The Morning After

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Sep 27, 2008 11:50 AM
In the aftermath of a debate where neither candidate scored a "knockout punch" -- i.e., a gaffe or a one-liner that could be easily replayed on television and radio -- both sides are presenting a series of competing memes about the debate.

The left's set of talking points was laid out well by the once-reliable Chris Matthews on MSNBC.  The big one? McCain somehow was "disrespecting" Barack by not looking at him during the debate (wonder how long it will take before that becomes a racial thing in the eyes of the lefties?)  In truth, McCain isn't the creature of television that Barack is, and was probably simply trying to look into the camera and at the moderator, rather than studiedly ignoring Barack, but that's what they've got, and they'll run with it.

Not surprisingly, in my view, the right has more facts to work with, including the following:

1. In contrast to McCain, Barack didn't know the name of the soldier on the bracelet he was wearing (see this video posted by Hugh Hewitt below); does anyone think he's equally unfamiliar with matters of importance to him personally, like how much money he's raised or the polls in the swing states?

2. As Amanda notes below, he appears ready to delegate all responsibility for foreign affairs to Senator Gaffe-a-Day, i.e. Joe Biden (who himself doesn't grasp the distinction between "tactics" and "strategies").

3. One more example of naivete and bad judgment where -- as I pointed out last night -- he asserts that the Russians have a potential "interest" in ensuring Iran doesn't get nukes, even as current news reports reveal that Russia is sharing nuclear technology with both Iran and Venezuala.  Obviously, the Russians see their "interests" very differently.  And just as they would have loved to have had nukes in Cuba, does Barack not think they'd love to have them in the hands of Iranians (and in our hemisphere in Venezuala, too)?

In the end, anyone who thought that Barack would fall flat on his face had to be dreaming.  He had studied for this debate, he's a smart guy, a good student, and a smooth talker -- and so he was ready. 

The only instance where the shallowness of his knowledge and lack of experience might have been highlighted was if Lehrer had asked a judgment question out of left field -- and Barack had had to rely on his instincts, which are uniformly bad (remember, for example, his initial admonition that both Georgia and Russia should "show restraint"?).  That's where experience helps, because one has a long-time store of knowledge to draw on -- and it's something that can't be acquired during a cram session in Clearwater, Florida, like the one Barack has just completed.

Obviously, the press isn't going to do that to the candidate of their choice.  My bet, however, is that Gwen Ifill will gleefully do it to Sarah Palin.  Let's hope the debate prep people on the McCain side are schooling her about how to respond to an out-of-left-field question that demands instinct and judgment.