DEBATE + WINE=FUN FUN FUN!
7:05-7:31 p.m. - It's obvious that the debate organizers shoehorned the global financial crisis and the Wall Street bailout into the planned debate on foreign affairs and that neither candidate had enough time to really compose their thoughts and offer anything remotely substantive about the crisis. Neither McCain nor Obama are at their best here, although I do think I know the moment that John McCain might have lost Iowa. At 7:29 he said, "I would do away with ethanol subsidies." Great--there goes the only economic incentive for living in Iowa.
SIDEBAR: Tonight's wine is a lovely Ironstone California Rose circa 2007. A nice blend of a Syrah, a Cabernet Sauvignon and hint of Reisling. Tasty!
7:44 Senator McCain keeps hammering away with subtle jabs at Senator Obama's lack of experience by suggesting that Obama "doesn't know the difference between a tactic and a strategy" and that Obama also didn't spend any real time in his foreign affairs subcommittee taking up the issues of Iraq and Afghanistan. So far, Obama has deflected most of the jabs well, but he looks weary and a bit exasperated. McCain is the one that supposedly has the temper but I wonder if Obama isn't about to slap ol' Grandpa in the mouth. (Now THAT would be an entertaining debate.)
8:03 Moderator Jim Lehrer marvels that each candidate is even on their allotted time. Maybe Lehrer should run the Wall St. bailout!!
8:10 McCain can't pronounce Ahmendijad and I can't spell it without Googling it. Iran is the topic--both agree that Iran is becoming a nuclear threat but they disagree on how to sanction and control Iran. Senator Obama says that if we don't alter our strategy, Iran with nukes could lead to a "Middle East arms race." Hmmmm...something I've never understood is why it's okay for Israel, Pakistan and India to have tactical nuclear weapons, but not everyone else in the region. Don't we already have a Middle East arms race?
8:14 For the 94th time tonight, McCain calls Obama either "naive" or "confused" or suggests "he doesn't understand". I wonder what the talking point is there?
8:15 Things are finally getting heated. McCain says Obama is parsing words when he talking about preconditions in discussions with American antagonists like Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. He mentions several times that he's been a friend of Henry Kissenger for 35 years and "I know what his positions are and he'd be very interested to hear Senator Obama's understanding of his statements." Translation - I'm old and if I'm president, me and my old Cold War buddies are going show you whippersnappers how it's really done! To be honest though, this part of the debate is the weakest Obama has looked all night--McCain scored some points.
8:21 Time for another sip of wine. For some reason, it's getting harder to follow the debate. They're talking a lot about Russia and the Georgian invasion. McCain has a funny line about how he looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and he saw "a K, a G and a B". I wonder how that will play in Moscow? If McCain is president, I don't think there will be a whole lot of glasnost.
8:26 Another question goes first to McCain. (About the likelihood of another terrorist attack like 9/11). This should be a strategic debate advantage to Obama, but he doesn't seem to be taking full advantage of it. By the way, is reaching out to Joe Lieberman really "reaching across the aisle"? He's more of a Republican than John McCain is.
8:29 Obama says al-Qaeda is now operating in sixty countries. I wonder what it's like to start up an al-Qaeda cell? Is it like opening a McDonald's franchise? "Yes Ahmed, may I take your order?" "Hmmm, yes, praise Allah, I would like a suitcase nuke, an IED and some sarin gas to go." "Very well, would you like two tickets to a flight school with that?" "Oh no thanks, that will be all." "Very well, please drive up to the next window and pay in cash." There's something wrong with me.
8:32 Obama is starting to regain his footing a bit. He's making a strong point about the difficulty of pouring so many troops and so much money into Iraq thus weakening our stature and ability to defend around the world. I wonder if McCain will Obama "doesn't understand" again.
8:34 Yes, McCain says it again. Sigh...
8:36 Will this debate ever freakin' end? It's time for a Klondike bar.
8:38 Oh shit, it's over! Did they hear me?
MY TAKE: So who won? People didn't expect quite as much from Obama in this debate as they did from the "foreign policy expert" McCain. As a result, what I would consider merely a passing performance from Obama on the foreign policy questions is being treated by the hoi polloi as a small victory. What's interesting is that in the CBS coverage I watched (I'll pick a different one of the Big Three networks to watch for each presidential debate), the 100 uncommitted voters sequestered in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (sans wine apparently) were much more impressed with Obama's debate performance, especially on the question of Iraq. If this is a common feeling among viewers across the country, then it really is a win for Obama who will amp up the momentum his campaign has picked up in the last week or so.
All in all, not as dry a debate as I expected, but nothing super juicy either. On to Round 2 -- if we ever sort out what to do about the financial crisis.