debate thoughts

This was Senator McCain’s strongest debate yet.  He came out swinging, and it was great to see that.   He was able to take advantage of Obama’s conversation with Joe the Plumber and to make the case that Obama’s tax plan is the wrong solution to the country’s financial struggles.   The whole discussion on taxes should have been a clear advantage to Senator McCain, because increased government spending and increased business taxes will hurt the economy.   John McCain is hardly a perfect representative of responsible government spending when he wants to spend an additional $300 billion (that he proposed in the last debate).  That said,  it’s an unwise suggestion for someone who says that he wants to increase productivity, job creation, and to strengthen our economy to propose higher business taxes.  That’s what Barack Obama wants to do.   Proposals to increase government programs and spending are just as irresponsible — considering that the average American doesn’t have the luxury of spending more than they can afford once their credit cards are maxed out.  The government’s credit cards must be shredded. NOW.  This is a message that resonated with me, if not the “undecided” people in Frank Luntz’s focus group.

Were there missed opportunities for McCain? Of course.  He wasn’t able to close the deal on his economic argument or explain why Obama’s radical friends should concern the average person.  McCain has the right philosophy on the economy and taxes, which is that lower taxes promote growth, both for businesses and for individuals.  Obama seems to concede some of that argument.  Why else would he brag about his various tax credits and claim that 95% of workers get a tax cut?  Interesting wording there.  It doesn’t specify that they have to be tax-paying workers.  But that’s a argument for another day.

Finally we hear about William Ayers and ACORN.   McCain didn’t make the right connection here.  No, we weren’t asking him to call Barry a socialist or a terrorist just because he had some friends who could be described that way.  (At least I wasn’t.) The question should have been about Barack Obama’s character and judgment.  What drew these assorted malcontents to Barack Obama?  Did he know the full extent of Ayers’ crimes and political philosophy?  Why couldn’t Barack Obama recognize that it was unwise to be friendly with people like Ayers, Rezko, Wright, and those famous community organizers who enable voter fraud?  If he truly was unaware about all the questionable activities these people engaged in,  isn’t it possible that he would be just as clueless about the foreign leaders he might meet as President?  Those are only a few of the questions I had.   Surely McCain’s campaign staff can figure out a way to stick this subject in one of their “ready to lead” ads.

Some random observations:

Loved McCain questioning Biden’s judgment on foreign policy.  About time someone did.

Barack Obama is like a robot.   He never strays from his script, and even when McCain made some very serious charges against him, he was always able to bat it down with very little effort.  He may lie and disassemble, but he’s very smooth, and nobody can ever pin him down on it in a way the audience at home could notice.  That’s such an annoying characteristic.   He is even more of a Teflon Man than Bill Clinton ever was.

I would strongly advise the McCain team to get some ads together on three themes.  The first is the economy.  Explain in 30 seconds or less how your tax plan is being misrepresented by the Obama campaign.  In a separate ad, talk about the effects of implementing Obama’s tax plan on people like Joe the Plumber.  If you could get the original for an ad, that would be outstanding.  The second is health care.  Make the case for your $5000 tax credit and explain the additional benefits on it — portability, etc.  The reason Obama is winning on these issues is because the only ads we see on these issues are Barack’s.  The third is an ad about all Barack’s radical friends that would improve on the previous ads.   One sentence each on Ayers, ACORN, Wright, and Rezko explaining the relationship each had to Barack Obama.  Then say, Barack Obama didn’t see anything wrong with these relationships until they harmed his political career.  Bad associations.  Bad judgment.   He trusted these people.  Do you trust Barack Obama with the White House?

(or something like that)

That’s all I have…glad the debates are finally over.

where we stand

A couple thoughts on the debate — the format was awful, but I expected more of Tom Brokaw.   We didn’t get any new information out of this debate (other than McCain’s call for more bailouts, but I’ll get to that).  Neither candidate was able to challenge his opponent’s comments in any depth, and this worked great for Obama.  It drives me nuts every time I hear Obama’s claim that 95% of the people will get a tax cut under his tax plan.   As we all know,  a much lower percentage of Americans actually pay taxes.  He is never challenged on this claim.  Since we know the economy will continue to struggle for a while, it makes sense to force the government to sacrifice some of its largesse for the good of all Americans.   That’s why I believe John McCain was on the right track when he proposed a spending freeze (with a few obvious exceptions).   If we are forced to make tough budgetary choices in our own lives, then the government must make some spending cuts as well.

While I have serious doubts about many of Barack Obama’s spending proposals,  John McCain insists on proposing to spend $300 billion more taxpayer dollars on buying up mortgages.  Can’t we start this election over with two different candidates?  If there’s any other candidate who is more tone-deaf to conservatives than John McCain, I have yet to see one.  As a candidate of reform, he should have fought the bailout and the pork added to it, as well as casting a vote against it.  This bailout was eventually going to pass, so there would have been no political risk to McCain if he made a real maverick choice for once.  He also should have promised to review the bailout deal after becoming president to see if that deal is producing the desired results.  This would have put him in a much stronger position on the economy, since there was and is much public opposition to the bailout deal. 

It’s because of my opposition to Barack Obama and his plans for this country and for our economy that I am supporting John McCain and encouraging others to do the same.  One thing’s for sure…no matter who wins this election, it won’t be a fun 4 years.

the debate

The McCain campaign has to be pleased with the way Sarah Palin performed in the debate Thursday night. She went toe-to-toe with a Senate lifer. She was able to recover from those unflattering interviews, and she was also able to get a couple good shots in at Joe Biden in the process. She did benefit from low expectations, and I take that into account when evaluating the results, but she easily cleared that bar. Those who loved Sarah before the debate were validated, and those who thought she wasn’t the best choice for a VP have some ammo to make that case after watching the debate.

Sarah was great in that she spoke directly to the American people. She can connect with her audience in a way that Obama cannot. On style, Sarah easily wins this debate. But when Americans evaluate the two candidates as potential vice presidents, Biden makes the sale. Senator Biden is wrong on a great many things, but as a skilled debater, he was able to fool people into believing that he understands foreign policy and the Constitutional role of the Vice President. He gave specific policy positions on issues, and the average viewer won’t bother to check to see whether he accurately represents McCain’s positions or his (Biden’s) own. Governor Palin’s lack of specifics on policy issues hurt her case, but as she said, she has only been prepping on this for 5 weeks, so no one should have expected that she could cram 20-30 years of knowledge into her head in that short time.

Governor Palin did not change any minds by her performance Thursday night. Those who came in voting McCain will still vote for him, and those supporting Obama will still vote for Obama. There is more work to do for McCain. This election isn’t lost yet, and McCain must have a better response to the country’s economic concerns and must learn how to sell his healthcare plan. The economy is the key issue, and there must be separation from the Bush administration if McCain really wants to win this election. Sometimes we just don’t get that impression.

debating biden and palin

Apparently Gwen Ifill’s writing a very complimentary book about our Democratic nominee for President, Barack Obama.  No bias here. Move along citizen.  Why in the world didn’t the McCain campaign know about this?  Are they all fast asleep over there?  With all the credit we can give that campaign for some of those clever web ads, the McCain team hasn’t been earning their paychecks in the last 2 weeks.  There are many things we can point to as far as mistakes they have made so far — the rollout of Sarah Palin, the fumbling around on the economy, the failure (until recently) to attack Barack on the issues that matter in this election — to name a few.  But even if they failed to “vet” Ifill and whether she could possibly be objective moderating this debate,  McCain is handling this correctly.

Making a big deal about this only hurts McCain.  They can’t pull Sarah from this debate, no matter what legitimate concerns they may have (internally) about this.  There are no unbiased moderators left in this country, so that’s not an reasonable option.  Sarah Palin needs to show up, tweak the media and the Democrats,  promote her candidate, and survive the gentle pokes by Joe Biden.  She can do this.  If it goes badly for her, the campaign will continue to push the extensive media bias theme, and it only advances their point on that.  Of course, if Palin does not do well here, McCain has bigger problems than a biased media.


That’s what I thought about the McCain-Obama debate. McCain had a few good lines, but Obama did not do any obvious damage to himself when discussing foreign policy — at least not that any casual observer would notice. I don’t think either of them changed any minds tonight. I missed the part where they discussed the economy, but it probably wouldn’t have changed my opinion of this debate. McCain needed to knock out Obama, and he did not. This raises the stakes for the next two debates for John McCain, and this is a debate I believe McCain should have won because it’s an area of strength for him.

Minor point — there’s not much difference between preconditions and preparations, and Barack Obama’s explanation of this is just silly. But Barack did what he needed to do in this debate. Even though I absolutely disagree with about 95% of what Barack wants to do on foreign policy and the economy, I realize that the average American does not follow politics as closely as the bloggers and other assorted political junkies. So it’s possible that someone more detached from this than I am could see a clear winner between McCain and Obama. I didn’t.

Not surprisingly for those on the opposite side of the political debate — McCain is winning the FNC text poll 82 to 16. It was a lot closer than that.

exit strategy

After last night’s debate, I think Ron Paul needs to make a graceful exit from the presidential race. It’s not because his ideas aren’t worth discussing, although I think that it would be hard to make the case for eliminating the FBI and CIA post-911. He was right to point out that our intelligence agencies didn’t work as well together as they should have leading up to the tragedy of September 11 as well as the war in Iraq. That problem can’t be fixed by spending less money on intelligence, yet this is what Paul seems to be suggesting. And whether you agree with Ron Paul’s assessment of the Iraq war or not, I don’t think that Paul represents a realistic approach to dealing with threats to our national security in the Islamic world. That’s not where the Republican party is on national security and the war in Iraq, and the more he tries to sell his withdrawal plans, the less convincing he becomes. The prescription by Dr. Paul is the wrong one, and we need to seek a second opinion.

This isn’t about shutting down alternative points of view to the Republican front-runners. Ron Paul has had more than enough time to make his case to the voters of this country, and it’s time to recognize that he hasn’t managed to do that. Not only that, but he has become a punching bag for Giuliani and Huckabee, which can’t do much for his credibilty or viability as a candidate. I think we have heard enough from Ron Paul to decide that he isn’t the right person to lead our party in the next election.

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another presidential debate you didn’t see

Come on, Democrats — what are you trying to hide having a Sunday morning debate in Iowa? 😉 Not that one more debate would change my mind about the Democratic field or anything…but the timing is just as bad for Democrats as it is for Republicans. 

Transcript here if you’re interested, although you won’t find any surprises in it. I haven’t made up my mind about the Republican field, but I do know I won’t be voting for any of these Democrats.  I do agree with Barack Obama on one thing though — there are too many debates.


mostly unedited thoughts on the youtube debate

I was about to give the YouTubers credit for keeping the conversation serious, and then the second half of the debate happened.  Of course I think CNN gets most of the blame for this.  Maybe the entertainment factor is a good thing for political junkies who are close to getting burned out with all these debates. I Loved the snowman video as well as the one with the folks from TN, and the singing tax guy.

Quick takes on the candidates:

Hillary Clinton – continues to impress.  Who’s going to stop her from getting to the finish line? Not any of these guys.  She was asked about whether she considers herself a liberal.  Of course not. She’s a “progressive” just like all the  other Democratic proponents of expanding government.

Barack Obama – ok, but not spectacular.  Had a few good answers.  Maybe it’s unfair to compare him to Hillary.  Made a strong defense of his approach (more affordable coverage) to health care vs. John Edwards’ approach(mandating coverage).

John Edwards – Hair looked good as always.  Nice tie. Got more than enough time to talk about his signature issues.  Would have loved to hear him go into more detail on his statement in Cleveland regarding a national fund to help people in danger of losing their homes.

Biden – one of the many “truth to power” candidates on Iraq. I don’t mean that he is right about everything he says.  Just that he seems to have a more realistic take on the aftermath of Iraq than most of the other candidates. He also had a few great lines…which I will get to shortly.

Richardson – didn’t make any major gaffes (that I noticed anyway)

Dodd, Kucinich, and Gravel-  The problem that all these second to fourth tier guys have is that all the niche groups are taken by the top 5. That is, except for the rabidly anti-war group.  Kucinich is a true believer.  You have to credit him for that.  The problem is that, despite what all the polling seems to be telling us, this is not where the country is on the Iraq war and on pre-emptive war in general. Both Kucinich and Gravel kept the debate from getting too serious, but the format of this debate would have made that impossible anyway.

This debate is more about entertaining the public then informing them on the issues.  Buried in the zany videos there have been some serious questions that, as always have only gotten sound-bite type answers.  Kucinich wants us to text for peace. Yup.  I think that it would be more useful to text Kucinich himself and tell him that his time is up as a candidate.
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sparring democrats in new hampshire

Just a few random, possibly unrelated thoughts on the Democratic debate Sunday night (transcript here):

1) It is logically inconsistent for Hillary and Edwards to insist that they were “totally briefed” on what was in the NIE and got quality advice on what to do with that information, while still trying to make the case that Bush gave them bad information.

2) Hillary and Barack deserve credit for admitting that there are a few things that President Bush has done right on terrorism, but they still say what the leftwing base wants to hear — Bush screwed up Iraq, Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror.

3) John Edwards can hammer Clinton and Obama all he wants to about their perceived reluctance to vote against the war funding bill. But the bottom line is that they had to make a decision about it, and cast a vote, and they ultimately did what they thought they had to do. Do we really know that John Edwards would have voted against that war funding? Maybe if he had to vote on it today, he would. It’s a lot easier to take tough positions when you don’t have to back them up with votes. Obama has always been against the Iraq war, and he’s probably the only totally consistent anti-war candidate that the Dems have (at least the only electable one).

4) Hillary knows that she has to look more serious on the war than either Edwards or Obama. That’s why it was a very smart move to condemn Edwards’ defense of his “bumper sticker” statement regarding the war on terror. I am very uncomfortable with most of her domestic proposals, but as far as saying most of the right things on the war on terror, she looked the most hawkish of the three. She didn’t scare me as much in this debate as much as she did in the last two debates.

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random thoughts on the democratic debate

What Keith Olbermann oh-so-cleverly called “the spotlight dance” between Obama and Clinton (and those other people) failed to reveal anything that we didn’t already know. There was no compelling story in this debate, only the regularly scheduled Bush-bashing and an argument over which candidate would get us out of Iraq the fastest. That’s why all the buzz was around two (shall we say) lesser lights in the Democratic field, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich.  (I especially liked Gravel’s accusation that Barack wanted to nuke somebody…)

Transcript available here.

Kucinich doesn’t buy the line that they did the best they could with the information they had at the time. At least he has what could be charitably called an Iraq plan.


I have a plan, H.R. 1234, a plan to end the war in Iraq, which calls on the international community to provide peacekeepers and security forces that will move in as our troops leave. But we can’t do that until we determine we’re going to end the occupation. And we will do that when we stop the funding.

Any plan that primarily depends on the international community for its success is doomed to failure.  There should be collaboration with the international community, but I’m not sure what makes Kucinich think that he can do what much more skilled politicians have failed to do. What would convince those countries who had previously promised their support to actually provide it? I don’t know the answer, and Kucinich probably doesn’t either.

That said, he is committed to getting the US out of Iraq, for better or for worse. He calls out the other candidates for continuing to pay for this war that they don’t support.   He has been the candidate who takes unpopular positions on issues, and that’s something you can’t say about most of the Democratic front-runners. He could be the most hard-left candidate the Dems have…except for Mike Gravel.

Mike Gravel said some unbelievable stuff…like this:

We need to find another way. I really would like to sit down with Pelosi and with Reid, and I would hope the other senators would focus on, how do you get out? You pass the law, not a resolution, a law making it a felony to stay there. And I’ll give you the text of it.

And if you’re worried about filibuster, here’s what you do tactically. They can pass it in the House. We’ve got the votes there. We’ve got the votes there.  In the Senate, let them filibuster it. And let Reid call up every — at 12:00 every day to have a cloture vote. And let the American people see clearly who’s keeping the war going and who’s not.

Good luck with that, Mr. Gravel. Did you catch that? He wants to make it a FELONY to stay in Iraq. Left unclear, of course, is WHO Gravel wants to put in jail.  I’m guessing it’s the President of the United States, but maybe I should ask him the question just to be sure . It’s quite difficult to be left of Kucinich, so I give him credit for succeeding with that.

Even though I have no doubt that both of these men believe everything they said in the debate, these statements weren’t entirely made out of conviction.   They were made out of necessity —  a need to distinguish themselves from their fellow travelers…and maybe in the process steal some inhabitants of nutroots nation. What we saw from them in this debate is Exhibit A why third-tier candidates, whether they are Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, or the Vampires party, haven’t yet attained that credibility that one must have to break into the top tier in any presidential race.

Another reason these candidates can’t seem to get any traction is that choosing a presidential candidate has become more about image than about substance.  Image consciousness drives the process in both parties.  In the non-political world, we would be more impressed with Joe Biden and Bill Richardson and their experience/ qualifications than we are with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Republican or Democratic presidential nomination is no longer given to the most qualified, but to the candidate whose family looks the best on a Christmas card.

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