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Who Came Out Ahead in the Second Presidential Debate? "That One..."
October 8, 2008  | By David Bianculli

In the post-debate analysis of Tuesday's second prime-time faceoff between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, Jeff Greenfield told Katie Couric on CBS that the key water-cooler topic the next day was certain to be McCain's dismissive reference to his Democratic opponent as "that one." Good call.


One of the undecided voters invited by CBS to comment on the debate termed McCain's remark "disrespectful," and it was noted by most other network analysts as well. Just by not being similarly dismissive, Obama could claim a victory of sorts in a debate that otherwise played as less than decisive.

But the other focus, even on NBC -- the network of debate moderator Tom Brokaw -- was the constricting, frustrating format of this alleged "town hall" debate.


Brian Williams objected to it being called a town hall at all, because there was so little interaction between audience and candidates, much less between the two candidates. Greenfield, on CBS, told Katie Couric that, once again, Obama looked at McCain directly, while McCain seldom did.

With three debates down (two presidential, one vice presidential) and only one more to go, it now falls to Bob Schieffer of CBS, the moderator of next week's final debate, to give us a shot at one 2008 big-ticket debate that allows for actual exchanges of opinion and challenges of position.

So far, it's all been sound bites and quick snipes. Too many questions ignored, too few answered, and almost no opportunity for true follow-up. And with only one debate left, the stakes for the candidates become higher -- and the chances that the debate will be an informative and impressive one become a bit lower.



1 Comment


Alex said:

Was it really that bad, the "that one" comment?

I really don't think so. Just as I don't think that Obama's "You're likable enough" comment was a big deal.

HIllary was my candidate, and I thought that Obama was saying "if there's a likablity bar, you exceed it." I didn't think that he was being sarcastic or condescending to her. I thought that he was trying to dismiss a quesiton he didn't like.

Now, Obama is my candidate, and I think that too much is being real into McCain's comment. He did not say, "That boy," which would have been a big deal. He did not say, "That nigger," either. He says "my friend" or "my friends" all the time, and doesn't always mean it. Sometimes, it's a bit combative -- ringing of "believe you me" in my ears. But "that one?"

Was it distancing? Of course. Was it dismissive? I tend to think so. But there was no racism or anything like that kinds of condescention.

It was not any worse than his general lack of eye contact with Obama? -- which, by the way, was much improved at this debate. No, not really.

McCain doesn't respect his opponents, and everyone who doesn't agree with him is an opponent. And he doesn't have much patience with/for his opponents. This has always been true. That is why he's never won any awards for congeniality in the senate.

"That one" is dumb story, and I hope that it goes away soon. (I hope I didn't imply that McCain's comment was anything BUT dismissive -- but dismissive, at that level, is noteworthy enough. Your point is well made, and well taken, but we actually agree. -- David B.)

Comment posted on October 8, 2008 2:46 PM
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