Daily Archives: October 16, 2008

Gideon Rachman

I thought even the candidates looked a little bored tonight. This was their third match-up – and it was as inconclusive as the last two; and slightly duller. In fact, the boredom of hearing the candidates trudge through their positions on education, health etc etc, was only matched by the drama of what is going on in the outside world. As the candidates looked sincerely at the camera – or grinned fixedly at each other – my eyes kept drifting to the news-ticker at the bottom of the screen, showing that the Nikkei had just fallen by more than 10%. Anybody expecting to hear anything useful on that subject tonight will have been disappointed.

I can now predict what the pundits will say about this debate – “McCain needed to land a knock-out blow, but he didn’t. Overall it was a draw – which was better for Obama. Obama looked calmer and more presidential.”

I don’t hugely disagree with any of that. But, personally, I thought this was McCain’s best performance of the three. The constant invocation of “Joe the plumber” was admittedly cringeworthy. And Obama swatted aside the stuff about his association with Bill Ayers with almost embarrassing ease.

On the other hand, I thought McCain landed some genuine hits on policy. In particular, he made Obama sound shifty on free trade. And I think he was also right on the substance. If the Great Depression taught us anything, it must be that going protectionist in the middle of a slump would be a huge mistake. Obama’s policies do sound protectionist. Unfortunately for McCain, the American people are probably also fairly protectionist at the moment. So I doubt he’s going to win many votes on that one.

Although, the debate overall, was on the dull side, it did give me two laughs – and one piece of valuable information. Read more