Leonce Gaiter

Leonce Gaiter
California, USA
March 24
Leonce Gaiter’s work on social and cultural issues has appeared in numerous publications, from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times magazine. His historical novel, "I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang" [buckrampage.com] has an official publication date of September 1, 2011. His noir thriller "Bourbon Street" was published by Carroll & Graf. Additional fiction and non-fiction writings are available on his site: www.leoncegaiter.com.

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 27, 2008 9:50AM

Debate Before, After and The Morning After

Rate: 10 Flag

Before: Oh God.  An hour and a half of this.  I’d rather claw my own eyes out with spork.  I know who I’m voting for. If John McCain saved six black babies from drowning tomorrow, I wouldn’t vote for him.  I’m already pissed.  PBS’s Ray Suarez just said that McCain had “suspended” his campaign.  The only campaign he suspended was the campaign of the mind.  His ads were up in various states, his dogs were attacking on TV, and he spent the day doing exactly what Obama spent the day doing.  Bad start.

Ooh.  Jim Lehrer says he wants direct exchanges and threatens moderator follow-ups.  Oooh  Oooh.  And we have only him to blame for the questions.  The audience stood when they walked in the room.  Obviously they’re relieved that one of them is capable of walking. 

After:  The initial verdict is in.  Obama held his own on what was supposed to be McCain’s home turf—national security.  Overall, I was surprised by the substance of the thing.  The questions, were actually substantive and forced each man to show himself, even as each avoided direct answers to direct questions. Obama progressively moderate, focused on long-term 21st century issues—a somewhat dry and professorial figure whose personal exoticism sufficiently belies the chilly self-possession to make him seem human. He was poised, knowledgeable, fluent and aggressive without being belligerent.

McCain was the sum of his biography, the supply-sider and self-anointed reformer singing the 80s song of “cut waste and everything will fall into place.”   He was the cold warrior who speaks in tropes plucked from WWII propaganda films—the guy who would fund little more than wars, entitlements and veterans.  He was also somewhat contemptuous; even when prompted he refused to look at Obama.  The gesture suggested either fear, or a truly psychotic sort of loathing. 

In the first half of the debate that focused on economic issues, Obama was particularly clear and sharp discussing “eight years of failed economic policies,” and dumping on laissez-faire, trickle down economics without using the word “Republican”  (Note that McCain did not use the word “Democrat,” either. Both want swing and cross party voters). 

McCain improved after the first half hour or so, when the topic shifted to national security and international relations.  While he seemed less thoughtful than Obama, less clear and less rational, he seemed more conventionally “tough,” which would appeal to his base and to the toy soldier crowd.

But frankly, I don’t think the old dude did himself any good by regularly mentioning that he’s been around for 30 years and speaking in terms of ‘coming home victorious,’ vs. ‘losing.’  Even to the casual observer, I think it was all very WWII.  Very Vietnam.  Quite 30-plus years ago.  Most Americans seem to understand, if only on a visceral level, that we’re way beyond “winning” vs. “losing” in Iraq—that 21st century conflicts are no longer the zero sum games that old war movies laud.  Obama hinted as much, particularly in the first half of the debate that tied economic circumstances to national security.  However, I think he could have done himself some favors by overtly hitting the point.  McCain hammered on the “naïve,” and “Senator Obama just doesn’t understand.”   Obama could have hammered on the “old solutions for new national security problems” meme.

The morning after.  Obama shines a little brighter today than he did last night, perhaps for the very reasons stated above.  Americans are beginning to understand the complexities of the problems we face, and to realize that the past is not necessarily a guide to the future.  The rules have changed.  Obama suggested as much.  McCain has no clue.  It will be interesting to see how the polls read it. 

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As I said in another comment:

The refusal of John McCain to even glance Obama's way, his dismissive, condescending and paternalistic tone towards Obama, his sneering and mockery of some of Obama's ideas, including meeting with unpopular foreign leaders with no "preconditions" wore on me.

After a while, I got the sense of being taken back to the archaic roots of the South, where white masters were in command of their slaves. Many slaves were not allowed to look their "masters" in the eyes, and I got an eerie sense that John McCain was in a time warp.
I am not touching that...


McCain got rather excited aobut describing how you do not sit down across the table with people who are not your equals.
Went on and on about it. Came back around to it.

And would not look Obama in the eye.

That is going to come back and bite him.
When you look Obama in the eye, he doesn't blink. Unlike others.
RE: If John McCain saved six black babies from drowning tomorrow, I wouldn’t vote for him.

And if he let them drown, you would vote for him?

That’s a peculiar way to decide who gets your vote.
Using the old Hollywood signs and symbols for action heroes who usually save dogs or babies to show that they're the good guys. I was, in fact, being facetious.
I said over in my liveblogging of the debate that in my estimation, the first guy who directly engaged the other would come out on top with respect to the meta issues of the debate. Obama engaged directly first.

CNN had their undecided voters wired and did polls afterwards. McCain's smirking and condescension did not play well with the undecideds, independents and swing voters. It is a fine line between being direct and being a bully. McCain repeatedly crossed that line. David Gergen summed it up pretty well by saying that McCain needed this debate to be a game changer in order to move the polls his way. It wasn't. If anything it showed Obama in a better light. CNN also has numbers saying more dems watched the debate than republicans, which makes the post-mortem debate coverage more important. Pat Buchannan on CNN said that Obama came off looking Presidential, even though in his estimation McCain won. When Pat Buchannan is saying a democrat looks Presidential, you've got a problem.
RE: I was, in fact, being facetious.

I see.

Wouldn’t that work better if you put it like this: “I wouldn’t vote for John McCain even if he saved six black babies from drowning tomorrow.”

But then readers would be left wondering why you mentioned ‘black babies’ rather than just generic babies. In this case, does color matter?
I am black. It matters to me. It's part of me. Your question is like asking me why I might reference a penis vs. a vagina. The answer: I have the former. I am not generic. I am black, which carries a great deal of historical and cultural significance to me. Frankly, I find it fascinating that many white folks find black folks' reference to our race to be somehow inappropriate. As a minority group, we stand out due to it.
RE: I find it fascinating that many white folks find black folks' reference to our race to be somehow inappropriate.

I didn’t find it inappropriate. I found it puzzling. I’m looking at black type on a white background. I don’t know whether the writer is Asian or African or how that relates to the discussion. So, the reference to black babies rather than generic babies didn’t make much sense.

I found the opening confusing. As I’m reading it, I’m wondering, “If you’d rather claw your eyes out, why watch the debates?” Nothing else you wrote answered that.
I like your insights about how the popular perception of war has changed. I think my generation (The Millenials or whatever they're calling us these days) understands that the world is changing and that old tactics for new national security problems isn't going to cut it. A lot of us were children in the Clinton era of economic prosperity and vaguely remember a time when the US held its fist raised and seemed to have more power for it.

The Bush administration has increased the power of government beyond the bounds of the Constitution and I want a president who is restrained (dream:considers reducing powers of the utmost importance) when exercising those powers.
John McCain would make a better president than Barack Obama.
"the guy who would fund little more than wars, entitlements and veterans"

Actually he doesn't even fund the Vets as he consistently votes AGAINST VA budgets that support improved healthcare and patient treatment for Vets. He also did not support the new GI Bill and had the audacity to no show the vote. Only THREE people no showed: Ted was in the hospital recovering, some guy was at a funeral, and John was in CA on Ellen and at a fundraiser...WTH? He got legacied into the Naval Academy because his Father and Grandfather were Admirals so the least he could do is support other military members pursuit of an education.

He also opposes any and all efforts to further work in recovering those who are still gone but not forgotten (POW/MIA).

I believe he would continue to screw over the military should he get into office.

All in all I thought Mr. Obama did far better on substance and style during the debate. Perhaps my age is showing but I found Mr. McCain to be a crotchety, rude, and extremely condescending.

beautiful kisses
Leonce - I hope you are right - that those Americans who hae been lost in the fog created by more than eight years of neoconservative propaganda, will now begin to understand the complex nature of the challenges we all face. I agree with your analysis and additionally, loved the manner in which you expressed it. I find it odd that one of the commentators above was sarcastically questioned your manner of expression.

I think the person who identifies himself as "Flint" is a troll who understands how over his head he/she is in this forum, thus explaining the absence of a rationale for the opinion stated.
"John McCain would make a better president than Barack Obama."

Do you truly believe that comment? I am nowhere near being a Bush supporter but I do not think that McCain would make a better president than Bush! McCain is beyond his usefulness. Hopefully he has served the citizens of Arizona to his fullest potential and it is time for him to 'go to the house'.
As you say, McCain has no clue. And if the American people elect him, they don't either.
I wasn't sarcastically commenting on Leonce's phrasing. Mr. McCain actually used that statement during the debate. I abhor whenever he mentions supporting Vets because he absolutely and empathetically does NOT. Whenever he is categorized as a candidate who supports the armed forces I cringe. When HE says it I get angry.