The first Presidential debate will take place tonight, and it will be about foreign policy. Or at least that’s what the scheduled topic is supposed to be.
I expect Barack Obama to do pretty well, for he’s grown a lot in this area. In the beginning, he really didn’t have a firm grasp on the subject. He stated that he would pull out from Iraq, then send our troops back if Al-Qaeda is there. He said we should bomb Pakistan, then defended his proposition by name-dropping people who agreed with him. Hillary appeared to have a sophisticated understanding of the issues, whereas Obama spoke in generalities and talking points.
But I just watched Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Obama (see Bill O’Reilly – Obama Interview pt 1, Bill O’Reilly – Obama Interview pt4), and I see that he has grown a lot over the past few months. He appreciates the difference between the Shiites and the Sunnis. He knows how Europe can have a negative economic impact on Russia. He supports a missile shield in Eastern Europe, yet he wants to make sure that it works. He seems to be able to discuss foreign policy competently and intelligently. Maybe there’s hope for Sarah Palin!
McCain will do well to point out Obama’s flip-flops on foreign policy issues. Obama may be able to respond effectively to that, since he can be good at regrouping himself. At the same time, explaining away a flip-flop is not always easy, especially when one isn’t given much time to do so.
Will McCain bring up his POW experience? I hope not. I’m getting a little tired of his “How dare you disagree with me! I was in Vietnam” spiel. Not long ago, I watched on YouTube a 2000 debate among McCain, George W. Bush, and Alan Keyes. Keyes criticized McCain’s approach to the abortion issue, and McCain shot back, “How dare you lecture me on the sanctity of life. I saw a lot of people die!” Keyes then shut up, which doesn’t happen all that often. But I hope that Obama is not ruffled by the Vietnam card. He should just say that he appreciates McCain’s service, but still thinks that he’s wrong on a variety of issues. Or, then again, I hope Obama doesn’t do that, since I want McCain to win.
In my opinion, Obama’s campaign has been kind of fizzling out over the past few weeks, even though he’s slightly ahead in the polls. He’s defensive. He lectures people with a self-righteous tone. He attacks. He’s blindly partisan. You really don’t see the calm, rational Barack Obama that you saw in the primaries–the one who could be likeable and positive, who could actually put his opponents on the defensive and make them come up with answers. Right now, he’s a whiner. But the debates may give him a chance to be the old Barack Obama again.