HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TOWN HALL DEBATE
The source for this commentary are my jots from having live-blogged the debate. See here.
Hands down, Obama handily won what was by far the most substantive of the three debates to date (for my commentary on the first debate see here, the second here).
I thought McCain's physical performance was shaky. He walked around as if lost, seemed hesitant to call Obama by name, otherwise acting as if he was afraid to get close to Obama.
If Obama hit a home run the debate, it was on the issue of health care:
Tom Brokaw: Health care: is it a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?Health care is a right. In 2008, how can a leader in a Western country suggest it is anything other than a right?
McCain: Responsibility -- for every American. (Bad answer. Obama should say: "It's a right!"- - because it is everywhere else in the developed world)
Obama: I think it should be a right for every American. (YES!) For sick to have to argue with insurance companies, that's fundamentally wrong. No 1: If you got an insurance plan you like, you can keep it. Because children are relatively cheap to insure. McCain doesn't say that he voted against expansion of kid's health insurance. Final point: it's true that I think it's important to crack down on insurance companies that are cheating their customers. It's a problem, these companies will find a state, where there are no requirements to get cancer screens. They all set up shop there. Works that way in banking. Delaware. They go.... Protections you have.... M believes in deregulation in every sense.
Obama just may have hit it out of the ballpark tonight. He just may have won the election.
My sense that the election could be over is not based on Obama's health care answer alone. I suspect Obama cut into McCain's longstanding lead on national security. In contrast to the first debate, Obama had rebuttals against McCain on the foreign policy issues (Obama still agreed with McCain, but nevertheless managed to explain some shortcoming with McCain's positions). In fact, Obama shot down two of McCain's strongest answers of the night.
McCain: Roosevelt "talk softly.... big stick" When you announce, you turn Pakistan opinion against us. We washed hands of Afghan after 1990. Our relations with Pak critical. Petreus had strategy, get support of people. We need to help Pak in NW to get support of people. Not threatening to attack. Use force where necessary (McCain at his best).The second blow against McCain here was self-inflicted. McCain made the mistake of responding:
Obama: I want to be clear, if Pak unable or unwilling to get Bin Laden, then we should, because they are threatening to kill Bin Laden. M saying bomb iran, next he's calling for invasion of N Korea. Not finished in Afghan, and M says next stop Baghdad. (Great response! You are destroying M's greatest strength, taking the battle to his home territory).
McCain: Not true. I understand what it's like to send people into harms way. I was joking with a veteran about saying I would attack Iran. (Joking about attacking? McCain, you are not helping yourself).But the second win for Obama I was referring to came here:
McCain: I hope Iran abandons quest for nukes. We can never allow a second Holocaust to take place. (As if Israel will allow it either, with its 65 nuclear weapons).I honestly don't think McCain can recover at this point. To turn around the election, McCain would have to resort to some kind of "nuclear option." Obama came across as highly competent and cool-headed.
Obama: We cannot allow Iran to get nuke. Will never take military options off the table. No veto power to UN. (Obama is matching McCain on toughness, it's a strategy not to give McCain an advantage on this score). When you talk to these countries it gives you better options. Talk, but don't take military option off the table (Obama won this exchange one with this point).
One last thing, a couple times McCain seemed concerned about Obama's purchase of an expensive overhead projector. But do we care?*
*UPDATE: It seems "we should care." McCain was actually criticizing Obama for funding an important educational initiative for the city of Chicago. See this new post.