Sunday, September 28, 2008

Debate #1: The Knockout that Wasn't. What Obama Needs to Do Next Time

There was that moment in last Friday night's presidential debate when Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, said "I've got a bracelet too." I cringed. He was responding to Sen. John McCain's grandstanding in describing the soldier's bracelet he was wearing. It was an insincere, awkward moment of political posturing for Obama, who appeared to have difficulty even remembering the soldier's name.

I've spent much of the last several months listening to fellow democrats--many of them friends--predict a big debate win for Obama. More fantasy than reality, they expected several defining moments that would clearly demonstrate to voters that Obama was better suited to be President of the United States. "McCain will have an embarrassing 'senior' moment," they said. "McCain will lose his cool and snap at some point," they assured me. "On economic issues Obama will destroy him," they bragged. "It'll be just like Kennedy-Nixon," they confidently predicted, "with the cool, handsome charming young guy versus the stiff, sweaty old guy." And lastly, "Obama's gonna knock him out!"

To be sure, there was no knockout. And a knockout was what Obama needed. As the comedian Chris Rock said, "You can't beat white can only knock them out!...Was McCain standing? He probably won then." At best, it was a tie. And as the underdog in many ways, Obama needed to do much more than simply hold his own. The meltdown on Wall Street gave him a huge opportunity, which he blew, to demonstrate solid leadership in times of crisis, and to make his much-needed visceral connection with voters in that same Bill Clinton "I feel your pain" way. Instead, what we essentially got was more of the same dispassionate, professorial lecturer whose measured, stilted delivery unfortunately lacked the electricity of his stadium speeches. He literally put me to sleep at one point. He was the wonkish Harvard debate-team guy to McCain's sound byte-driven street fighter.

Neither candidate came even close to capitalizing on the Wall Street crisis, but no one expected McCain to. This was supposed to be Obama's strength. He could've and should've hit a grand slam on this one. The nation is struggling with a financial disaster which billionaire investor Warren Buffett calls an "economic Pearl Harbor." Americans are fearing for their jobs, their homes and their savings, and where it mattered, Obama was impotent. Worse, on the economy, it was McCain who surprisingly held his own. It's astounding to me how, in the middle of the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, the focus was on earmarks and wasteful spending. Could they have been any more out of touch? Moderator Jim Lehrer had to ask four times for specifics on what each candidate would do in handling the current economic crisis if they became president, and how the proposed $700-billion bailout measure might hamstring them budget-wise once in office. And still they did not answer.

One of the biggest blown opportunities for Obama was in not addressing McCain directly, despite several pleas from Lehrer to go mano-a-mano. It was actually quite bizarre how both candidates ignored Lehrer's repeated suggestions and simply kept talking at him instead of each other. Here's where Obama could've scored big points by directly challenging his opponent on the economy, the Wall Street mess and his judgements on Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe had he done this, and done so successfully, he might've pushed McCain into one of those senior moments, or perhaps caused him to snap, as so many Democrats had hoped. But rather than challenge his opponent and put him on the spot, he seemed to "absolutely agree" with him way too many times. This provided lots of fodder not only for the conservative talk shows, but for the McCain campaign itself, which immediately rolled out a new ad featuring all of Obama's "I absolutely agree with John" softballs.

When it came to foreign policy, Obama missed several opportunities as well. He allowed McCain to claim "we're winning in Iraq" while also embarrassing him on his past statements about holding direct talks with Iran and other enemies of the U.S. He was on the defensive, letting the more aggressive McCain portray himself as more experienced and knowledgeable on foreign and military issues while defining him as the typical naive, weak Lib whose kumbaya-like approach would be harmful to America.

Suffice it to say, the first debate was not one of Obama's strongest showings, and was quite disappointing on many critical levels. Though some polls indicate that many viewers say he won, the more prominent national and daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup have moved no more than a point in Obama's favor, indicating that his performance Friday night had little if any real impact on voters. Unless, of course, you're one of those optimistic Dems who believe that success simply means the absence of failure.

So what should Obama do in the second debate, scheduled for October 7th? In no special order, here's what I'd be telling the candidate if I were advising him:

1. If the moderator invites you to challenge McCain directly, do it for Pete's sake! Be respectful and maintain a presidential air, but be forceful and aggressive in asking him pointed questions about his record and his policies. Put him on the spot, and push some buttons. Draw out the angry McCain.

2. Speak in a language that the little guy understands. Remind them that whether in times of financial prosperity or crisis, it is Democrats who've historically fought for them. That it's Democrats who fight for social services, job creation, health care, education and social security while Republicans fight to cut funding for same. Look into the camera, and then look at McCain, and ask incredulously, "are you really gonna try to convince voters watching tonight that it is the Republican Party that fights for America's poor and middle-class?"

3. Talk in a more folksy manner. Stop being so damned professorial. Don't lecture. Speak from the heart. Talk to voters through that camera. Tell them you understand their anxiety and feel their pain. Assure them that you will fight for them, and fight against the cronyism, corruption and special interests of the Republicans who've been in control for the past 15 years.

4. Hold McCain accountable for his failures and that of Bush and the GOP. Do not allow him the message of "change." Look straight into that camera and challenge Americans not to be fooled by a change message from the candidate who's been in Washington for 26 years and whose party's failed policies he's consistently and unconditionally supported.

5. Mention the term "poor and middle class" as often as possible. McCain did not mention them even once during the first debate.

6. Wherever/whenever possible, define McCain and the GOP as the candidate and party of the rich. The party that wants to continue giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy while taking away essential services for the poor and middle class.

7. Remind voters that you are one of them. Look straight into the camera, and then look at McCain and say, "I don't have 9 homes like my opponent, I have only one. I don't have 13 cars like my opponent, I only have one. Just like you. And I worry, just like you, as I don't have incredible wealth like Sen. McCain to fall back on. This economic crisis affects me just as it does you."

8. Give voters your concrete plan for dealing with the current financial meltdown. Provide specifics; five or six short, concise, sound byte-y examples of what you'd do as president to avoid future crises like this one, and very specifically how the bailout bill when it likely passes will impact your ability to govern fiscally.

9. Remind voters that it is McCain, Bush and the Republicans who've been in power for the last 15 years that have allowed the Wall Street financial collapse to occur by deregulating the banking and mortgage industries so that their rich corporate pals can get even richer instead of protecting the middle class.

10. Remind voters how strong your vice presidential pick, Sen. Joe Biden, is as compared to Gov. Sarah Palin. Look at McCain and then look into the camera and say "I have chosen the individual who is without question the best possible candidate in terms of knowledge and experience to to be my running be a heartbeat from the Oval Office. Sen. McCain, can you tell voters at home that you truly believe Gov. Palin is the best possible choice you could've made for America? That she's among the top 5, or even the top 10?"

11. When McCain speaks of "victory" or "success" in Iraq, challenge him and challenge hard. Ask him to define success. Ask him to clearly state when such success will allow us to leave. Ask him if he's certain that Iraq's fragile Democratic government will be strong enough to sustain itself in our absence. Ask if there's been real, measurable, lasting political change there.

12. On the surge, challenge hard that the original goal of sending 30,000 more troops was to help achieve political change in Iraq not merely to stem the tide of violence. Remind McCain that we still have more US troops there than when the invasion began in 2003. Challenge him to claim that cutting previously horrific levels of violence and death in half truly translates to "success."

13. Look directly into the camera and say, "America, can you really trust what Sen. McCain and his party say about our supposed victory in Iraq when they're the same people who told you there was WMD over there...that we'd be greeted as liberators...and who declared 'mission accomplished' 5 1/2 years, 4000 soldier deaths and half a trillion dollars ago?" Then turn to McCain and say, "Sen. McCain, tell the voters at home why they should give you any credibility on the status of Iraq right now when you've been 100% wrong about Iraq from the start? Tell them why your claims of victory in Iraq now should ring any more truthful than the ones you and Bush made prematurely about Afghanistan. Is this 'mission accomplished' all over again? You were wrong then, and you're wrong again now."

14. On Iran, look back into the camera and say, "Sen McCain is the same guy who along with President Bush warned you about the threat of Iraq's 'mushroom clouds' six years ago, and now he's trying to scare you once again about the "second Holocaust" threat from Iran. Stop scaring Americans, Sen. McCain. I say, one war based on wrong information and fear-mongering is enough. It's time we start talking with our enemies to prevent war, rather than act like reckless tough-talking cowboys who start them. Don't let Sen. McCain tell you that diplomacy doesn't work." Then turn to McCain and say, "Sen McCain, I'm sure you've heard of the Cold War. A strong U.S. military combined with aggressive diplomacy kept us from bloodshed with Russia for over 40 years. And it can work again. The war in Iraq which you continue to wholeheartedly support, and which Americans do not, has been the worst military blunder in our nation's history. The American people are fed up with unnecessary war.

15. Keep repeating where possible the "You were wrong" mantra. Constantly remind voters of McCain's horrible judgement on Iraq and why his judgements elsewhere should be of grave concern as a result.

16. When McCain accuses you of putting America at risk through direct negotiation with our enemies, remind him that Bush opened up direct talks with Libya's Moammar Qaddafi, an admitted terrorist and supporter of terrorist organizations, to positive results.

17. Repeatedly remind voters how McCain and Bush took their eye off of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda by prematurely declaring "victory" in Afghanistan while allowing those terrorists to regroup and rebuild in that country while we recklessly invaded Iraq over WMD that did not exist.

18. When McCain mocks you for requesting that cooler heads prevail after the Russian invasion into Georgia, hammer home that if cooler heads had prevailed back in 2003 perhaps we would not have had the last 5 1/2 years of bloodshed in Iraq.

19. Hammer home how McCain being wrong about Iraq demonstrates how he'll be just as reckless when it comes to Iran, Pakistan, N. Korea and our other enemies in the future.

20. Stay away from cheap ploys like your tit-for-tat bracelet moment.

21. Close strong. Make a defining statement about why John McCain has been on the wrong side of the war and the economy, and that America's pain and suffering will only continue should McCain become president. Attack him on the knowledge and experience issue. Accuse him of being out of touch with America; with what America wants and needs right now. Look into the camera and tell voters that McCain represents the failed policies of the past, and that you will fight for their best interests if they elect you their president. That you will create jobs for them and protect their savings. That you'll provide health care and education for them and their children. That you'll bring respect and honor back to America. How you'll return America back to the great diplomatic power it once was so that we don't send our sons and daughters to die in war ever again unless it is absolutely necessary to defend our nation. That the days of the Bush and McCain Doctrine of preemptive war based on faulty intelligence are over. Ask them for their vote so that you can help them live the American dream once again.

HELP ELECT BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENT: It's time now to help Obama fight the bigger fight and win the November election. He's gonna need money. Lots of money. Will you join me in making as large a contribution as you can to the campaign? I am personally commited to raising $25,000 for Sen. Obama and you can help me reach this goal. Click here to make a contribution. The White House is well within reach. Let's not let it slip away this time.

HELP ELECT BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENT: John McCain and the GOP are going to spend tends of millions on vicious attack ads and aggressive ground teams. There are many swing states this year--Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri among them. With a sizable war chest, Sen. Obama can successfully combat the GOP's attack and win these states. Click here to make a contribution. It's time to change America.


Anonymous said...

A brief history of Obama's beloved ACORN:

July 26, 2007,Seattle Times
Felony charges filed against 7 in state's biggest case of voter-registration fraud. The defendants, who were paid employees and supervisors of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

September 14, 2008, Detroit Free Press
Several municipal clerks across the state are reporting fraudulent and duplicate voter registration applications, most of them from a nationwide community activist group working to help low- and moderate-income families.The majority of the problem applications are coming from the group ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now ...

Oct. 13, 2007, PRNewswire
A Florida state attorney is investigating thousands of potentially fraudulent voter registrations associated with the leading organizer of Florida's Amendment 5 ballot initiative. But this is just the tip of an iceberg of illegalities, fraud and contradictions connected to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) ... Former ACORN Miami-Dade field director Mac Stuart has declared an intent to sue ACORN and has made charges of rampant voter fraud operations. Stuart was employed and specifically tasked by ACORN to generate 103,000 new voter registrations from Dade County. He reports that ACORN threw out Republican registrations while paying for Democratic ones. Stuart also charges that ACORN targeted ex-cons and that he personally set up registration tables outside the Miami police department and Dade County jail.

New Mexico
Sept. 18, 2008, Judicial Watch Blog
This week officials in New Mexico's most populous county (Bernalillo) notified federal authorities that more than 1,000 fraudulent voter registration cards were submitted to the clerk's office. ACORN, which pays workers for each registration, is the prime suspect since it has handled thousands of new voter registrations in New Mexico since January. County workers subsequently discovered that at least 1,100 new registrations list Social Security numbers for people already in the county's database of registered voters, names of registered voters with different birth dates and addresses that don't exist.

Aug. 6, 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Criminal investigations could be launched against at least six voter registration workers who tried to add dead, imprisoned or imaginary people to the voter rolls, according to the Milwaukee Election Commission and the organization that employed them. "One woman called us to complain because her husband has been dead for 10 years and a voter registration was submitted," Edman said. In about 12 cases, deputy registrars paid by ACORN were "making people up or registering people that were still in prison," said Carolyn Castore, ACORN's state political director. And in other cases, workers used the same address for numerous voters or used driver's license numbers that did not fit the voters' birth dates, Edman said. But most of the fraud involved submitting duplicate cards for voters who were already registered, and forging the voters' signatures, Castore said.

August 27, 2008, The Plain Dealer
A national organization that conducts voter registration drives for low-income people has curtailed its push in Cuyahoga County after the Board of Elections accused its workers of submitting fraudulent registration cards. Board employees said ACORN workers often handed in the same name on a number of voter registration cards, but showing that person living at different addresses. Other times, cards had the same name listed, but a different date of birth. Still another sign of possible fraud showed a number of people living at an address that turned out to be a restaurant. ACORN has submitted about 75,000 voter registration cards to the Cuyahoga board this year.

Sept. 18, 2008, The Bulletin: Philadelphia's Family Newspaper
A community organization, with longstanding ties to Barack Obama, has, according to numerous reports, repeatedly run afoul of voter registration laws both locally and nationally. Philadelphia election officials recently accused ACORN, of filing multiple fraudulent voter registrations during the 2008 Pennsylvania primary. The case has been referred to the U.S. Attorney's office, according to Philadelphia Deputy Election Commissioner Fred Voight. Delaware County election officials have made similar allegations against the group, and criminal indictments are pending. This past July 24, Dauphin County detectives offered a $2,000 reward for information about the whereabouts of Luis R. Torres-Serrano, an ACORN worker, who was accused of submitting more than 100 fraudulent voter registrations.

July 7,2008, Las Vegas Review Journal
ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, claims to have collected 60,000 new voter registrations in Clark County since February ... Lomax said while he supports the goal of getting more people registered to vote, he sees rampant fraud in the 2,000 to 3,000 registrations ACORN turns in every week.

Anonymous said...

1:28 pm

Why don't you put you energy into the fact the your beloved Republicans are planning on stealing the election again. You see, they can't win on the issues so they have to cheat.

But that's okay with you, 1:29=8 pm, right?

Anonymous said...

With all the discussion back and forth and all the spinning and accusations flying around, there is only one truth all sane people can agree on. We have had a Republican President for the last eight years and for six of those the House and Senate were controlled by the same Republican party. TRY SPINNING THAT REPUBS!

Anonymous said...

the financial crisis happened on the Democrats watch. They have controlled Congress for 2 years and did nothing.

If it is Bush's fault that 9/11 happened on his watch during the first 8 months of his first administration, then the Democrats have had plenty of time to correct the financial situation.

The Democrats blocked reform when they were the minority and Democrats failed to reform since they've had control over both houses.

Instead, under the Democrat's control of both houses, we got a Watermelon month and some new postage stamps.

Anonymous said...

Very few people can change who they are and how they act and respond. Obama cannot change. And, if he were able to follow Ostroy's suggestions for imvolvment and emotion, by now everybody would know it was a successful act.

Not only that, this crisis has eliminated his canpaign promises as posibilities. That's something he should look at, admit and amend his goals for his Presidency. ident.

Anonymous said...


An idiot is someone who reads collected snips of articles (or forwarded emails) and accepts them as gospel before doing their own research.

ACORN has never been convicted of any crime. In fact, ACORN has reported and helped convict their own employees who have engaged in registration fraud and it's clear you have not the slightest clue about requirements under voter registration law.

You might want to read the following article for a dose of reality that exposes a pathetic GOP myth:

Follow that up with a reading of "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a GOP Operative" by Allen Raymond.

Anonymous said...

and yet andy, after the debate, obama jumped in the how could that be, if he failed at everything?

btw, its kinda hard to direct comments at an opponent who refuses to acknowledge your very pressence...or did you not notice that never once did mccain even look at obama, for fear that staring at a black man would turn him to stone.

obama did what he was supposed to the country that he could look presidential...while mccain looked every bit the troll he is

and mccain did have a senior, angry momemt...when obama questioned why mccain would think the prime minister of spain was a pm from some south american country, mccain said horseshit twice

most of what mccain said was memorized from his campaign stops...i can show you the vids on youtube...the man cannot think out of the box

and wait till thursday, when palin shows the country just how good mccain's judgement really is

Athena Smith said...

The whole debate style and the decision to react in a lukerwarm way to certain questions, instead of flatly knocking out McCain- was taken with one purpose in mind: How not to alienate the independent voters.
Not how to infuse enthusiasm in the fans.
The strategy was clear to me...

And this is what is fascinating about Obama. His disciplined style and organizational skills brought him to where he is today.

Anonymous said...

There are a few posters above living in dream world.

The Republicans have controlled the House, Senate and White House for 6 of the last 8 years. Reaganomics has been going on since 1980. Nice try in blaming the Democrats. Your beloved Repub party has destroyed our once great country due to greed, dismantling of regulations, vilifying the poor and using cultural issues to divide the nation.
So don't give me that crap that the Dems are to blame.

Nice try!

Anonymous said...

MORE Voter Fraud from Obama's Beloved ACORN

Voter registration workers admit fraud

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Eight workers for a get-out-the-vote effort in St. Louis city and county have pleaded guilty to federal election fraud for submitting false registration cards for the 2006 election, authorities said today.

The workers were employed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), gathering voter registrations. U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said they submitted cards with false addresses and names, and forged signatures.

Anonymous said...


If you call such marginal majorities in Congress the GOP being in control, you are an idiot. Twice the Democrats successfully blocked attempts by the Bush Administration and a GOP effort co-sponsored by McCain to add more oversight to the lenders. Dodd and Frank told us things were fine. So we should give people like them more power by adding a rubber stamp, empty suit president? Man that kool-aid must be good.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Democrat and I can't take it anymore. This morning's news report is that Nancy Pelosi gave thousands of dollars of PAC money to her husband. Yet, she fought hard, they say, to stop such practices.

We are no longer an ethical, honest, reliable, trustworthy or even a compassionate country. It's everybody for himself. (Remember the Enron scandal when the guys at Enron were caught making fun of the old people who would suffer in CA?) What has happened to us.

Anonymous said...

anon @1013

why dont you read those bills that the dems blocked, instead of taking the word of mccain?

it was a bill to privatize the oversight

putting the foxes in charge of the hen house is not a solution

you dick

Anonymous said...

and the Democraps that blocked those bills were wrong because we are now $700 billion in the hole.

I'd rather have private oversight, where they are paid to find corruption.

Instead, the Democraps blocked reform so Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Kerry could lead Congress in campaign contributions from these bastard companies.

Anonymous said...


Like most of us political junkies, we wanted to see Obama obliterate McCain. But as we keep seeing, throughout the primaries and now the election, is that is not Obama's style. He seduces people by being gentle, respectful, and dignified. We have all forgotten what that looks like in the last couple of decades. But it is calming and reassuring to the undecided voters who are the folks he is now aiming at--not us. Leave him be. McCain helped dig his own grave Friday night. Many people take away an impression from these debates--not policy nuances. And the impression was overwhelming--Obama-personable, engaging, clear and focused, McCain-rude, rigid, rambling. I think that is what is behind the big poll number swing. Hopefully, it will stay that way. McCain is not likable. Obama definitely is and Americans respond to that.

Anonymous said...

Andy - Did you see the Quinipec poll today? It WAS a knockout punch. Obama is TOTALLY kicking butt. - Barney

Anonymous said...

I personally believe "he seduces people by being gentle, respectful, and dignified" while in his "wolf in sheep's clothing" performance mode. We see how quickly he can dump others when they are standing in his way -- from his grandmoter to his mentor. In the inverview with his family, even his daughters clearly preferred their mother and made fun of "daddy" talking all the time.

Or, if what many believe to be true and he is gentle, respretful and dignified, he would do well convince some that he is not "too" any of these qualities and will therefore "cave" like the Dems have done for the last eight years.

Anonymous said...

Obama needs your advice like he needs herpes. He's up against a guy who has forsaken any principles he once had. And it shows. McCain even admitted it on tape.

Anonymous said...

Recently an insurance company nearly wind up....

A bank is nearly bankrupt......

Who fault?

The top management of the Public listed company ( belong to "public" ) salary should be tied a portion of it to the shares price ( IPO or ave 5 years ).... so when the shares price drop, it don't just penalise the investors, but those who don't take care of the company.....If this rule is pass on, without any need of further regulation, all industries ( as long as it is public listed ) will be self regulated......

Sign a petition to your favourite president candidate, congress member again and ask for their views to comment on this, and what regulations they are going to raise for implementation.....If you agree on my point, please share with many people as possible....