Like everyone else, I make snap judgments, and after the first presidential debate last night, I judged John McCain to have cleaned Barack Obama’s clock.
In style, of course, not on substance. And I take note that the general view from pundits and pollsters at this moment is that I am wrong, of course; that Obama won by appearing to belong in the game and by keeping his cool.
The reason I believe McCain won was, first, that he showed up after throwing a midweek tantrum. Second, he carried the attack, spoke in sound bites and seemed assured of himself, whereas Obama who thinks before he speaks, seemed hesitant. McCain is pugnacious and dishonest to the bone, which serves one well in politics. As right-wing doyenne Peggy Noonan said the other day, McCain is always leaning forward on the balls of his feet making every day “talk like a pilot day.” Third, he had a clear – if wrong – answer for everything, personalizing his attacks against Obama as a well-meaning simpleton.
Oddly, I thought each candidate was stronger on the other one’s turf – McCain offering politically saleable laissez faire economic answers and Obama cogently attacking McCain and fending off attacks on foreign policy issues.
But all McCain is capable of doing is making up stories, talking about being a veteran, dropping names of foreign leaders (while getting one of them wrong), dropping names of places he has visited (as if Einstein was naïve because he never visited the space-time continuum) and, like fabulist Ronald Reagan, inventing myths about things the facts refute.
Just three of McCain’s lies or misstatements:
You VILL Bail Dem Aus!!
When asked how he would adjust his plans in view of the financial crisis, he said, “How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs?” Good political answer. But utterly misleading. He just excluded 82 percent of the entire budget. So the only things that would be cut would be science, education, bridge repairs, disaster relief and foreign aid, for example.
He called D-Day “the greatest invasion in history, still to this day, and forever.” That he would be so ignorant about something that occurred in his lifetime is not reassuring about his supposed military expertise. There were a total of 326,000 allied troops landing at Normandy. Three years earlier, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union with an army of 4.5 million.
Despite the vast historical and dramatic literature about D-Day, McCain was flat wrong when he said Eisenhower wrote two letters the night before D-Day, one of them congratulating the troops for their success, “And he wrote out another letter, and that was a letter of resignation from the United States Army for the failure of the landings at Normandy.” Eisenhower never offered to resign.
Thanks to Bill Maher for noting that the guy who is going to save us from financial ruin, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, ought not to look like Col. Klink.