Yet I charge the same low price as always. That's just how we do business around here. By the way, stick around for some bonus fun at the end of the post.
So let's get to it...about the first Presidential debate, these thoughts, purely from my perspective:
• On the aspects of the debate that matter when it comes to votes -- appearance and style -- Obama won.
• Obama did not do a Gerald Ford-style Poland screw-up and so exceeded expectations on the foreign policy front, thereby making himself look more Presidential.
• McCain verbally stumbled in some embarrassing ways, mostly by randomly walking through some of his campaign lines, spouting out every third word without context.
• It was bizarre that given several opportunities to say how he'd cut spending, Obama could do nothing but keep talking about more stuff he was going to spend on. The moderator kept saying, in essence, "That's nice, but where will you CUT?" -- Obama had no answer to that, so he'd just throw a few more things on the spending pile each time (oh yeah, he did say maybe he'd delay some of that spending a bit...to him, that's a cut).
• McCain could have done better on spending (to be fair to both of them, they were ready for a foreign policy debate and did not expect to spend half the time on economics), but he did show his political courage by reiterating that he would cut Ethanol spending...a stance that has hurt him politically and contributed to his coming in fourth place in the Iowa primary.
• McCain also said he was willing to consider a spending freeze, something Obama objected to. A spending freeze isn't very significant, since he took entitlement spending off the table as part of that. But he was at least throwing out some ideas...in addition, he talked about ending Cost-plus contracts.
• On balance, Obama dodged the spending cuts question and McCain provided several areas where he'd pursue spending cuts.
• Right after viewing the debate, I thought they'd both dodged the spending cuts question, but on reflection I realized what I noted above, and I feel McCain won this part of the debate.
• Obama was terrible on his answers about the Surge, refusing to admit he was wrong and dodging the issue by just repeating that he wouldn't have gotten into the war in the first place. That's nice, but Obama has promised to invade lots of places under the right circumstances, and he needs to assure us that when the battle gets tough, he'll exercise good judgment. On this he failed miserably in reality and in this debate.
• McCain said what we'd learned from Iraq was not to have the wrong strategy that would make us lose. This was a silly statement...I think he had something more sensible in mind, like saying Iraq had shown us what strategies work (Surge) and what strategies don't (too few people on the ground), but the words that actually came out of his mouth weren't very sensible.
• McCain hammered Obama on his promise to personally meet, as President, anytime anywhere with tinpot dictators. Obama attempted to redefine this, saying that of course anytime anywhere meant lots of pre-meetings by lower levels, and then meeting at the time and place of Obama's choosing (in other words, not "anytime, anywhere").
In comments on this blog people have asked why talking to other leaders should be a problem, which on the face of it is a reasonable question, so both to nail down what Obama said (and once again refuses to admit was a mistake) and to address that question, I'm going to get into this a bit. Here is the video of the question that was originally asked, and Obama's response, then Hillary's response (which was an excellent summation of "what is wrong" with this):
For those who don't want to click on videos (Guy!), here is some dead text, as transcribed by The Nation:
In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?
I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous. Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.
(When you see Obama's attempt to redefine this, remember the first two words of his answer: "I would." -- no qualification to his answer, no discussion of low-level talks first -- just "I would.")
Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration. And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.
And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
• Obama lost a point by tacitly agreeing that his statement about invading Pakistan was irresponsible without actually, again, taking responsibility for being wrong.
• Obama gained a point or two by, in response to the Pakistan thing, reminding people that McCain had said some irresponsible things in his time (singing about bombing Iran, for example).
• McCain hammered Obama about his naive statements when Georgia was initially invaded. This was good, but I think he would have had a much stronger way of making the point if he'd said, "Senator Obama, when Russia invaded Georgia, your response was to ask Georgia to lay down their guns." This would have been slightly unfair, but still an accurate way to portray the results of Obama calling for all sides to exercise restraint (how does the invadee exercise restraint, and what does it mean to not fight back while Russia is holding chunks of your country hostage?)
• Toward the end of the debate, McCain showed the mastery of the political situation with Russia, citing in detail the political considerations of the various countries there, and his personal knowledge of both the land and the people involved. Obama couldn't touch this, so he wisely didn't.
From my perspective, McCain won and lost the debate. He won on points, but none of those points are likely to matter to swing voters.
However, we don't know the true impact of a debate until a couple of days after, when people have had time to mull it over, so I'll be interested to see if I'm wrong.
On to the other things promised in the title of this post...
Obama is again attempting to shut down free speech:
"This advertisement knowingly misleads your viewing audience about Senator Obama's position on the Second Amendment," says the letter from Obama general counsel Bob Bauer. "For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement."
This is about an NRA ad going after Obama on his gun and ammo positions. FactCheck.org says the NRA is wrong; others say FactCheck is wrong, mostly because they believe some Obama campaign general statements about gun control without addressing the specific NRA claims.
For my part, I am not a fan of guns and positions on gun control don't sway me one way or the other. However, I am a free speech absolutist, so here is the ad Obama doesn't want you to see:
That taken care of, here's the video you really should see...it's not anti- or pro-Obama, it's just fun: