Debate: Reaction

I thought Obama won this one — he was more fluid and fluent and confident, and McCain sounded tired to me. That said, I didn’t think it was a blowout. But it didn’t need to be. McCain is the one who needs to shake up the race; Obama just needs to solidify is support. And I thought he did a good job at that.

It wasn’t nearly as nasty as I had thought it might be. In the first debate, I thought Obama was needling McCain — nothing remotely over the line, just tiny things that might have brought out McCain’s famous temper. I therefore expected him to do it again this time. Moreover, had Brokaw (or anyone else) asked about any of the character stuff that McCain has been saying recently, I imagined that Obama would have responded directly and forcefully, and that some of the things he might have said — e.g., that things McCain had said were just not true — might also have gotten McCain angry.

But that didn’t happen. McCain didn’t get angry — he was a bit cranky in his usual style, but nothing out of the ordinary. But more interestingly, this time I don’t think Obama was needling him. His disagreements were all quite direct; I didn’t catch any additional subtle attempts to get under McCain’s skin. I found that interesting.

A couple of specific points: first, McCain seemed to announce a big new plan for mortgages:

“As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes — at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those — be able to make those payments and stay in their homes.”

Details from the McCain campaign are here. The McCain campaign claims that it would cost about $300 billion dollars. A lot would depend on the details of such a plan: the document I just linked to suggests that it would involve writing down the value of the loan, but how much? Is this available to everyone, or just to people who are in danger of losing their homes? If the latter, how would one avoid perverse incentives of various kinds? I’m supportive in principle of serious assistance to homeowners, but again, the devil truly is in the details on this one.

Second: “That one”? Huh?

It’s the way you talk about an annoying child, if you don’t much care for children. It was odd, and, I think, revealing.

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