September 27, 2008Why I think Obama lost the debate: Lines I wanted to hear, but didn't.
I deliberately avoided attending any of the several debate night parties that were being held in Reno last night. I deliberately avoided them as I deliberately avoid all such gatherings, because, at a time in this nation's history when, if anything is needed more than anything else, it's deliberate thinking, and that's never in attendance in such get-togethers.
For much too much of the 97 minutes that last evening consumed I felt the angst, the frustration of what Abe Lincoln must have felt, watching General George McClellan's splendid army march splendidly about the parade grounds outside the White House. In the midst of war, no one could quite stage a parade like George McClellan. Finally, however, our 16th president was forced to inquire, "If McClellan is not using the army, I should like to borrow it for a while."
In like fashion, I wanted to tele-transport myself onto the stage and say to Barack, "Excuse me, Senator Obama, if you're not going to use this lectern, I should like to borrow it for a while."
When Senator McCain posited "What Senator Obama doesn't yet understand, what he doesn't get . . ." I wanted to hear, "John, you keep saying that I don't get something, or I don't understand something. Let's get this straight: I understand it, I get it, and the people know I get it. You said the Iraq War would be, and I quote you, "easy.' You also said we'd be greeted, and I quote you again, "-as liberators.' You said that Iraq's oil revenues would pay for rebuilding the country. From the very start, I said the entire adventure would be a mistake. I said it would be tough, and that it would be a long struggle, and that it would cost us dearly in lives lost, in untold billions we could not afford, and that it was a distraction from our efforts, hunting down and killing those who attacked us on September 11. So quit this nonsense, because I "get it.'"
Moderator Jim Lehre demanded of both McCain and Obama their thoughts, their position on The Plan under construction in the capitol, to rescue our finance system and the economy from collapse. I was straining to hear Obama say to McCain, "Here's my position: I think that __________, but right now, what's needed is for those members of the House and Senate charged with the primary responsibility for crafting a plan, to be able to go about putting one together without outside interference. Then, once we see what they've come up with, then will be the time for the rest of us to study it, and to offer our thoughts on what needs to be done. Not beforehand. But John, I've got to say, you stormed into the midst of delicate negotiations like an armored division of Abrams' tanks. What were you thinking you'd accomplish? Not only do you sit on no committee that's actually charged with putting together a plan, when you were asked for your ideas, the only thing you offered, and I quote you, "Let's see what the House Republicans have to say.' That was it. Your presence was disruptive, and destructive of a most important process that was underway. You even threatened to postpone this evening's debate, because of the crisis in Washington. I have a question for you, John, or a couple questions, really. Was it grandstanding, what was accomplished by your presence that could not have been as easily, and better, I should add, handled over the phone, and were you not also suggesting that you as president would only be able to deal with one problem at a time?"
The issue of energy and how its impacted our national security and economy arose both directly and tangentially. Ohhh boy! I sat waiting, now's the chance for Obama. "It's interesting that Senator McCain talks so much about how he's for solving the energy problem facing us; using alternate forms of renewable energy: solar, nuclear, wind, and so forth. But you know, Senator McCain has missed more votes in the Senate than anyone else, more than even Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who was out for ten months recovering from a near fatal neural disorder. Senator Johnson has since returned to full duty in the Senate, and all our prayers and thanks are with Senator Johnson and his family. But the point I want to make is that, while Senator McCain has been in Washington 26 years and claims to be for all these different energy sources, not only did he skip all eight votes to encourage them in this congress, the only, and let me repeat this: the ONLY energy legislation that bears his imprint, that he either wrote or co-sponsored or voted for, were those to give billions and billions of tax breaks to the oil industry."
As a now graying army infantry vet, the opening that, as much as any other, I wanted Senator Obama to most pounce on, was when John McCain postured greatly "" and most disingenuously "" over his claim to support of our men and women now in uniform and the veterans who have served. My breath was suspended in anticipation of Obama's rapier response. "This is not to diminish a moment of Senator McCain's military service to our country. It's a heralded service, and one we should all honor. But that's exactly why I am so puzzled by Senator McCain's votes on the issues that were to actually support our brave men and women now serving, as well as those in times past. John, you either skipped votes to supply and equip our Guard and Reserve headed into harm's way, or you voted "no.' You voted "no' nine times to deny or extend healthcare to our veterans. You voted "no' on the Webb Amendment that would have allowed our returning combat soldiers and marines to remain at their home base, for retraining, to recuperate from the combat stress and injuries, and to just be with their families. That's a fact, John. You voted "no' on that one. And you also fought hard against the new GI Bill, the bill that President Bush just signed into law, because it was "too generous.' Those are your words, John, "too generous,' and because you claimed it would "hurt reenlistment.' So, I don't know where you're coming from, claiming you support our troops and our veterans, but it sure isn't reflected in your votes, where it should count."
I've revisited the tape of the debate. Not only did I not hear Senator Obama orate at all along the lines I proffered concerning genuine support of our active military and our veterans, I didn't hear him respond as I felt he could have, as I was hoping he would have on the issues cited above, and on may others that came up last evening.
Senator McCain's long, as well as recent, record of gaffe's, of terrible judgment, of backtracking and of backstabbing offer(ed) multiple openings to the jugular, and chances for Obama to, with magnificent magnanimity, deliver the coups degrâce.
Here's the matter in a sentence: If you don't triumph when you could have, when you should have, when it's essential that you do, then you have lost. Don't try to ferret out excuses and explanations from the woof and weave of some cheap cloth of a fabric. Be honest. And being honest here, Senator Obama lost.