Wow, the TH's raved, Obama may have come off fine, but his nuanced approach was blown off the planet by McCain's poignant stories and powerful, direct remarks.
Well, sorry, talking heads, but I didn't see it that way. First of all, I had to begin with the fact that McCain had a HUGE home field advantage here, so Obama's goal of necessity had to be different from that of his GOP rival. Given that simple reality, which the TH's all simply ignored, the results of this evening cannot be seen in any direct light. My nuanced interpretation is this: Barack Obama played the Traditional Media like a violin tonight.
It was remarked in other places tonight that Obama does not do things haphazardly; he always knows exactly what he is doing and plans things carefully. I believe that to be true and submit the entire campaign as evidence. This night is no exception.
Obama did not agree to this forum lightly. He understood that this audience would be, at best, polite to him. He knew the kinds of questions he would be asked. He knew that his answers would not be entirely pleasing to the evangelicals. And he knew also, or anyway could guess with a strong probability of being correct, exactly what John McCain would do: pander to his base with stump speeches and POW stories. McCain, of course, did not disappoint. And he was very, very comfortable there in his element, a fact that was oh, so surprising to the TH's.
But why shouldn't he have been? Warren allowed him practically free reign, letting him rove wherever he wanted, ramble through as many POW stories as he wished without interruption, and even fail to answer the question entirely several times. With Obama, Warren seemed to be rushing him a lot, pushing him onto the next question. This could have been a result of Obama's slow, nuanced answers, I suppose, and perhaps I should give Warren the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the reason, though, the result was that McCain was able to tell his stump stories and lurch as far right as he's ever lurched and receive cheer after cheer. All of which is fine, because, as I said before, it is exactly what Obama expected.
The early results of such an event? All of the TH's do their predictable Love Affair With McCain dance: Oh my, he really came across well; he's going to be a much more formidable opponent that anyone thought, etc. Good publicity, at least initially, for the wrinkled silver haired dude. But--and it's a very large but--John McCain did himself no favors with independents and center-right leaning Democrats tonight. Not with his "I wouldn't have picked Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens and Breyer" and "human rights begin at conception" comments. In addition, Obama, who looked sincere and human and honest all night, came across as looking maybe not appealing to these evangelicals, but certainly not scary, and definitely, definitely Christian.
And then there is that violin: Obama must have known two other simple facts. First, that the media would eat McCain's act up, especially after the way Senator Goofup has spent the last month making one mistake after another in practically every forum he has been given. Assuming that McCain did not screw up tonight (a stretch, to be sure, but it turned out that way), the media would have to see it as astonishing, right? And they'd sing that tune loudly, which leads to point two.
The debates are coming up. Given Obama's performance of late vs. McCain's, the media would expect him to wipe the floor with his opponent. (They clearly expected that tonight.) Now, after this forum, expectations will be, if not reversed, certainly lessened on Obama's side and heightened on McCain's. And the best part of it all is this: Obama played this melody on a night when not all that many people, aside from the media and the junkies like us, are paying attention. The Olympics are on. It's August. The conventions have not yet occurred. People don't pay attention until after Labor Day.
So Obama has just succeeded in a trifecta: he has made himself less scary to a volatile segment of the opposition, he has allowed his opponent (the erstwhile "maverick") to completely redefine himself as a fundamentalist conservative, and he has allowed the media to begin shifting the expectations game.
All in all, a nice little concerto for the junior senator from Illinois.