Monday, February 04, 2008

Forman's take on the debate

Forman's take on the debate:
I don't normally watch the debates.  Partly because it seems like such a weird forum; once they are President they don't debate like that, so I've never been convinced that having debating skills, especially the soundbite length answers they are normally allowed to give, tells me much about whether they will be a good president.  Speeches for me are a better (if not perfect) way to analyze candidates, since as President they often set the terms of the debate through their major speeches.  I also normally pay little attention to who "won" the debate.  This is mainly because I have at least a decade's worth of experience reading reporters say that my candidate won, but then voters seem to disagree, or not care (Bush was always lame in the debates, yet he's been with us for 8 years now). 

But I did watch last night; both candidates were good, but Obama was better.  If you didn't watch, ck out Daily Kos
( which helpfully combines excellent analysis with 4 or 5 short video clips of the high-lights, so you can see for yourself.  The best thing that Obama did was connect his good instincts about the war in Iraq to his larger claim that he has the judgment and worldview that will avoid future disasters like Iraq.  This was summed up in his awesome argument, delivered gracefully, that while Clinton had the experience to be "ready on day one," he had the judgment to be "right on day one."  That sums it up for me.
Obama was substantive and detailed, and also appeared in charge and presidential.  He outlined not only his differences with Bush, but showed why, including on the Iraq issue, he is the clear choice for Democrats who want to win against McCain (or Romney).  Obama is right about this, and I wish the campaign would focus more squarely on the electability argument.  Dems are afraid of Clinton v. McCain for lots of reasons, but one of them is that the match-up neutralizes a potentially huge issue for the Dems.  The overwhelming majority of Americans think Iraq was a mistake and want out.  McCain thinks it was right and wants to stay.  If Clinton challenges him he will make mincemeat of her, since she voted to authorize the war.  McCain gets to say that he is consistent and she is a waffler.  But Obama can connect his initial opposition to what he wants to do now.  So he is consistent, and right, and in line with the majority of Americans.  Plus, as he helpfully is starting to argue more forcefully, his opposition on Iraq is evidence of a mindset that will avoid future Iraqs, which is what matters most of all at this point. 

Finally, Obama was really strong and principled on immigration.  They quoted a black woman who wrote in a question saying that Latinos are taking our jobs, and why isn't anyone talking about that.  Of course, the media being what it is, they said, let's ask the black guy about that, see if we can stir up some black-Latino division, and Obama was faced with the question.  I was delighted when he opened and closed with a crystal clear statement that we could not use illegal immigrants as a scapegoat for our economic woes.  The job losses are real, people are hurting, but don't lay that at the doorstep of immigrants.  That is a courageous answer, made all the more so when Clinton followed up and tried to exploit the advantage (trying to win back the black voters she and Bill lost with their tactics of the past 2 weeks?) by finessing and suggesting that we had to be "honest" about the fact that immigration is part of the explanation for the pain this woman was facing.  Both candidates felt the woman's pain.  But Obama was principled in standing up against the scapegoating.

One stop shopping if you missed the debate, or want to read good analysis:


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