It’s On

Well, like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve just watched the first McCain/Obama debate. I’ll just blurt out a few first impressions.

First of all, and above all, it is an enormous relief that for the first time in a very long while we actually have two plausible candidates, men of genuine intelligence and substance. No matter who wins, we are far better off. After Bush/Gore, and then Bush/Kerry — the nadir of American politics in my lifetime — this is immensely gratifying.

I saw no clear winner tonight; both men acquitted themselves solidly. If there was any point where there was a clear edge, I would have to give it to Mr. McCain during the portion of the debate that centered on foreign policy; his long and broad experience, and personal acquaintance with many of the regions and personalities involved, gives him a distinct advantage in this area. (I was struck by Mr. Obama’s saying in one breath that we needed to avoid a “Cold War mentality” regarding Russia, and in the very next announcing an aggressive agenda to expand NATO along all of Russia’s frontiers.) Mr. Obama, though back on his heels a bit after Mr. McCain’s flourishes of expertise, countered nicely by pointing out that the perception of the US by others around the world badly needed repairing — with the tacit implication that, given his enormous popularity in Europe and elsewhere, this would proceed more naturally with himself at the helm.

Bromides about “reaching across the aisle” aside, there is no such thing as comfortable neutrality in political campaigns; you are either on offense or on defense, and it seemed to me that Mr. McCain kept Mr. Obama on defense for much of the evening. Repeatedly Mr. Obama said “John’s right”, while Mr. McCain seemed far less conciliatory. It is indicative of a fundamental difference in intellectual temperament.

Mr. Obama was superbly poised: there were clearly moments when he had to think fast, but as always he remained as cool as the other side of the pillow. He is an enormously quick-witted and articulate man, and one comes away with the feeling that while Mr. McCain has a far larger reservoir of experience upon which to draw in crisis — and in many ways a deeper keel — Mr. Obama has a remarkable ability to think on his feet, and a capacious, supple intellect that can quickly assimiliate new information, and rapid change. His is more of a 21st-century mind, perhaps, and that is not insignificant.

As for economic policy, McCain professes a responsible conservatism that I am drawn to; I think Mr. Obama imagines that government has a far greater responsibility for solving life’s problems and inequities than does his opponent. I am also not inclined to protectionism in matters of trade, and here I probably hew more closely to Mr. McCain’s views as well.

Finally, though, there is the enormous problem of Sarah Palin. The more I see of her (and I have seen more than enough already), the more shocking it is to me that Mr. McCain could have chosen someone so astonishingly, abysmally unfit to be his second-in-command. Although I sincerely think both men are serious and credible candiates, each with many strengths, I have to say that as matters stand I simply cannot see how I could bring myself to cast a vote that might put such a woman within mortal grasp of the Presidency.

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3 Comments

  1. Nick says

    On the topic of Sarah Palin’s “ineptitude”, here’s a video from a group of people that seem to be on the same page as you:

    http://www.todaysbigthing.com/2008/09/19

    Posted September 27, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
  2. JK says

    I would only hope that Mrs. Palin looks deep into her soul to see how she might best and most capably serve the country.

    I would hope that she looks deeply into the mirror, see herself blinking simply to guage the effect-then clicks her heel three times, closes her eyes and gently whispers…

    “There’s no place like Nome, there’s no place like Nome, there’s no place like…”

    Posted September 27, 2008 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Nick, that’s pretty amusing.

    And the same to you, JK.

    Posted September 27, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Permalink