Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Personal Aside: Reflections on Last Night’s Debate.


Tres Boring.

No winner means McCain lost because he is behind and he needed to reverse the tide. Beyond that the event was terminally boring.
We probably should have known that if anyone could take tens of thousands of questions from the Internet…mix them with queries from the 80-plus members of the Belmont University audience…and make it as tasteless as mashed potato soup, it WOULD BE Tom Brokaw—who is about as unexciting and predictable—and as overrated—as the aged snoozer David Broder. In the middle of Brokaw conducted an interview with John McCain and Barack Obama over whom they would pick for secretary of the treasury…zzzzzz. It makes me desperately want to recall Rick Warren who ran the best ever debate at Saddleback. Wonk-wannabe anchors are no good.
This deadly “debate” which had the two recite verbatim their stump speeches (with the exception of McCain’s outlining a mortgage rescue plan) set the cause of presidential debates back to 1976 when Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter stood woodenly and in silence after the power failed—standing at their individual booths looking like men who in a while-you-wait presser while their trousers were being pressed. Beyond this observation, the confrontation has impelled me to make these observations (see if you agree or disagree):

Unlike some other presidential campaigns, it is obvious that there is not going to be a determinative moment in the debate format…involving the next one with Bob Schieffer…which will form the outcome. There will likely be no decisive knockout.

The amazing thing to me: The eruption of a terrible economic calamity, the lingering state of an unpopular war, an historically low rating for a Republican president…all these things should have certified a polling landslide for Obama much like that of 1932 for FDR over Hoover, or 1936 for FDR over Landon. Nothing of the sort has erupted. Obama has been only a handful of points nationally—6 at my latest count—ahead and the battleground states are still quite close. Something has to happen to break the impasse or there may well be either an electoral tie or a tiny margin of victory for either man.

It is clear that the only thing that can make it determinative for McCain would be an international or national security crisis where his white-haired expertise could come to the fore. Barring that, it looks like a tiny eaking out for Obama.

Also it is clear that this generation of politicians are painfully ill-equipped to discuss the real nature of the economy as is presciently illustrated in the book “The World is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy” by David M. Snick. Neither one understands that a tiny village in Norway can be wrecked financially because its financial managers invested heavily in Citigroup’s collateralized debt obligation…to the extent that when housing markets collapse in Florida and California, their debt obligations sour with the result that the Norwegian village had to padlock kindergartens and health care services for the aged.

This means that more than anything else, our future politicians must come from a more literate economic class. Snick says “retaining the free flow of capital to keep; globalization’s bloodstream pumping may also require the most sophisticated team of global financial brain surgeons…because the world today lacks a financial doctrine—or even much in the way of a set of informal understandings for establishing order in a financial crisis.”

What is also sorely needed is a new doctrine for the U.S. for measured withdrawal from being the global fireman determined to quench all the injustices of the world. Brokaw in his way tried to approach this in the debate by seeking to get both candidates to define a doctrine in their names—an Obama Doctrine, a McCain doctrine. A debate is the worst place to try to secure it. But one thing is sure: rooting out the cause of Islamic terrorism to defend ourselves is a necessary expedient…but this stuff of sending troops to eradicate every single instance of genocidal injustice in the world is starting to be a fruitless exercise—especially when our financial resources are strained to the limit.


  1. How does McCain energize the base? The swing voters?

  2. At least the world financial markets seem excited by the prospect of one of these stiffs furnishing their lack of leadership for the next four years.

    God save our once great Nation!

  3. McCain could have talked more on thee L of D idea as a democratic alternative to the UN.