Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Step This Way for my Biased Opinion

Last night the whole family sat down to watch the debate. I think that's a pretty striking statement on how badly I am afflicted with election fever. Granted, Weston had to watch for a school assignment and Garrett had been forbidden from watching cartoons because he forgot his homework assignments at school. But still! This time I actually took some notes while I watched the debate. Bottom line, Obama impressed the heck out of me. He offered specific solutions to the problems we are facing. He is an amazing orator, the likes of which we have not seen since Bill Clinton left office. His body language throughout the debate gave the impression that he was relaxed, unruffled, and in control. I could see him as my president. He's still got my vote. Now for my impressions of McCain. Heh!

McCain's responses to debate questions generally lacked specific details. There are some that had the exact opposite impression though, so this may well be my bias speaking. Here is an example though. McCain spoke of having a commission come up with "recommendations" to fix Medicare which implied that he did not have any ideas of his own at this time. He speaks often of bringing our troops home from Iraq in victory, but fails to tell us what victory will look like. He tells us he looked into Putin's eyes and saw three letters, a K, a G, and a B. What does that mean (and it wasn't funny the FIRST time he said it)? To McCain's credit, he did offer a couple of specifics. One was doubling the tax exemption rate for children, which sounds like a pretty good start. I was less impressed with his "across the board" spending freeze. For those of us who are spending $200 dollars at the beginning of each school year to buy supplies for our children's teachers, a freeze on education spending sounds like a bad idea.

McCain often referenced his record and things he has accomplished in the past. This struck me as a discordant note with Palin's "Say it ain't so Joe. There you go again, pointing backwards." As a nation we are facing a financial crisis unlike any other in our lifetime. I'm guessing voters are more interested to hear what new solutions a candidate has to offer than in what they've accomplished under a totally different set of circumstances in the past. I am not dismissing the importance of experience, and McCain certainly has plenty of that, but if his running mate is going to criticize a backward-looking approach, then McCain's answers needed to focus much more on the new solutions he is proposing.

And now to get to what I think are the more superficial aspects of McCain's performance. I'm going to address these here because, I believe human nature leads us to have emotional responses to a person. Those emotions then bias our impressions of everything that person says and does, and ultimately influence our behavior in the voting booth.

At one point in the debate McCain had, what I will refer to as a yadda-yadda moment. Speaking of Obama's voting record with respect to nuclear power he alluded to his opponents fear about the safety of nuclear power and then brushed off those fears without fully explaining Obama's position. "Senator Obama says it has to be safe or disposable or something like that." This flippant dismissal of concerns about the safety of nuclear power made McCain appear narrow-minded and biased on this issue. Ask the residents of Three Mile Island if they have concerns about the safety of nuclear power.

McCain spent a lot of time blowing sunshine up the collective butts of the American voters. He addressed us as "my friends" so many times that it became disingenuous. He claimed that it was possible to tackle the problems of energy, health care, and education simultaneously "because we're Americans". It's a nice to think that simply by virtue of being citizens of a county we have somehow acquired super powers, and that nothing we set our minds to is beyond our grasp. This sounds a lot like what we tell our children to motivate them. Do well in school, work hard, set your mind to it, and anything is possible! Unfortunately it's not that simple for one individual person, and for an entire nation of people, McCain is just not painting a realistic picture.

And now to the issue of body language. While McCain was answering questions, Obama sat in a relaxed posture, listening attentively to his opponent's words. At one point while Obama was answering a question, I could see someone pacing up and down the stage behind him. Because of the camera angle, I could not immediately identify the individual, and assumed it to be a camera man. A new camera angle revealed the pacer to be McCain. This struck me as impolite and distracting and made McCain appear nervous and agitated. And speaking of impolite, referring to Obama as "that one" really stuck in my craw. If McCain wished to shake off the impression that he is a grumpy old man, his behavior during the debate did nothing to help. He attempted to connect with his audience thanking a naval retiree for his service and patting his shoulder. It was a nice gesture, and he meant well, but logging on to Twitter at that moment, the overwhelming response of viewers seemed to be "creepy" or "awkward".

General consensus in the media seems to be that once again, there was no clear winner of this debate, and I'm willing to go along with that. I have a hard time believing though, that the majority of undecided voters were won over my McCain's stump stump, grumble grumble, get off my lawn you damn kids persona.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wish someone would define the term "won the debate".The talking heads seem reluctant to say anything except it was a draw.You summed it up so well there's litle I could add.

By the way if you haven't already done so check out the Rachael Maddow show on MSNBC from 6 to 7PM weekly.She's wicked, as Andy would say.