Saturday, September 27, 2008

The First Presidential Debate...


The first Presidential debate finally took place! And boy it was good! Inspite of being sick (severe cold) and having morning classes, I managed to see the debate on CNN Live (thanks to a unexpected ping from Bharat Jhurani which woke me up at the right time!)

We've got a good election folks, and a bad bunch of people to debate it out. I don't mean any disrespect to either of the senators, but they are now trying to overshadow their message and their underlying values and principles.

This debate was supposed to be about foreign policy, but the recent scenario w.r.t the economy brought the financial crisis into the debate for a full 35 minutes from the starting itself. With McCain's poor knowledge of the economy, this debate looked mismatched to me from the beginning. But overall he did well and I can safely say that he is the winner of the debate for me. However, the polls show that Obama has won the debate. Clearly, the polls do not reflect my opinion as I am an Indian and my perception of the debate was different than the Americans. A few friends of mine, who have no political views as such w.r.t to the USA, told me that McCain looked more confident and was surely the winner for them.

Now for some Debate analysis - The person overseeing the debate made clear the rules of the debate once more. He made sure that the participants would not break any of the rules. He also mentioned at the 40 minute mark that both of them had spoken for the same amount of time, although they were exceeding the time limits.

The debating styles were different and showed the changing nature of the candidates. All along, McCain has been asking Obama for a town-hall style of meetings, which Obama politely declined. And Obama still calls himself bi-partisan after that! Well, throughout the debate McCain saw Obama face-to-face just once or twice. He faced the audience and addressed them directly. this showed that since his poll numbers are not that good, he wanted to resonate his point with the public and there was no need to convince Obama of his point.

On the other hand, Obama was addressing McCain directly. He was already pissed off with all those "blatant lies" doled out by the Republican advertisements. He wanted to show his supporters that he had not backed down and hence was in a confrontational mode. But McCain didn't let him get away at all. while Obama kept accusing him, none of that had any effect on him. But one point from McCain and Obama was back into the defensive mode. this showed the lack of experience that Obama had - his ideas are good, his policies are good, but he can easily fall into the defensive mode and this can be really dangerous when he goes to negotiate with people like the PM of Iran and Fidel Castro. A defensive President means doom for America (personal view)

CNN also had a set of people of different heterogeneity i.e. Republicans, Democrats and Independents, men and women, young and old, rich (earns more than $25k p.a.) and the not-so-rich (earns less than 25k p.a.). They were given perception-analyser meters which showed the ratings they gave to each statement made by the candidates on the spot. This was a continuous rating as they were just required to keep moving the knob (like one of those round fan knobs). The rating was made between 0 and 100. This is what I saw in how they rated the debate and how I perceived some parts of the debate.

1) The Democrats hate the war in Iraq totally. Whenever the war was mentioned, the rating from their side fell drastically below zero, especially when McCain spoke about it. Even when Obama spoke about his opposition to the war, the Republican reaction and to some extent the Democrat reaction was "Dude, we don't care of you opposed the war then, what about now? The main question is how are you planning to use the military wisely now on?" But of course, there were certain words and phrases which gave Obama a high from both parties w.r.t. the war.

2) The Democrats didn't like too much criticism of McCain by Obama and neither did they approve McCain's fire against Obama. Similar reactions were seen from the Republican side.

3) The Democrats didn't want to hear about McCain's history and neither did the Republicans. This showed that people from both sides didn't care about the candidates past lives at all.

4) The Republicans are more sentimental about the war as compared to the Democrat camp. When the war was mentioned, the republicans had a higher rating for McCain's words as compared to Obama's words. On the other hand, the Democrats seemed fixated on the economy and were not much concerned about the war at all. Similarly, they were not at all patriotic w.r.t Israel and don't care about the issue of Israel. I personally felt that McCain showed his patriotism and courage in the Iran-Israel issue really well and Obama was clueless in that.

5) McCain hit the nail hard when he talked about the issue of covert operations etc. He was perfectly correct when he said that you must do what you want to do without saying it loud. What is the point in the world knowing that you are responsible for many more regime changes than it looks like? See,USA is famous for it's covert operations and they have every right of keeping them secret (American and McCain perspective). I, however, hate that attitude,Obama may do it openly (That is even worse!) but what is the need for it anyways? I will talk about this in one of my next articles (dealing with the case of "The Cuban Five" )

6) Obama didn't understand what McCain was trying to say about pre-conditions and was not even trying to understand him anyways. McCain spoke first so it was Obama's turn to understand what McCain said and respond or else find fault. He did neither, instead speaking his own mind out and not even trying to think what McCain was trying to convey. In my view, even Obama doesn't have the right to tell McCain that he just doesn't get it because he himself doesn't get it!

7) When Obama talked about the Taliban, the audience reaction was poor overall. It showed that the public didn't care much about the Taliban anymore. I personally felt Obama talked really well about the current status of Russia and on how to counter that. McCain was a bit more strict about Russia. He also hit Obama's first reaction to the war in Georgia. finally, McCain also takes a dig at Obama and shows that Obama has his own set of major gaffes w.r.t.foreign policies.

8) McCain didn't back down easily in this debate and fought hard - this showed that he was insecure from the start and hence had pressure on him to show his worth... And he did that well in my opinion.

9) Both McCain and Obama said same thing about level of safety in the US. But Obama clearly started the fact that the US is less respected than before all over the world and this was the highlight of Obama's debate from my side. It was done in a really fundoo way.

10) McCain was firm on Iraq, saying clearly that defeat in Iraq is not an option because that would send the wrong message to the Al-Qaeda which would be more empowered after that. He was damn right about this one.

11) Both talk about the power of the USA. Debt and loans turn out to be Obama's trump card and he advocates for more investments in USA. He also cites the war often when talking about the financial turmoils. But McCain doesn't agree that economy and defense are related in any way. My take - both are correct w.r.t. their style of thought, although Obama is correct (personal opinion based on common sense)

12) McCain hit hard at both George Bush & Obama when he talked about the surge. McCain also talked about Obama's reference to veterans (BTW, McCain has a really good support among the veterans). My take on this: Slamming Obama was ok, slamming Bush may not resonate well with the Bush supporters.

13) Throughout the debate, Obama falls into the trap that McCain had set for him. Obama also starts getting defensive about his name and his ideals and values. This shows his weakness when handling personal issues.

14) Towards the ending, there was a lot of "globe" by Obama and McCain talks about his POW experience once again - Boring stuff. It was a lacklustre and drag ending to the debate.

15) Only the Republican voters were the bipartisan in nature. The Democrats and Independents almost stuck with Obama throughout the debate. Republicans showed their support both ways.

This brings an end to my analysis of the first debate. The next one is on October 2nd, between the Vice Presidential candidates Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joseph Biden, You can see the first debate in video at the link below.

Till the next debate... Ciao!

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