Sunday, September 28, 2008

Episode 2: Post Debate Thoughts


I thought I would wait a day after the debates to let it all sink in. It was quite an earful… 96 minutes with no breaks, or time to process their answers. I do not envy those men and the scrutiny each must deal with. I found the whole thing rather interesting. No fireworks display or any major blunder. Both candidates duked it out in a battle of words in a full 15 round boxing contest. I should warn you early, boxing metaphors may run rampant in this post. It is a fair analogy, because for the first time my memory at least, the candidates were encouraged to debate against each other and not the TV camera.

The beginning of the debate started the way most fights do, squaring up your opponent, dancing around the ring, and using the jab to keep him at a distance. Obviously, the state of the economy, being the hot topic, came up first. John McCain played the right cards here, keeping the debate on issues of taxes, which is a republican strength. Obama didn’t back down however, and reinforced his policy to support the middle class. Instead of slipping the jab and offering a counter punch, Obama seemed to be weathering the storm. With so much ammunition – decrease in average salary by $2000, unemployment up 6.1% from 4.2%, food, gas, and basic survival items are becoming out of reach for most Americans – he mentioned none of that at all. What Obama did instead was talk about the big picture… items that are easily identifiable – putting kids in college, affordable healthcare, better salaries for teachers and police officers and civil servants. Obama didn’t lose ground here, but McCain picked up some.

McCain, after a devastating two weeks, talked about lowering taxes for all Americans and business to encourage economic growth. The problem with the trickle-down theory (supply-side economics) is the number 1 goal of any business is to make a profit. No matter how much taxes you cut, jobs are still going to be outsourced overseas because it cost less to hire a Chinese or Indian worker (hence Indian tech support). They get paid something like $3 an hour vs. $7.50 or more in the States. And this isn’t a case of exploitation – when you convert the American dollar to Indian money example for, that’s 1,130 rupees a day (considering the cost of living in India, I bet they get paid less than $3 an hour too, since that’s about 22,000 rupees a month!). The point is, $3 an hour is upper middle class wages there, and below-the-poverty-line wages here. Therefore, businesses will continue to not invest money in America when it is cheaper to work over seas. Obama however will offer tax incentives to keep the work in America and tax penalties to businesses that outsource their workers. If we don’t invest on our own workforce, there is no way we can keep up with the global market.

Regarding healthcare, McCain wants to keep it privatized, but give Americans up to $5,000 of tax credit so they can choose their own doctor. Obama will subsidize healthcare and absorb the brunt of the cost via a healthcare budget. The obvious problem with McCain’s approach is health care is more accessible to people in the higher end of the middle class bracket private insurance is about $12,000 a year, while Obama’s plan is the closest to universal coverage we’ve seen yet. Because Obama didn’t offer anything new, and McCain finally took a stand on economic policy (somewhat, the details are a bit fuzzy) the republican base can give him some points.

The other main talking point, actually the true nature of the campaign, was foreign policy. Obama showed lots of poise, toughness, and intelligence on the floor last night. Obama calls for a more diplomatic approach that re-engages our allies in the fight against terror. However, unless we declare war on a country, I do not see how terrorism could ever be defeated. So diplomacy and negotiation is the best strategy. McCain very clearly illustrated there is no definite end to this war. Considering the middle east has been in social, religious, and political strife for so long, we are ultimately pouring money in a sinking ship if we continue this policy. Interestingly enough, McCain acknowledged that America did torture prisoners when he said “And we've got to… make sure that we have people who are trained interrogators so that we don't ever torture a prisoner ever again." After all this time, he can finally define exactly what constitutes as torture? An argument for another day… In this segment, I believe Obama was very strong and very clear on his foreign policy, one that emphasizes diplomacy over unnecessary war, yet never hesitating to attack if our country is in danger. McCain clearly supports an indefinite war, that is wildly unpopular in this country.On that mark, Obama clearly won, especially considering foreign policy is McCain’s home turf.

So my score card has it Obama 95, McCain 93 (still a boxing reference) giving this victory to Obama.

 A few miscellaneous things to note, this debate was supposed to encourage an atmosphere where the candidates talk to each other and not the TV. Not once did McCain ever look Obama in the eyes. Obama addressed McCain on major points he was making often. McCain (and I swear this isn’t blue bias) seemed very condescending and snide. Obama remained calm, poised, and articulated his ideas succinctly, which has been a problem for him in the past. McCain’s zinger of the night was saying to Obama “you don’t understand” alluding to Obama’s perceived lack of experience. The biggest zinger came from Obama when he turned to McCain, looked him in the eye, and with each indictment said with fervent crescendo exclaimed:

“You said it would be quick and easy. You knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said we would be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said there is no history of violence between the Shia and Sunni, and you were wrong.”

Post debate polls indicated Obama won. A few interesting notes here, Americans 55 and older felt Obama won the debate. Women felt more likely to vote Obama after seeing the debate. None of the post debate polls had a spread greater than 10 points. And surprisingly, Fox News’s post debate poll showed McCain won 85% to 13%... go figure. 

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