The second Presidential debate was held Tuesday, October 7, 2008 - exactly four weeks before Election Day - at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Belmont is a small Christian liberal arts institution (5000 students) near downtown Music City, USA.
This meeting was a 90 minute affair; the format was the ‘town hall meeting’ type of discussion with questions from the audience and several internet users of selected, mostly undecided, voters directly to the candidates with a one minute limit on a discussion period. (That was largely violated. )
The debate was facilitated by NBC newsman Tom Brokaw. He did a noteworthy job in directing the discussions - at times allowing prolonged debate from each candidate, at times chiding each candidate to keep within the time limits and on topic.
It got underway immediately with no opening statements. The first question concerned economics as did the preponderance of them. The tone of the questions at times reflected the mood of the nation - anguished, anxious, concerned. It seemed that after an hour the questions turned more to foreign policy and were directed primarily at the conditions in Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. All in all the questions were excellent in their content and pertinence.
There was much at stake in this debate with Senator McCain having the most riding on the outcome owing to his recent slippage in the polls. He did a fair job though at times rambling or resorting to campaign rhetoric we have all heard before which did not necessarily answer the question or contribute to the discussion in a direct and forthright manner.
McCain did not come across especially strong on health care or on the credit crisis facing us. He strongly stated his foreign policy views and was persuasive in doing so. Overall, his performance most likely did little to change the dynamics of the race where Obama has taken a pronounced and troublesome lead over the last week.
Senator Obama did a superb job answering the questions, demonstrating poise under fire, and exhibiting his calm and eloquent manner. His stage presence was relaxed and smooth as he addressed the audience. He appeared to have a good grasp of the essentials, was organized in his responses, and was not in the attack mode as was McCain at times. But, he adeptly countered almost every parry from McCain with civility and intelligently.
Obama's strong points were in the domestic arena including health care and tax cuts for the middle class although McCain convincingly warned of raising taxes on anyone. Obama was less than clear on the current credit debacle. He won style points in his display of self-confidence and ease with the audience which will be helpful in dispelling doubts as to whether he is ‘Presidential’ material.
Post debate analysis differed as it did last time. I watched MSNBC coverage - not out of love for that overly biased cable news outlet, but because I felt they would be most critical of McCain and favor Obama as they have done for months now.
Predictably, Rachel Maddow confidently stated “Obama won the debate. " She also related “Obama was not looking for a fight; McCain was. " She observed that when McCain attacked Obama, he seemed to be “swinging and missing" as Obama effectively countered his attacks. Pat Buchanan observed that McCain seemed to come to the stage with “more heart. . . calmer than last time" Pat said “McCain won the debate as he did last time. " Chris Matthews, a political junkie extraordinaire, did not overwhelmingly proclaim Obama the winner but seemed to favor him and commented on his disarming smile and eloquence saying, in contrast, that McCain, when he smiled, looked somehow sinister.
Of course, the vile Keith Olbermann, talking head of MSNBC's ‘Countdown', pontificated, ranted and raged, and generally discounted McCain as having even scored one point in the debate. He revealed once again his outlandish lack of any semblance of objectivity or any commentary without bias and vileness. He even commented that McCain “didn't look like a well man wandering around the stage. " (How does that network suffer this ass?)
In this second debate/discussion I have to give the edge to Barack Obama. Some will say he overwhelmingly won the night. I don't think it was an overwhelming defeat for McCain. The polls will judge the outcome in the next few days. John McCain desperately needs a boost. Will the debate give it to him or will it sink his campaign further? (Immediate post debate polls give a slight edge to Obama. )
Meanwhile, a third debate is scheduled for Wednesday, October 15th at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York. Hillary country!
Major Dennis Copson is retired from The United States Marines and is a resident of Oceanside, CA where he is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Nature's Big Bud Liquid Worm Castings, Inc. and Go Green Aid Company, makers of a ‘go green’ quality canvas shopping tote bag. He is also a freelance writer. More info is available on his websites at http://www.naturesbigbud.com and gogreenaid.com