105 Ways to Give a Book

The Debate — Yeah, I’ll Go There

I know most of the kidlitosphere bloggers don’t like to talk about politics on their blogs, but I gave up that high ground long ago. Um... sorry? Anyway, I’m offering a safe space to comment about the debate last night because I feel that some of us — and by that I mean me — need to talk about it.

Now my motto is, “If you can’t say anything nice, at least make it funny.” Based on that, I searched the opinions for a good bit about the debates that rang true, but was also funny. This is the only one — so far — that made me laugh:
McCain came off as sour, agitated and petulant. Obama — man, nothing rattles that guy. But McCain was two tics away from a vein-popping “You can’t handle the truth!” Jack Nicholson moment.
Gotta love movie quotes. And this was from Crunchy Con, a blog about conservative politics and religion. Makes you wonder what the liberals are saying! Oh wait, that’s me.

I found that quote in a round-up of opinions from Andrew Sullivan’s blog, a great place to find out more about the debate if you’re so inclined to do so. Or you can read the transcript at the New York Times. Like you’ve got that kind of time.

My main thought watching the debate was that Obama was calm, cool, articulate, and... presidential. McCain was like the angry old guy at the homeowner’s association meeting sniping about untrimmed hedges on the neighbor’s lawn.

Now there were times I got mad. McCain’s assertion that talking about horrible things shouted at rallies equals slandering all Republican rally attendees is a ridiculous diversion from a serious issue. I don’t think “health” of the mother should be put in finger quotes, no matter what you think the “pro-abortion movement” (my quotes are deliberate and derisive) is doing.

I was baffled by the rising celebrity of Joe the Plumber. Anyone else think that maybe Joe just needs a good accountant? Oh, and there were moments of amusement. The crowd actually laughed at the question of the moderator, “Why would the country be better off if your running mate became president rather than his running mate?” Obama talked about why Biden would be good president if need be. McCain instead talked about Palin like she was his feisty kid, even saying that he was proud of her. Gee, thanks, Dad. One of the best examples of Obama’s coolness, and his way of turning the topic around, was at this point in the debate.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think she’s qualified to be president?

OBAMA: You know, I think it’s — that’s going to be up to the American people. I think that, obviously, she’s a capable politician who has, I think, excited the — a base in the Republican Party.

And I think it’s very commendable the work she’s done on behalf of special needs. I agree with that, John.

I do want to just point out that autism, for example, or other special needs will require some additional funding, if we’re going to get serious in terms of research. That is something that every family that advocates on behalf of disabled children talk about.
Personally, I wouldn’t have been able to hold back a laugh at that question. This would also have been an ideal time for Obama to make sure that McCain understands that Palin’s son has Down’s Syndrome, not autism. I would have paid money to see that correction by Obama with a pointed and yet totally cool look. Awwwk-ward.

Overall, I thought it was certainly a more interesting debate than the other two. I do wonder if McCain realizes that going completely negative during the debate gave Obama the opportunity to answer all the criticism with his actual policies and the actual truth. In some ways, the whole debate came off more like the world’s angriest interview of Obama.

So, what did you think?


Kelly said...

Um, yeah, the "health" of the mother moment was sickening. Truly. I was offended.

But I walked away from this debate (which was more interesting, which did have more substance) with a 'stick a fork in him-he's done' feeling. I hope I'm right :)

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Pam! Thanks for blogging about this! I've been so political in my last few posts I thought I better give it a rest on my own blog. Man, McCain looked like Nasty McCrankerson last night. At one point, it looked like he wanted to bite Obama. The whole Joe Plumber thing is ridiculous. Some of the Air America hosts this morning are saying what Obama might have said, that if he's making over $250,000/year, he's not a plumber, he's a business owner, a small-time venture capitolist. And Obama will only be raising his taxes back to what they would have been in the Clinton years, which I think we can all agree were good economic times. Also, apparently Joe the Plumber is actually related to Charles Keating AND when Katie Couric asked him about Obama today, he said something like "he didn't answer my question; he tapdances like Sammy Davis Jr." Oy.

I thought Obama was great on the Roe v Wade question, and made McCain look like a fool and a liar, and I thought it was a bit weird they got so off on school vouchers for so long. And I kind of need to rewatch to get a handle on some of the bizarro things McCain said. Something about making returning Iraq vets teachers without any further training? I kind of missed it.

Oh, and Obama missed a great opportunity to mention reading with kids, when he was talking about parents' responsibility when it comes to education. Really wanted him to say it! Oh well.

Bill said...

One insight I took away was the blurring of the line between a "negative" ad and an "attack" ad. Technically, you could call any ad that criticizes an opponent's position or policy as a "negative" ad (and, in fact, that was the way they used to be categorized by the media). An "attack" ad, in contrast, would be an ad that goes after the opponent personally, or panders particularly to fear of what will happen if the opponent wins, without regard to any specific policies.

All of McCain's recent ads are of the latter variety. That's not to imply that the Obama campaign isn't running similar ads (by one count, they make up about a third), but by lumping them all together as simply "negative" ads as opposed to singling out "attack" ads, the distinction is disappearing in the public consciousness.

Which plays directly into the strategy of Karl Rove (and his devotees) — if you can't win by going "all attack, all the time," make damned sure that your opponent is so damaged that he cannot govern.* Which, in turn, helps your chances in the next election. (And yes, they're already planning for "Palin 2012." Seriously.)

I initially found it reprehensible that McCain would decry the negative tone of the campaign (falsely accusing Obama of running a equally sleazy campaign) and then turn around and launch directly into one of the same attack ads, live.

But then, I remembered what Bob Schieffer's actual question was: Would you be willing to make the same personal attacks against your opponent directly to his face?

And for McCain, apparently the answer was, "Yes."

* Or, you know, you can hope that one of the extreme nuts speaking out at your rallies does something more... direct. That solves your problem a lot more quickly.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

Thank you for opening up a safe dialogue!

Has anyone ever noticed the way McCain slurps like a snake when he gets to talking?

I took notes last night, one column for McCain and one for Obama, and as I look over them today, I'm noticing a lot of ??? on McCain's side during the times he went off on tangents, didn't make sense, etc.

I love the way Obama stayed calm and smiled when McCain was ranting about things.

Obama was the clear winner and I went to sleep thinking, "Whew! McCain can't win the election."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I missed the debate, was at my writing critique group but I listened to the re-run on the way home and then watched Hardball. Who does McCain think he is with the finger quotes and "health" of a mother, my word. I wondered why the whole autism thing came up. I mean I foudn myself thinking, "wait, doesn't Pailn's son have Down's?" Thank you for your humor. I love it on the otherwise dreary northwest day.

Kristen M. said...

Just imagine a meeting of world leaders ... Sarkozy or Merkel or Brown says something about say, terrorism, that "President" McCain doesn't agree with and what do they all get as a response? A rude grimace and some eye-rolling.

Yeah, that doesn't work for me. I want a president with some dignity.

Thanks for the rant space again!

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch. Frankly, I've had more than enough. I'm going to be very happy when this whole thing is OVER (or, this being America, starts gearing up again the day after the election for the NEXT four years. WHy can't we borrow the Canadian attitude about this - hey, folks, here's an election, we campaign for a few weeks, we're done, g'bye till next time... really...)

It doesn't matter anyway, for me, because I'm not voting for either of them. I cannot stomach the Maverick/Wolf Killer team, and Obama lost my vote when he picked Biden for VP. I'll vote for someone else, even though everyone might consider that a wasted vote. But my principles are my principles, and there it is.

Are there any more debates? Please tell me there aren't...

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Good call, as in laugh-outloud funny, on the feisty kid point. I also caught the autism/Down's thing. My husband and I both turned to each other and said, "huh? Doesn't her son have Down's?" But maybe he means largely that she is a supporter of all special needs.

Not that I'm arguing on her behalf -- hardly.

Obama was the perfect gentleman. As always.

And I was hoping and hoping beyond ALL HOPE that he'd point out that pro-choice people are NOT NOT NOT "pro-abortion." Thank goodness he threw that in at the very, very end, like, after a drink of water or something. Whew. In the nick of time.

"Palin 2012"? I'll move to Canada if that happens. No, really.

Laini Taylor said...

I'm curious to Alma why she hates Biden so much she'd throw away an Obama vote. Genuinely curious. What do you hate so much about him?

Also, Jules, I wrote a long post the other day about choice and addressed that issue -- I was really glad Obama made that point too.

Carolyn said...

There's a real Joe the plumber? Is he also Joe Six-pack, or is this a whole Joe voting block I don't know about? Good thing I'm not a politician. Dang. I thought Obama did a great job last night. Very cool, on the ball and composed. I liked how he corrected and redirected the fear-mongering digressions with facts, briefly and clearly, and then brought the discussion back to the current situation, what needs to be done now. I liked what he said about education, and health, making sensible investments that save big in the future. A good moment I haven't seen mentioned here; that he expected the campaign to be tough, for things to get ugly in the next few weeks. But that he thought his (or their) hurt feelings were less important than doing what needed to be done to get things back on track, and moving forward.

I liked McCain better before this campaign. My respect is dwindling.

Saints and Spinners said...

Hey, MotherReader. Thanks for blogging about this. I don't talk about politics on my blog because it doesn't fit into the scope of my blog, not because of any high ground.

As far as the debate goes, I didn't get to see it live (no tv), but I've been reading the transcripts. It does seem as if McCain is appealing more to people's emotions (i.e. the reiteration of the American people being "hurt" and "angry") whereas Obama talked more about the issues themselves and what he planned to do about them. In response to all of the negative campaigning, he said, "And, now, I think the American people are less interested in our hurt feelings during the course of the campaign than addressing the issues that matter to them so deeply."

I've been reading Drew Westen and thinking about how partisan our brains are wired (no matter what side we're on). FactCheck.org is helping me to be critical, even when all I want to do is sing Obama's praises. There's so much to think about, but I'm still incredulous that there are still undecided voters.

Anonymous said...

I liked the guy from CNN who referred to John McCain as "Grumpy McNasty". Cracked me the hell up. And I needed it, too, after him trying to be all pro-life (a recent switch for him, part of his soul-selling deal with the devil for this election season) and calling pro-choice folks "pro-abortion", plus trying to drag Bill Ayers into things. Pa-the-tic.

Even Fox News's online poll shows Obama winning the debate by a landslide, and I thought Obama's continued efforts to address the issues while batting down the bullshit was well-handled.

The split screen thing kinda made it seem like McCain was actually looking at Obama, but based on the desk set up, he was still not looking at him. So disrespectful.

And I've heard on another board from folks who knew people at a Palin rally that the N-word was tossed around freely by the audience (and loudly), along with "terrorist" and "kill him." So McCain trying to defend his supporters as the finest people in the country doesn't wash with me. Nor did Obama disrespect them as a whole, so McCain's "righteous indignation" came off as misguided.

And don't get me started on the actual or implied air quotes that went with the "health" of the mother. As if mothers don't matter. While I hope Kelly H's read was right, I was actually inclined to stick a fork in him last night. Literally.

Shannan said...

I didn't get to watch the whole thing due to meetings, but from what I did see, I have to say, I was getting annoyed by *both* of them looking into the camera and addressing whoever the heck this "Joe" person is. I am not Joe, I am not a plumber. Whoever is in charge of the plumber's lobby is doing an awesome job because plumbers (plumbers called Joe?) seem to be who they both care most about.

If they wanted to impress me, they should have looked into the camera and address Shannan the Librarian.


MotherReader said...

Kelly H, I believe the CNN dials went way down on that "health" moment too.

And Kelly F. (not that you were arguing), they were actual air quotes. For a minute there I wondered myself if maybe I had imagined it, but no. It's there on YouTube.

Lani, "he wanted to bite Obama." LOL. I also was up in my chair at that last section thinking that he was going to say something about reading... and then he didn't. Oh, so close.

Bill, thanks for the clarity on "negative" vs. "attack" ads. The Palin thing makes me shudder.

CO Writer and Kristin, I saw some YouTube mash-up of the McCain eyerolls, head shakes, and yes, snake-tongue thing. Not good. Not good for anybody.

Jone and Jules, someone called the autism/Down's syndrome thing a "senior moment." And that only makes the point for us.

Alma, that was the last debate. Whew. Like Laini, I'm curious about your strong opposition to Biden. The only strong feeling I've had about it so far is that he's not a great speaker.

Alkelda, oh you sound so sane and unstressed about this. I do love that. I read that people who listened to the debate or even didn't see the split screen didn't have nearly as strong a negative reaction to McCain. His body language counted for a lot - but it also showed a lot. (Oh, and the "high ground" thing was just tossed off. I had never considered politics in the scope of my blog, until I couldn't stand not writing about it anymore. Other people have better discipline. Or aren't as mouthy.)

Carolyn and Shannan, there is a real Joe the plumber who is all over the news media today, but I think Shannan the Librarian would have served much better. And it made me laugh.

Saints and Spinners said...

MR: Sane and unstressed! Thank you. I do wish that's how I felt. When I watch debates or conventions, I tend to shout at the screen and shake my fist.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Alkelda, when I'm feeling particularly insane or very stressed, you're always the sane and unstressed friend there to help ground me and steer me away from the strait jacket.

Laini, thanks. I'll go read that!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Also, Laini, for what it's worth, I saw part of an Obama campaign stop in VA, I think it was, months ago, and a teacher stood up and told Obama that his pre-K funding something or other part of some budget of his something or other didn't have enough money in it for technology. And he basically told her that, especially for that age, books will do. Books can come first (which is so true -- before they have their fine motor skills down pat, can we read to them first instead of plunking them in front of computers?), and he talked about reading with his daughters at a young, young age and the good he think it did them.

Robin Brande said...

Hi! Had to come out of the cave to chime in here.

I live in Arizona, so McCain has been my senator for a long time. I used to admire the man--liked his independence, thought he was honorable.

And then he turned whore. Hate to say it that way, but I don't know how else to put it. Seeing him embrace Bush--a man who had completely smeared him, attacked his family, run a despicable campaign against him--was really hard to watch. Suddenly McCain became just one more politician pandering to whomever needed pandering, because he wanted this so badly.

And then in this campaign, he's turned into this horrible creature, in no way resembling his former honorable self. Is this what power and greed does to someone? I've heard a lot of people compare him to Gollum, and I think that works. He's become desperate and ugly and dishonest and weird.

Whereas Obama has presented himself over and over as calm, measured, thoughtful, peaceful--exactly the qualities I want in a president after nearly eight years of bullying cowboy behavior. Bush has done us no favors in the world. I look forward to having a president who will mend our relationships and will choose peace and reasoning over brash "kick their a**!" tactics. Or is that strategy?

Thanks for letting us get it all out, Mother Reader. Blessings on you.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a McCain fan. Not a Palin fan, either. But Palin has one or two people in her extended family who are autistic and one or two who have Asperger's syndrome, which is on the autistic spectrum. I believe it's something that both she and McCain have mentioned before.

During the debate, I actually thought McCain looked unwell.

Please, please, please vote--to the people who say they're not going to vote. Chicken Spaghetti is begging you!

MotherReader said...

Robin, glad to hear from you. Little angry, huh? ;^) Don't worry, me too.

Susan, thanks for the info about Palin's connection with autism. Even though I joked about it, I felt embarrassed for McCain in a way that he was getting that basic thing wrong. I don't like having to feel bad for him. And the unwell thing? Yeah, I hear you. I would swear that during the town hall debate that he sounded like he was out of breath. It was unnerving.

Anonymous said...

I think McCain looked a little frantic at times trying to get his jabs in. They were deflected by Obama's calmness. I watched it on the PBS channel so there were not many of the reaction shots. I gather that CNN had a split screen throughout and that's where you really saw the Captain Grumpy action.

I must disagree with Susan about voting. (Hi Susan!) I used to think that everyone should get out there and vote no matter what, but the last two elections and a horribly disastrous Illinois senate election many years ago changed my mind. Voting is truly one of the most amazing and important duties/responsibilities/rights a citizen has. But if a person can't be bothered to get informed and can't figure out the major (and they are MAJOR) differences between these two candidates, they should just stay home. The stakes are far too great. Vote responsibly.
Andrea B

Bill said...

There are a lot of people proposing that voting be made mandatory, as it is in some other nations. But while I would encourage people to vote, at its core, the freedom to do something is worthless without the freedom not to do so.

And, of course, there's the fundamental assumption that voting matters. Which is an open question, given everything from the vagaries of the electoral college system to rampant corruption and election-rigging. That's not to say that those factors definitively negate the value of voting, but someone could readily believe that they do. Were we to force someone to participate in what they believe to be a corrupt system, where would that place us morally?

Just a random thought.