THE FAITH FORUM
I normally don’t post twice in the same weekend, but this time I must. I don’t know how many of you watched last night’s forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren, but if you didn’t, please read this carefully and consider taking these points to heart:
First, as I said yesterday, this election is FAR from over. Those Democrats who assess Barack’s political talent well above McCain’s fail to recognize that Barack is still learning his trade. In light of his inexperience as a politician, this can yet become a dog-fight
Second, when Barack and McCain are giving speeches, the disparity in skill level is indeed mind-blowing. Barack is a brilliant orator. McCain is marginally competent at best. I mention this disparity in part because oratorical skills are extremely important for Presidents who hope to be inspirational leaders. So, too, is the ability to put together and oversee an excellent organization. For those reasons, among others, I suspect that Barack would make an infinitely better President than McCain. But … the issue of the moment isn’t who would make a better President; it’s who is more electable. There, as I indicated above, the call may become a close one.
3. In town-hall meetings – and last night’s meeting was almost like a town-hall meeting because there were no follow-up questions and essentially no rules as to how, and for how long, to respond to the questions – McCain has some definite advantages: (a) McCain tells stories and, in doing so, draws from 70 plus years of experience and a wellspring of accomplishments. Barack, by contrast, speaks a bit like an academic. By that I mean that he answers questions thoughtfully, relatively directly, and attempts to “instruct” us on his positions. Many people will prefer this latter approach, but I suspect it is less effective for the “swing-voters.” (b) Barack enters into an I-Thou relationship with the questioners … he faces the questioners, responds to them directly, and acts like he owes them personally an answer that is authentic and relatively complete. McCain, by contrast, processes the question, tersely and viscerally responds to it, and then quickly goes into stump-speech mode, which, as I indicated, often amounts to story-telling. Again, advantage McCain. What matters isn’t whether the questioner likes the answer but whether the swing-voters at home like the answer. (c) McCain is invoking a familiar archetype of the white, male, experienced, conservative, patriotic, God-fearing American statesman. Barack is trying to be a 21st century, third-way kind of politician. Unless Barack can get Americans affirmatively to distrust McCain as a person, or at least to distrust whether McCain is right for his times, McCain’s the one who is farming in a proven-fertile field.
The upshot of this isn’t much different than what I said yesterday, but my point was graphically illustrated by last night’s forum. Barack can’t simply run-out-the-clock on McCain like he did on Hillary during the final couple of months of the campaign. He must take some chances and show America why it REALLY doesn’t want McCain, not merely why it wants Barack.
It shouldn’t be that hard to expose McCain as wrong for his times. Listening to McCain talk about foreign policy last night was a perfect example of his vulnerability. McCain analyzes overseas issues like a ten year old. In his comic-strip world, there are heroes (like the leader of Georgia, who McCain extolled, even though his screw up is partially responsible for the violence with Russia) and villains (Putin, Saddam, etc.). Coming across less as a Christian than as a Manichaean, McCain suggests that our job – as the superheroes of the world – are to defeat evil every time it manifests itself. So we can spend a trillion plus dollars and many thousand lives on Iraq based on a justification that turned out to be a mistake, and then brag about it for years on end. And we feel obliged to wax eloquent about “following Osama to the gates of hell” even when, in truth, we strangely let him elude our grasp and don’t seem able to look for him.
To be sure, you don’t hear much from the media about McCain’s weaknesses on foreign policy. But believe me, they’re out there, just waiting to be exposed for everyone to see.
In short, John McCain, far from acting like the senile idiot so many Democrats make him out to be seemed last night like someone who could very easily be elected President. To defeat him, his downside must be made manifest to the swing voters who don’t read the Huffington Post or watch the Daily Show. Fortunately for Obama, McCain has serious problems – this man, who never bothered to take his studies seriously in college and frequently as an adult has been unable to control his temper, now, in his old age, appears to be influenced more by Superman and Batman (or is it Whack a Mole?) than by the great works of political theory. That’s the last person in the world you’d like to have ruling our military.
Are you going to expose him, Barack? Or are you going to play three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust and pray for luck at the polls? That’s pretty much your choice.