obama couldn’t respond – not cool. If your ideas are any good, present them in the beginning so that they can be rebutted.

    Also, I did’t see Obama doing this at all – did I miss it?

  9. From a (relatively) safe few thousand miles’ distance, I think people are by now watching the candidates to see who looks the most, well, Presidential.

    I think that was what swung it for JFK against Nixon, too.

  10. BeVibe: I wish McCain hadn’t brought ACORN into this. Precious time was wasted on this lie. Oh wait – that’s why he did it. (!) If you bring up lies your opponent is forced to refute, then you don’t have to talk about your non-existant policy differences from W.

    I disagree. I think McCain had to bring it up for my own peace of mind. I’m an Obama supporter, but even I don’t think he’s really been challenged past the primaries. I wanted to see how he would handle the Ayers and ACORN issues. It’s low hanging fruit that no one in the media – besides Fox, talk radio and a few right leaning blogs – has addressed. It was important for Obama to be challenged on this just to see how he handles a potentially campaign crippling issue (to me the Rev. Wright flap was a total non-issue). I thought he did a spectacular job, and it was exactly what I wanted to see from him. It made me much more confident in my choice.

  11. What I found as interesting as McCain’s verbal flailing was his fascinating collection of nervous tells. I can’t wait to hear the analysis of a friend who trained in the Army as an interrogator. “Army Interrogator: Nerve-Shot McCain Talks Out His Ass” is a headline that deserves to go up on Reuters.

  12. Haven’t watched the debate yet (it’s on the Tivo), but my thought is that only a foreign policy event could swing the race to McCain at this point. For example, if President Bush produced Osama bin Laden between now and the election, I think that would give McCain a bump in the polls. But even that might not swing the election, since I think most people see the economy as a bigger threat than terrorism.

  13. I think McCain did well, but did nothing to change the dynamic of the race. Voters who he told “My friends, we’ve got them exactly where we want them” have got to be wondering what the hell that meant.

    “Exactly where we want them” is not 10 points ahead, with only 20 or so days, and half the ready cash is *not* where you want to be in a political election. Though I am reminded of the scene in “Guards Guards” where Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs are trying all sorts of absurd handicaps to make a “million to one shot” against the dragon.

    It’s a shame. McCain had a senate carer that had the respect of a lot of moderates, and even some liberals I know. He’s betting everything, including that respect, on winning here. If he’d laid off of the attack ads, I think he could have kept that. So far the wost Obama’s team has brought up has been the Keating five scandal. There’s a whole lot of other targets. McCain should know well what a really dirty election looks like. He’s bee the target of one. He swore he’d never campaign like that, and of course, now he has.

    I hope that if Obama wins, he’ll treat McCain’s future Senate career as if it will be run by the old John McCain and not this guy who’s running now. But I honestly doubt McCain would to the same. He’s loathed Obama since before the election.

  14. @Nick: I suspect McCain was suffering from allergy problems last night. I could be wrong, but the symptoms were there. The right eye was very red, and he was sniffling and coughing. My allergy attacks generally attack one eye or the other. I can certainly feel for him if that’s the case – especially since I’m recovering from a similar attack that hit my right eye.

    Empathy, however, doesn’t equal a vote.

    Perhaps it’s all the allergy drugs still in my system, but I have this feeling that, no matter which candidate wins, the middle class is still going to get squeezed. I suspect the squeeze will be less painful if Obama is in office. That aside, I can’t bring myself to vote for McCain. The choice of Sarah Palin put that final nail in the coffin. That tells me he’s more concerned about the “core constituency” (those who donate the big money and/or have the influence) than the rest of us. Hey, I could yammer on about that for days, but I’ll shut up now.

  15. I listened, more than watched, and it became very irritating to me that McCain constantly interrupted Obama. McCain’s tone was whiny and a bit desperate and he was rushing to get all his points in. It also seemed like he got way more air time in this debate and the others, too. Or am I totally biased toward Obama?

  16. The “classic” McCain from the 2000 Republican primaries was still a man I could find some respect for. I didn’t, and still don’t, agree with a whole lot of Republican policies – but respect ? Yes.

    But today ? No fsck-ing way. The guy has obviously sold his soul to the Devil for the idea of being elected President. He’s creepy, “nerve-shot & talking out of his ass,” and comes across as an unpredictable loose cannon. He also positively oozes disrespect for Sen. Obama, which doesn’t reflect well on him personally at all.

    So unless we get a wag the dog moment and Bush/Cheney concoct a “national security emergency,” McCain’s in for the Epic Fail.

  17. I listened more than I watched, so I thought McCain did better than many people seem to think, but it wasn’t the slam-dunk he needed to pull his campaign away from the flatline it’s approaching.

    I only had two WTF?!? moments, and they both came at McCain’s expense: when he said that Sarah Palin was a role model for women, and when he said that he supported allowing soldiers to become teachers without all that tiresome examination or certification to make sure they’re, y’know, qualified to teach. I was sitting next to my mom during this debate. She’s a moderate Republican (she breaks with the party on a number of social issues, notably abortion rights) and she had almost exactly the same reaction I did to both of those comments.

    Palin first: That’s what he has to say if he doesn’t want to totally hamstring her for the last three weeks. I do recognize that. Mom’s only comment: “She’s not MY role model.”

    Soldiers becoming teachers: I think this is a dandy idea, if the soldiers have the necessary subject background to teach and there’s some sort of “why students are not like noncoms” training before the school year. But saying they should be allowed to skip past the checks to make sure they’re qualified…no, that’s a nonstarter for me. Teaching is a much harder skill set than many people realize; I did it for four years and I never mastered it. It’s a bizarre combination of public speaker, secretary, diplomat, and therapist, on top of whatever subject knowledge is necessary for the given course. I’m all in favor of alternative certification programs to get good people into teaching faster (and I’ll save my opinions on university education classes for another time), but McCain’s glib statement makes me wonder where he’s getting his ideas about what it takes to be a good teacher.

  18. I heard a great description of the debate this morning – it was like a tennis match with McCain running all over the court and Obama standing in the middle, lobbing them back.

    I watched on CNN and was fascinated by the split screen reaction shots and the graph of the Ohio undecided voters.

  19. The closeups of McCain were sometimes downright scary, he’s got an almost maniacal look.

    By the way, what is a “Sporky College Sophomore”? That sounds like an adult film…

  20. Sorry, as long as Diebold is still supporting the Republicans and the Republicans stay in Diebold’s pocket, the Republicans literally cannot lose the election.

  21. Actually, the effect of radio vs. television is… debated. In the famous Kennedy vs. Nixon debate, only one polster actually bothered to try to measure the difference (Sindlinger and Company). He did indeed find that Kennedy won by a rather slim margin to TV viewers (30.2% to 28.6%), and that radio gave the debate to Nixon (48.7% to 21%). But note that a) only 13% of respondents (282 out of 2183) were radio listeners and b) people without a television in 1960 were not an independent random sample (they were predominantly rural and Protestant). In short, this is the classic correlation vs. causation problem (see Vancil and Pendell 1987 or Schudson 1995). Druckman 2003 conducted new experiments with the same footage and found that there were differences in personality perceptions, but merely argues for, and does not measure, the influence that has on overall debate performance.

    I just enjoy that we have snap polls now so that pundits are forced to acknowledge what people actually think instead of claiming that their personal opinions are what “most Americans” think.

  22. From a (relatively) safe few thousand miles’ distance, I think people are by now watching the candidates to see who looks the most, well, Presidential.

    If that’s the case, (and I fear it is) then we should scrap the debates completely. The debates, more than anything else, should be about policy, not presentation.

    The problem is that policy is hard and complicated and the specifics matter a great deal. Questions about the effects of an increase in marginal tax rates, economic capture, compliance costs, and moral hazard are important and unbearably dull.

    These debates don’t provide much more than an opportunity for the candidates to practice their sound bytes and catch phrases. The candidate’s poise and demeanor become a substitute for policy and viewers react accordingly.

  23. I’m thinking that McCain wanted this. He hasn’t actually lost his soul. The whole campaign was about making it clear that George Bush wasn’t a fluke and that he’s representative of the Republican Party as a whole. He thought that only by running a campaign that draws out the core of the party and playing to what the mainstream of the party wants he could discredit them with the people who vote Republican only by tradition.

    What he didn’t count on is that the election would be so close. He thought Sarah Palin would be an anchor instead of what held the campaign aloft. So now he has to actively sabotage his campaign to make sure he loses big. He has to start conceding states and begging his base not to assassinate Obama. He has to run debates that repeat points that have been thoroughly shredded (i.e. the Chicago planetarium “overhead projector” nonsense) in the hopes that he’ll receive a richly deserved beating in the forums and coffee shops.

    McCain, if you’re reading this, I have faith in you. You can sink that ship of a campaign if you really try.

  24. “There’s still an election to have, and Obama and everyone else has to work for it. I don’t think Obama needs to be told that; I think many of his triumphalist pals might have to be taken aside and to keep their mouths shut and heads down until November 5.”

    Yet again you are correct…Obama just said this at a fundraiser this morning (from MSNBC’s First Read):

    “For those of you who are feeling giddy or cocky and think this is all set, I just say one word. I guess it’s two words for you: New Hampshire. You know, I’ve been in these positions before where we were favored and the press starts getting carried away and we end up getting spanked. And so that’s another good lesson that Hillary Clinton taught me.”

  25. The whole time I watched I wanted to pull McCain aside through the television and say “Dude! Maintain!” or perhaps even drop a “Check yourself, before you wreck yourself!”

    It’s like he was treating the debate as some kind of chance to get emotional catharsis. Every time McCain spoke and Obama spoke afterward, it was like watching a polite grandson trying to find a way to disagree with his senile, formerly heroic, about-to-lose-it grandfather.

    If he was trying to take an aggressive stance against Obama to energize his base, I think it failed horribly.

  26. I thin both candidates brought the performance that they thought they needed. Not totally effective, but enough to fire up their supporters into thinking momentum is with them.

    What upset me was both candidate’s approach to “Energy Independence”. they’ve had three shots at this in debate format, and missed the mark each time. They both treat energy independence as solely a supply-side effort – bring more oil and/or gas from beneath American soil, more power plants, more solar, more, more, more.

    The truth is that we’re not going to be independent from energy imports until we tackle the demand side too, and no one seems to want to talk about that. How we use energy is at least as important as where we get the energy. That means efficiency standards, distributed generation, domestic fossil fuel exploration, renewables – especially small-scale systems which do the most good to reduce demand spikes – and mostly importantly, infrastructure and community planning. For fifty years we’ve reshaped our landscape and our economy in ways that have made it more energy-intensive. We all live a great distance from our sources of food and income. We find the need to drive 10,20, 30 miles a day for food, build bigger homes and wish for them to be more and more comfortable. Scaling back on size, sprawl and centralization will improve our energy efficiency as a society. We can even do it without sacrificing services, comfort or lifestyle. Drastic measures aren’t needed – we spent 50 years getting here, we can expect to spend the next 50 years adjusting part-way back. This is what many people know or suspect is needed, but few people make public statements about it.

  27. Suffice it to say, with all of his tics and blinks and whatnot, McCain is welcome to poker night round our place any time he wants to drop by. Tell him bring a big wad of Cindy’s cash. ;)

  28. I thought the only time McCain looked good out there was when he pressed Obama on his backtracking on the “only public funding” pledge, and even that was weak. Between “spread the wealth” and the ACORN nonsense, it looked like he was trying to court the Bircher lobby, and then between “ZERO?!?” and “the ‘health” of the mother,” he looked not just like a jerk, but a clueless jerk.

    Some people say his failure to affirm that he has a litmus test on Roe v. Wade hurt him with the religious right, but I think there was enough coded language in that response to appease them for now.

  29. Rens, I was pissed off that McCain put snarky airquotes around the “health” of the mother as a possible cause for needing an abortion, but my wife was absolutely enraged.

    Enraged.

    I can’t imagine she’s the only person who felt that way.

  30. I still don’t understand why reasonably intelligent people keep insisting on judging a presidential debate on who “won” or “lost.” The purpose of these debates is not to determine who is a better public speaker or who can say the most clever things under pressure, but to allow candidates to contrast their views on important issues and gives us an opportunity to get more information about what they believe and intend to do as President.

    Anyone that would make a decision on who to vote for based on the quality of someone’s rhetoric, their facial expressions, or their use of air quotes is not someone whose opinion should matter.

  31. McCain can always start lying in his commercials and inciting rage and mobs again… it’s worked before for him.

    I’m glad you brought up the comparison to the 1960 debates. That was my history day project my sophomore year of high school =)

  32. I wonder if we watched the same debate.

    I think McCain did very well. He brought up the Acorn/Ayers problem, he gave Obama a chance to clear it up, which he in no way did. He danced all around it and told us nothing.

    I started out at the beginning of the campaign weighing both of them and really thought Obama was ok, untried, but ok. I don’t feel that way now. Now he worries me. I am very worried about where our country is heading.

    I also realize I’ll probably get flamed for this. I’m not going to be checking back, (at least not for a day or two), so please don’t bother.

  33. tibby:

    “I also realize I’ll probably get flamed for this.”

    Why? You haven’t said anything flame-able, you just expressed an opinion, calmly and without rancor.

    Hardly worth flaming over.

    Entertain the notion of not pre-emptively flinching when you express yourself.

  34. From where I am, McCain should stop telling people that he knows what to do, and tell people what he’s going to do. And instead of telling everyone how bad Obama is, tell everyone how good he is.

    But I think he’s doing a good job of demolishing his reputation without any help.

  35. “He brought up the Acorn/Ayers problem, he gave Obama a chance to clear it up, which he in no way did. He danced all around it and told us nothing.”

    I was very satisfied with Obama’s answers. And the fact that McCain saved his accusations until the very end of the discussion was a little disgusting.

    But what would you have wanted Obama to say that would have cleared this up? Here’s what Wikipedia has: “Investigations by the New York Times, CNN, and other news organizations concluded that Obama does not have a close relationship with Ayers.” Is there evidence that contradicts this conclusion?

  36. I listened on NPR, and I didn’t think it sounded any better than it seems to have looked. McCain has adopted a plaintive whine when he’s trying to appeal to the audience, and while he kept it out of his voice for most of the debate, it crept back in by the end. He made a lot of attacks, but I think they mostly backfired, since they gave Obama a chance to swat down the Ayers issue and swat away any ACORN issues (Obama lost some momentum as he responded and didn’t answer the allegations quite as strongly as I would have liked, but I think he probably did well enough to convince anybody who doesn’t think he’s a Muslim). And McCain had several WTF?! moments, including a moment when he seemed to get Supreme Court Justices Breyer and Alito confused and another moment when he seemed to be saying that the main difference between his views of nuclear power and Obama’s was that Obama wanted safety regulations. (So… “an unshielded uranium core in every backyard” is the new “chicken in every pot” for the 21st century…? Ohhh-kaaaay….)

    And Joe The Plumber was actually a more annoying theme/meme than Governor Palin’s repetition of the word “maverick” at the VP debate. Apparently the Constitution has been revised so that Joe The Plumber will be the sole member of the Electoral College this November. I guess. Can anyone confirm that McCain mispronounced Joe’s last name last night, or did I mishear something on NPR this morning?

  37. I only caught the second half. Obviously, as I’m fairly liberal, I agreed with Obama for many of the points. There were two places, though, where I was slightly unhappy with Obama’s stance.

    First off, I think that McCain made a good point about nuclear energy, and I was extremely disappointed that Obama didn’t comment about his willingness (or unwillingness) to turn to nuclear as an energy source. I’m aware that a good portion of the liberal base views nuclear energy as a horrible monstrosity, but it’s really quite safe now.

    Second, while talking about abortions, Obama said that no one likes abortions, and that he would put money into programs that helped alleviate the need for abortions. He mentioned, very specifically, abstinence education, but didn’t mention any other types of sexual education. It’s a fact that abstinence only education is not effective, and that to actually make a difference, you need a full curriculum, one that includes abstinence education, but that also teaches sexual responsibility. That Obama only mentioned abstinence education is a bit worrying.

  38. Well, Tibby, I’m not going to flame you, but I’m certainly going to disagree.

    On both the Ayers and ACORN points, I think Obama did exactly what was necessary without sinking to the level of the McCain campaign (I won’t accuse McCain here – I honestly think he’s got an evil campaign manager who’s orchestrating his recent ‘attack strategy’ and that Palin’s helping that one along.) Obama could very easily have brought up – and justifiably – Palin’s association with the Alaska secessionist party (also a ‘terrorist’ organization by the same criteria that defined Ayers) and McCain’s own campaign accepting rather large contributions from ACORN.

    He did neither. He defended his own associations, refused to shift to the offensive on McCain, and altogether conducted himself admirably.

    If you’re really worried about Obama’s associations with either Ayers or ACORN, there are many, many articles by independent journalists for both parties investigating the extent of both of those associations. No news source I’ve seen has thus far been able to find any wrongdoing on Obama’s part – and in an election year like this one, you better believe they’re trying. If they haven’t found anything condemning Obama’s behavior, it isn’t there.

    I’ve been a little curious as to what Obama was supposed to do about Ayers. He didn’t PUT him on the committee. Was he supposed to walk in on his first day and say, “I refuse to associate with this person, on the grounds that he did something despicable forty years ago and that his proximity to me in our committee meetings might damage my political reputation”? I mean, really now.

  39. I think I begin to understand why John doesn’t actually watch these debates. If I was an American trying to decide who is going to be _my_ president, I would base my decision on actual points of policy, not on how they looked in a debate. You don’t go and elect a president just because he looks good on TV. If you still want to know what the two candidates talked about, I guess reading the transcript of the conversation would actually be better than actually watching them.

    I can imagine that being president means long hours of meetings, discussions and paperwork, followed by brief encounters with the media and yet more paperwork, discussions and meetings. The “media” part is not essential to the presidential business. Leadership, good negotiating skills, a cool head and the capacity to recognize good advice when presented are all qualities that are essential for a president. I don’t think a debate makes a good showcase for said qualities, otherwise Letterman would have become president a long time ago.

    Somebody once said that if Abraham Lincoln would candidate today, he would have no chance at all. I’ll go ahead and fill this under “Sad but true”.

  40. tibby:

    I hope you don’t go away for a few days since I am curious about your statement about the Acorn/Ayers portion of the debate.

    What I am curious about is why you stated that Obama “danced all around it and told us nothing”.

    I realize I filtered that exchange through Obama-supporter ears, but it seemed to me that Obama answered the question about his associations with both ACORN and Ayers in succinct detail. He pointed out specifically what his associations were and when McCain interrupted him at one point saying that Obama started his campaign in Ayer’s living room, Obama flatly denied it.

    I guess my question is what troubles you about Obama’s answer? What information do you think is missing?

    To me, Obama’s answer seemed both reasonable and full of verifiable facts. He quickly and carefully laid out what his associations are and they match what is in public record. What information do you think we are missing?

  41. Like David@17 mentioned, the most nervous-making thing I took away from last night was how McCain so obviously loathes Obama and doesn’t even try to hide it. What kind of person acts like that?

  42. If you still want to know what the two candidates talked about, I guess reading the transcript of the conversation would actually be better than actually watching them.

    Pretty much what I’ve been doing with politics since 2000. (Then a quick check over at Factchecking.org, this time around.) Everything else is too stressful.

    I guess my question is what troubles you about Obama’s answer? What information do you think is missing?

    I think there is still a certain cadre who only want to hear “YES I AM GUILTY I DID IT OH GOD.”

  43. I think McCain did very well. He brought up the Acorn/Ayers problem, he gave Obama a chance to clear it up, which he in no way did. He danced all around it and told us nothing.

    No flames here, just an observation: it’s clearly public information–and not just from the Obama camp–that whatever Ayers was in the 1960s, by the ’90s he was one of Chicago’s foremost experts and activists on matters relating to juvenile justice, juvenile social issues, and education reform. Which means any Chicago politician or community leader in any party (or none) would have to deal with Ayers, regardless of party affiliation, regardless of knowledge of Ayers’ past, regardless of any real desire to work with him, actually. To try to take even a limited interest in juvenile issues in Chicago in the past twenty years-or-so while bypassing or marginalizing Ayers would have been irresponsible and incompetent, if not actually impossible.

    Obama’s statements last night could have addressed that point more strongly, I agree, but they did address it.

    I’m less informed about the ACORN issue, but it also seems to be a non-issue. As I understand it, ACORN paid people to obtain voter registrations, and some of these people made up registrations. While this was a stupid thing to do, and might justify purging the responsible people for a questionable (on many levels) use of funds, it’s not clear it was illegal and it appears it would only be voter fraud if someone actually tried to vote as or on behalf of one of the fictional voters. It’s not clear to me that Obama’s involvement with ACORN was any deeper than McCain’s–it seems the Arizona Senator was a strong supporter of the organization in the past but has been far more critical since they began supporting his rival. Again, I think Obama could have given a more forceful answer–there’s no evidence of wrongdoing on his part that I am aware of. Obama was losing momentum as he wound through his response to McCain, and I think was worried about running out of time–i.e. I don’t think he was being evasive, I think he was starting to meander while looking for a way to wrap up, which is reeeeeal easy to do when you’re speaking extemporaneously.

    I hope that was clear, thorough, informative and polite; I only say this because you worried about being flamed, and if I flamed you by accident, you have my permission to call me an obnoxious wanker who should be beaten with a fish, which (I’m told) is the statutory punishment for flaming in the tiny village of Vyslenskiviik, Iceland. Okay, I made that last part up. But the rest of the post is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and ability.

  44. I remember learning about the Nixon/Kennedy debate in my goverment classes and it’s always in my mind during election years, whoever comes across as more likeable, more personable seems to win. People tend to cadge that in different terms (remember people saying they voted for bush becuase of his Moral Values in 2004? ) but really when you think about the persona that the winning candiates exude and it’s easy to pick a winner early on by who has the charisma and personaiblity.

    Fortunatly the candidate that I prefer has youth, charisma and personability on his side.

  45. Good God, I’m amazed that Obama was able to stay so cool and collected.

    It was McCain’s strongest performance, hands-down. That said, McCain really infuriated me, and I’m a guy who used to have a lot of respect for him, probably would have voted for him in 2000 if he’d been the Republican nominee. But his whining about hurt feelings while failing to criticize people who showed up at his rally who shouted terrorist or kill him when Obama’s name was mentioned is hard to shake.

    Also, he wants Veterans to get some kind of automatic free pass to become teachers without going through credential exams? Please, you don’t want somebody like me to serve in the military without going to boot camp, do you?

  46. Matt @ 36:

    Anyone that would make a decision on who to vote for based on the quality of someone’s rhetoric, their facial expressions, or their use of air quotes is not someone whose opinion should matter.

    I wouldn’t make a decision based on use of air quotes, but the meaning of the air quotes certainly affects my vote.

    I didn’t watch this or any of the debates; I read the transcript moments after it was over.

    When I got to McCain’s snide remark about “health of the mother”, I, like MikeT’s wife, was enraged.

    After I finished reading the transcript, I poked around the net for other tidbits. I saw something suggesting that McCain had used air quotes when he made that remark.

    At first, I thought they meant they had heard McCain use the same sarcasm and contempt I imagined when I read the transcript. But there was a link to the video, and I saw that he ACTUALLY used air quotes. With his hands.

    When I read that quote in the transcript, I felt what I always feel when I encounter hard-core, extremist anti-abortion positions:

    He doesn’t care if I live or die.

    My life – and my health – are MEANINGLESS to him.

    Enraged doesn’t begin to cover it.

  47. Watching the debate, as opposed to just listening or reading the transcript, does provide important nonverbal information about the temperament of the candidates. In this case McCain’s body language seemed completely out of control. He also seems barely able to reign in his anger. In a growing global economy and with two wars going on this side of Senator McCain is worrisome and relevant.

  48. Count me as one who was enraged by the “health of the mother” bit as well. That was the single most cringe-inducing moment for me last night.

    I support programs to put people from the military and people with relevant business experience in teaching, but they need to be in conjunction with some sort of alternative certification program. The prospective teacher needs a certain amount of professional development time before being allowed in the classroom. They can work if done right. I’ve seen it work. I’ve also seen it fail miserably when the new teacher has no support.

  49. Kristi–yes. This. Extremist anti-abortion stances aren’t about saving babies. It’s about putting women in boxes.

    I didn’t watch the debate, but I read about this and my jaw dropped.

  50. No flames here, just an observation: it’s clearly public information–and not just from the Obama camp–that whatever Ayers was in the 1960s, by the ’90s he was one of Chicago’s foremost experts and activists on matters relating to juvenile justice, juvenile social issues, and education reform.

    Moreover, he got recomendations and money…BIG amounts of money….from Republican sources.

    Hm. I’m a politician starting out in Chicago. I see a person who’s very liberal (which is NOT a bad thing), yet gets lots of money from a Republican source. WHY WOULD’NT I ASSOCIATE WITH THAT PERSON???????

    Could somebody answer that? Pretty please????

  51. Hey, the spellcheck in Firefox underlines Obama but not McCain.

    (That’s more interesting than what I was originally going to say, so I’ll stick with it.)

  52. I’ve only watched parts of the debates since my vote was decided long ago (pro-Obama), but in all three McCain’s lack of self-control bothers me. Not for how mediagenic he is or is not, but for what it implies about him as a potential president. The eye-rolling, smirking, air quoting, blinking…. on and on. He entered these debates in a fairly tight race and you simply have to know as a candidate in 2008 that a large part of what people are watching for is to see if they’re comfortable with you as a possible president.

    Yes, policies are important, but we also want to feel that whoever we put in there can deal with the pressure and do it in a responsible, mature way. The debates let us see the candidates under (slightly) less scripted moments and McCain failed to project what he asserted were his key attributes – an experienced, calm leader vs some rash untested newcomer.

    After all, if you can’t stop yourself from the eyerolls, incessant blinking, smirking, etc you either don’t WANT to or you simply aren’t able to. The first projects the image of an arrogant, rude man. The second projects makes him seem like someone who is, well, erratic and out of control. It was odd to see that he either would not or could not project an image that reinforced his basic advantage.

    While the probable outcome makes me happy, I think McCain made things worse for himself from the one of the convention, through the choice of Palin (giving up the experience argument in one stroke), to the swerving nature of his post convention campaign. Steadiness, experience, familiarity… those were the things that would sway the undecideds – and he tossed them to appeal to a base whom he already had. Odd choice, but that’s why we have campaigns I suppose.

  53. McCain irritated me even more last night, so much so I yelled at the TV and my husband came down to ask me if I needed something. *g*

    First, he’d make a statement about Obama’s policies (statements we’ve all heard before), Obama would correct him, and he’d REPEAT THE STATEMENT (in a different way, but still). He sounded like a broken record. I might have missed it, but as far as I remember, he rarely corrected what Obama said about his policies.

    Second, he brought up the new media focus on Palin: that she’s a special needs mom. First we women are supposed to vote for her because she’s a woman, and now special needs parents are supposed to vote for her because she’s a special needs parent. This in spite of two things: 1) her experience as a special needs parent doesn’t match the experience of most special needs parents because we don’t make $160k/year — we have to navigate programs in a whole different way than her family does because we don’t have that kind of money to cover the costs; and 2) she tried to CUT funding for special needs programs in Alaska. Yes, this is where I started yelling at the TV.

    And when it came to the negative campaign attacks, McCain sounded whiny.

    Honestly, if I hadn’t been decided before, I would have come out very sure of which way to vote after last night. I will concede, though, that McCain seemed more…passionate than before, more animated. Of course, there were times when that fire seemed to cross the line to downright pissed….

  54. Oh yeah, domynoe, that got me, too. If she’s the most qualified parent of a kid with “special needs” he knows, I am not confident about his disability-rights policy. Of course, since he doesn’t have a disability-rights policy on his website, and has a terrible record on the issues, I’m not confident about it anyway.

    But Sarah Palin has only begun to experience being the parent of a child with disabilities and, like any parent, she’s got a lot to learn. To characterize her the way he did seems terribly demeaning to the families who have been living with disabilities for much longer.

  55. Ok, I lied. I did come back, and I want to thank you John, and the others of you that responded. You were all polite and well spoken. You are right, flinching before hand is silly.

    I could go and find more links, but I don’t want to. I’ve included one, I know others are out there, and you could find them if you wish to. I hope that you do start doing some investigating, on your own, and stop just taking the man’s word for everything. This one link proves Obamas ties to Acorn are deeper than he would have us think. And don’t judge the content by the site, judge the content and where it originates from. Don’t kill the messenger.

    http://sweetness-light.com/archive/obama-ran-acorns-training-sessions-on-power

    As for Ayers, Obama out and out lied about the “campaign started in his livingroom” point. I’ve seen the proof, which I can’t run down now, and I know, I’d roll my eyes too if someone said that. But anything that the Obama campaign thinks is detrimental to him manages to disappear. Doesn’t that worry you?

    Now having said all that, I don’t think John McCain is perfect, God knows I really didn’t want him at first. He still says and does things that make me want to rip my hair out. But something that I think is key is that he acknowledges our history. I don’t think Obama does, I think that he really doesn’t get why socialism scares those of us over fifty, I feel like I’m living in Germany in the 1930′s. And it scares me. I want what is best for my country. Of the two, he strikes me as the better pick.

    Thanks again for the civility, and please don’t dismiss my comment, really do the research, not just accept what you’re told my the talking heads.

  56. The special needs issue was also another “WTF?!” thing for McCain: Governor Palin’s child is a victim of Down’s Syndrome, but I’d swear McCain was describing him as autistic by the end of the debate–or did I misunderstand what he was saying?

  57. Pegkitty@50
    “Like David@17 mentioned, the most nervous-making thing I took away from last night was how McCain so obviously loathes Obama and doesn’t even try to hide it. What kind of person acts like that?”

    A Psychopath.

    Frankly, I was disappointed.

    When McCain was promising to take off the gloves and “kick some ‘you know what,’” I was hoping to finally see one of his famous Senate meltdowns.

    So he stands and fumes and grimaces and tosses practiced one liners at Obama.

    That’s IT?

  58. As the parent of an autistic child, I was very confused as to why Sarah Palin, the parent of a child with Trisomy 21 is an expert on autistic children. Is there some overlap I’m not aware of? Does my son have Downs and I’ve been going about this all wrong?

    And while I’m at it, here’s what an autistic kid (mine) is like:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yf6G5E_hLo

    He got the “precious” part right at least. :-)

  59. @tibby: “Obama out and out lied about the “campaign started in his livingroom” point. I’ve seen the proof, which I can’t run down now, and I know, I’d roll my eyes too if someone said that. ”

    I’d assume that running for public office starts in the same place every other important decision gets made: standing in front of the bathroom mirror shaving or tooth-brushing. Were you there for that? :-)

  60. tibby@65
    As a fellow over 50 person I can see your point, but I find McCain and the Neocons scarier.

    Socialism? How about Fascism? Germany in the 1930s was Socialist IN NAME ONLY. Hitler was actively supported by the capitalist and industrialists who blamed everyone but themselves for losing World War I and the post-war depression. They blamed the Jews for conspiracy to destroy western civilization.

    Neocons blame the Liberals for conspiring to destroy America.

  61. Tibby, I’ll look into what you’ve provided, but I will say my comment was based on my own research, not on what the Obama campaign has said or on what the pundits have said. ACORN I will look into some more–although it seems McCain’s criticisms are awfully recent. The Ayers thing is a dead issue, even if it turned out Obama lied about starting his campaign in Ayers’ living room: if Ayers lived in my area and taken a similar career path to what he’s done in Chicago, I would probably see him at least once a month, and I’m not a politician. (My work deals with juvenile law issues, and Ayers would almost certainly serve with me on a state-mandated county council I’m on.)

    This has nothing to do with Ayers’ former activities or apparent lack of remorse, and nothing to do with the pundits: Ayers wasn’t a shady, liberal fringe character from the Chicago counterculture when Obama met him. At the time Ayers was a professor, author, activist and probably the foremost authority on juvenile legal issues in the city. Nor was it a party thing. Governor George W. Bush would have probably dealt with Ayers if Ayers had been a Texan, and Mayor Sarah Palin would have certainly dealt with Ayers if he’d lived in Wasilla. If you lived in this place at this time, and you had the least involvement with juvenile justice as an advocate, educator, lawyer, politician, official, activist, or leader, you dealt with Bill Ayers and did so regularly. Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian or independent; conservative or liberal.

    You might look at this piece in Slate by a writer who dealt with Ayers as a graduate student researching the history of Chicago’s juvenile justice system.

  62. Jemaleddin,

    I’ve read that she has a couple of nephews or cousins that are autistic, (nope, didn’t research that) but my understanding was that (while he worded it badly) he was refering special needs children in general.

    And yeah, you’re allowed the eye roll.
    But only if you do the research!! :0)

  63. @Laur, #48: Your point about favoring policy points over appearance is an excellent one, but I think there’s something to be said for close observation in (semi-)uncontrolled conditions.

    When I’m interviewing people to hire, I intentionally put them through the wringer a bit. Among other things, I give them some tasks that they’ll find stressful and at least partially fail at. I make sure to ask some questions that they can’t possibly know the answer to, but ask them as if they should certainly know. I do this because I want to see how they handle stress, how they deal with unexpected situations, and to learn a bit more about their character.

    A debate gives me a little of that same insight. I was especially interested in Obama’s first debate and McCain’s last one, as that’s where they were under the most pressure. As they say, character is fate.

  64. I had the exact same Nixon/Kennedy thought but in a different way. This debate is the first one I’ve ever watched in HD and McCain looked like death warmed over. Particularly his eyes. His cataracts or whatever made it look like he had just gotten finished crying the whole time and he just looked awful, mostly due to age.

    Is it fair that people might vote for Barack because he’s young, skinny and healthy and not for McCain because he looks like he’s about to die? No. Is it likely to happen? Yeah.

    I wonder if the people who watched the debate in HD have a different take than the ones who watched on standard television.

  65. Tibby,

    A couple of times now you’ve made assertions then told US to do the research. I think if you want to avoid being dismissed as a crank YOU need to provide some evidence backing up your assertions. It’s not just eyerolling – it simply destroys your credibility. If you have evidence backing up your assertions, link it. If not… think about the possibility that the assertions you’re making aren’t, in fact, true.

  66. An Eric,

    I am not accusing Ayers of being anything but what he says he is. I’ll grant you the fact that he part of the political scene in Chicago. I don’t like his policy, I don’t like his spin, I don’t like what he stands for, and I don’t think he’s doing anyone’s children any favors. Having to deal with him, and accepting what he does as right are two different things. It isn’t the fact that Obama dealt with him that I take exception to, it’s the denial. Why deny it if it’s a non issue? Why spin it? Why lie?

  67. tibby@60

    “Thanks again for the civility, and please don’t dismiss my comment, really do the research, not just accept what you’re told my the talking heads.”

    Good advice, I agree. I have done the research rather than listened to the talking heads, which is why I’m fine – allowing for too much political rhetoric – with Obama’s explanations.

    “I think that he really doesn’t get why socialism scares those of us over fifty, I feel like I’m living in Germany in the 1930’s. And it scares me. I want what is best for my country. Of the two, he strikes me as the better pick.”

    Umm…perhaps you mean you feel like you’re living in Germany in the twenties? Germany in the thirties was under Hitler and the Nazis, and plain old socialism (as opposed to Stalinist communism) would have been a far better alternative. In the twenties, on the other hand, many in the Weimar Republic were worried enough about socialism or genuinely extreme leftist alternatives that they voted for…


    Even a correction is heading in the wrong direction, isn’t it? Never mind.

  68. But anything that the Obama campaign thinks is detrimental to him manages to disappear

    Boy, yeah, I’ve noticed how McCain has simply had nothing with which to go after Obama. All those ads that were 30 seconds of blank air.

  69. This one link proves Obamas ties to Acorn are deeper than he would have us think.

    Ah, but can you actually explain why people should actually care that Obama did some leadership training at ACORN events, or that he collaborated with them on a voter registration drive? Or is it merely sufficient to wave around some Republican talking points that ludicrously blame a liberal activist group for the fancy credit arrangements that actually created the current crisis, and mistakenly associate the submission of inaccurate registration information with “voter fraud”?

  70. An Eric,

    I am not accusing Ayers of being anything but what he says he is. I’ll grant you the fact that he part of the political scene in Chicago. I don’t like his policy, I don’t like his spin, I don’t like what he stands for, and I don’t think he’s doing anyone’s children any favors. Having to deal with him, and accepting what he does as right are two different things. It isn’t the fact that Obama dealt with him that I take exception to, it’s the denial. Why deny it if it’s a non issue? Why spin it? Why lie?

    This is assuming that he lied.

    I find that a problematic assumption without evidence–something you yourself have said that you have not provided. Seeing it someplace, somewhere without vetting it is not evidence.

  71. “I take exception to, it’s the denial. Why deny it if it’s a non issue? Why spin it? Why lie?”

    That’s an awfully thin thread on which to pin an allegation of Obama telling a lie.

    Where a campaign “started” is remarkably subjective, and who knows how many actions and meetings took place before the neighborhood meet and greet at Ayers’ house.

    From Obama’s perspective, how he started his campaign is going to look quite a bit different from an outsider with very limited information about how that process went.

    It’s a bit like saying a pregnancy starts at the first ultrasound.

  72. No, I meant the 30′s. When I was a teenager, a friend of my fathers who grew up in Germany, was telling us about being in the Hitler youth. He said it was like being in the Boys Scouts, patriotism, health, all the wonderful things we could do, if only people would let us run things…granted that wasn’t socialism as we know it, but it grew out of it.

    Ok, I’m done.

    As I’ve said, I don’t think McCain is perfect. But I still think he’s better for our country. You aren’t going to change my mind, and I’m not going to change yours.

    Rick, I’ve done my research, and I gave you one link. Do I have to do it all for you?

    David, huh? What dead air? The McCain ads are still available on youtube.

  73. ” if only people would let us run things…granted that wasn’t socialism as we know it, but it grew out of it.”

    Uh, no it didn’t. You haven’t been reading Jonah Goldberg, have you?

  74. It isn’t the fact that Obama dealt with him that I take exception to, it’s the denial. Why deny it if it’s a non issue? Why spin it? Why lie?

    But I’m missing the bit where Obama lied, spun, or denied. Has he said he does not know Ayers, or did not work with him in committees? Or has he said “I am not a terrorist?” (And if we were to consider the radical position that that last bit were true, would that not preclude the term “spin”?)

    I still think there are people who will not be satisfied until Obama says he personally hurled Malatov cocktails, true or not.

  75. tibby:
    The two Obama-Ayers links I know of are:

    1) They worked on the same board for the Chicago Annenberg challenge.
    2) After the residing state senator in his district decided to move on, she chose him as her successor, and introduced him to local Democrats at Ayers’ house.

    (1) Whether or not I think the Annenberg Challenge works or not, it’s a bipartisan (Annenberg endorsed McCain) education reform program and Ayers was doing a lot of education reform work, so it’s hardly surprising that he was on the board.

    (2) could be slightly more worrying, but more on the level of the Chicago political establishment. Obama has said he didn’t know Ayers was part of the Weather Underground before the meeting, and I don’t see why he would have. Attending a meet and greet you didn’t organize at someone else’s house does not strike me as particularly significant.

    So neither of those give me any reason Obama and Ayers are connected in any relevant fashion; and they say little about his politics, other than an interest in education reform.

    The man’s been evasive about ACORN, apparently. Your link did suggest he’s done some work for them (the power sessions), although the site’s attempt to cast GOTV efforts as partisan hackery simply because low and middle-income areas lean Democratic is hilarious. (Plus the bolding and separate quoting of the part where he ominous helped ACORN force Illinois to follow federal law).

    I haven’t particularly followed the issue, given the meaninglessness of the ACORN voter fraud charges, but well, he’s a politician. One of McCain’s signature issues has been earmarks, and the “Palin fought the Bridge to Nowhere” narrative is complete crap.

    I don’t like the evasiveness (like Obama pulled on the gun issue earlier this year), but I just don’t see the relevance of either ACORN or Ayers to much of anything beyond education reform.

  76. Ayers is reminding me of that description of people on the no-fly list: “Too dangerous to ever allow on a plan, too innocent to arrest.”

    If Ayers is SUCH A BAD GUY, why isn’t he in jail? Why is he such a big part of the Chicago political landscape? Why was he awarded “Chicago Citizen of the Year” in 1997? I don’t get it.

  77. “1) They worked on the same board for the Chicago Annenberg challenge.”

    They were also involved with the Woods Fund, a philanthropic fund created in mid-20th century by a successful businessman.

    Ayers is still involved on the board. As is a representative from UBS Investment Bank, a known hotbed of socialist revolutionary activity.

  78. As I understand it, here is the exact issue with ACORN:

    1. They hired people to do voter registration drives, and paid them on a per-registration basis.

    2. Some of the people they hired decided to make the cash a little more quickly by filling in fake registrations.

    And that’s pretty much it, yes?

    How is this any different from similar situations from other organizations that have occasionally had fake signatures on ballot measures or petitions from unscrupulous employees?

    I live in a state with a ballot measure system, and pretty much every election, each petition to get a measure on the ballot has a handful of fake or otherwise unqualified signatures. That’s just an accepted part of how things go. There’s always a margin of error.

    It’s not like the organization itself had a policy of fake registrations. And it’s not like the Dallas starting lineup is actually going to show up to the polls in Ohio, so there’s no actual voter fraud.

    So again: What’s the problem? Can anyone explain this to me?

  79. “It’s not like the organization itself had a policy of fake registrations”

    And it’s not like it would be any better if ACORN were throwing away the obviously fake registrations.

    If they were doing that, the Republicans would charge that ACORN was throwing away valid Republican registrations.

  80. Tal:

    Some people want to give the illusion that false registrations are a priori evidence of voter fraud, largely for political reasons. That’s pretty much it.

  81. Jemaleddin, #69: “I’d assume that running for public office starts in the same place every other important decision gets made: standing in front of the bathroom mirror shaving or tooth-brushing.”

    All my important decisions get made as I have the fridge door open and I’m taking inventory of the contents. Who gets anything done whilst tooth-brushing? That way lies madness! MADNESS, I TELL YOU!

  82. David, huh? What dead air? The McCain ads are still available on youtube.

    Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can do it, but the frog tends to end up dead.

  83. John H – And it’s not like it would be any better if ACORN were throwing away the obviously fake registrations.

    In fat, they’re obligated by law to submit and report suspicious registrations. So even if Mickey Mouse registers, ACORN has to submit that registration, and if they suspect anything, flag it. If they threw them away, they’d be in trouble with the law.

  84. Wow. Germany in the 30s was “socialism,” huh? And East Germany prior to the fall of the wall was a democracy, right? Because they were called the German Democratic Republic. In fact, they were Republicans! That means Republicans are really Communists!

    Names, especially in politics, don’t mean the same thing in every case; it matters who’s using them. I’m an actual socialist, and Hitler would have killed me for my politics alone (never mind the gay thing).

  85. Tibby – you’ve made multiple allegations and then keep saying ‘go look it up.’ Where I come from the person making assertions has the burden of proof, not the audience. If you can’t or won’t take that burden on, fine, but finding evidence of your allegations is *your* responsibility, not mine. Sorry, but I’m not taking seriously statements backed up by phrases like “i read this somewhere…”

    And Rob – the conflation of National Socialism with actual socialism is PRECISELY Goldberg’s line. That Goldberg seems to either completely misunderstand both things or willfully distorting them so that fascism = socialism.

  86. Tal @ 90

    Acorn pays people on an hourly basis precisely to *avoid* as much as possible that percieved pressure.
    Throwing away filled out forms is unlawful. Acorn flagged the suspect forms they noticed and likely kept them on top for easier handling, hence all the claims that ‘of the first x forms, y were bogus’. Duh.
    If you want to talk about throwing away forms we should discuss Sproul & Assoc.

    David B @ 82

    http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081015

    About halfway down. :)

    About the debate -

    McCain was consistantly crass and rude the whole time: interrupting and talking over people all the time, etc. I’ve already had to put up with 8 years of having a national embarresment as the occupant of the WH, why would I want any more? Also, I’m not as eager to praise the moderator as some here. It sure seemed to me (biased, so YMMV) that McCain was getting the last word almost every time, no matter who started the answering. It’s real easy to claim you won when your opponent never gets a chance rebut the points you wait till the end to make.

  87. 83. tibby said: ” I’ve done my research, and I gave you one link. Do I have to do it all for you?

    Uhh. Yes.

    That’s how it works. You make assertions, it’s up to you to back them up with all the supporting evidence you have. Why would it be up to your opponent to find support for your assertions?

    Your opponent is responsible for looking over your assertions plus support, and either being convinced by it (thereby concluding the discussion), or countering with their own assertions plus supporting evidence. Which you then look over to see if you agree or disagree, and then if you disagree you explain why you do.

    Is there some other method of discussion that works equally well that you’re going for?

  88. I think those who are counting on an Obama victory are celebrating more than a little prematurely. While its true he leads in the polls, the polls are no substitute for election day. McCain being so close to Obama (Gallup has them apart by 2, within the margin of error), and with so many undecided and/or “soft” voters, should be sending alarm bells off at the DNC. Bush is immensely unpopular (even amongst conservatives), the economy is in the tank, and Obama should be a run away freight train, which is not happening (for those of you who believe in a double digit lead, I respectfully disagree).

    I’m betting McCain wins this one. Of course, I am a conservative so maybe I have the blinders on, but I don’t think so.

  89. Stevem: You’re betting McCain wins this one? Awesome, how much are you betting? I see that Intrade has shares of John McCain to win 2008 Presidential Election at 15.5 cents to the dollar, so you should really be cleaning up.

    Or did you mean the kind of betting where you don’t actually bet anything?

  90. Turns out McCain’s “old buddy” (whom he never met) Joe the Plumber isn’t really a plumber. And he owes back taxes. Link

    And contrary to an earlier comment in this thread, Joe IS registered to vote. Funny thing is, his name is misspelled on the Ohio voter registration rolls. If he were a new voter, that would be enough to have him disqualified from voting, depending on the outcome of ongoing GOP-instigated litigation.

    What a joke. The cornerstone of McCain’s debate performance (he mentioned Joe 26 times) turns out to be a sham. Looks like he vetted Joe as well as he vetted his VP choice.

  91. One more thought, courtesy Andrew Sullivan: Joe the Plumber has now had more press conferences than Sarah Palin.

  92. I watched the CNN talking heads last night after the debate. Right at the end there was a question about what McCain could do now. David Gergen who has advised both Republicans and Bill Clinton answered to the effect if not these words, “The hell if I know”.

    CNN had an interesting question in their snap poll. When asked if they would like to see another debate, around two thirds said no. That response seems to provide a lot of tea leaves to read.

    One other interesting thing about CNN’s snap poll was
    their presentation of it. They broke down the responses according to people who said they were Democrats, Republicans, and independent. More Democrats than Republicans, reflecting national registration numbers. As to be expected, Democrats said Obama won and Republicans said McCain won. But Obama had greater majority among Democrats than McCain’s majority with Republicans. Those calling themselves independents favored Obama by a clear majority but no where as near as large as the other two majorities.

    George

  93. Jemaleddin @ 8, Nargel @ 100:

    If Obama was the last to speak on any question (not counting closing statements), I missed it. McCain seemed to me to get the last word every time – not that it helped his performance.

    My views are generally well to the left of Obama’s, but I was already supporting him, and he impressed me tremendously last night. I admire his ability to ignore insults and remain calm under attack — and his potential to actually *lead* the country in a better direction, rather than follow.

    Robrobb @ 30, about the demand side of the energy independence equation, remember Obama’s sensible suggestion earlier in the campaign about inflating tires properly? I don’t think he’s going to ridicule conservation measures as the McCain campaign did. Maybe he’ll even lead more Americans to take conservation seriously.

  94. SteveM @102:
    I think those who are counting on an Obama victory are celebrating more than a little prematurely.

    As a liberal Obama supporter, I’ve got to say: Preach it brother! Anyone who thinks this election is in the bag is being foolish. Hell, three weeks of hearing “Obama’s already won” will be enough to make a good-sized chunk of Obama voters stay home, and another chunk of undecideds go for McCain out of sheer annoyance.

    This election won’t be over until the evening of November 4th (he said optimistically).

  95. I agree with everyone who is saying we should be cautious about premature celebration. If something can go wrong, it will, and if people say Obama’s already won now, I’m so scared it won’t happen…

  96. Re ACORN, Ayers, Obama, I think factcheck.org did a nice job summarizing this one.

    Re McCain’s disingenuous comment about ACORN “rending the fabric of American democracy”: C’mahhhn! Mucking about with votes is bedrock wrong, and playing with fire, true. Bad things happen in countries where people stop believing their vote counts. And those shiftless ACORN-contractor idiots should have spent a couple CPU cycles thinking about the golden opportunity they handed their employer’s opponents, for years to come.

    But…lose the trumped-up outrage, Senator. Let’s talk Diebold’s head vowing to “deliver this state” (Ohio) for Bush in 2004 (not to mention the rather incendiary allegations made by Steve Heller, the former Diebold engineer, which led to their machines being decertified in California). Let’s talk the Wisconsin GOP, who as I write are recruiting ex-military and ex-cops as poll watchers for inner-city precincts in Wisconsin (intimidate much, there?). Let’s talk Katherine Harris in Florida. Or look at Rolling Stone’s “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?”, and examine the Ohio section very carefully. (I do not assert here that it was — but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.)

    There have been undeniable cases of Democratic voter fraud, including Milwaukee in 2004. The number of votes affected was trivial, but the effects have not been. I have no idea what these wretched people thought they were accomplishing; given that the demographics drive Democrats to increase turnout and Republicans to suppress it, all they’re doing is handing ammunition to their opponents, who really prefer their elections stolen wholesale, thank you.

    Stuffing a few ballots is just stupidly counterproductive. It’s like bombing rural peasants to win their support against indigenous insurgents, or drowning a city to guarantee your crony a permanent sinecure, or cutting taxes to increase federal revenue, or cutting troubled schools’ funding to improve their teaching, or betting on the stock market to guarantee retirement security, or expecting for-profit health insurance companies to ignore their fiduciary responsibilities and reduce their bottom lines by cutting premiums while extending universal coverage. It’s like…like…ooo, tip of my tongue….

  97. Michael @ #104l- The kind of bet that doesn’t involve money. Only bragging rights.

    John @ #105- You’re right about the analysis from the link provided. But even they’re concluding Obama’s lead is about 7. Which isn’t even anywhere close to being safe.

    Jon @ #111- For a liberal, you are very sensible.

  98. Jon@111:
    This election won’t be over until the evening of November 4th (he said optimistically).

    I’d settle for the wee hours of November 5, with an anti-climatic, utterly predictable gathering of the Electoral College on December 15.

  99. SteveM @ 114 that’s also the national number which really doesn’t matter all that much in an electoral vote system. I’m certainly not going to count this election won before the votes are counted but if you want to look at poles that actually matter to the results you need to look at the electoral vote counts, and there Obama’s numbers look significantly better than his national numbers which are quite high by recent standards.

    Obama has substantial outside the margin error leads in 313 electoral votes* worth of states. McCain has similar leads in 155 electoral votes. Since 270 is the magic number I wouldn’t be at all happy if I were a McCain supporter at the moment. While it is certainly still possible for Obama to lose, anyone looking at this thing realistically has to figure McCain pulling it out is a very bad bet.

    *numbers courtesy of pollster.com.

  100. PS (as if that first rant wasn’t long-winded enough, and sorry about the duelling “rick”s): Check out the Al Smith Dinner videos for both McCain and Obama. My God, they were *funny*, and appeared gracious as heck. Where have these men been for the past six months?

    Obama’s:
    http://www.youtube.com/v/v5SWQJWm6Tg

  101. The Obama campaign certainly isn’t counting the election as over. I got an email earlier to day which said in part:

    Anyone who tells you this election is already decided is dead wrong. Let’s not forget the 2000 election, when Al Gore was up by double digits in October.

    The surest way to lose a race is to slow down with the finish line in sight.

    We’re taking no chances. We’ve planned the biggest get out the vote operation in history, and we need to make sure that every voter has their voice heard.

  102. I can’t believe no one mentioned this yet, but what about the Bradley effect?

    You know, where white people don’t want to appear racist so they say, “Sure I’ll vote for a black man for president.” but once they get behind the curtain, they vote for the white guy because no one is looking over their shoulder.

    Unfortunately, I think this is one of the biggest threats Obama has right now to winning and there is nothing he can do about it. There is still a large chunk of Americans who are still slightly racist and would not vote for Obama just because he’s black and not because they disagree with his policies. Some people (SNL) say it will only account for a 6% swing but it may be well more than that. Let’s hope not.

  103. The Bradley effect, inasmuch as it actually still exists, would mainly affect the more liberal Northeast where people tend to keep their prejudices quiet (or feel they have to), and the Northeast is not really in contention, so much. (I will find you a link when I finish my chocolate breakfast muffin.)

  104. This seems to be a good article on the current polls, and the differing methodology: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122420151553142939.html#articleTabs_interactive%26articleTabs%3Darticle

    in summary, as I read it, the polls that greatly increase the numbers of Democats at the expense of Republicans, as opposed to a slight favoring of Democrats, and count for a larger than historical youth vote, give Obama a double digit lead. The polls that follow a more traditional model give Obama a 2-4 point lead.

  105. KIA @ 22. I am totally with you. I really even wonder what the point of discussing everything is because I think diebold machines mean the republicans will “win.”

    I really really hope I’m wrong.

  106. Michael @ #104l- The kind of bet that doesn’t involve money. Only bragging rights.

    That doesn’t make you sound very certain.

    InTrade has McCain at 16.7 today. Let’s suppose that you think that McCain has a 40% chance of winning the election (and you’re right). If you spend $10 on that, you’ve got a 60% chance of losing $10 and a 40% chance of winning $59.88. That’s a really good bet — and that’s assuming that you don’t actually think that John McCain will probably win! Your loss is capped at $10, not exactly big money.

    If that doesn’t tempt you, then are you really sure that you actually “think John McCain will win”? Is it possible that you are more like, “would like John McCain to win, but think he actually won’t”?

  107. stevem 114: For a liberal, you are very sensible.

    For a conservative, you’re very…um. Well, actually you’re pretty typical. Never mind.

    Michael 127: Some people, including me, simply don’t believe in betting money on anything. Not because we’re afraid of losing the individual bet in question, but because we know that it could easily get away from us and lead to a serious gambling addiction, which leads to betting on stupid things, delusions about statistics, and life in the gutter.

    That, or we just don’t feel good about winning bets, any more than we do about losing them. I hardly ever play games, either.

    So while you may be right about stevem not being too sure, he may have other reasons for not choosing to bet money.

    I’m expecting Obama will win, though I’m not relaxing just yet. And despite not betting on it, it will cost me a lot if McCain wins: my house, my livelihood, the money it will cost to get a good go-bag together, whatever fees and so on I’ll have to pay to emigrate. I love my country and I want to stay here, and having to leave because McCain’s fragile and declining health is too slender a thread from which the Damoclean sword of *shudder* President Palin depends would upset me greatly. (Yeah, I know people think I’m being alarmist about her. I think they’re being naïve.)

  108. Some people, including me, simply don’t believe in betting money on anything.

    Sure, and there’s a reason why I phrased it as a question and not an accusation.

  109. I gamble once a year; when my uncle comes into town I’ll play $40 on Laughlin’s blackjack tables. Other than that, I bet only for: 1) beer; or 2) bragging rights.

    Am I certain McCain is going to win? Of course not. The only one who can speak with absolute certainty is God. What I’ve pointed out is that Obama, despite all the things that should be propelling him to a crushing victory, isn’t that far ahead of McCain.

    And that should be very troubling to Obama’s supporters.

  110. And that should be very troubling to Obama’s supporters.

    Oh, eek. The “you’re not leading by enough” argument. Scary.

  111. Am I certain McCain is going to win? Of course not.

    If you think that there’s a 40% chance that McCain is going to win, you think that a McCain win is massively more likely than do the betting markets or, say, fivethirtyeight.com (currently predicting a 94.3% chance for Obama to win).

    So talking about “certainty” is a dodge.

    What I’ve pointed out is that Obama, despite all the things that should be propelling him to a crushing victory, isn’t that far ahead of McCain.

    More crushing than an 80-95% chance of winning?

    It’s a polarized country, and neither candidate is focusing their efforts on pushing their popular vote percentage ever higher. Obama could doubtless increase his margin in national polls by campaigning hard in California, New York, and New Jersey, and McCain could close the lead by campaigning hard in Texas, Alabama, and Kentucky, but they don’t actually get anything out of that besides impressing people who have a poor understanding of how our presidential elections work.

    If you took every state at its most recent polled level, Obama wins more than 350 electoral votes. Is that crushing enough?

    Now, does that mean that the election’s over? No, of course not. Who knows what happens tomorrow. Maybe Obama is found in bed with the proverbial dead girl or live boy. Maybe 9/11 becomes the second biggest terrorist attack in history. Maybe Pakistan and India go to nuclear war. Maybe someone plunks down a cold fusion reactor and the DJIA hits 15,000 by election day. Lots of things could happen. But at this point, for McCain to win, something big needs to happen. Either Obama does something that completely destroys his campaign, or something happens which changes the macroscopic environment, or McCain needs to cover himself in glory (and I’m not sure how McCain gets an opportunity to cover himself in glory barring some major macroscopic event or Obama screwing up big-time).

    If, basically, they both continue campaigning and giving speeches and such, then Obama wins on election day.

  112. Stevem:

    “What I’ve pointed out is that Obama, despite all the things that should be propelling him to a crushing victory, isn’t that far ahead of McCain.

    And that should be very troubling to Obama’s supporters.”

    The only problem with the “why isn’t Obama crushing McCain?” meme is that according to pollsters, it’s not actually correct:

    Despite the fact that pundits have claimed that Obama is not performing as well as he should be given the economic and political conditions, the models used by political scientists to predict election outcomes–models based on these very conditions–tell a different story. Obama is currently out-pacing the predictions made by some models and lagging only a few percentage points behind others. But his support does not stray more than 4.2% away from any of these predictions. Thus, there isn’t much support here for the notion that Obama is greatly underachieving in this election. At least not at this point in the race.

    But I’m sure there will be some other thing for folks on the right to be mock-concerned about soon.

  113. Actually, let me equivocate slightly. I think I overstated the level of drama necessary to change the race, here: if the McCain campaign finds a good attack that stick against Obama, it doesn’t need to be dead girl/live boy level to seriously eat into his numbers over this timeline. Similarly, if they find something for McCain to say that really resonates with the voters in a serious way, they have time to develop that into a narrative and get it in front of the public. Just barely. If they get it real soon.

    But it’d need to be something new. The current lines of negative (Ayers, elitism, whatnot) and positive (maverick, national security, whatnot) aren’t doing much. Repackaging them in a few ways is not going to overcome Obama’s advantage. It might eat into it and end the race closer than it is now, but it’s not 100 electoral votes.

    In maybe a week or ten days — call it the 26th, 9 days from now — if things just keep on going as they are now, they’ll start needing Drama to win. At that point, even an effective new line of rhetoric won’t have time to get in front of enough eyes and sit long enough to change enough minds, unless it’s really, really, really huge.

  114. I think McCain is going to win. I think it fo a variety of reasons, one being that I think that Hillary Clinton was right during the primary about Obama. He certainly has not yet been subject to the same level of scrutiny as McCain over their respective public lifes.

    Obama has two advantages, first is that a large segment of the public hates Bush and is tying McCain to Bush. I think this argument is flawed and that the closer we get to election day, the independent types (i.e. Joe the Plumbers) will slip away from Obama because of it. Second, he gives a great speech full of equivocal words that pass unnoticed because he makes them sound good but the substance is hardly what the voting public wants.

    McCain’s advantages boil down to two, as I see it. First, and one that he does NOT need to talk about, he is IMO the best qualified to deal with a national security crisis. He should stop talking about this as its already out there, lurking in the back of minds, and talking about it will only detract from his main selling point/ Which is, second, that spending is out of control. Obama will make it worse based on his 3rd debate answers and seems unapologetic about it. Certainly a Democratic House, Senate and Presidency is not going to help the national debt. Based on McCain’s third debate answers, he is now on the freeze everything and cut bandwagon. I think this will sell well amongst both Republicans and independents, especially those who remember that it was divided government that brought us a balanced budget in the 90s.

    As to those many who disagree with my opinion on the polls, and what they say about the respective candidates, I have no answer. We’ll see come Nov. 4.

  115. The last Democrat president had a budget surplus, the current Republican president does not. Your theories on presidential party spending may be slightly out of date.

    I’ll admit I share the same fear that McCain might win. Sadly, I now wish I had registered. I never imagined that Gore was going to lose.

  116. Stevem: I’m going to restrict myself just to talking about the campaign process here and not get caught up in whether or not your beliefs about both candidates are valid.

    My question is, why do you think that these advantages for McCain/disadvantages for Obama aren’t already reflected in polling numbers?

    I mean, a month ago, okay, we could just say that most people were only beginning to pay attention to the election and they were just starting to inform themselves about the candidates. But now, there’s 17 days to the election. All the debates are done. There was a major economic crisis that both candidates reacted to.

    Even if we imagined that there was still a large group of people who just don’t yet realize that Obama wants to spend lots of money and McCain isn’t Bush, how do you think they’re going to find this out? If they didn’t get informed during the three presidential debates, the one vice-presidential debates, the conventions, the major, televised speeches that the candidates have already have, the innumerable existing political articles and horse-race stories that have already been printed, what makes you think that they’re going to go out and find it out now?

    I think that all the dynamics you point out are already “baked in” to the poll numbers. They’re old news. Further hammering on them may change the numbers by a point or two, but they aren’t going to cause major upsets.

  117. Patrick @ 138- The last Democratic president to have a surplus also was burdened with a Republican Senate and House. Loooking at both the Clinton years and Bush years, the rule appears to be that divided government is more likely to produce a surplus while unitary government produces deficits. If the undecided public (7% in the latest Zogby) follows this logic, then this will help McCain not Obama.

    Michael @ 139- Yes, kind of. I closely know (i.e. drink beer with on a regular basis) 5 professed Obama supporters. Of those, one is hard core and she WILL vote. One, I am certain, will not actually vote despite being registered though she despises Bush and could care less about McCain. I think this as she never has actually voted (except once when I drove her to the polls as a mutual friend was running for office).

    Of the remaining 3 Obama supporters, all male, I am certain 1-2 will break for McCain. I am seeing the doubts already. I, being a somewhat wise McCain supporter (and being out numbered at the table), never critique Obama but only refill beer glasses when those doubts are expressed. Otherwise they can pour thier own d!@# beer.

  118. Besides simply wanting this election to be over, I wish both candidates were black or both white. I have spoken to so many people who are voting for Obama simply b/c he is African American or for McCain b/c he is not! I think that is terrible. So many people have lost focus of what we are doing here and what we are doing it for. God help us!

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