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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Parsing the first debate

Barack Obama once again displayed last night his talent for calm argument and effective rhetoric, but he failed to dramatize several of McCain's claims and implications for their questionable or silly implications. I'm not sure why. Was Obama also exhibiting his judiciousness? Was he being gentle? Did he fear his listeners finding him mean or arrogant? Did he just miss the opportunities? I don't know, but here are two of the many things McCain said that I would have liked Obama to highlight. Once McCain defended the Bush administration's support for Musharraf bymuttering "Pakistan was a failed state," when Musharraf came to power. What's wrong with this? Firstly, Musharraf staged a military coup to overthrow the Bhutto government, then had Bhutto executed. So McCain implies support for military rebellion against popularly constituted governments. Worse, McCain's statement says the U.S. gets to decide when another government has "failed," rather than leaving that decision to the people that live there. This is what the Bush administration did by invading Iraq. It's what the U.S. did in Vietnam. It never works. The second thing I want to single out is McCain's repeated insistence that negotiating with others implies you approve of their actions. This is profoundly silly. I wish Obama had said, "If that were true, you'd never talk to your teenager." I think that would have been enough...

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