Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oscar Wilde Calls the Debate

Oscar Wilde, who was born this day -- October 16 -- 144 years ago, called it:

A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.

I knew the course the debate would take as soon as I saw the ties the candidates wore.

Obama wore the same tie he wore in his acceptance speech in Denver. It does not suit him. He doesn't do red. It was a poor choice. His performance was likewise poor, at least during the first half of the debate. Fortunately, he eventually settled down and slipped into his professorial mode, solid but somewhat dull. Playing safe, making no serious mistakes, taking few risks and reaching only one high point -- his moving and courageous statement about abortion.

McCain, on the other hand, who desperately needs some color, but apparently doesn't know it, had the bad judgment to show up in a colorless blue-gray striped banker's tie -- well-tied, I admit, but unimportant and unsuited to the occasion. McCain needed to shine, but did not. He stayed on his message, such as it is, aimed at his hard core conservative constituency. He stayed in character, grim though it is, as a humorless, up-tight, bad-tempered, grouchy and mean SOB. After the selection of Sarah Palin it is almost pointless to say anything more about McCain's poor judgment, but it surpasses all understanding that he continues to swing and miss. For example:

  • Hammering on Joe the Plumber, as though anyone, including Joe himself, gives a damn. Joe admitted later that he is not even registered to vote. And the press discovered Joe is not Joe, is not a licensed plumber and is in fact a numbskull.
  • Absurdly comparing Obama, once again, to Herbert Hoover.
  • Pointlessly citing nuclear submarines as somehow relevant to ending our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Asserting he has no litmus test for choosing Supreme Court judges, but in the next breath admitting that he would consider a judge who was favorable to Roe v. Wade as unqualified.
  • Continuing to talk about Bill Ayers even though the overwhelming evidence of the public opinion polls shows that it is hurting him not helping him.
  • Artlessly using the phrase "I am not President Bush," apparently not remembering, or remembering but not understanding, that this is a derivative of the deadly quip Lloyd Bentsen used against the witless Dan Quayle in their vice-presidential debate: "You're no Jack Kennedy." The phrase works to diminish not enhance the person targeted by it.
  • Failing to maintain his composure when Obama was speaking by allowing himself to be shown on camera rolling his eyes, contorting his face and looking like a jerk not entirely in control of himself.
  • To his credit, slight though it is, he restrained himself from mentioning Pastor Wright. That was the high point of his performance.
The CNN poll taken immediately following the debate had it 58% for Obama and 31% for McCain. I was frankly surprised at that. I would not have been surprised had it been a wash, with each cancelling the other out and no clear winner declared. Fifty eight to thirty one, however, is a staggering victory. It positions Obama perfectly and tells him just what to do for the next 19 days. It leaves McCain with nowhere to go from here.

Hold your breath.

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