26 September 2008
The first "Debate"
It started slowly and fitfully, with Jim Lehrer trying to force answers from both candidates on what cherished programs they would have to jettison due to the impending bank bailout. Properly, neither man offered more than common-sense generalities, since there still isn't an actual bailout bill to force the issue. It finally assumed its originally intended form as a discussion of foreign policy. Here Senator Obama won, but not in a manner that will convince anyone who already has an ideological predisposition in favor of the Iraq War. Senator McCain simply didn't want to discuss the origins of the invasion or restate the rationale. All he could do to justify the venture was to say that his hero, Gen. Petraeus, and his enemy, Osama bin Laden, agreed that Iraq was the central front of the war on terror. Both men, of course, could be wrong, but the way McCain let his mancrush show for Petraeus, I doubt he thinks the "great general" could be wrong about anything. Indeed, I found myself wondering why McCain didn't step aside and nominate Petraeus for the presidency. Obama's best moment was when McCain denounced him for irresponsibly threatening to "attack" Pakistan. The Democrat replied that, given McCain's threats to destroy North Korea and his song about bombing Iran, his criticisms weren't credible. Obama also had the upper hand regarding the propriety of negotiating with Iran, unless you agree with McCain that Ahmadinejad is such an unclean creature that I guess he can only be killed. Unfortunately, once we turned to Europe and the Caucasus, the candidates were in agreement on Georgia's saintliness, despite McCain's attempt to minimize Obama's outrage at the Russian aggression against Georgia. Obama's position is probably marginally preferable to McCain's because he, at least, doesn't propose an alliance (the "league of democracies") that is designedly hostile to Russia. But both candidates have a tendency to moralize foreign relations, especially in defense of Israel that might be congenitally American. Since neither man really had anything new to say on the subject, it would probably have been no great loss had McCain stayed in Washington -- except, perhaps, for the economy.