Obama McCain Round One: Blink and You’ve Got It

September 27, 2008

The long-awaited debate between the Presidential candidates takes place. In a well-rehearsed encounter, the moves practiced on the campaign trail are brought into the living room

Asleep on my watch, I missed the debate as it happened. A few hours later the first reports were available, as well as full video transcripts.

The BBC provided a neat ‘as it happened’ commentary which interlaced commentary from BBC North America editor Justin Webb with tweets from interacting viewer plus clips from blogs. The format works quite well for sports transmissions, and has been effectively transplanted. A nice innovation. It also included a 5-minute clip on the exchanges over foreign policy (the focus of the first of the debates)

The clip is more than enough to confirm some expectations. That the two candidates are operating according to stereotype. Mr Obama is prone to the extended answer; Mr McCain appears more drilled and perhaps less flexible. Neither (in the clip) appears to be far from a well- rehearsed performance.

Some of the tweeters indicate that they had heard it all before. This point was reinforced by Justin Webb.

This is a huge disappointment – set piece memorised stuff from both candidates

The combatants were sticking mainly to the polished moves thoroughly practiced in dozens of speeches during the campaign. By sticking to their comfort zones, they reveal ingrained stylistic aspects of their performances. Mr McCain may have successfully taken advice not to say ‘my friends’; Mr Obama to be less professorial. But the leakage was there for the body language enthusiasts. Did John blink too many times? (I haven’t counted). Was Barack tempted into verbosity? Perhaps.

Just rhetoric?

So is what we see anything more than a display of rhetoric? You could see it that way. Political performance art where the audience reactions could not have greater consequences since the battles in the Coliseum of ancient Rome when gladiators received the thumbs up or down from the Emperor.

Footnote:

Google presented me with a snippet that looked as if John McCain was a clear winner. Here is the entire line (obviously extracted from a longer statement).

1957 In the nearest thing to a presidential debate so far, at a Californian megachurch, McCain is widely perceived to have bested Obama with a straight …

My reaction was that [Google states that] McCain is widely perceived to have bested Obama.

The snippet came from the BBC report above. If you go back to the original you find that it refers to Mr McCain besting Mr Obama in the answer he gave to a specific question. Arguably, it was the only thing in the entire post that could have indicated that McCain was a clear winner. This was confirmed in other reports. Curious. Is there a republican bugging Google’s search engines to find headlines that support Senator McCain? It is early morning still. My conspiracy brain-cells are over active.

Setting aside obviously partisan views, initial reports suggest that neither candidate was ‘bested’ in this battle. It’s still all to fight for.


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