The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Ducking the Issues: The Candidates “Debate”


October 8, 2008

Why, o why do I subject myself to this exciting town hall styled ‘debate’? Is boring, and my prediction is that it stays boring, and in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t do all that much. And yet, I feel compelled to watch and blog. I guess it gives me something to do while my brisket is in the oven. Mmmmmmmmm brisket!

McCain is good in this format, its his strength. He’s hitting many of the same themes of the last debate. Obama is decent as well–he’s better at speaking directly to the questioner, whereas McCain is on campaign message a bit more. He told these same stories in the last debate for those of you who might have missed it.

I don’t really think that Warren Buffett would want to be Treasury Secretary…

That Obama knew the price of gas in Nashville is a good thing, obviously someone will instantly fact check this, but assuming he’s right, its a nice I’m in touch with your needs moment.


McCain has the zinger of the night– Nailing Jello to the wall. Of course, invoking Herbert Hoover is never good, as Hoover was the Republican. I like how McCain talks about taxes as if the tax code alone can solve economic problems.

Of course, the “Straight talk Express has lost a wheel” on the tax issue.

Keep ’em coming!

A commission! Did he say a Blue Ribbon Commission? Well, you can’t do any better than that!

Finally, McCain throws Bush and Cheney under the bus by name. Should I time stamp these little missives? Eh, too much work.

McCain likes the Kitchen Sink approach to solve problems. On health care–lets do lots of things. Here’s where he has a fundamental message problem, he’s saying government is the problem, the private sector is the solution. Has not read the financial pages lately? The unregulated market, the unregulated financial companies just got us into a mess. Everyone is looking to the government to bail us out.
(no one is getting his little do the math project, as my wife just asked, what’s he even talking about, do you understand his plan? no).

Hurray for foreign policy (we at the Duck should be excited about this, no?). I was just about to type “There you go again” on the Sen. Obama doesn’t understand, and Obama basically does that. Nice flip to McCain doesn’t understand.

This is such a status quo debate, so Obama wins in the grand scheme of things. No game changers here.

Brokaw, why must everyone have a doctrine? This question seems….. so Clinton Administration, so 1990’s.

Pakistan is the new Cambodia. Why must we re-fight the Vietnam war? Trudeau nailed this one this past Sunday.

Here’s what bothers me about this Israel / UN question from the Navy vet. He frames the UN as an impediment to US interest, as standing in the way of help to an ally. No one challenges the frame, that the UN could be a tool to help the US reply to just such a threat to world peace. This throws the UN under the bus, and in the long run, undermines the organization’s effectiveness as a tool of US diplomacy. McCain has no problem doing this, I had hoped for a bit more from Obama.

I like this last question, its perhaps one of the most important aspects of qualification for Presidential leadership. Obama pivots straight into his closing remarks. So does McCain. In part the question is vague enough to allow this, but I would have liked a more honest, reflective answer.

Ok, not as bad as I had thought it would be. Nate and Sean think that Obama won, and say that the focus group dials tilt toward Obama. Again, no game changer, Obama retains his lead. McCain makes no inroads.

Time to tend to my brisket, its been cooking for a nice 4 hours.

(and if anyone is interested, we can do the food chat and recipe share in a future post)

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.