So I watched most of the debate at the hotel bar – with about 100 other people (it was a full house and I was sitting on the floor with a few dozen others).
Overall, meh. My comment to TG was that neither of the candidates melted into green goo on camera, meaning that each of them managed not to screw up badly enough to cost them the election.
And I realized that that’s kind of a metaphor for how this election is running – each candidate desperate not to screw the pooch, playing defensively and probing for weaknesses rather than making full-throated claims about what they are, believe in, and where they want to take the country. That’s massively depressing to me, because it seems like we’ve lost what each of them brought to the table that made them good candidates in the first place.My support for Obama is still strongly there, if eroded (more by his issues with free speech and my disdain for many of his supporters than anything else). I’ll do a post this week explaining why, and explaining why the audience of a hawkish blog like this ought to reconsider their kneejerk support for McCain.
But searching deep in my reactions to Obama’s performance last night, I didn’t remotely see anything in his performance that could make me – or anyone who’s not already drunk his Kool-Aid – an enthusiast.
McCain’s opportunity here was to knock Obama out of the game, to make him “um” and “uh” and show that his smooth, intelligent, oratory isn’t matched by an ability to think in real time. Didn’t happen. McCain also need to come across as more appealing – to be the warm, funny, self-depricating retired fighter jock that is the core of his attractive self. Instead we got the moralizing, self-righteous scold who is much less likely to connect with voters in a personal way.
I have other problems with this election right now; we’re descending into a real 19th century kind of blind partisanship, and the odds that we’ll be able to unite the country behind either candidate seem lower every day. Whoever wins, the partisans on the other side will be enraged and uncooperative – with the right blaming (justifiably, I think) the Obama-swooning press, and the left blaming vague Rovian conspiracies (a lawyer at dinner last night explained to me – in all seriousness – that Rove has ‘anointed’ Palin, and that the whole point of this election is to get her in position to take over from McCain next year. I’m afraid that I giggled a bit in response, but he liked sailing so we managed to have a civil conversation anyway).
We deserve better. To be honest, these two candidates are better men than they are showing us in this campaign. What’s wrong with them, with us, with our politics?