Friday, October 03, 2008

Debate Means "Take Worm Off Hook", Right?

I recorded last week's Presidential Debate and watched it Wednesday night. Then I watched the VP Debate last night. Let me tell you, two nights in a row of debates is not a healthy thing. Ultimately my vote has not changed, though I'm less sure of it. My opinion of the candidates has, though.

First there's George Bush. It's as if he wasn't even there. Oh wait, he wasn't, though you'd never guess from listening to Obama and Biden. They like to make us think that McCain will be more of the same, but there are a whole lot of conservatives and/or Republicans who struggle with McCain because he's NOT like Bush, too. I think Palin didn't attack hard enough in pointing out to Biden that "you're focused on the past".

Frankly, I think the "McCain voted with the administration 90% of the time" line is ridiculous. What does that mean, exactly? Bush's only chance to vote is by vetoing or signing anything that gets passed. Bills that never pass the Senate are never seen by Bush, period, so there's no way to know if Bush would have voted for them or not. It's an impressive-sounding statistic with no substance at all. And how often did Obama vote with Bush? Oh, they don't tell you that one, but since I don't think that Bush has vetoed more than 10% of the bills that come before him, I suspect that percentage is pretty high, too.

Anyway, moving on to the actual candidates instead of the convenient punching-bag.

I've only heard Obama speak once before. I have to admit to falling a bit under the "Obama magic", though only as far as losing some of my conviction that he's consciously, intentionally adopting wrong-headed policies. I'm a bit more willing to give him some benefit of the doubt. And, contrary to what some pundits claim, I did not think the number of times he said "I agree with John on that" was a point against him. I like to see candidates give each other a little credit. I wouldn't have minded seeing some reciprocation from McCain.

But Obama's shallow experience was evident. He kept mentioning that "I wrote a letter to so-n-so about that" or "I spoke to so-n-so and told them--". If that's all he's got to show on the issue I'm not convinced. He's a US Senator. He should have proposed legislation, not letters. He should have at least called for a congressional hearing. Where's the political risk-taking in writing a letter? Being aware of and voicing concern over a problem is not what we pay our leaders for. We expect them to do something.

I was more impressed by McCain's depth of experience. But he was, if anything, too calm. I'd like to see him show a little fire, if only in dicussing his own policies. Is he taking the "McCain's got a temper" criticisms so seriously he's afraid to even approach anything resembling passion?

I've not had much exposure to Biden prior to this. I found him likable. So likable, in fact, that I didn't think to question some of his obvious errors. As Michael Totten asks, when has the U.S. or anyone else ever kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon? When did he and Obama call for NATO to move in there?

But perhaps I was too busy being irritated with Palin. Some say she did a good job of keeping Biden on the defensive. I guess that's one way of looking at it. I was just bothered by how she'd keep returning to old topics, sometimes with so little connectin with the current one I nearly got whiplash. Yes, she held her own up there. I think I was expecting more, somehow.

All four of them were very astute at twisting facts on each other's records. I've been doing enough research on my own to catch them in the act. They're all guilty, and it's gotten to the point that if anyone says "So-n-so voted against X" I immediately ignore it. Chances are it's out of context. Chances are there were other circumstances in play. Chances are it's just so much spin.

The same goes for "quotes". Like Biden's, "Senator McCain said--these are his actual words--said that he was 'Suprised by the sub-prime crisis'." He repeated it several times, verbatim. And yet that's a sentence that is blatently open to interpretation, even without including context. I'm just not buying it.

So in attempting to use candidates' records and words against them, all any of them have succeeded in doing (at least for me) is to convince me I can't go by their records or snippets. All I can really go by is their own stated positions. And that's risky, too.

Ultimately I'm less sure of my vote, but only because I'm less sure of all of them together. There's not one of them I can trust. And that's sad.

On the bright side, they've all kept the debates thus far civil, even cordial. There hasn't been the spirit of meanness I recall from previous election years. Good for them.

We could use more bright spots, though. It's been a long, dark night. I'm tired. Can we vote already?

No comments: