Late Reflections on the Cleveland Debate

Because I was writing about William F. Buckley, Jr. yesterday, I did not comment on the February 26 debate in Cleveland. At this time, one post is enough to wipe me out for the day. At other times, I can’t write enough.

Some of what I was thinking when I watched the debate has been said by others within the past few days. When Obama said that he would send troops back to Iraq if there were a danger of it becoming a base for Al-Qaeda, I thought, “Well, Al-Qaeda is already in Iraq. Why not keep the troops there rather than withdrawing them and sending them back?” John McCain basically made this point the day after the debate. Maybe I was transmitting some of my ability for insight onto him when I saw him in person this last Tuesday.

Obama’s position is different from that of Ron Paul, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. What I mean is this: Ron Paul’s position is simple. He just says that the United States should not interfere in the Middle East, since our involvement has incited anti-American sentiment. For Paul, if we leave the Arab nations alone, then they will come to leave us alone. Ron Paul’s opposition to the Iraq War fits under his overall commitment to a non-interventionist foreign policy.

But Obama does not want a non-interventionist foreign policy. He wants to bomb parts of Pakistan that harbor terrorists. He supports sending troops back to Iraq if the country is in danger of becoming a base for Al-Qaeda. He obviously supports some kind of war on terror. So what exactly is his basis for opposing the war in Iraq? He said in the debate that he knew in 2002 that the Iraq War would fuel anti-American sentiment. So does he think we should avoid actions that could make other nations (or terrorist organizations) dislike us? If that was his reason to oppose the war, then shouldn’t the same rationale apply to his ideas of bombing Pakistan or sending troops back to Iraq? Any display of force we make against the terrorists will make them mad at us.

Interestingly, even Ron Paul does not appear to be entirely consistent in his foreign policy stance, particularly when he voted for the resolution to invade Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. So he supported using intervention to stop a sponsor of terror in the case of Afghanistan, but not in the case of Iraq. “But Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, and he was the guy who attacked us,” I can hear people saying. True, but Saddam Hussein had cooperated with Al-Qaeda for some time, even going so far as to support an organization that Bin Laden had founded in its war against the Kurds (see The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 61, 66). Obama responded to McCain by saying that Al-Qaeda is in Iraq right now because of our invasion, which McCain supported. Actually, Iraq and Al-Qaeda had a relationship before we went into Iraq.

Here’s some more news on Obama: According to CTV news in Canada, a high-ranking Obama staffer told Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, not to take what Obama says about NAFTA too seriously (see Obama staffer gave warning of NAFTA rhetoric). In the debate, Obama said he would tell Canada and Mexico “that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labour and environmental standards.” But his staffer told the Canadian ambassador not to worry, for this is just rhetoric. So we can’t trust Obama to say what he means and mean what he says? Will we truly get change in an Obama Administration, or merely a return to Clintonian spin?

Overall, Hillary did not make an impressive performance in the debate. She did not display the winsome, laughing image that she’s been trying to project throughout her campaign. Rather, she had her characteristic Hillary scowl, even when Obama was praising her. And she accused the news media of giving Obama a free ride. We have seen this aspect of Hillary before: Hillary the conspiracy-theorist. Quite frankly, I think that Tim Russert asked Obama some hard questions, just as he did for Hillary, so I didn’t see much favoritism. In the debate, Hillary only confirmed the image that many people have of her: as someone who is cold and paranoid.

Maybe she’s just tired right now. I’d be tired too if I were losing primary after primary. Or perhaps she’s responding to the way that Saturday Night Live portrayed the Democratic debate in Texas. “On this skit, the character playing me laughs too much, and the media is giving Obama a free ride,” she was probably thinking. “Perhaps that is the way things really are.” And so she overcompensated by appearing colder than she’s usually been in the campaign.

Hillary had to make quite an impression in the last debate to win Ohio and Texas. In my opinion, she failed. We’ll see soon how things turn out.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Late Reflections on the Cleveland Debate

  1. Anonymous says:

    At my school everybody is pretty much an Obama fanatic. I find that they separate into 3 groups: 1) charmed by Obama, 2) dislike Hillary, or 3) think that he has a better chance of winning against McCain. The first two, it seems to me, are incredibly shallow and confirm the SNL skit as well as Tina Fey’s remarks.

    I’ve been a longtime Hillary fan; while I admit she’s not as charasmatic as Obama, she’s second to none when it comes to knowledge. There’s been a seismic shift in support, but nobody seems to be willing to admit that they once supported her. (Rant).

    She’s not the devil. Sure, she has the same flaws as almost anybody in high-level politics, but deep down, I think she is truly an altruistic person. Politics can bring out the worst in people, even the best of them.



    I’m still fascinated by the fact that so many OT people are doing apologetics. It seems to directly contradict the approach of NELC departments that treat the Bible as source like any other ancient source. I know lots of people at several NELC departments and no one, as far as I’m aware, are concerned with apologetics.

    Given that you’ve studied at Harvard, do you think that a lot of the students would have been able to enjoy a non-evangelical setting? Or a setting that facilitates apologetics?


  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Jake.

    Yeah, I have a love-hate attitude toward Hillary. During the Clinton Administration, it was mostly hate (if not all hate). But after seeing her in the debates, I have to admire her knowledge as well.

    As for your question on apologetics, I think that my colleagues would fit into a non-evangelical setting because HUC professors are non-evangelical. Most of them are not even biblical maximalists on each and every point. Of course, you’d probably reply that there is more to graduate school than the classroom, and you’d be right.

    Regarding Harvard, I can only comment on my limited experience. Like you at Dallas, there was a lot of stuff I took that had nothing to do with biblical scholarship. And the professors I did take for Bible–Gary Anderson, Jon Levenson, and N.T. Wright (who was there for a semester)–had strong conservative streaks. By this, I don’t mean that Anderson and Levenson were biblical maximalists. They just seemed to focus on the history of interpretation and the Bible’s religious role for communities. There were times at Harvard in my Bible classes when I felt as if I were at church, on some level.


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