Is there anything to say about the debate? Is there anything left to say about… the election?
(A question discussed in this thread is: in what sense does McCain want to win / want to lose?)
I think we have to get used to the idea that John Fitzgerald Obama is overwhelmingly likely to be the next president. The other John at the debate tonight was not pathetic all the way through, but at key moments—on the issue of negative attacks, on the issue of Ayers—he was pathetic. It’s not even worth talking about.
Though it’s been said before, isn’t it remarkable that McCain had such a vicious killer instinct against the conservative standard bearer Romney, and no real instinct to fight Obama at all? And if McCain enjoyed almost supernatural luck in coming back from political death in 2007, doesn’t it now seem to be the case that McCain’s luck was not for McCain’s sake, but for Obama’s—to present to Obama an opponent who wouldn’t fight him?
However, now that I think about it further, McCain also got what he wanted: to defeat the conservative Republicans and to hand the country over to leftist Democrats. So McCain and Obama are both very lucky guys.
Update: I’m not saying that McCain consciously wants to lose the election and that everything he has done so far has been directed at that. On one level, of course he wants to win. He’s striving, he’s trying, he picks an unconventional running mate who he thinks will spark his campaign, he comes up with positions on the financial crisis, he prepares for the debates, he works at improving his dreadful speaking style, he authorizes tough ads on Obama, and so on. But on a deeper level, he doesn’t really want to win. He doesn’t see Obama as someone who represents something really different from himself and from America as we’ve known it and who must be stopped. He has no real grasp of the meaning of Obama’s associations with Wright and Ayers, how objectionable those associations are—that’s why, last April, he prohibited criticism of Wright, and why, last night, he pathetically dropped the ball on Ayers. Thus, while he would like to defeat Obama, he doesn’t feel that he must defeat him. He wants to do a good job as a candidate and to acquit himself well, but it will not bother him very much if he loses, because his ultimate frame of reference is his loyalty to the liberalism which requires that Obama win.
To put it in the simplest terms, he wanted to beat Romney far more than he wants to beat Obama.
Robert B. writes:
Two liberals duking it out—each one trying to prove he is not a full blown leftist.Peter G. writes:
Watching the debate from a non-citizen and essentially a non-political perspective, it appears as though you will soon have your first biracial leader. It’s ironic that a guy in his seventies would come across as such a lightweight personality. The apostle James was inspired to describe a man who lacked faith in The Way, being indecisive about his beliefs. You have to wonder Larry how an old guy can come across as being so vapid and diaphanous about his values that he would come across like such an old nut bar. It’s as though his intellectual development, which was formed in a desiccated form of traditional values seemed to aggravate his liberal sensibilities and precipitated the predictable and visible dissonant affectation. To restate your prior observation, he’s just came across as plain nutty.LA replies:
I don’t remember saying that McCain comes across as nutty, but I may have at some point.October 16
Jonathan W. writes:
Not that I’m a fan of McCain, but I’m really having a hard time understanding why all the analysts (including it seems most of the VFR readers who have commented) think Obama won last night. I don’t see how McCain did a bad job articulating his positions (of course, many of his positions are directly contrary to conservative principles).LA replies:
Commentators elsewhere in the conservative Web felt that McCain did a good job and even won, though they added that his winning this debate is not enough to turn the campaign around. I was responding to McCain’s utter failure to respond adequately on a couple of key points that I was particularly attuned to and the impression of utter weakness that that presented, plus the contrast (which was noticeable on CSPAN with its split screen coverage, not on PBS which showed a variety of camera angles) between McCain’s distracted, jittery, constantly inappropriately smiling demeanor, versus Obama’s cool and collected demeanor. (I believe that he has been studying footage of John F. Kennedy and was imitating him, though subtly.) I should have made it clear that my view was not based on a point by point consideration of the whole debate but was an intuitive impression that hit me for the first time: McCain’s a loser, Obama is going to be the president.Jonathan W. replies:
Ahh, I see. Thanks. Yeah I agree that Obama is a far better orator and is more smooth and eloquent in his delivery. You are right in that McCain has utterly refused to draw attention to Obama’s lies about the tax cuts for 95 percent of America, as those cuts are nothing more than welfare checks for almost half of the people who will receive them. Obama also hasn’t mentioned how the health care plan (where anyone will be able to buy the federal health insurance plan) is feasible, as the government provided coverage plans are notoriously expensive. McCain said nothing on this point. Lastly, McCain lost a great opportunity to attack Obama’s statement that judges exist to provide “fairness and justice” and that they should step in when “no one else will.” He could have brought up how judges in that form release violent criminals on obscure technicalities, allow the seizure of private property for private gain, and eviscerate explicit 2nd Amendment rights while creating “penumbras” out of thin air. Of course, McCain, being a liberal who intends to nominate people like David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor, probably sees nothing wrong with these positions.LA replies:
“… McCain, being a liberal who intends to nominate people like David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor…”October 16
James N. writes
I do believe McCain wants to win. I believe he thinks he’d be a better President than Obama, that Obama’s policies wouldn’t work. I also think he thinks of himself as a conservative.LA replies:
Interesting. I never heard anyone point to such a difference between McCain and Giuliani.October 17
Peggy Noonan has a very different take on the debate:
John McCain won the debate, and he did it by making the case more effectively than he has in the past that Barack Obama will raise taxes, when “now, of all times in America, we need to cut people’s taxes.” He also scored Mr. Obama on his eloquence, using it against him more effectively than Hillary Clinton ever did. When she said he was “just words,” it sounded like a bitter complaint. Mr. McCain made it a change: Young man, you attempt to obscure truth with the mellifluous power of your words. From Mrs. Clinton it sounded jealous, but when Mr. McCain said it, you looked at Mr. Obama and wondered if you’d just heard something that was true. For the first time, Mr. Obama’s unruffled demeanor didn’t really work for him. His cool made him seem hidden.James N. writes:
“Interesting. I never heard anyone point to such a difference between McCain and Giuliani.”LA replies:
It’s true that Giuliani gave a strong attack speech at the convention. But you seem to have forgotten the fact that Giuliani, long considered the Inevitable Nominee, ended up winning one (ONE) delegate. He was completely unacceptable to the Republican party, for good reasons. Further, even if those reasons had not obtained, he was no longer the fighter he had been but had become a vulgar, ego-swollen celebrity. People who put their hopes on Giuliani were not looking at reality. They wasted all that time, energy, and attention on him when they could have been looking for, cultivating, and helping an acceptable candidate who could win. For years I wrote to conservative opinion makers when they touted Giuliani for the nomination and said that given his abortion and lifestyle stands and his personal history this was absurd, he would never be nominated. I was right. They were wrong.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 15, 2008 10:54 PM | Send