Saturday, September 27, 2008

the debate

I watched the debate with about 20 Obama supporters (and a dozen children) at a house party in Pasadena. We had a lovely evening. One television outside, a second television in the living room. I watched inside because I was worried the kids playing in the backyard would make it too hard to hear.

Several of the other folks afterward wished that Obama had more forcefully responded to McCain's attacks. I felt he handled it exactly right. Obama needed to look controlled and Presidential, he did. He doesn't need to convert any of the McCain supporters, just prove to the undecided that he would be an effective leader. He obviously was. And both candidates avoided any "gotcha" moments so it will be hard for the cable news outlets to reduce the whole thing to a few unbalanced seconds. It was boring, which is a good thing for the candidate who's already ahead in the polls.

I was pleased that during the program I continued to feel respect for both candidates. There was none of the smirking, or belittling, or the blatant miss-characterization of the other man's opinions that have made past Presidential debates excruciating for me. I felt that this debate actually approached the level of thoughtful, respectful civic discourse that is essential to our democracy and that we haven't seen in years. (McCain's repeated, "He doesn't understand" being an exception.)

Most people don't really listen to debates, they watch them. The visuals are always more important than the content. The level of discourse was way over the heads of most Americans, particularly those who haven't yet decided on a candidate. In the visuals Obama was the breakaway winner. He looked into the camera; McCain never did. Obama spoke directly to McCain; McCain never spoke to Obama. Even when shaking hands McCain turned away from Obama. McCain looked prickly. Obama looked secure, Presidential.

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