Debating whether to watch the debate *UPDATE*

While hustling the kids through homework, dinner and bed time, I’ve still read tons of debate live blogs — American Thinker, Contentions, Michelle Malkin, the Corner, Power Line — and the verdict from each of them is the same:  the debate was b-o-r-i-n-g, all three (Brokaw, McCain and Obama) performed badly, and nothing happened to change the status quo that sees Obama slightly ahead.  Indeed the one verdict I read (and I can no longer remember where) that best summed up what everyone was saying was that Obama succeeded in looking like central casting’s version of the generic black president on a TV show, which may be good enough for most Americans.

Tell me now:  is there any reason I should watch the debate, or should I just delete it from TiVo and have done with it?  If Michael Graham, at the Corner, is right, I’d be a lot happier watching one of the lovely old movies I’ve saved on TiVo:

It wasn’t a debate — there was no “debating.” It wasn’t a town hall — the people didn’t speak. It wasn’t an interview — there were virtually no follow-ups. It wasn’t a contest of ideas. The two “contestants” shared most of the same ideas.

This was a lost 90 minutes out of my life, and a huge, irreplaceable, lost opportunity for the McCain campaign. Why is it that a maverick like McCain allowed himself to be led by the nose like this?

Fred Barnes on FOX is making the point right now that Rick Warren did a better job than this.

UPDATE: The Anchoress has a wonderful collection of reactions. The most interesting, to me, is the fact that Intrade dropped Obama drastically — by 24 points.  Apparently Obama was so lugubrious that he lost points to the vital, happy warrior, Sarah Palin.

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  • Deana

    Don’t waste your time.

    Maybe it was me but I could not get into it. It seemed to have no spark, nothing new (except for that new proposal of McCain’s which, from the little I can gather, sounds very, very unconservative).

    Here is what struck me: I’ve said this before but it bears mentioning again – the Obama that was running for President a year ago is nowhere to be found. If someone could mask who was saying what, there are times when I swear people would identify Obama as a liberal Republican. He is saying things now that seem 90 degrees different from what he’s been saying all this time.

    The people who have supported him all along must see this and they can’t be happy.

    I just wonder if others have noticed it. It’s weird. Necessary for Obama but weird nonetheless.



    Dear Bookworm…a wonderful video for you and are Jewish readers/writers.

    Gamar Hatima Tova.

  • Huan

    You didn’t miss much. The open ended question format made it too easy for both candidates to repeat their campaign stump speeches. Nothing new whatsoever.

    They should have asked simple “yes or no” questions. Maybe a game-show format where both candidates answer simultaneously using podium buttons, then revealing their answers visually. Allow them time to explain their answer only if they responded differently.

  • BrianE

    Sean Hannity keeps harping at being friends with a former terrorist who blew up buildings. People know what Bill Ayers did 30 years ago, and it doesn’t mean anything to them today.
    Bill Ayers is still at war with America today, using the radicalization of our schools as his new weapon of choice, working to destroy our country through the disintegration of the education system, where we no longer value standards, and where a failed $100 million dollar Annenberg experiment demonstrated that Ayers or Obama bring nothing to making education better for our children.
    Dick Morris is just making this point.
    Bill Ayers is a staunch defender of Ward Churchill and would stand shoulder to shoulder with leftist, socialist or communists defending Churchill.

  • rockdalian

    Great. Memo to McCain Campaign: Someone is either a terrorist sympathizer or he isn’t; someone is either disqualified as a terrorist sympathizer or he’s qualified for public office. You helped portray Obama as a clealy qualified presidential candidate who would fight terrorists.

    If that’s what the public thinks, good luck trying to win this thing.

    With due respect, I think tonight was a disaster for our side. I’m dumbfounded that no one else seems to think so. Obama did everything he needed to do, McCain did nothing he needed to do. What am I missing?

    Andy McCarthy counts the many other ways that McCain’s performance was a disaster.

    Andy, I’m with you.

    Michele Malkin

    And I agree with her motto: We’re Screwed ‘08

  • Earl

    Delete it, Bookworm – watch an old movie.

    I started listening, but couldn’t bear it! Listening to McCain pass up the chance to put the responsibility for the meltdown where it belongs is bad for my morale. I followed it via live-blogging, as I did the VP debate.

    If the truth about Obama’s decades-long radical associations is going to get to the American people, it will be Palin, and maybe some 527s like “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”.

    Either that, or we’re well and truly screwed!

  • Mike Devx

    I turned off the TV immediately after the debate, and I haven’t been in the blogosphere yet, but here’s my take, from an email to a fellow conservative coworker:

    I’m really happy (myself) with what McCain did tonight.

    Obama started out really strong, and even got in a few attacks on McCain with no
    response, and I was beginning to “Grrrrrr” to the milquetoast tone. But
    then McCain became very adroit in addressing the issues and responding and attacking.

    Obama won the first fifteen minutes or so, which is not good. But it was even through the rest, I thought, and then McCain just rolled the little pipsqueak on foreign policy, just rolled right over him. There wasn’t anything left to see by the

    And McCain’s closing statement was simply superb, superb.

    It didn’t go like I thought! But McCain showed better judgment than I! In
    retrospect I’m really happy. The question really is, though, what did the undecideds think?

  • Mike Devx

    Interesting! No one here agrees with me! Time to open up my forty blogs in tabbed windows and start perusing the reaction in the blogosphere!

    An aside: The McCain campaign *clearly* did not intend to speak the words ‘Ayers’ at any time in this debate. I thought he was going to, I thought he HAD to. As I said above, in retrospect, for this debate format, I think it was wise.

    Leave the red meat for the stump speeches. (And Sarah Palin is *so* much better at it anyway, though McCain was awfully good yesterday.)

    I remain happy with it. I’d recommend, Book, that it’s worth the time, myself. And remember, we are not the focus – the undecided voter is the focus.

    After the first fifteen or twenty minutes, Obama was flat, flat, flat, flat, flat. That alone is worth viewing. It was positively delicious. Perhaps I went in with lowered expectations for McCain, because he’s always been so unadroit. He surprised me with a combination of adroitness in switching, AND clear talk, which isn’t so easy to do, I think.

  • Bookworm

    You cheer me greatly, Mike, but I still may give myself some brain candy by watching the remarkably silly “Kid from Spain,” a 1932 Eddie Cantor movie.

  • Mike Devx

    Did anyone else notice a small thing:

    McCain repeated his call for an across the board freeze on government spending (with a few exceptions). I noticed immediately that he recommended it with much greater confidence than in the first debate, and I thought: Aha! His internal polling must have caught *something*. And then Obama – VERY weakly I thought – responded about cutting with a scalpel rather than a… whatever it was, I can’t remember.

    At that moment I really sat up straight. There was something going ON there.
    I was surprised at McCain’s confidence in the statement and – compared to the first debate – Obama’s extreme weakness in presentation on that one.

    It’s a small thing, I know, but I thought I caught something very significant in the moment.

  • Ronald Hayden

    You aren’t going to learn anything from watching the debate…

    Well, confirmation of a few things you probably already knew:

    – Presidential candidates should be legally barred from discussing economic issues. It’s just too painful, from either of them.

    – As someone on The Corner noted: We now know that Obama supports every possible war BUT Iraq. He was complaining about all the wars we could be fighting if we weren’t tied down in Iraq. It’s truly scary thinking how he believes we can get involved in every act of genocide without somehow ending up with a dozen Somalias on our hands.

    Genocide is tough…I’d like to prevent them all too, but part of being an adult is knowing when you are just going to make things worse. For Obama, the only time US intervention could ever make things worse is Iraq. At least McCain did point out Somalia and the requirement that we be able to truly make a difference before we put American lives on the line, and overall I thought the foreign policy discussion was much more interesting than anything else.

    I am with the sentiment that it was a draw, or slightly McCain, which means big win for Obama. He came off as conversant on foreign policy, and all their back and forth on who voted for what tax policy just makes for a big muddle that doesn’t move anyone.

    This was supposed to be McCain’s format and chance for him to trounce Obama. It didn’t happen, and status quo favors Obama.

  • Coyote

    Where did you see the Intrade drop? It now has Obama at +70. I think it’s up the left, to be honest.

    Debate was boring. McCain was solid enough. People have to stop expecting him to be Sarah Palin – he isn’t and never was. But he is good, solid. Obama wins on flash like the proverbial hare but McCain carries the day with more substance. You might wish McCain could be more charming but you have more confidence in him than what the charming Obama inspires. I don’t think this debate will be swaying anyone from their positions and won’t be convincing anyone who haven’t decided yet.

  • el gordo

    “He is saying things now that seem 90 degrees different from what he’s been saying all this time. The people who have supported him all along must see this and they can’t be happy. ”

    Deana, they know who he is. They know he must fool the rest of us. In that way they are smarter than the poor old honest republican base which demands truth in advertising.

  • dianemadeline

    Mike, I completely agree with you, and reading your comments made me feel so much better this morning. Between the commentary and blog reactions last night and the radio show on the drive in this morning, I was shocked that I had taken away something so different than everyone else.

    Three things stood out for me.
    1. Health care is a responsibility, not a right.
    2. Israel must be defended. Period.
    3. American exceptionalism continues. Our best days are not behind us.

  • Oldflyer

    The whole thing was bizzare. I was wondering if those were real people sitting around the edges, or were they some kind of ‘bots.

    Brokaw continually complained about the candidates going over time, but he never cut one off.

    It is so dreary. McCain never uses the material available. For instance, he mentioned that Obama got the second most in campaign contributions from Freddy/Fannie, but he didn’t give the amount. I think people would sit up and take notice if he said $126,000 in just three years.

    McCain’s points get buried in Obama’s blizzard of words. I don’t know whether McCain can’t think fast enough, or if he thinks it is smart, but he very seldom counters Obama. BO repeated as he did in the last debate that we have wasted $400B in Iraq and they have a $79B surplus. McCain should have been ready for that by now. They have no electric system, they have no water system, they have no school system. They don’t have a surplus. They have money that they have not spent yet; but will spend on urgently needed infrastructure now that it is less likely that it will be blown up as fast as it is built.

    McCain lets Obama hark on Osama Bin Laden as though he were the only aspect of the long war that counted. We haven’t had a credible communication from Bin Laden in over two years. McCain should have challenged Obama and Bin Laden. If you are alive BL let us hear your voice with credible evidence of the date.

    McCain did nail him a little on the Pakistan thing. He could have gone a little further and pointed out that if Pakistan cuts off the supply routes to Afghanistan, we are out of business there. They did for a few days, and caused great alarm. Like it or not, we need Pakistan.

    Do yourself a favor, Book and don’t subject yourself to it.

  • BrianE

    It was hard to listen to it after McCain promised a write-down of mortgages at the taxpayers expense. The spinners gave it a $300 billion dollar bite. We are standing at the gate, with our tin cup out asking for donations from the world and haven’t realized we need to cut spending! McCain did offer a freeze and across the board cuts– how well did that work out the last time a Republican president and Democrat congress worked the bipartisan thingy?
    Here’s my problem with these debates. They need to be on philosophy of government, but the talking heads want to parse specifics. They confuse data points with wisdom.
    These debates should be by surrogates– the kinds of policy wonks that talk facts in their sleep. Maybe we need a new cabinet level position– Debater in Chief.
    I was curious about the health care thing. Was Barack saying health care is a right or health care insurance? If health care is a right, there are going to be a lot of government doctors in our future.

  • Deana

    So, it appears that McCain thinks the government should purchase bad mortgages. He seems to think that all of these people who purchased homes way beyond their means using the most risky of mortgage structures should get helped.

    Perhaps McCain and Biden can work together and come up with a plan to force banks to reduce principal. That will really help the mortgage market.

    This just makes me so mad!!!! What about the vast majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, who were RESPONSIBLE about their finances from the get-go? Why are we bailing out absolutely everyone who demonstrated ignorance, greed, and/or irresponsibility???

    Bookworm, you were right a week ago. This country is going to hell in a handbasket.

    I’m rapidly getting to the point where I almost WANT Obama to win. Just let it go and let America have four years of liberal leadership and watch happen what most of us on this blog knows what will happen.

    It isn’t like the choice we have before us now is between a lying, radical, socialist who seems to surround himself with people who hate America and a conservative.

    Aaarrggghhh! I’m so frustrated!!


  • Deana

    Brian –

    You hit on the head what I’ve been thinking about for days with regard to Sarah Palin.

    All of these liberals who are so disgusted with Sarah Palin like to talk about how she doesn’t know the details. It is irrelevant to me whether someone can recall thousands of facts. What is more important is their character and their beliefs about government. I want to know what their guiding philosophy is.

    It’s much more revealing than what we see coming out of these debates.


  • BobK

    BW, don’t bother. It’s depressing.

    I’m not sure what Sen. McCain was trying to accomplish last night. He clearly was not speaking to conservatives (perhaps he’s overconfident that Gov. Palin has cemented the base). Was he addressing moderates? The half-hearted attempt to pin the majority (not all) of the blame for Fannie/Freddie on the leftists in Congress indicates to me that this is a possibility. Is it the left he’s after? $300 billion government mortgage buyout? I fear that’s the case. Sen. McCain (and Sen. Obama for that matter) were trying to be all things to all people.

    The thing I find most appealing about Gov. Palin is that she, even with all the constraints and handling, comes across as herself – a person with a principle and ideal beyond the results of the next election.

  • BrianE

    Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air says it’s not new money, but a new strategy inside the bailout since the government will already own these mortgages.
    This was a move by McCain to coopt the issue.
    That’s not how it was presented though, but the success will depend on at what value the government picks up these mortgages.

    Let’s say the government picks up a $200,000 mortgage for 40% or $80,000. If the current value of the home is $140,000 and re-writing the loan to that amount will keep the homeowner in the home, the government still recoups its money when they sell the paper back to the private market some time in the future. The loss will be the devalued dollar paid back over time since we may own these houses for some time, and we’re borrowing the money from someone else to buy the mortgages.

    Since the federal government has been the mortgage lender for America, since we now own the largest mortgage companies in America, if we don’t write the mortgages down, we’ll own a vacant house, which drives the price of housing down even further.

  • BrianE

    We could, of course, write into the contract that when the homeowner sells the house in the future at an appreciated value, the government gets some of the profit.
    Or we could also write a second loan subsidizing the principal, that would be repaid from any future profit which would stay with the property, not the mortgage holder.
    Since we’re now the largest mortgage company, possibly in the world, we can do whatever we want!

  • Deana

    Hi Brian –

    I understand that there is value in the banks/government (is there a difference anymore?) recouping at least some of their losses. And of course the more homes that are on the market, the more home values will go down.

    I think I’m just in a destructive mood right now.

    Brian, if we constantly save those who are stupid, greedy, and irresponsibility, who winds up learning the lesson?

    Answer: The rest of us. The rest of us who were so stupid apparently to be careful, live within our means, and think twice before signing on to shady deals. What incentive do we have for continuing to live like this? Only that we know it is better to live up to our values than give in and join the crowd.


  • Ymarsakar

    What is more important is their character and their beliefs about government. I want to know what their guiding philosophy is.

    Given the state of mental health amongst Democrats, Deana, I am unsure whether even they can beat Sarah Palin on the “details”.

  • Mike Devx

    John McCain certainly is not a dream conservative candidate. We wanted a fiery debate, and – perhaps due to the town hall format, perhaps to Brokaw’s questions, we didn’t see one. I’m hopeful that the subdued debate performance is targeting the unconvinced voters, not us, so our disappointment wouldn’t matter, as long as we conservatives do actually vote and not stay home in disgust!

    He did go after Obama quite often, and only time will tell if it worked. Or if his strategy of (apparently) focusing on those ADD unconvinced voters will work.

    Obama looks like such a disastrous president, that I’m giving McCain a free pass on his campaign’s strategy. I’d love fiery, perfect praise of classical liberalism, limited government, lower taxes. But I’m not going to get that speech from a John McCain, and we wouldn’t get that Presidency either.

    The best advantage for us with McCain is that we won’t suffer four years of Obama. Perhaps the American people will take a good hard look at this cipher of a candidate with his *vast* history of far-left associations and policies, and, in the end, decide that those associations MATTER and those policies reflect what he will do. And reject all these empty promises that he’s making now as the lies that they are.

    My God: How does he get away with saying that his policies will actually cut federal government spending? He could state that the sky is green, and the media and the TV-watching public would nod dutifully in agreement. I don’t get how he does it. There must be a brainwashing gene that I lack.

    We’ll have to see how the next four weeks work out.

  • BrianE

    You are absolutely correct. I’m supporting McCain because he won’t appoint more progressive leftist judges, and it’s not even the Supreme Court that’s at risk, since they only handle a miniscule amount of federal cases decided.

    As to this home mortgage bailout, Lars Larson had Rick (Davis) from the McCain campaign explaining McCain’s proposal for using half of the $700 billion wall St full employment act.
    As you are probably aware, only people that legitimately qualified for their loan would be eligible and the person must live in the home. The government would buy the loan from the bank at par, and write down the principle. Rick was making the case that over time the homeowner would pay the loss back to the government in interest paid. What Rick refused to admit is that the government is going to pay 3.5% for the money, and administrative costs will eat up the other 1.5%, so we’re basically going to subsidize the write down.
    Obama’s campaign has come out against the proposal, and it’s easy to see why.
    NINJA (no income, no job, no assets) and Liar loans would not be eligible.
    It may be cheaper to subsidize these loans to prevent the looming recession from turning into a global depression– if that’s even possible.
    It certainly won’t help my company– a global provider of construction equipment. The market dried up in July, inventory has been rising, and the plant I work at has seen 20% of production workers laid off in September. They have just announced another RIF– probably 30-50% of production workers and of those left, cutting production by half (one week on, one week shut down).
    The question for us is whether the market improves by the end of 2009 or 2010.