- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

Deferential

“A few minutes after the debate between John McCain and Barack Obama ended here on the campus of the University of Mississippi, I asked close McCain adviser Charlie Black whether Obama had performed as McCain’s debate team had anticipated,” Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“‘No, no,’ Black said emphatically. ‘I never expected [Senator] Obama to spend the entire debate on the defensive, and he did. He did.’

“Maybe there was a tad of exaggeration in Black’s verdict, but there was some truth in it, too. Obama was smooth, unflappable, and just a little off balance for much of the evening. Worse for him, he seemed inexplicably eager to concede that McCain was right on issue after issue. A candidate determined to appear congenial might do that once, or even twice, but Obama did it eight times …

“Add it all up, and Obama was undeniably, and surprisingly, deferential to a man who in the past Obama has said ‘doesn’t get it.’ Moments after the debate ended, I asked David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, whether Obama had simply been too nice (not a question one often gets to ask in these situations). ‘The bottom line is, I don’t think the American people want us to disagree just for the sake of being disagreeable,’ Axelrod told me. ‘I think he made a very strong case, absolutely.’

“Well, you wouldn’t expect Axelrod to admit that his guy messed up. But here’s a prediction: The next time McCain and Obama meet in debate, on October 7 in Nashville, start a drinking game in which you take a big swig every time Obama says, ‘John is absolutely right.’ I’ll bet you get to the end of the debate without ever lifting a glass.”

Older voters

Barack Obama should be thankful that the Wall Street crisis is dominating the news these days, because otherwise more people might notice that he has been uttering manifest falsehoods about John McCain’s Social Security plan — in a bid to woo the potentially pivotal senior voters who remain cool to Obama’s historic candidacy,” the Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman writes.

“While on the stump in Florida last weekend, Obama contended that McCain’s talk of Social Security privatization could leave seniors destitute: ‘If my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would’ve had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week. Millions would have watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes.’

“Obama lied. No such nest eggs would have disappeared, because the McCain plan exempts every American born before 1950. I could also detail the Obama TV ad on Social Security that has been aired in Florida, Pennsylvania and five other states — it falsely claims that McCain favors ‘cutting benefits in half’ — but here’s the point:

“The Obama camp has apparently decided that the candidate needs to scare senior Americans into voting for him, because he doesn’t appear to be connecting with enough of them any other way. Voters 65 and older are less charmed by Obama than any other age bracket; their resistance — particularly in battleground states such as Florida (the grayest state), Pennsylvania (second grayest), and Ohio (eighth) — is a potentially serious drag on his November prospects.”

Fact-checking

“In its print review (not available online, so far as I can tell) of [Friday] night’s debate, The Washington Post ‘Fact Checker’ column continues its role as a propaganda arm of the Obama campaign,” Ed Whelan writes at National Review Online (www.natonalreview.com).

“1. Reporter Michael Dobbs, who previously accused the McCain campaign of ‘clearly exaggerating wildly’ when it accurately quoted the Post, says that McCain ‘raised an old Republican canard when he asserted that Obama’s [health care] plan would eventually turn the system over to the federal government.’

Dobbs finds it conclusive that Obama ‘is not advocating a state-run health care system.’ But respected expert opinion … argues that the inevitable effect of Obama’s plan would be a ‘full government takeover.’ Dobbs need not embrace that conclusion, but it is absurd for him to dismiss it breezily as a ‘canard.’

“2. An item by reporter Glenn Kessler says that McCain ‘seriously misstated his vote concerning the Marines in Lebanon.’ You see, McCain says that he voted against sending the Marines to Lebanon, and Kessler says that they were already there and that McCain voted only against authorizing their continued deployment. I’m not sure why anyone would consider this distinction significant. McCain’s point was that he was correct in believing, in advance of the terrible Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon that killed 241 American servicemen, that the Marines shouldn’t be there.

“3. Obama falsely claimed in the debate that [chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Adm. Mike Mullen had not called Obama’s withdrawal plan dangerous. Unlike the items on McCain, the ‘Fact Check’ account does not begin with, or even include, a simple declarative statement that Obama’s claim was false. Instead, it leaves it to the careful reader to piece together the facts.”

Feeling a ‘rout’

“McCain didn’t need to just win the debate [Friday] night, he needed to disqualify Barack Obama — demonstrate that Obama wasn’t ready and wasn’t a safe choice,” Democratic operative Joe Trippi writes at www.huffingtonpost.com.

“McCain did his best with a flurry of ‘you don’t understand.’ ‘that’s dangerous,’ ‘very dangerous’ and ‘naive.’ But Obama was still standing — and the guy that looked a little scary was McCain,” Mr. Trippi said.

“That is why this is beginning to feel like a rout to me. McCain would want us all to be going into the final month of the campaign having serious doubts about Barack Obama. Instead it is McCain’s actions that are causing doubts to rise about McCain’s own candidacy.

“Picking Sarah Palin was a bold move — I urged taking her pick seriously — but her recent performance is raising doubts about McCain’s judgment. The erratic behavior of his campaign over the past week — suspending his campaign — left most scratching their heads and asking what … was that about? Disastrous. Then in the debate [Friday] night there was John McCain ready to take anyone on — Russia, China, North Korea, Iran — all of them, and then turned and said Obama didn’t get it. In my view, McCain may have sounded more dangerous to voters as he tried so blatantly to make them think Obama wasn’t a safe bet in this very ‘scary’ world.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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