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Posts Tagged ‘debate’

One of the more odd exchanges from Friday night may turn out to harm Sen. Obama far more than he might have thought possible at the time.  Call it the bracelet debate:

I couldn’t find a clip that contained the full Obama statement, so for fairness’ sake, here’s the text:

OBAMA: I’ve got a bracelet, too, from Sergeant – from the mother of Sergeant Ryan David Jopek, given to me in Green Bay. She asked me, ‘Can you please make sure another mother is not going through what I’m going through?’ No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they’re carrying out the missions of their commander in chief. And we honor all the service that they’ve provided. Our troops have performed brilliantly. The question is for the next president: ‘Are we making good judgments about how to keep America safe? Precisely because sending our military into battle is such an enormous step.

A fair debate, and one that certainly raises questions about who has the best interests of the troops at heart.  But two issues have emerged regarding Obama’s use of Sgt. Jopek’s bracelet, which might make Sen. Obama look a little less, well, sympathetic.

First, Jake Tapper of ABC points out that Sgt. Jopek’s family is, at best, split on the subject of using their son’s bracelet for political purposes.  In fact, his mother has apparently asked Sen. Obama to stop using the bracelet that she gave him for political purposes.  Now, it is certainly fair to say that Obama may not have gotten the message, but if he did, it’s very poor form to use a military family for political purposes after it has asked the campaign not to do so.

Separately, Jim Geraghty raises the question of whether Sen. Obama had to look down and read the name of the fallen soldier he was about to use for political purposes.  Looking again at the video (in the one inserted above, at about the 1:20 mark), it’s a fair point.  Obama’s “from Sergeant, uh, uhm, [looking down at his wrist] from the mother of Sgt. Ryan David Jopek” doesn’t do much to dissuade the skeptical viewer from this opinion.

If you put on that bracelet every day, as part of your morning routine after you shower and shave, don’t you have to know that name by heart?  He’s been doing that (presumably) since February.

Put it a different way.  During the course of the debate, Sen. Obama knew that Fortune 500 CEOs save $700k a head under McCain’s tax plan.  He knew the amount of money we give in private insurance subsidies under Medicare ($15 billion).  He pronounced Georgia president Saakashvili’s name correctly, and named Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia as nations concerned about Russian aggression.  He never once glanced at his notes while giving these answers.

But he didn’t know the name of the fallen American soldier who was memorialized on his wrist.  Not without looking first, anyway.

Of course, there could have been something else written on that bracelet, which might have thrown him off:

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I stand by my comments earlier regarding McCain’s problems on economic policy, and he must fix them before the next debate.  But McCain was a bulldog all night, aggressively laying out a broad vision for American foreign policy.  He looked like a natural, as if you could have the same discussion with him over coffee.  This stuff is in his blood, and he didn’t need any debate prep to be able to whip out foreign leaders and historical anecdotes with abandon.

Obama, by contrast, had few frames of reference to historical examples, and he often had to piggyback on McCain’s outline, saying he agreed or disagreed with what McCain had said.  The debate seemed to turn decisively at the moment Obama was forced to defend his position that he would talk with Ahmedinejad without preconditions.  It was one of his most indefensible positions in the primaries, and he’s no better at defending it now.  But McCain gave the best and most multifaceted explanations of how he’s wrong that I’ve heard.  He exploded the historical touchpoints Obama has used in the past (Reagan/Gorbachev; Nixon/China) to get away with the charade before Obama could even raise them.  He refused to allow Obama to get away with redefining his position yet again, attacking the Illinois Senator’s canard that “preconditions” just means you don’t have to solve all the issues before the meeting.  And by giving us a vision into the meeting between Obama and Ahmedinejad (“We sit down with Ahmedinejad and he says ‘we’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the earth,’ and you say, ‘no, you’re not?'”) he mocked Obama in a way that he simply hasn’t been during the entire campaign.  That got Obama off his game – he became visibly irritated for the rest of the debate – and it went downhill from there.

Now I don’t think Obama looked foolish.  For the most part, he held his own, made cogent arguments, and looked poised.  If you’re among those who thinks all Obama has to do to win these debates (and the election) is to look minimally acceptable and presidential, you’re probably happy tonight.

But I’m not one of those people.  I think each time that McCain shows himself to be his own man, and a man who brings unique strengths to the office that neither Obama nor Bush can claim, he draws back some of those voters who are reluctant to pull the GOP lever again.  If McCain can remind those voters that this election isn’t just about “change,” but that it’s a choice between two very different visions of the future extolled by two very different men, he can draw this election back to its more natural Red/Blue bearings.  If he can do that, then it will be up to him to make the closing sale to voters in Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio.  That’s how he’ll win this election, and he moved closer to doing just that tonight.

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We’re half an hour into the debate, and John McCain is incapable of explaining any aspect of economic policy beyond government spending.

Obama talks health care, and McCain talks about how much waste is created by government spending programs.

Lehrer asks about his position on economic recovery, so McCain talks about public corruption.

Obama criticizes McCain’s tax policy, and rather than defend it, McCain talks about Obama’s earmarks.

In the process, he’s allowed Obama to lash him to the sinking ship of GOP economic policies, accuse him of cutting taxes for the rich while keeping low-income Americans from getting health care, and make him look like a one-trick pony.

Problem is, he may just be a one-trick pony on the economy.  The man has never dealt with a budget beyond the federal one, and he has no background in managing private economic issues.  And this is after spending a week trying to facilitate an economic recovery package.  Will he ever be more prepared to discuss this topic than he is today?  And this isn’t even the economic debate!

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Obama in his speech tonight:

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to be the next Commander in Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

Oh really, Senator? Because you weren’t ready to have it anytime in the last three months.

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