I’ll start off at the outset by noting that I really hate townhall debates. I think that this faux effort to look like a candidate of the people–Haroun al-Rashid in the marketplace meets the best of Lincoln v. Douglas–is about as contrived a political spectacle as there is. How authentic is it really when the questions that are being asked by the citizenry are vetted by a professional journalist in order to decide whether they are actually acceptable? Whoever you believe was the winner of the debate, let us all agree that the format was the big loser–though in fairness, it ought to be noted that Tom Brokaw worked manfully to overcome the limitations of the debate setting.
As for the debate itself, I know that there were people who said that McCain needed to make up for all of his electoral problems with a single knockout win tonight. That kind of thinking is, of course, unrealistic and it is mainly propagated by (a) people who don’t quite understand how Presidential elections work and (b) denizens of the Obama campaign who sought to set expectations ridiculously high for McCain. But all of this having been written, heads should explode all around if serious attention is not paid to some whoppers by Obama during this second debate. He told us that the government invented the computer, which is silly. He told us that we ought to stop humanitarian disasters overseas but never contemplated the possibility that a humanitarian disaster could and likely would unfold in Iraq if we follow Obama’s precipitous plans for a withdrawal and if we listened to him when we were contemplating implementing the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy. And Obama wondered what it might have been like if we intervened to stop the Holocaust, but was apparently unaware of the fact that the liberation of concentration camps was part and parcel of the Allied offensive into Germany near the end of World War II.
Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine what would have been the mainstream media response if Sarah Palin made these mistakes.
Done? Good. Now, let’s see if the same response unfolds in mainstream media circles in response to Obama’s verbal blunders. By all rights, it should.