Was Obama Really as Comfortable as He Looked in Last Night’s Debate?


To me, last night’s debate was the third—and, mercifully, the last—in a series of lackluster debates between senators Obama and McCain. But somehow the media have managed today to cull from the regurgitation of campaign sloganeering some rich moments truly worthy of playback. Maybe it wasn’t so lackluster after all.

Could McCain have done better? Pretty much everyone agrees that he missed opportunities. That’s interesting. It means two things. The first is that McCain has a platform of strength that might really resonate with people if he could only launch his case with compelling pizzaz. Second, Obama has opened himself to some pretty withering criticism that McCain has been reluctant to exploit.

Contrast Obama. What opportunities did he pass on last night? Could he have made his policies more compellingly attractive than he did? Could he have put McCain on the defensive? I don’t think so. Obama did what he could, and all that he needed to perhaps.

Once again, Obama “looked presidential.” But did he feel as comfortble as he looked? The question can’t really be answered objectively, except by Obama, and we all know what he would say. But Obama will raise taxes during “the worst economic crises since the Great Depression”; and McCain made that stick. Obama has fraternized professionally with people most of us wouldn’t shake hands with; and McCain reminded everyone that we still don’t know who Obama really is. McCain was unequivocal in his pro-life stance, and missed an opportunity to demonstrate how radically pro-choice Obama really is. But this was not a comfortable topic for Obama. He had to nuance his way out of the spotlight while McCain beamed confidently in the background.

Obama is counting on his lead and the lateness of the hour to carry him to victory. From this point on it’s a matter of damage control. That’s one thing McCain really doesn’t have to worry about. The most seriously debilitating event for his campaign was the egghead announcement by Hank Paulsen that the sky is falling and the whole world is going to go bankrupt. Paulsen’s alarmist tactics and his timing could not have been worse. You have to wonder if he isn’t a liberal democrat himself, given the tone of his message and the nature of his proposed solution—socialize the entire market in America.

The irony is that Obama is specially vulnerable on this point, if the message gets out. He wants bigger government on every flank and surely relishes the opportunity to preside over the socializing of medicine, our economy, education, and who knows what else. But people are ticked off at government right now. It can’t be just the Republicans and the Bush administration they distrust, but the whole lot of them. So bigger government portends more to be angry about as the months and years tick by.

Obama has two other things to be worried about before the election: Nancy Pelosi and Harry Read. It is an undeniable fact that under Obama our government would be on the verge of its most controlling ever. The democrats are pro big-government. Pelosi and Read, party leaders in their respective houses in Congress, and Obama are democrates, and they are among the most liberal democrats. This is a frightening prospect for anyone who wants government to downsize.

The only way that Americans across this country can prevent unchecked government by tax-and-spend democrats is to vote for John McCain. That’s bad news for Barack Obama, and a reason to be uneasy, even if he looks presidential.

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Ambivalence about the Congressional Vote for the Not-a-Bailout


Credit is unquestionably tight right now. Individual stock portfolios are in the pits—seemingly bottomless pits. The faux buoyancy of our politicians has evaporated (except Sarah Palin’s buoyancy, which seems anything but faux and far from slipping). Nobody knows whether the $700 billion “bailout” will accomplish much, or even whether it is a bailout or something else.

And I do mean nobody. Nobody has effectively explained how this infusion of government cash is supposed to help the situation. On the other hand, nobody has effectively explained how individual taxpayers could actually be hurt by the action that was taken.

But almost everybody has an opinion about the decisions made in Congress—being either emphatically for it or unequivocally against it. How can this be? What do so many people know and understand that completely evades me?

I’m ambivalent. But that statement has to be qualified, for two reasons. First, I’m not ambivalent about the “pork” or “earmarks” that were weaseled into the legislation. I hope we find out specific ingredients that have no real place in this bill-cum-law, and that we learn by name all those who “porked out.” I hope we find out before the election so we can vote on our representatives with real knowledge of their principles and behavior.

House Speaker Pelosi promises a “bright light of accountability” for greedy Wall Street denizens. But is she willing to shine the same bright light on the doings of Congress to get this bill passed? I’m skeptical. And I wonder if Pelosi herself could be in jeopardy in the November election.

Second, I believe the Fed, the Treasury, the President, and both houses of Congress acted precipitously and pumped hysteria into the atmosphere and needlessly panicked the rest of us. This resulted in self-fulfilling prophecy on fast forward. The market imploded. And we’ll all feel the reverberations of that. Maybe the government needed to step in, maybe not. But this was heavy-handed.

Finally, while I’m ambivalent the general action taken, I’m not indifferent. And if I knew more than I’ll ever know about what just went down, I probably wouldn’t be ambivalent at all.

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Source for “Helicopter Ben” sketch above: UrbanDigs.com

Two Heartbeats Away from the Presidency


Many people have said that this year’s presidential election is a referendum on President Bush, and this is a problem for John McCain—because with McCain we would just get a four-year extension of the tired-out Bush policies.

Others have suggested that the election is a referendum on senator Obama because of his inexperience.

Could it be that this year’s presidential election is a referendum on . . . Nancy Pelosi?

John McCain has tapped governor Sarah Palin as his VP running-mate. Many are asking, “But is she ready?” Ready for what? Ready to be the President of the United States if—God-forbid—something should happen to John McCain. After all, the Vice President is only one heartbeat away from the presidency.

So what’s that got to do with Nancy Pelosi?

Nancy Pelosi is a congressional representative from the state of California, and one of the most liberal members of Congress. She also happens to be the Speaker of the House of Rrepresentatives. The United States Constitution provides for the Speaker of the House to assume the reigns of power if—God forbid—something should happen to both the President and the Vice President. We actually saw Gerald Ford become President in the 1970s through this mechanism—and neither the President nor the Vice President had died!

So Nancy Pelosi is only two heartbeats away from the Presidency . . . right now. That won’t change when we elect a new President and Vice President in November. Maybe we should be looking at her record and experience.

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