Does anybody really “win” in a debate? Why is there so much focus on who “won” the third and final presidential debate last night? We Americans are so addicted to short-term results. We want it now. It’s sad. If we have to wait in line for more than a couple of minutes we get testy and annoyed. We don’t just want fast-food, we want instantaneous food.
Pundits were making comparisons to the famous 1975 boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali - dubbed, "The Thrilla In Manila". I don't go in for such hyperbole though, however valid the comparison may be.
It’s not about winning a lousy debate – it’s about convincing the American public to vote for you. And that result won’t be known for a couple of weeks. One or the other candidate may have come off better, “landed more punches,” or whatever. But at this point people aren’t going to be swayed. There’s a lot of talk about these so-called undecided voters. But I think people have probably pretty much made their mind up by now.
McCain came out of the gate swinging. He was agitated and aggressive, fidgeting like he had to take a bad poop. People were saying stuff like, “Where was this John McCain in the last two debates?” as if this John McCain was the one that more Americans wanted to see and vote for. I disagree.
This John McCain looked tense and uncomfortable in that role. I got the impression that he would really rather not be that guy. He just doesn’t seem as mean-spirited as…oh, Nixon, say. Or Cheney. Still, there were times when I thought McCain was on the verge of losing his temper. At times he seemed flustered to the point of being tongue-tied. I kept nervously watching him and thinking, “This guy is close to the edge. Will he actually lose his temper?”
It was odd, really. At the very beginning and end of the debate, McCain seemed almost downright friendly with Obama. Afterward I heard him say, “Great job,” and it sounded pretty sincere. We voters don’t need to hear that, not after all those potshots he was taking just a few minutes prior. Partisan issues aside, McCain clearly, clearly respects Obama – twice mentioned Obama’s “eloquence.” But this isn’t the high school debate club. Instead of being all lovey-dovey with Obama, I would have preferred a more diffident stance. Maybe not “See you in hell,” but “Well, it’s up to the voters now, Osama...I mean O’Senator. Heh-heh, I hope my mic isn’t still on.” I don’t expect them to be friends.
Personally, I liked McCain much better in the second debate, the “town hall” one. There, I believe he connected with the audience better – certainly connected with me better. He was much more in his element than sitting across the table from his opponent. I could vote for that John McCain. And so it worries me a little to wonder what he’d be like sitting across the table from, oh, Hugo Chavez. Which McCain would show up?
Obama was…Obama. People were using terms like “unflappable,” and “eerily serene,” and even “presidential.” That, he is. Regardless of what you think of Obama’s politics, he is a very good statesman. He was well-prepared and well-rehearsed.
Most likely, last night’s debate changed nothing. If you’re a McCain fan you undoubtedly think he “won.” Same if you’re for Obama.
I really do try to be objective, and look at things from an other-than-political point of view. But as I watched the debate, I kept looking at those guys, trying to “see” either of them as president. And you know, the one I could more clearly see in that role was…
It’s gonna be an interesting four years.
Oh, and P.S., Bob Schieffer wasn’t as great as I thought he’d be. If I had been moderator, I would have been cutting off their bullshit answers and saying things like, “JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION, DAMMIT!”