Saturday, September 27, 2008

Worth A Second Look

By the end I was demoralized. I thought Obama had allowed himself to be patronized, of all things, regarding America's Middle Eastern wars, diplomacy (or at least, Dr. Kissinger's view of it), "Russia." It was McCain who spoke of building an "alliance of democracies," for God sake, not Obama, who had told 200,000 in Berlin that he was a citizen of the world

A friend sent me this lament by Nora Ephron, with which, at first, I sadly agreed: 

I was, by the way, the least pessimistic person in the room where we watched the debate, a room full of blue-state pinkos, and our hearts had collectively sunk as we watched Obama miss opportunity after opportunity to score a knockout punch -- as the men in the room tended to put it.

But then I heard surprising snap polls showing Obama had (narrowly) "won." Without quite meaning to, I actually watched the debate all over again, from the beginning, saw how much better Obama came off than what I had feared--and realized my problem.

THE FIRST TIME around, I was actually debating McCain myself. Every time he spoke, I answered him in my mind's eye, and with a righteous anger much like McCain's own. I did not try to see Obama the way an undecided suburban mother in Colorado, without time for MSNBC, might: the people who, along with young people, will actually decide this thing. 

I was seeing McCain the way the people in Nora Ephron's room did, passionate intellectuals, finding openings, driving imaginary punches, as if this brilliance is what every one's waiting for. If Obama missed the "opening" I saw, I felt disappointed in him, sorry for him, and us. I did not credit (indeed, I can still hardly understand) his cool, his patient engagement, his stand-up decency.

This may not have been Obama's best night. But then, I wanted McCain to look ridiculous. He did not--and is not. Neither is Obama Jon Stewart--and cannot be if he wants to govern this country.

3 comments:

iolanthe-rosa said...

The race isn't about whether Obama is the better candidate than McCain. The Republicans have made such a hash of things, the Democratic party candidate could be running against a hat rack and still have a clear advantage.

This race is about making racist people comfortable with voting for a black. The only undecideds at this point are people too racist to vote for Obama, but too smart to vote for McCain.

The name of the game is to get them comfortable with voting for Obama. To do this, Obama needs to be completely, consistently, unerringly calm and steady, absolutely non-threatening in every way. That's what he was doing in the debate. Frustrating as heck for the rest of us committed Democrats, but the necessary strategy for him.

In the meantime, we all sit and wait for McCain to implode. Thanks to Palin, over-the-top campaign lies, the domestic economy, and the suspending-the-campaign stunt, I think we're getting there. But it's a patience game, and it's so hard to be patient when our country is in such a sorry condition.

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