How low can we go?

For the most part, the First Draft Crack Van is kind of like Casablanca, or maybe Las Vegas. What happens in the Crack Van stays in the Crack Van. Which probably explains the way the carpet smells…but I digress. 

I’m going to out my van self here because I want talk a bit more about that first debate.

Yeah, the debate itself is old news but what I’ve been thinking about is going to come up over and over in this last home sprint to November 4. 

As other FD crackheads can attest, I was certainly one of the most vocal protesters every time Obama said that McCain was right. “Stop saying he’s right!” we shouted. In addition, inside the van and out, lots of folks pretty much wanted Obama to take the gloves off and lay into the old geezer. But would that have worked? The word on the street is that Obama won the debate anyway, and he stayed on the high road throughout, even when he was laying it all down about just how wrong, wrong, wrong Grandpa has been.

This issue gets talked about a lot by the punditry but what do you guys think? I feel like we are all a tad schizophrenic. We’re all about “changing our politics” and bringing the level of discourse up, but the lower into the Rove Gutter Ol’ Fishbelly gets, the more we want Obama to respond in kind. Because we want so much to win. But do we want it at any cost? Are we, and more importantly, is he, naive to cleave to that high road all the way? Or should he slug it out and win, then get back to changing that discourse from the safe perspective of the Oval Office? Would the win mean any less? 

I really would like to hear yall’s take on this because I’m not sure. I mean, I know what I want, which is for him to win by Doing The Right Thing, but I’m not sure I’m right. That, and during these last few weeks, it’s hard to keep the Cynicism Troll under the bridge. Then again, I read something likethis by City Mamaand I hear the call of that High Road again:

Having grown up in Hawaii, I know the community that
surrounded him. It wasn’t just his family or his school, but the entire
island surrounding him with the spirit of ohana or family. In Hawaii,
ohana means the entire community, the whole island, is your family in
that “it takes a village” sense. It means that you may disagree with
someone, even vehemently, but since you live on a rock in the middle of
the Pacific Ocean and you can’t run away from them, you need to figure
out a way to live and work together. I saw Obama’s
“Hawaii-ness”—his spirit of ohana—in Friday’s debate.

I saw it when Obama said, “John McCain is
right,” finding therare
points where he could agree with McCain before roasting him in a blaze
of searing criticism. Obama’s agreement didn’t show weakness. On the
contrary. People everywhere,—but especially people from
Hawaii—understand that it showed leadership, a willingness to reach
across the aisle in the spirit of working together, it showed Obama’s
true nature as someone who can seek common ground where he is able, it
showedohana.

In Hawaii, perhaps because of the spirit of ohana or the Missionary
influence or deep-rooted Asian traditions, a high social value is
placed on respecting elders and
being polite. It’s the island way. Grace, gentlemanliness, and courtesy
are social norms. Anyone acting otherwise is an instant pariah. If you
are discourteous, everyone knows who you are. To further illustrate my
point, I would venture to say that
everyone from Hawaii watching the debate was thinking, “Yes, he had to
take McCain down 17 notches, but at least he showed manners and acted
like a gentleman. He wasn’t rude. His family raised him right.”

I know there’s the whole Obama has to be careful not to play into the Angry Black Man issue, and we all know that has credence. We would indeed be naive to think racist assumptions don’t play into this. Not unlike Ginger having to do everything Fred did, but backwards and in heels, Obama has to run a winning presidential campaign, against an experienced, aggressive opponent, in troubled times, all while walking that tightrope.  

But I want to believe that there’s more than that. I want to believe that Obama’s awesome civility-fu will let him bloodlessly defeat the old guy, that he can use it to deflect that old soldier’s own blood lust and use it against him.  That is, as long as he can win by doing so. 

Because McCain’s aggression cannot stand. In her post above, City Mama links to another post that I also like very much:this one, by critic Roger Ebert. It’s also about civility, good manners, basic decency. But Ebert shows a bit more teeth.

I do not like you, John McCain. My feeling has nothing to do with
issues. It has to do with common courtesy. During the debate, you
refused to look Barack Obama in the eye. Indeed, you refused to look at
him at all. Even when the two of you shook hands at the start, you used
your eyes only to locate his hand, and then gazed past him as you shook
it.

Obama is my guy. If you are rude to him, you are rude to me.
If you came to dinner at my house and refused to look at or speak with
one of my guests, that would be bad manners and I would be offended.
Same thing if I went to your house. During the debate, you were
America’s guest.

You made a TV commercial showing the moments Obama agreed with you. Everybody knows he did. Did his agreement show honesty, or weakness? It is significant that you said it proved he was not ready to lead. What is the better leadership quality: (1) Willingness to listen to your opponent, and keep an open mind? (2) Rigidly ignoring him? Which of the two of you better demonstrated the bipartisan spirit you say you represent? Was there anything he said that you agreed with? Could you have brought yourself to say so?

What do you guys think we are going to see during this next month? What do you want to see? In addition to an Obama win, of course.

19 thoughts on “How low can we go?

  1. Great post Virgo Tex. It’s hard to pin down but ‘awesome civility-fu’ pretty much describes Obama’s approach and we’re seeing more and more evidence that it’s political effective in a way that isn’t easily acknowledged by traditional partisan operatives.

  2. I want to see a bunch of investment bankers flogged in the public square, for starters.
    That, and see Sarah Palin implode on Thursday. Just keep her in front of a camera. That’s good enough.

  3. Note: I’m not slamming partisan operatives, I’m only suggesting that Obama has a style that doesn’t match traditional norms.

  4. You know who I want for President? Someone who tells the truth, who is a lot smarter than I am, and who takes that oath to protect and defend the constitution and uphold the laws of the United States seriously.
    To me, that fits Obama right down to the ground. After all, I voted for him for U.S. Senate because of that criteria. During the last eight years, we’ve had enough lies, partisan hypocrisy, contempt for the law, and utter stupidity to last us for the next century.
    If Obama can figure out a way to work with the entire political spectrum in an honest, straightforward way, I say more power to him. Our system of government is supposed to be based on compromise. To me it works best when that’s possible and it’s only possible when you have someone in charge who is willing to do what’s right for the whole nation.

  5. I’m pragmatic. Since the last debate Obama has regained the lead in the polls, and the lead is constantly growing. I have to assume then that how Obama reacted to McCain was not a problem to Joe Average Voter. In other words it is a winning hand. So, I think I want him to continue in this same manner.
    An advantage to doing so is that McCain is almost certain to fail to contain his rage about a black man challenging him for the office he believes is his destiny. If that rage erupts at all, Obama wins in a landslide. In my book the odds are better than even that it will erupt.

  6. It’s hard for people like us who have been paying attention to decide how “normal” people will decide.
    I said the other day at Echindne’s that I get angry at the people who are “undecided” because they send a message to me that they don’t care about important stuff, but if I’m honest with myself there have been times when *I* didn’t care about this stuff.
    I hate that this critical election will be decided by people who can’t be bothered to figure out the differences between the two.
    I wish this was a landside coming so we could start pushing Obama to the left.
    Right now I’m feeling especially powerless given how the people running the world are telling the lawmakers how much money they want. That makes me angry and I want someone who stands for me to look one of these people in the eye and DRESS THEM DOWN. And that I think is what I think some of us want Obama to do for us.
    This is the “speaking truth to power” theatre bit that people want. I also like to make power pay a price. That is satisfying. And I especially like when we change the rules so that power won’t do it again.
    You know that is something that we just haven’t seen. Some Wall Street Person coming in and saying, “I f*cked up. I grambled and failed. I won’t do it again, you can have the money back and I’ll quit the industry, but please for the good of the country pass this bill.”
    The Bush Republicans are loath to EVER admit guilt, but the people crave it. And saying, “I take full responsibiliy” for the problem is different than apologizing and facing consequences for that responsibility. I guess responsibility is for suckers in their world. The will never admit that they are wrong, it will be seen as a weakness in their macho world of money and power.

  7. Obama looked reasonable and presidential to several million people who hadn’t really paid much attention to him up till now. They are “low information”, pragmatic voters who are worried about kitchen table issues. They’ve heard the rumors, and want a “change”, but also want to make sure that they can trust Obama and have confidence in him. They don’t really care about debating points, it’s a matter of trust. That’s the test Obama passed the other night.

  8. What new politics are you trying to describe? Frankly, the ObamaFanBoyz Club has indulged in the nastiest name-calling and foul bare-faced misogyny of any campaign that I’ve ever seen. To this date, their attacks are unprecedented in the Democratic Party but are perfectly represented by the Freeper branch of the Republican Party.
    I have yet to hear Obama or anyone in his campaign apologize, condemn, or rebuke the disgusting tone of his supporters.
    There is no way I could support the campaign of hate, misogyny and lies that Obama has run.

    …Someone who tells the truth,…and uphold the laws of the United States…Posted by: RAM

    You certainly inhabit a fantasy world. Obama has repeatedly lied to your face. He has lied about campaign finance. He has lied about reforming NAFTA. He has lied about FISA. He has lied about health care. He has voted to give immunity for the illegal acts of telecoms and the Bush Regime. He has lied about his Cuba policy, his Iran policy, his Israeli policy. He has lied claiming he received no support from oil execs. Either you are too ignorant to know when you’re being lied to in which case heis a lot smarter than you, or you’re a liar yourself.

  9. So Mike,
    I guess that means you’re for McCain/Palin?
    If so, you have no idea how much I want to say GFOAD!
    Instead, I’d encourage you to try and tell the Obama fan, with facts on your side, exactly how he has lied to my face. This alleged “ignorant” voter so wants to know.
    That is if you’re man enough.
    SP

  10. Mike, I’d really like to know some specifics about these, as you put it, unprecedented attacks.
    I don’t know of any such attacks from the Obama campaign, and I know there haven’t been any on this site.
    Also, I don’t think I inhabit any fantasy world. Obama is an individual tasked with leading a gigantic coalition, many of whose members have deep disagreements about different policies and priorities. He’s gonna let me down pretty bad, I know. But it’s either Obama or McCain. That’s the choice we have. Not Everyone’s Ideal Candidate vs. McCain. Obama vs. McCain. Rail against the first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system all you want, but that’s the one we got. And the stakes are awfully high.
    Imperfect? Sure. But to expect anything else? Why, that would be a fantasy.

  11. obama did that debate like the man. he dominated the pit bull no matter how mcPecker pulled on the chain-but obama doesn’t understand!!!!
    sure he agreed with mcPecker, as mcPecker was trying to ‘sound resonable’, but obama showed WHY mcPecker was wrong.

  12. Easy question.
    I want to take the high-road as long as we’re going to win. If not, then I don’t care if we have to knock over a coupla liquor stores.
    Completely cynical, I guess. Probably intellectually dishonest. But I don’t seem to give a fig — stakes too high.

  13. Great thread, VT.
    I was watching the debate and screaming at my teevee, too. At least Obama could have said something like “We agree on this,” or better, “John agrees with me.” That said, I was very pleased to see that focus groups gave the debate to Obama. Maybe, just maybe, the country is sick of having no-nothing idealogues leading the country.
    What do I want? For Obama to stick to his game plan, which has worked so well. He was not my first, second, or even third choice this year, but he has grown greatly on me. I know he isn’t close to the kind of liberal I want, he may well be progressive enough once in office.
    I want the conservative movement to be so thoroughly discredited that it can’t plausibly raise its head again for decades. The “Reagan Revolution” was bullshit, and it needs to be buried for good.
    I especially at least one more Democratic seat in the Senate, so Holy Fucking Joe Lieberman can be booted from the caucus forever. Let him spend the waning days of in the Senate in a disspirited minority party.
    I have worried forever that there was no way a Dem would be allowed to become president this year. At this point, with the most inept campaign I can ever remember seeing, it seems to be extremely likely I will be proved wrong, and I sure hope so.
    PS: It would be interesting to hear from “Mike” whether he is a concern troll or not. Who did you support in the primaries? Who are you supporting now? Because while Obama has not been perfect, and particularly on FISA he’s been good. Wondering what you might have to say about the raft of lies McCain has been floating. Is he, in your view, more honorable than Obama. If so, how?

  14. Shit, many typos. I was rushing, as I had lost my browser after writing the comment, and had to retype. Anyway I was trying to say about Holy Joe that I hope he spends the end of his Senate career as a dispirited sanctimonious Repuke. And with regard to the inept campaign, I was of course referring to Johnny Mac, and how inept it has been vs. Obama. Sorry.

  15. Just a crack van technical question:
    The one and only time I logged in, it showed me as present and let me see and hear all the really nifty stuff that goes on (don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone about the…YOU know). But it wouldn’t let me join the fun. I couldn’t comment at all. What’d I do wrong?

  16. BO’s got a thin road that he’s been able to stay on for months. In front of a national audience of 52 Million (not that big, BTW) he played it very cool. There were likely a number of people watching the debate who don’t share our obsession with political theater. They are the undecided voters who, due to their own circumstances, don’t decide on a candidate until much later on in the silly season.
    If they were being introduced to O during the debate, they’d find someone who sounded smart, thought about his answers before speaking, and wasn’t going to deny a realistic point made by the other side.
    Yes, he agreed with his opponent more than once. However, he used that opportunity to pivot and create distinction or show a greater depth of understanding on a topic at hand. In short, he looked more presidential.
    His opponent, OTOH, was petty. He clearly didn’t face BO or look him in the eye. His posture (hunched over) was overtly aggressive. Even though most of the pundits were immediately calling it a draw on points, OB won then night because he looked more polished, more in control of his faculties, and damn more presidential.
    That’s what those undecided viewers saw.

  17. hmm, left rev. that’s strange. Could you see the comment box at all? Were you able to type in the comment box? Did the problem happen when you tried to send the comment?
    A lot of people fall out of the van, but I have never heard of problem commenting. log in tonight and let’s see if we can help you.

  18. I think Obama’s agreeing with McCain during the debate was part of his game plan to appeal to moderates and undecideds. It’s a Republican ploy to claim your opponent is wrong on virtually every issue, but any sensible person knows that’s rarely the case.
    Although Palin may be the exception…

  19. According to Mike, he be trollin’ and we be hatin’…
    Mike, Jude asked for specifics not ‘well it’s out there’. Fess up some valid links buddy or sit down and STFU.
    Elspeth

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