Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

04/17/2008 (1:49 pm)

The Last Debate

I didn’t watch it, so all I can talk about is the aftershocks.

The aftershocks are astounding. The leftward blogs have fallen into spluttering rage against ABC, for whom hosts Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopolous asked questions the Leftie blogs considered “attack points” rather than “substance.” Obama looked horrible, they said, because ABC and Clinton spent the first 50 minutes assaulting him concerning minor issues, like his connections to Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers and his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. HuffPo and ThinkProgress even went so far as to accuse Stephanopolous of allowing Fox News’ Sean Hannity to formulate questions for him (I’m not sure why that would be scandalous if true. After all, Democrats formulated all the questions fielded by Republican candidates.)

Ron Chusid at Liberal Values produced this observation:

Once again this debate demonstrated that the choice is a continuation of the same old Bush/Rove/Clinton style dirty politics or a change to politics of substance.

I don’t get this at all — or perhaps I do. What they call “substance” questions are those questions that allow the candidates to recite the policy proposals the candidates have posted on their web sites. These are not questions that tell me anything about Obama or Clinton as people or as administrators; they’re the questions that permit the Used Car Salesmen to sell without scrutiny. In short, they wanted underhand pitches, up across the letters, so their favorite could hit a few out of the park. What they got, instead, were hard fast balls across the knees. The candidates whiffed, not because the pitches were unfair, but because they’re bad candidates.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air assessed the debate as a disaster for Obama. He declared McCain the winner, even though he never took the stage, and predicted that superdelegates would be speed-dialing the Clinton campaign with offers to come on board. “Not so fast,” says Dave Weigel of Reason Magazine, “Superdelegates are actually responding by pledging for Obama.” Apparently the hard left is so angry about ABC’s questions that they feel Obama’s “hope” message becomes that much more essential. Astounding.

Barack Obama is a man who has virtually accomplished nothing, but who sounds great when delivering a speech. I could do the same when I was 17 (and still can). That doesn’t demonstrate “substance.” That demonstrates rhetorical skill. It’s a useful skill, but you can’t run a country with only that.

When a man or woman is trying to hide what they really are and sell you on a veneer, you have to look at the small indicators of their genuine character in order to see through the veneer. If you only pay attention to their broad policy claims (what the Lefties are calling, incredibly and ignorantly, “substance”) you get fooled by the political equivalent of used car salesmen.

That is why, for example, talking about slip-ups displaying disdain for middle America is not “attack politics,” or “a diversion,” or “a lack of substance.” Those are the critical questions — the ones that show what the man or woman is actually made of, the ones that demonstrate what you can expect when the candidate is not trying to fool you.

Pennsylvania primary in 5 days. The clock is ticking.

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April 17, 2008 @ 3:22 pm #

I anticipate that the shrill whine will escalate into a crescendo when the general election is upon us. Any question to the democratic candidate that isn’t a soft pitch, or at worst a telegraphed fastball in the wheelhouse, will be characterized as Republican attack dog politics, sexism, racism, etc. It will be pointed out that Barack and Hilary have spent months answering all manner of questions and that it is time to move on from the ugly politics of race.

And worse still, I believe McCain will buy into this scenario; and that the American people will also be cowed by it, rejecting any type of rigorous questioning as mean spirited and nasty.

April 17, 2008 @ 5:06 pm #

Just heard on the news that Barack is criticizing the tone of last night’s debate for focusing on “political trivia” rather than substantive issues. We can expect to see more of this. The left will whine away like a dentist drill anytime someone forces Sen. Obama to stray from his talking points. Then a little later he will throw in a softer protest of his own, which in comparison to what has been heard already, will seem quite reasonable by comparison.

So predictable, yet it will probably work.

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