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The ideas of a thoughtful college student (Updated Whenever)

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    I'm Brian. This is my blog. I write about things that I think about, since verbalizing it helps me put things in more concrete terms. So here you'll find my occasional thoughts.
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Reaction to the Presidential Debate

Posted by Brian on September 26, 2008

Just a few of my thoughts on the presidential debate tonight.

My first reaction was that this election year is really starting to get contentious. We haven’t seen a lot of the political attacks that are somewhat typical of election years, but tonight both candidates seemed to come out swinging. Obama especially surprised me with how direct and aggressive he was with some of his comments, particularly listing all the things McCain was wrong about in regards to the Iraq conflict. (It’s also significant to note that according to NBC’s polling center, that was the moment which got the highest rating from the test audience.) Obama also seemed to have a slightly mocking tone throughout the debate. “Mocking” seems too strong a word, but he certainly was not genuinely

Speaking of the polling center, one of the test audience members mentioned that Obama seemed relaxed and articulate, whereas McCain seemed slightly tense. I would generally agree with that. Obviously both candidates were doing their damndest to leave one another behind, but McCain seemed to be working much harder at it than Obama did. From what I’ve heard (and I don’t necessarily verify the accuracy of this), a lot of the evidence McCain cited throughout the debate was either misleading or misconstrued, particularly when he would refer to Obama’s voting record or prior statements. Unfortunately, Senator Obama was not nearly as effective as he should have been at refuting these false claims. He seemed to merely say it was false, offer a one-sentence meager explanation, and move on to a new point. I really wish he’d clarified more on how McCain was misrepresenting his record.

Though the debate was definitely not a slam-dunk for the democratic candidate. McCain’s forte is definitely foreign policy, and though I disagree with his general approach, the man definitely knows what he’s talking about. He had a lot of historical and factual evidence to support his positions. Obama stayed toe-to-toe with McCain fairly well, and in my opinion he presented a logical, well-argued case for a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy. But in terms of evidence, McCain definitely came out ahead. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t familiar enough with the history he was referencing to truly get the crux of his argument. I know I wasn’t. Most of it happened before I was born, but I knew enough to get the basic idea.

On a weird note: was it just me or did McCain seem to deify General Petraeus? Nearly every time he talked about the man he referred to him as the “great general” or something else spectacular like that.

Overall, it was a very good debate. Neither candidate ran away with it, and both had strong sections and less-strong sections. I highly doubt tonight will play a large role in the general election. I’ll be interested to see the vice-presidential debate. I believe those two will play a large role in deciding November’s results.

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3 Responses to “Reaction to the Presidential Debate”

  1. pacer521 said

    great post and perspective. Wrote a post on this myself (I am 13)

    http://culturedecoded.wordpress.com/2008/09/26/thoughts-on-the-first-presidential-debate/

  2. valis said

    “But in terms of evidence, McCain definitely came out ahead. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t familiar enough with the history he was referencing to truly get the crux of his argument. I know I wasn’t. Most of it happened before I was born, but I knew enough to get the basic idea.”

    I think that’s the thing though. There is also current history, or recent history, sometimes euphemistically called “current events”. I don’t think people right now really care, if they ever cared, about detailed historical knowledge about foreign countries and geopolitics. What people do know for sure, without needing reference materials handy, is that invading Iraq was precisely what Obama said it was, “unwise”.

    While I have absolute respect for McCain’s knowledge (although I don’t think Pakistan was a “failed state” before Musharraf) I think it came of as a lot of pedantry.

  3. Brian said

    “I don’t think people right now really care, if they ever cared, about detailed historical knowledge about foreign countries and geopolitics.”

    I agree. I find that a bit of a shame, because history can be a great source of insight into “current” events.

    “While I have absolute respect for McCain’s knowledge…I think it came of as a lot of pedantry.”

    Well put! I hadn’t thought about it like that, but now that I do I definitely agree. That’s definitely one area that Obama has McCain beat: he relates to the average person. By average person, I mean a middle class working person with no real specialized knowledge about arcane history or the inner workings of the Washington political machine. I was quite fond of when Obama shut down one of McCain’s arguments by referring to the workings of a subcommittee as “Senate internal baseball.” That, to me, called McCain out on using complicated government issues as arguments that serve only to muddle the real issues in the debate.

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