I just watched the US presidential debate thinking there were going to be fireworks, but no.  Only sweeping agreement on just about everything, liberally sprinkled with puke-inducing sentimentality, incoherent xenophobia and delusions of grandeur.

And what did they talk about in the midst of the most catastrophic domestic crisis America has seen in my lifetime?  Nothing but the fiddly details of American foreign policy.  (Who should we bomb?  When should we bomb them?  How successful has our bombing been?  How should we meddle in the affairs of Iran?  What about Russia?  Which of us can come up with a better metaphor for how evil North Korea is?  Isn’t Israel swell? )

Disappointment of the night: Obama calling Venezuela a “rogue state”  (sarcastic clapping).   Nice job, “leftist” candidate.

My verdict:  a tie.  The points gained by McCain in the ad hominem category were perfectly matched by Obama’s glittering generalities.

Booooooo.  Hissssss.

Anyway, unless someone announces a debate between Nader and Paul, I’m done with American politics for a while.  I hear Canada is having an election too!

0 Responses

  1. For once, I’m forced to disagree with you, my wonderful friend. I think in practice there would be substantial differences between an Obama presidency and a McCain presidency on both foreign and domestic policy.

    However, I do agree with you that the debate itself was somewhat disappointing. For instance: Of it’s 96 minutes, only 39 minutes were devoted to the economy — barely enough time to touch on the subject. Again, the candidates did a poor job differentiating themselves. And Obama especially, allowed McCain to get away with changing the subject from the question that was asked of him to the question he wanted to answer. Example: When McCain was asked what he would do about the Wall Street crisis, he responded with a speech on cutting back on Federal spending.

    Obama likes to say that “Politics is the art of the possible”. I think he’s remarkably realistic about how far to the left he can lead the country at this time. I also believe that if he sees an opportunity to take the country further to the left in the future, he will do so.

  2. Well, Paul, in the clear light of day (for us the debate started at 2 AM, and we were quite drunk) I will acknowledge that I still think – in practice – that there are some differences between Democrats and Republicans, but since I live in countries where there are multiple political parties, the differences don’t appear to be notable.

    Both parties obviously share a lot of core beliefs and policies that would differ in countries with more than two political parties to choose from. For example, both parties believe America should meddle aggressively in the domestic affairs of sovereign foreign nations, and agree that you can’t meddle effectively without keeping the option of military force on the table. The difference is only whether they would send a few diplomats over for tea and cookies in the “rogue nation” (thanks, Obama) before resorting to violence and whether or not it’s appropriate to make unilateral demands on the hosting nation for the privilege of the visit. I’m sorry to have to say it – and even sorrier to observe it since I had high hopes for the Dems – but that’s an insignificant policy difference. On the other hand, do I think Obama would do a better job of meddling in the domestic affairs of foreign countries and there would be a bit less bloodletting? Well, yeah, I still do, but I would MUCH rather the US just fucked right off and minded their own business.

    In retrospect, Obama came off much stronger on domestic policies because McCain wouldn’t openly admit to what he wants to do at home, other than keep on not winning Miss Congeniality awards and being a maverick (I won’t get into the giant level of cognitive dissonance it must take to simultaneously maintain a self-image as a maverick AND the future winner of a giant popularity contest).

  3. Neither of them had the courage to name one thing that needed to be cut back. Both danced around the issue of tax increases (absolutely necessary), retreating into into issues of who would pay more. The fact is that inflation is going to go nuts in the next couple of years That’s a heavy, heavy tax on everyone. That’s because they both agree on the necessity of printing 700 billion dollars. Expect lots of griping down the line about cost “overruns” as the purchasing power of the US dollar dives.

    McCain scored easy points in griping about “cost plus” contracts that turn out to be hugely expensive. He knows that’s bullshit. The US govenment will strike a “fixed price” contract if they can, but some things are open ended (such as development of new defence systems). They do way to much of this, but if they do it, fixed price won’t work.

    By the way, one big saving that could be achieved is to close 90% of US military bases, including hundreds on US soil. They never manage to do this because of local politics.

    On “defence” issues, there was a big difference. McCain seemed to be campainging for the “commander in chief” job. He talked about “strategy” and convinced me he’d destroy the world before he lost another war. Obama stepped back and discussed the reasons for going into war in the first place.

    The debate was quite civilized, as you’d expect from the candidates. I’m sure that many people were expecting more firworks. Too bad.

  4. Hey there old man,

    “Neither of them had the courage to name one thing that needed to be cut back.”

    I know – I found Obama’s evasion painful to watch. Although I have to admit that his long list of noble domestic policy objectives stuck in my mind, while I can’t remember a single clearly-stated one of McCain’s apart from the standard Republican catch-phrase “tax cuts”. (For who? Why? To what end? *shrug*). So maybe he played it well.

    “McCain … convinced me he’d destroy the world before he lost another war.”

    I know! Me too! His bizarre, choked-up diversion into the personal pain he felt from the US losing Vietnam was just scary, and would have been a tactical mistake in most countries, as it made him look deeply irrational about the issue. That might be actually be an advantage in the US these days. I don’t know.

    “The debate was quite civilized, as you’d expect from the candidates. I’m sure that many people were expecting more fireworks.”

    I didn’t mean so much the “shouting and derision” kind of fireworks, but rhetorically satisfying sparks from the clash of the radically differing philosophies of government I (naively) thought they had. But what with Obama raving about the foreign policy wisdom of Kissenger and McCain burbling about “reaching across the aisle” it seemed like they wanted to just have a good cuddle and forgive one another.

  5. Oh, I fogot. Suggestion for program cuts. US Still has 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger readiness. They are still developing NEW nuclear weapons. The infrastructure around all this is mind-boggling. What’s it for?

  6. Even though US politics is essentially only a skirmish between similar brands, I think we’ll all feel a good deal worse/less safe about the world if US citizens actually choose McCain.

  7. True. I agree. Obama certainly has the cooler head and the better grasp of reality. I just don’t think he did as good a job demonstrating this as I would have hoped.

  8. I don’t think I’ll sit through the whole debate (I can hardly bear to watch Palin try to string a single sentence together I feel so embarrassed for her) but I can’t wait to see the highlights on YouTube and the Daily Show.

  9. YouTube will show the gaffes. I want to watch the whole thing so I can evaluate the inevitable fact that 50% of American voters will think she’s just wonderfu :-{

  10. LOL – you know, I think the honeymoon is already over in that respect. Already it seems only to be about 5 % after her interviews, and they are all simple-minded young-earth creationists.

  11. Sorry I didn’t get back to this sooner, but I’ve had a string of nights when I haven’t been sleeping well. The only thing I’d like to note is that I find the two party system to usually be a farce with no real choice between the candidates. This time around, though, I think there would be clear consequences to the US and the world depending on who is elected. I think a lot of people feel there’s an actual choice this time — and that accounts at least in part for the unusually high turn out that’s predicted for this election.

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