Saturday, September 13, 2008

Service Nation Showdown

My friend Alan Wolk's blog report on last night's ServiceNation event, at which both candidates spoke:
John McCain was first up and he stayed on script and on point the entire night. His script was simple: I am the experienced bipartisan get-along-with-everyone guy whose “maverick” reputation came about because I do the right thing, regardless of what my party is telling me to do.

And so McCain did not miss a single opportunity to mention a Democratic senator he’d cosponsored legislation with. Bayh, Feingold, Kennedy—he spent a good two minutes telling us how much he loved Ted Kennedy— he kept emphasizing how these guys were his friends. Not Bush and Cheney.

Which is part two of the McCain message: I am NotBush. So there was Bush bashing and Congress bashing in his message. (The laugh line of the night, for example, came when McCain said that given the 94% disapproval rating, the only people who still thought Congress was doing a good job were “staffers and blood relatives”)

McCain also scored points by thoughtfully answering questions about the military: when asked about how to make the military a more attractive career to those from the upper economic strata,, he pointed out that although Columbia had allowed Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, ROTC recruiters were still banned and then called on them to end the ban. (A point Mr. Obama later reiterated, much to the surprise and delight of many in the audience, depending on where they stood on the issue.)
Alan Wolk

So the Service Nation Summit, held last night at Columbia University here in New York, turned into far more of a debate than I’d anticipated.

Yes, both men kept their promise to be polite and respectful towards each other. And yes, as my friend, education reform advocate Whitney Tilson pointed out, both men had fairly similar stances on the issue. But the tone and the timbre of the question and answer session was clearly a preview of what we can expect to see in the upcoming debates.


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