Reflections On The First Presidential Debate
When Illinois Senator Barack Obama announced his run for the presidency, my political leaning was with the former Senator from North Carolina John Edwards. While I was never in any danger of being swayed to the point of endorsing Mr. Edwards, I was attracted to his plans for universal healthcare and a renewed war on poverty. When Mr. Edwards dropped out of the race, I was somewhat disappointed but easily made the transition. I had a choice between Mr. Obama and his opponent, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton had a huge political advantage over Mr. Obama that steadily dwindled. And as she fell in the polls, Ms. Clinton and her supporters went on the attack making overt and subtle racial innuendoes about a black political candidate who was unable to win hardworking white voters. I was so turned off by the Clinton for President campaign that, while I was still unsure about Mr. Obama’s political positions, I happily donated fifty dollars to the Barack for President effort.
And then Mr. Obama made clear his desire to keep the black community at arms length. He dropped his long time pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright when so many people were ready to lynch the man. Mr. Obama did not bother to make an appearance at Tom Joyner’s State of the Black Union presentation while his opponent Ms. Clinton could. Mr. Obama did not bother to appear at a celebration for Doctor King held in Memphis while both Ms. Clinton and Arizona Senator John McCain could. And when Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy was struck with brain cancer and couldn’t make his appointment to address the graduating students at Wesleyan University, Mr. Obama stepped up as last minute replacement with just three days notice. But what really turned me off about Mr. Obama was his Father’s Day speech at the Apostolic Church of God saying that too many black men are not participating in their children’s lives. The implication is that the problem is epidemic in the black community based on well known, entrenched racial stereotypes that black men do not support their children. Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he is more apt to perpetuate propaganda against black people rather than help defend black people against them.
Based on his inability to demonstrate some kind of connection to the black community I cannot fully support Mr. Obama. However, at this point, the alternative is so abhorrent that I find it easy to support him in his bid for the White House against Mr. McCain. When I look at Mr. McCain, I do not see a war veteran or a man with twenty plus years experience as a United States Senator. What I see is a man who will do his best to continue the majority of the horrendous policies of President George “Dubya” Bush that has this country teetering on economic collapse with a tired military involved in two virtually un-winnable wars against ideologies of faith and a political standing in the world that has our global image in the tank ranked lower than the supposed terrorist state of North Korea. Our Supreme Court is moving further and further to the right and stands ready to support laws that will trample over the constitutional rights of the ordinary American citizens. When I look at Mr. McCain, I see a man who will continue giving even larger tax breaks to people who for all practical purposes don’t need them. When I see John McCain, I see the continuation of ninety percent of Mr. Bush’s conservative policies that have his approval ratings in the upper twenties.
I tuned into the first presidential debate between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama hoping to see the Democratic Party nominee deliver a resounding defeat of his Republican Party opponent. However, the majority debate was very flat and rather uninteresting. I thought there were a number of times Mr. Obama could have been much more aggressive in exposing some of the rhetoric and misinformation that Mr. McCain brought to the debate. But instead of jumping on chances to call Mr. McCain a liar, Mr. Obama looked for opportunities to agree with the Republican nominee. Mr. Obama acknowledged at least sixteen times that there were areas where Mr. McCain was correct. Mr. Obama spent the majority of his time looking like a statesman trying to respect his peer. He remained too cerebral and too cordial and too content to let the facts speak for themselves. Like the tortoise Mr. Obama is steady and unflappable.
I found Mr. McCain’s unwillingness to look in Mr. Obama’s direction, to acknowledge Mr. Obama’s presence on the debating stage, disconcerting. While Mr. Obama took opportunities to say that Mr. McCain was correct and to reach across the stage to him, Mr. McCain responded by dismissing the Democratic nominee as inexperienced, naïve, and not fully understanding circumstances. Mr. McCain was much more aggressive and much more willing to do anything to win even if it meant burning bridges. At one point doing the debate, Mr. Obama reiterated his willingness as President to enter an allied country to take out an al-Qaeda target if circumstances warranted, Mr. McCain chastised Mr. Obama that he should be more careful about his words when he is trying to become President. It was one of the very few openings Mr. Obama took to slam his opponent reminding Mr. McCain that he said that he threatened North Korea with extinction and sang songs about bombing Iran.
Overall the performance between the two candidates was little different from their individual campaigns to date. Nothing was changed. Mr. McCain stayed aggressive and willing to stick with his tactics of deception and one of his most favorite of his rhetoric, that he didn’t win the congeniality award in the Senate. If I was Mr. Obama, I would have asked Mr. McCain who did. I would have asked Mr. McCain if he was the maverick of his party then why his party nominated him to become their best hope to be President. I would have liked to have asked Mr. McCain that if he truly believed his running mate was the best hope for the country if something were to happen to him as President. If so where was she? I would ask Mr. McCain if he truly kept the country first and foremost was the pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the best for the country or the best for an uninspiring old man’s hope to win the oval office? I’m pretty sure these questions would’ve invoked one of Mr. McCain’s facial contortions he is quick to deliver whenever he is uncomfortable.
If you were someone who supported Barack Obama, there was nothing to dissuade such support. The same is true of supporters for John McCain. If you were already against either candidate there was little to change your position. The debate was pretty much flat. There will be a lot of second guessing over the next few days to get people to lean one way or the other. But overall I would say nothing really changed.