Security and Insecurity at the Presidential Debate

Since everybody else and their pets are weighing in on last night’s debate, thought I’d add my own musings about it.

I’d always thought that McCain’s greatest advantage was the sense of security he might offer to voters.  After all, we know him, right?  In uncertain times, wouldn’t more people want to turn to someone proven and well-known and experienced like McCain — instead of a very unfamiliar, untested new candidate, however exciting and eloquent he is?

But, like Bill Clinton’s effect on Hillary’s campaign (he was supposed to be her ace in the hole, remember?), this accepted wisdom hasn’t proven true for McCain. 

It seems to me that during the two presidential debates, Obama has done something very striking, but subtle.  He’s remained calm and confident and measured and reassuring.  People are getting used to him, in spite of his lack of familiarity to them, his strange name, his exotic appearance, his very different background.

McCain, in stark contrast, looks like the wilder of the two cards.  He’s erratic and irritable and has made a series of strikingly rash and bad judgments (e.g., Sarah Palin is supposed to be fit to govern if he dies?  Why call off his campaign because of the economic crisis, then start the parade up all over again?).

Oddly, in a time that calls out for reassurance, McCain isn’t the steady father figure I’d expected him to be.  He’s the father who’s waiting at at the door with a half-empty bottle of whiskey and a shotgun and a mean, crazy glint in his eye, waiting for you to come home from a date that’s run too late.  Who wants to come home with a father like that waiting?  Who wants his finger on the nuclear button?

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

5 comments… add one
  • Ruth, unfortunately your characterization of McCain is right on the money. I say unfortunately, because I am not yet convinced that American voters will vote for a young black man over an old white guy, no matter how erratic (or, in my humble opinion, barking mad!) he is. I’m a Canadian, by the way, and we’d elect Obama in a heartbeat.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Tessa — Other people have told me the same thing, but I keep hoping they’re wrong.  Surely this country is better than that.  But I said that in 2000 and 2004, too. — Ruth

  • Cindy Link

    If America elects a black man to its highest office, I’ll be so proud that it will almost make up for the last several years of abject disappointment.  Some whites say they can’t vote for a black man, some blacks say he’s not black enough.  I say he’s the perfect example of our American melting pot and no one could be more capable of bringing us together than a man who has spent his entire life straddling the fence between race and class.  It’s time for Americans to focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us.

    Cindy A
    Obama Mama

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I’m hopeful, too — but cautious.  One of my favorite relatives just emailed me one of those right-wing smears about Obama, straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook, about his having Middle Eastern ties and funding and his being a Muslim.  It preys on people’s lingering fears they don’t “know” Obama.  Also, witness the hate that’s being whipped up at some of the McCain-Palin rallies.  It’s scary.

  • This whole darn thing is
    so scary — mob rule is not
    a pretty prospect.

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