Day By Day

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Non-Debate

I had not intended to watch the debates -- I already knew for whom I was voting and why -- but finally I broke down. "She Who Must Not Be Named" settled in comfortably in the living room and watched the FOX News broadcast.

We were both amazed and impressed. John McCain was terrific! He was confident, dynamic, well informed, totally in command of the facts and the presentation. In his performance he laid to rest all those whisper campaigns about his age and infirmity, eccentricity and erratic temperament the Democrats had been spreading. It was a wonderful performance by a man who looked and sounded entirely presidential. By contrast, Obama looked weak and petulant and inexperienced, reduced to mouthing talking points rather than drawing on a wealth of experience and deep understanding. At times he looked and sounded flustered, but had obviously improved over his previous performances. The contrast between the two men was dramatic. McCain blew him out of the park.

Then came the spin. "She" and I were both astounded. It was as though the commentators watched an entirely different debate than we did. Frank Luntz' panel thought Obama had won -- among the talking heads conservatives were unenthusiastic and liberals were practically giddy with delight. The consensus was that Obama had won. Wha?!?!?!?!?!?

"She" headed off to bed in disgust. I remained up to watch the post-mortems to try to figure out just how these people could come to what seemed to me to be a strange and perverse conclusion. Gradually, the reasoning underlying the journalistic consensus emerged. McCain may have won the debate, but Obama had won the pre-debate. Time and again commentators brought up, not the debate inself, but McCain's suspension of his campaign, which they all felt was a terrible blunder, and that overshadowed what actually took place in Oxford. Their feeling was that McCain had dug himself such a deep hole that the election was, to all intents and purposes, over. His only hope was to totally demolish Obama. So to the commentariat it didn't matter what McCain did on stage -- if Obama survived the night he was the overall winner. Obama's poor performance didn't matter. He was coherent enough and touched on enough popular talking points [corporations are bad, Bush is an idiot, and the government must shell out money to the average citizen] to win the day.

Over the next few days we will see if that judgment holds. I fear that it will -- that the MSM's consensus that the election is already over will take root in the public perception, and a terribly inadequate figure will coast to victory. We saw that happen in 1960 and again in 1976, and both times the results were not pretty. At times like this I fear for the future of the republic.