NR, “the corner,” facial expressions and comments about the third presidential debate

Late last night and this morning I travelled the web a bit but spent most of my time at National Review’s website, especially its “the corner” blog which featured live postings during the debate. What follows are a few highlights of what I found, and a few of my own comments added in for good measure.

Byron York in the National Review opened his column today,

You can talk all you want about Joe the Plumber, but the moment of the final presidential debate, held last night at Hofstra University on Long Island, came when John McCain said, quickly and cleanly, ‘Sen.Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.’ …

It’s fair to say Team McCain was delighted with the way the Bush line came out, and they were also happy that McCain was able to steer so much of the debate to the issue of Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, an Ohio man who confronted Obama this week with concerns that Obama’s proposals would raise taxes on the business Wurzelbacher hoped to buy. In that encounter, Obama told Wurzelbacher, ‘I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.’ It wasn’t exactly what Wurzelbacher wanted to hear, and it made Obama sound like a classic income-redistributing Democrat.

It seems most people right of center shared the sentiment that the Bush line was the best of the night for McCain.

It also seems, however, that there is a national divide when it comes to the words, style, and facial expressions of Barack Obama. For twenty months I’ve been witnessing a man who rarely looks self-assured. Others, though, see “cool” instead of insecurity.

That divide is probably as mysterious as those who see government as the solution, while the rest of us see it as the problem.

Mark Steyn noted this about the visuals:

If you watched the debate with the sound off, Obama came over as Mister Mellow and, as you say, McCain comes across “old and cranky.” Back in the glory days of the 2000 New Hampshire primary, his media buddies used to translate “old and cranky” as “maverick,” “feisty,” and so forth.

Political consultant Dick Morris writes in today’s New York Post that –

Obama is smoother, prettier, younger and more presidential. But McCain had a feisty appeal, a Trumanesque approach that may resonate in these times of anger and unrest.

I don’t see smooth, and I don’t see presidential. I see an uneasy, nervous calm. Often Obama appears to break into an uncomfortable grin because he doesn’t have the words to answer the charge. Some people thought Obama was rattled, others thought he wasn’t. Mark Levin thought Obama was “off his game.”

NR’s Kathryn Jean Lopez helped me realize I wasn’t alone in the world as she noted this during the debate:

From a reader: ‘First time I’ve seen Obama blushing and looking frustrated in a debate. McCain is getting under his skin.’

NR’s Jay Nordlinger listed a few dozen observations about the debate – among them:

Obama says ‘choose to keep the baby.’ Very, very interesting wording: ‘choose to keep the baby.’ Another way of saying that is: ‘choose not to . . . well, do away with the baby.’ Same diff, right?

McCain was very, very strong on education as a civil-rights issue. This was his best segment of the night, probably.

Jonah Goldberg noted this “Question for Obama“:

You speak constantly about helping the middle class, why did you belong to a church for so long that considered ‘Disavowal of the Pursuit of ‘Middleclassness’ to be a religious obligation?

Dick Morris summed up the debate:

McCain has now established the tax issue in a way he has not been able to do so far in the contest. Now he can widen the gap between the campaigns on this key issue. If the Republicans concentrate their campaign on the key issue of taxes and abandon the other lines of attack, they can use the lines developed in this debate to do better and better as Election Day nears.

There was no knockout in this debate… But McCain was able to set up the tax issue in a way that could eventually close the gap.

In Paul Coelho’s book “The Alchemist,” he includes the line, “Your eyes show the strength of your soul.” I wrote about Obama as the campaign began – “Audacity or not, he’s not ready,” and back in August, this – “Obama isn’t ready – you can see it in his face.”

John McCain can still win this campaign – and the most accurate poll back during the 2004 campaign (they were within .04% on election day) shows that despite everything he’s still within striking distance. See the latest poll here.

If McCain doesn’t pull this off, though, I see a very rough four years ahead. As one speechwriter once wrote, “you can’t be one kind of man and another kind of president.”

When I was too young to vote and terribly uninformed, I saw Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976 as a nice change from the stodgy old Nixon/Ford years. All these decades later I know better – and ironically see the possibility that the Carter years could be made to look relatively good by comparison with the Obama years.

The only saving grace would be that, like Carter, there would only be four of them.