Tonight was an easy game plan for Obama; don't accidentally say the "C" word and don't grow a beard at the last second and talk about banning kite flying. Because of a slew of frankly insane emails that have circled this country for the past few months claiming that Barack is actually a Muslim terrorist and that he introduced Lindsay Lohan to drugs and once tried to kidnap the cute kid from Jerry Maguire, mostly what Senator Obama needed to do tonight was show up and be his articulate and knowledgeable self. Mission Accomplished, which of course now means things get super ugly and complicated.
Obviously McCain couldn't ask Senator Obama if he planned on having us all wear burkas in the next four years, although honestly, you know they discussed it for at least 30 seconds. "Come on John! What's the worst that could happen? He'll say no and have to deny it!" "That's enough out of you Phil!"
This option being off the table they went for the next best thing: treat Obama like a young upstart. Words like "naive" and "adorable" and "here's a quarter for shoveling my walk" were bandied about with abandon by McCain. At one point I think McCain told Barack he didn't care how many packs of seeds he was away from getting a volleyball, he didn't want to buy any. But Obama is awfully hard to make look naive. He's one icy mofo and he's sharp as hell. He can out-world-leader-reference McCain any day of the week and would thrash him in a game of "measured but strong" (who remembers that game? We used to play it after Kick the Can. Honestly, it was not fun).
But the most baffling part of the debate was both candidates reluctance to talk about the economy. Now I know this debate was to have a foreign policy emphasis but still. Aren't the economy and foreign policy really, really close cousins? Shit, aren't they making out behind the above-ground pool?
Now I get why McCain would avoid the subject given that his whole career has been based on stripping away the regulations that had held our economy together since the FDR administration. But why did Obama back away given how comically vulnerable McCain is? I kept waiting for Obama to go "Oh really..." to McCain's claims of cleaning up corruption and waste in the Senate. I can only theorize that Obama knew that McCain would go after him based on experience and decided to draw his battle lines on that subject rather than go for the soft underbelly and fight him where he lives (God war analogies are fun). But I would say that was a mistake. Sure he mentioned "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." But that was on every bumper sticker in the lot. How about Phil Gramm's systematic deregulation of the mortgage industry and the fact that he's McCain's chief economic advisor? How do you not wear a pin next to your flag pin that says "P.G.D.M.I.A.I.M.C.E.A?"
The one moment in the debate that came close to a "You're no Jack Kennedy" moment was when McCain named or rather bracelet-dropped the name of the dead soldier he was wearing around his wrist. He talked about how he had promised the parent victory in Iraq. Immediately Obama whipped out his bracelet with a deceased soldier's name on it and talked about how he had promised that grieving parent "never again." It was a sad and telling moment that showed the two ways America views that war and the terrible losses parents have suffered. We must win. Or we must learn and never make that mistake again.
I did half expect McCain to then produce an ankle bracelet after Obama and talk about the soldier that gave it to him Iraq who said "Obama is not experienced enough." Then Obama unveils an earring given to him by a National Guardsman who said "McCain is another four years of Bush." Stick pin, pinkie ring, barrette... audience's heads back and forth like a tennis match.... etc. etc.
But overall it was an edge to Obama just because most of America now gets to meet him and see what we've all being seeing for years. But in the future Obama had better go after McCain hard on the economy. That was an opportunity lost. And it turned a home run into a double. Now let's see how I did on my predictions:
Obama will trounce McCain because Obama isn't completely bought and paid for and he's thoughtful and intelligent. He will then get a two point bump that will disappear in the subsequent debates as McCain surfs the tide of low expectations ala Kerry vs. W. Bush 2.
Okay, he didn't trounce him but he beat him. Fortunately McCain was fairly competent except for his Pakistan failed state comment. So he won't get the "he can't do any worse" bounce which is quietly the biggest victory of all.
Obama will use the word "firewall" more than he uses "regulation" or "deregulation" because those words sound restrictive and technical. "Firewall" seems both scary and protective at the same time. And how often does that happen within one word besides "military" and "government?" Look for this sentence: "Senator McCain and George Bush have dedicated the last thirty years to destroying the economic firewall set up by FDR after the last great depression."
I missed this one hard. Very little economy talk. Though I'm telling you, "firewall" is a good term. Someone grab it. Franken?
Obama does not go after how questionable the Palin pick was because they are terrified to offend Hillary supporters, or far more importantly, allow for pundits to suggest they have offended Hillary supporters.
Dead on here. Though not exactly the work of Nostradamus.
McCain will mention Sarah Palin in one really stiff anecdote about family and bucking the system. Something like "I got some flack for picking an outsider for my Vice President. But Sarah Palin said to me the other day 'It's okay John, sometimes the racoon catches some fish when he's hunting for geese blah blah.....'"
I was very close here. He refered to her as his "maverick" VP pick in a sweaty wink wink kind of way. He then referred to himself as a maverick. How lame is that? If you're calling yourself a maverick and you're not Dirk Nowitzki then you are probably not one. In fact, this rule applies to anyone declaring themselves a "God fearing Christian" or a "Man of the people."
5. Fox News will say John McCain won the debate even if he doesn't show up.
This wasn't a prediction. It was closer to a "pre-fact."