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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.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 - Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, John McCain, Life, Politics, Republicans, Thoughts


  1. greaet post . I too was an edwards supporter, but now I have switched to Obama. Although I am thirteen, I think its important to understand the plus’s of both is my take on the debate:

    Comment by pacer521 | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback pacer521,

    It’s good to see someone take an interest in politics so early.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Reply

  3. I just stumbled across a short video on youtube of the debate about Spain. The thing that strikes me about this debate, and the debate that Bush had with Kerry was the level of childish antics displayed by the right wing candidate.

    This debate was no exception. If it were judged on who was more adult? Then I would assume it would have gone to Obama.

    Even the handshake up above notes something about McCain and something that has been mentioned elsewhere that he never laid eyes on Barack.

    Given the choice here I have done it too, threw down a donation to the Obama campaign, I went to the punch bowl in that case and over shot the kool-aid. But I hope we’re wrong and Obama pulls through with a presidency we as democrats all hope for. Undue the damage done, which I hope but not as naive to believe would include the abolishment of the Patriot Act AND Homeland Security.

    Two acts only Hitler would be proud of and no American should.


    Comment by -=topper=- | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the feedback -=topper=-,

    That’s a very apt description of Mr. McCain’s tactics. Childish. I’m not even going to look at you to show you how little I respect you. But that’s okay because such childishness should convince people how much Mr. McCain will continue Mr. Bush’s policies and childish and stubborn ways. Let’s not forget who came up with the political line, you’re either with us or against us.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Reply

  5. i agree.

    Barack Obama should’ve spoken up and out more during this debate. Overall, though, he held his ground, showed himself wise- does anyone even value thought and wisdom anymore? There are few of us out here that do, but that’s not enough!- and presidential.

    McCain’s demeanor and overall manner suggested to me great arrogance and stubborness. i swear, i kept expecting him to slip and say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about boy“.

    Hopefully, the next presidential debates will be better. i’m looking forward to the Veep debates. Actually, i can’t wait until this is all over so i can have my life back!

    Good analysis, Brother.

    Comment by c | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks for the feedback c,

    I am looking forward to seeing the vice presidential debates as well.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Reply

  7. BPM,

    When comparing McCain and Obama on the question of who will be “worse for Americans,” it helps to strip away all the political gamesmanship and look at 3 major fields of information.

    1) Campaign funding

    2) Voting history

    3) Advisory team

    When you examine those 3, there is no way to say that Obama is superior. When you examine those 3, the only logical conclusion is that the two men will differ in STYLE only, and not in substance.

    The tough truth that Americans need to face is this: we are now a plutocracy, and the plutocratic leaders/owners/operators of our federal government are bipartisan. There is nearly no difference at all, and absolutely no practical difference, between leading Democrats and leading Republicans.

    Witness the bailout ongoing right now. Who is leading the charge? Pelosi, Frank, and Obama. Democrats.

    They help themselves, and they help themselves again, and they help themselves yet again.

    And in the bargain, they give us nothing. Nothing at all.

    They serve themselves, not us. And as long as we keep pretending that Obama’s light-skinned version of Black American Progress is what we all want and need, they’re going to keep helping themselves, and screwing us.

    Voting isn’t about a win-at-all-costs strategy. Voting –if you believe in it, that is– is about casting your voice in favor of who you WANT to win. Not who you think will win. Who you WANT to win.

    Me, I want Cynthia McKinney. And that’s who I”m voting for, even if she’ll lose.

    Comment by micah pyre | Monday, September 29, 2008 | Reply

  8. Thanks for the feedback micah pyre,

    But while you have provided a thoughtful analysis that will be helpful for most in developing their opinions on which candidate would prove more to their liking, or not, I do believe it would be helpful to take a broader look at the criteria that differentiates the two.

    For example, Mr. McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin, the Governor from Alaska with so little national political experience but was totally embraced by the conservative right and many who saw the move as an advancement for women, as his vice president running mate demonstrates his willingness to gamble with the welfare of the nation in order to capitalize on her popularity.

    Such an issue doesn’t exactly fit into one of the three categories. Maybe the category of advisory team although I don’t think you could seriously argue that Mr. McCain would seek Ms. Palin’s advice for national issues. And I would seriously doubt that anyone would consider Ms. Palin the equal of Mr. Obama’s pick, Senator Joe Biden. There is a big difference there.

    Secondly, when it comes to voting history, the fact that Mr. McCain is more closely associated with the policies of Mr. Bush, who has arguably run the country into the ground, is another key indicator of who may be ill suited to run the country. The fact that Mr. Obama voted with Mr. Bish forty percent of the time compared to Mr. McCain’s ninety percent record of agreeing with President Bush, I do believe this is an indicator of who is likely to continue such policies at a time where the country is in desperate need of change.

    I agree that voting should be about casting your vote in favor of the person we want to win. But the person I would like to see win isn’t even running. While Ms. McKinney has her positives, she comes with some negatives as well. I think, when it comes to national politics, it is prudent to take the entire variety of issues into consideration and people need to weigh them accordingly.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, September 29, 2008 | Reply

  9. BPM,

    I hear and understand your concerns. But when you choose to focus on the “greater evil” (my phrase) of McCain, you are relegated to pursuit of evil. As some of my favorite bloggers have taken to labelling it, it’s the “2% less evil! marketing strategy.”

    Barack Obama hasn’t impressed me, ever. I don’t enjoy saying that, given his broad support across America and around the world. But I’m sorry — his track record looks to me very near to that of Bush/Cheney, and Bush/Quayle, and Clinton/Gore, and Reagan/Bush. It doesn’t remind me of someone who cares about me, nor as someone who cares about such things as the financial runaround that you and the Peacemaker Family recently experienced in your hoped-for real estate buy. I can’t imagine Malcolm X lining up behind Barack Obama.

    I realize that if you accept the situation as either/or, McCain or Obama, you can ignore many of Obama’s flaws by focusing on the “2% MORE evil” nature of McCain, but I’m afraid I don’t see how that helps advance the cause of regular folks like me and you and your family and your regular blog readers and commenters. I really do not.

    I’m not here to sell you on Cynthia McKinney. Frankly, I’d rather see people choose her based on their own conclusions. I only offer her name as a point of research, for yourself. I would, however, be interested in how it is you conclude she is worse for America than Barack Obama. Perhaps you could visit my blog and leave a comment there some time, and we could continue the discussion there. I don’t want to distract from your blog’s focus. I like what you do here.

    Comment by micah pyre | Monday, September 29, 2008 | Reply

  10. micah pyre,

    I’m curious as to why you feel or how you’ve concluded that there is a two percent evil difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain. If you’ve read my article, you’d realize that I am no fan of Mr. Obama. If you’ve read other articles in this blog, you’d understand that few people are more disappointed with Mr. Obama and his record than I. I have angered many people with my questions and suggestions that people should take a more in depth look at his record with respect to the black community instead of taking it for granted that he would be a champion of black community issues. Most people in the black community want Mr. Obama for the historic value of having a black president. The fact that we might be getting a black president with the ideals and values of a Clarence Thomas or a Shelby Steele is never a consideration.

    As far as Cynthia McKinney goes I do believe it is rather naive to think Ms. McKinney can go to Washington and change things for the better for two entrenched political parties without the support of her own party to back her up. No one can make change by themselves. If you stop and think about the icons of history that have made a difference they never made those differences on their own. They made those difference with an army of people who supported them. I don’t see Ms. McKinney with such an army of support and I believe having her in the oval office without the normal political backup would create such an environment of stagnation that would see little getting done for the American people. Besides, she’s a politician. Most politicians will put their own welfare above the welfare of the people. I have no reason to think Ms. McKinney would be any different.

    While your comparison of Barack/Biden or McCain/Palin to the performance of Bush/Chaney, Clinton/Gore, Bush/Quayle, or Reagan/Bush indicates similar track records, I cannot agree with such a sentiment. While no administration was ideal for the black community, the black community did not suffer from the downright neglect under Clinton/Gore’s two percent less evil as it does with Bush/Chaney or as it did with Reagan/Bush two percent more evil. It appears that the two percent difference is enough to prevent the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Malcolm X may not support Mr. Obama. But I really don’t think Malcolm X would be supporting Ms. McKinney or any politician for that matter. Malcolm X was one of the few people who absolutely believed in the power of people instead of power in the hands of the few. As long as we have our current political system where a handful of people are controlling everything we allow ourselves to be corrupted and manipulated by people with political and financial influence.

    And lastly, thanks for the kind words. I wouldn’t have a blog if it weren’t for people like you who actually come to listen to what I say.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | Reply

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