Saturday, September 27, 2008

Why Obama lost the debate with McCain

I jotted out the following during the last ten minutes of the debate:

McCain has far exceeded my own expectations for his performance in this debate. He sounded remarkably convincing and knowledgeable. Except for when the topic was the economy, my mind more often wandered while Obama spoke. It was as if I did not feel I would miss anything by not paying too close attention to Obama's thoughts about foreign policy. Obama seemed to agree with McCain about a lot of things.

Surprisingly, I actually thought McCain's statements about Pakistan and Afghanistan were reassuring. I disagree with McCain about staying in Iraq. I disagree with McCain's stance concerning Iran. But I'm not convinced we need an escalation in Afghanistan -- something Obama seems to want. I thought McCain's retort that Obama has not spent enough time in Northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan was strong.

Obama may have made a major mistake by (retroactively) adopting -- verbatim --- McCain's position on Russia. Obama has made it clear to everyone tonight that he supports McCain's belligerent stance vis a vis Russia. Obama backs the provocative Western plan to invite Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Although arguably it is an important position he would want to maintain as a bargaining chip. Maybe Obama is just realistic; he assumes he does not have the credibility to shift the neocon-directed foreign policy concensus during a campaign. (Note: I blogged about NATO expansion here and here).

Having said that, I'm more convinced than ever that McCain is scary; that the McCain-Palin ticket must not be elected to the presidency. Towards the end of the debate McCain raised the specter of Russian aggression in the Crimea (I recently blogged about this prospect here). McCain's defiant stance regarding the Crimea is more frightening to me than his policy on Iran. Why? Because Russia has a very strong claim to the Crimea. I think if McCain wins -- a prospect which increased tonight -- relations among major global powers could well turn as erratic -- therefore tense and nerve-racking -- as this crazy election campaign.

Obama came across better in the earlier part of the debate which concerned the financial crisis, yet stopped short of delivering a knockout blow on that front. It looks like Obama will have to win this election on the economy.


  1. You said it. I absolutely agree. Obama might have all the right ideas but if he can't connect with the common man, he's going to be the next Dukakis/Kerry. Obama sounded like he was giving a grad school lecture and McCain sounded like your uncle telling stories at Thanksgiving dinner. Can Obama turn it around? There's still time, plus there's still time for plenty of bad news about GOP misdeeds. But Obama has to change his strategy or it's over.

  2. Jottie,

    I agree.

    I wouldn't say McCain was exactly charismatic, but I think he won, and Obama lost, because, as usual, the Republicans controlled and framed the message, which is why they always win.

    There was no progressive message there. It was right-wing and Obama trying to supplicate to the right-wing.

    Ironically, if Obama had stuck to being primary Obama and stayed with a message of change, and demonstrated a very progressive foreign policy vision, he would have creamed.

    I think you can be progressive and still be hawkish and pro-American, like JFK.

    Unfortunately, Obama has the same effete inauthentic warrior stench of Dukakis, Kerry and Gore.

    American presidents need to be testicular, but they also have to be wise.

    I don't agree with McCain on policy, but he came across as testicular and wise. Obama didn't.

  3. about Crimea

    whatever McCain said - it is a neo-con spin for the sake of winning elections.

    there is a HUGE difference between S. Ossetia and Crimea. in Crimea there is no such problem as it was till Aug in S.Ossetia: namely, the ethnic fighting or genocide conducted by Georgians.

    also, unlike in S. Ossetia, ethnic russians in Crimea never fought any wars for independence, never held referendums, neither they were an independent or even autonomus Republic - as S. Ossetia (and Abhazia) were during the history.

    so, to apply the blurry rethorics regarding Crimea (that it'll be next) - is very irresponsible for almost-President ! it means that practically - they (his team and whoever pulls his strings) already have some agande / plan: to MAKE similar problems in Crimea, even if there are non. and it is not difficult for them, I am sure.

    therefore it is very unscrupulous of him to exploit whatever feelings of the crowd (mainly his supporters) for political gain only. just to prolong the neo-con power grip in US they are gonna to create a bigger gap in relations with Russia? such a shame ! and certainly american people will gain nothing from it, rather loose more. coz Russia will simply start to divert its attention and efforts for partnership elsewhere - Asia, S. America, any other places than "West" - which are quite plentiful actually.

  4. Are you serious? McCain just kept blathering on around and around with his grampa stories. Obama had direct points to direct answers. What debate were you watching? McCain was terrible.

  5. Sen. Obama's performance confirmed what I already felt about the man - that he has no substance. Sen. McCain gave examples of his experiences and Sen. Obama gave ideas. It also confirmed that Sen. Obama can't take a stance on anything. He didn't in the Illinois Senate and he didn't last night. The Commander in Chief, espeicially in this day and age, needs to be able to make tough decisions based on experience. Sen. Obama doesn't have it and is saying whatever sounds good in order to get elected.

  6. There are many reasons why Obama lost the debate... Most of which are obvious- As a person with NO LOVE for the Mccain camp I am left wondering how obama fans fail to realize this. it was like they didn't even watch the same debate.

  7. Sorry to tell you your candidate McCain only confirmed all of our fears out there. He's just an angry rude old man who only has more of the same to offer. We're not going to accept that anymore (please see polls) and for anyone to think McCain held the upper hand in last night's debate I feel so sorry for your inability to deal with reality. But then again that has been the theme through out these last eight miserable years of GOP rule. Christ he can't even get his countries straight and this is acceptable to you and other Republicans. One of these days you're going to wake up and realize how much damage you have inflicted upon our nation by refusing to use your brains and being ruled by emotion and not logic.
    Then again, oh never mind!

    Mike in Denver

  8. McCain is obviously more knowledgeable about the entire world situation. He also knows the names of the leaders, where the countries are, what is happening there, and why. He is totally aware of the global problems and what to do. Obama talked as if he was giving a memorized speech. Again. McCain spoke from his heart.
    Obama had an arrogant smart aleck attitude with his uncalled for smiles. He behaved as if his only audience was Michelle who was apparently smiling at him from wherever she sat.
    My greatest complaint about Obama is his stinking attitude that the world revolves around him.
    I see no humility in Obama. None!
    He gives me the impression that he thinks he is above the rest of us and that we are doing ourselves our favor by voting for him. It is biologically impossible for Obama to care about America. His wife's ancestors and his own relatives were enslaved by the very people he now claims he wants to protect.
    He has shown this tendency by his listening to Black Liberation Theology for over twenty years in a church that despises America. He voted 166 times "present" in the senate instead of yes or now. I personally do not believe Obama gives a damn about this country. He wants to be president to kick whites in the teeth.

  9. You are an idiot to belive that McCain spoke from the heart....
    And then black people are being called incapable of holding office because caring about the government that takes such a great part in their lives...--- goes against the 'I'm a victim. So i'm going to sit back because the caucasians tihnk I hate them for something I have relatively little knowledge about as i'm not exactly from that generation".

    Darn, I've hear better arguements from High-schoolers.

    So according to your statement, black people are biologically impaired when it comes to caring about the enviornment in which they live in. Which in this instance is the U.S, due to slavery.

    Drugs should generally only be for medical usage. Stay away from them.

    And as far as i'm concerned Oboma is mixed. So you're saying his caucasian anscestors are nonexistent.

    I want five minutes of my life back....

  10. Good blog.

    I am an American of German, Russian and Norwegian descent. My Russian heritage is recent, with my great-grandparents having emigrated from the Ukraine.

    That being said, I am interested in the politics of Europe, especially those of my heritage countries.

    I will say that I do not think that Georgia is the staunch supporter of civil rights and the ideals of democracy that most Americas are led to believe. The Georgian government has shown that it can at times be very draconian towards the Ossetians. We are all aware of the history of this region, with the tensions of the different ethnicities going back through recorded history. Some great examples of the tensions can even been seen when studying Stalin, who being Georgian - held a Georgian inferiority complex against the Muscovites for a large part of his career.

    We are all aware of the missile shield agreement with Poland. This has been in negotiation for years –

    Here is my question, posed through several points, to those who simply side with Russia on this conflict:

    1) Point One: A military operation the size of the offensive that Russia launched against Georgia simply cannot be initiated in several days. The scale of the operations, and the timetable from its launch, indicate clearly that Russia had moved multiple large offensive units and supporting logistics into the region at least WEEKS if not MONTHS ahead of time.
    While each nations military organization does indeed hold contingency planning for events – the speed, voracity, and organized methodical offensive into Georgia – to me, a humble enthusiast of military history – are clearly indicative that Russia had planned this “defensive” action for quite some time.

    2) Point Two: The timing of the offensive from Russia – to me is it more than just mere coincidence that the Russian offensive into Georgia started literally several days before the Poles were to put “ink to paper” on the missile shield deal. For anyone who understands the eastern European theatre, you understand all eastern countries hold a real and valid distrust (and fear) of Russian military intentions – for example read the press reports from all eastern countries during that time – from the Baltic states to Romania, to Ukraine and Poland – all nations were (justifiably) alarmed by the military actions of Russia.
    My initial instinct was that Russia was attempting to scare Poland out of signing the shield deal with the US - while also protecting its energy delivery monopoly on Europe thorugh the caucasus. The timing seemed just too perfect in a political and military sense. Maybe my imagination is just to over-active, but this in my gut instinct.

    It reinforced this view when Russian staff indicated that the Polish signing meant “military response may be warranted” against Poland. It comes across as the old method of Stalinistic diplomacy, reinstated by Putin.

    3) As I have seen in Jotmans articles, most of us are aware of the true financial motives for this region – namely Russia wanting to control energy lanes to Europe, in opposition to the Wests (US) effort to route the deliveries through Turkey.

    Russia of course holds much of its political power through Europe’s reliance on energy – with Germany, the largest European economy, the most reliant.

    So in summary, while I do not think of Georgia as a great force of democracy, and do believe they violate the ideals of the American people – I do not feel that they are alone to blame for this situation.

    • Russia has been (somewhat) marginalized politically ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They felt (correctly to a certain extent) that the US was too deeply engaged in Iraq to offer any resistance to their military operations in the Caucasus region.

    • Russia wants to keep control of the energy routes to Europe –

    • Russia did not want Poland to sign the missile deal.

    • The attack by Russia was planned far in advance – and units and logistics were put in place to support this offensive accordingly.

    • The timing of the opening of the offensive was “coincidentally” several days before the Polish administration was to finalize the deal for the missile shield with the US.

    Could Russian have had some alerior motives in their moves in Georgia?

    Why is it when Chechnya or other regions attempt to be recognized as independent Russia can say "no" based on their rights for "territorial integrity"? Can Georgia not make these same claims for its regions? (of course there are many other hypocratic examples from multiple sides and nations, but these are just examples)

    These are just some thoughts I as an amateur military historian and my friends have had in our "smoke breaks" at work – these views have not been fed to us by external sources. We are all avid WW2 historians, and enjoy talking about the current events in a historical perspective.

    If we were running Russia, these moves and supposed motives seem to make a great deal of sense.

    Jotman – your thought on these views please. We all respect your unique perspective as opposed to our limited and somewhat ignorant American views.

  11. Hi again,
    this is the same anon poster from above.

    I am just writing a foolw up to my above post.

    Jot - I hope you did not take my closing sentence as sarcasm -- we are truly curious if you feel there is any validity to our observations regarding Russian motives.

    Maybe I simply posted this on the wrong thread?



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