Next stunt, please!

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 11 2008 8:38 PM

Next Stunt, Please!

Plus--Can I vote for McGovern?

(Continued from Page 9)

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Friday, September 26, 2008

I've just heard Chris Matthews make three seemingly insane points in rapid succession: 1) McCain somehow defamed soldiers or America or something by worrying about whether they "died in vain"; 2) It was surprising that Obama didn't make a point of the specific economic problems of African Americans; 3) It was an incredibly winning, decisive moment when Obama laughed after McCain (somewhat effectively, I thought) compared his inflexibility to Bush's. ... That's not even getting to the official MSNBC obsession with whether McCain looked at Obama when he criticized him. ...

Update: Matthews just asked John Heilemann about McCain: "Do you think he was too troll-like tonight? You know, too much of a troll?" ... 9:52 P.M.

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Debate #1: Before I get spun, I'd say: small, Pyrrhic victory for McCain. McCain wanted to make Obama seem naive and inexperienced. He did about 40% of that. Obama wanted to make McCain seem dangerously ambitious, bellicose and hotheaded. He did 0% of that. But a) the foreign policy stuff came after a long period on the economy, where McCain seemed a bit frenetic and Obama had the upper hand; and b) Obama didn't seem non-credible, which may be enough to carry him through given all the other advantages he has. ..

More: c) When Obama talks about the struggling middle class, etc., he always says "they" (seems distant) or "you" (seems condescending). Why not "we" or "us."? Or "my buddy Joe down the street"? A core problem, and one that shouldn't be that hard to fix; d) The big areas where Obama could scare voters about McCain are Georgia/Ukraine/Russia and Iran. On Georgia, Obama threw away his leverage by essentially moving toward McCain's position, up to including Georgia in NATO. I guess we really are all Georgians now. On Iran, McCain didn't say anything particularly scary--if anything, he seemed able to dispel some of those legitimate fears, Reagan-style.He achieved that effect even more clearly on Pakistan:

[I]f you're going to aim a gun at somebody, George Shultz, our great secretary of state, told me once, you'd better be prepared to pull the trigger. ...

I'm not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I'm not prepared to threaten it ...

(e) Even more important, Obama did little to bring home what a nightmare the last six years have been for Americans, since the decision to attack Iraq. Wasn't there something sound-bitey he could have prepared? ("Do you want to go through another eight years like the last eight?")  f) McCain has that candidates' shorthand disease--when he recycles old campaign rhetoric he so sick of it he shortens it down to code words: "Pen. Veto. I'll make them famous." If you weren't already sick of the rhetoric you probably didn't have the faintest idea what he was saying. (When I worked for Sen. Hollings, it seemed as if by the end of the campaign he'd invoke an old chestnut from Pogo by barking "Pogo. The enemy! Us!") g) McCain could have effectively hit Obama on his big spending plans ("$800 billion") earlier and harder. Maybe this wasn't the right week to make $800 billion seem like a big number. ... h) I don't understand the difference between "strategy" and "tactics." Is there something wrong with me? ...

P.S.: Jim Lehrer ostentatiously noted that he wanted the candidates to mix it up. But every time they began mixing it up it seemed as if Lehrer interrupted them to cut the argument off. Too interesting!  ...

Post-spin Update:i) Does Keith Olbermann's show make it seem like their guy must have lost because their guy lost--they sound like the Politburo meeting after the Cuban Missile Crisis--or would Keith Olbermann's show make it seem like their guy must have lost even when their guy won?  ...

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