The debate

While watching the first presidential debate, I found both candidates to be very fluid and articulate, and both gave the impression that they were very knowledgeable about pretty much everything they spoke on. I’ve slept on it, and my opinion hasn’t really changed. I don’t see a clear winner of this debate.

Obviously, the two have different opinions, but in terms of expressing those opinions clearly and in a striking way, I think McCain and Obama were about equal.

A CNN poll indicates that Obama is the winner, but once you adjust it for the disproportionate number of Democratic respondents, it comes out even.

Each of the candidates has posted some “fact checks” on the web. McCain’s list is here; Obama’s is here. also has a list. (Shockingly Snopes doesn’t have anything up yet, but I expect they will soon enough.)

Other than a couple of inflated/outdated numbers from both candidates, I don’t think either one did all that badly in terms of misrepresenting facts. They were more like minor quibbles than major issues. I think the candidates did well in responding at times when factual errors were presented, so I don’t think the errors will have too much of a negative effect.

There was one odd thing, a seeming role-reversal that kind of put me off-balance. In this debate, McCain seemed to be the one advocating diplomacy and non-warlike solutions to problems with other countries, while Obama seemed to be more hard-nosed. I would never have expected Obama to suggest that, if Pakistan was unable or unwilling to work with us, we “take them out”. (McCain was almost gleeful at this; can’t say that I blame him.)

As expected, McCain came across as better-versed in military strategy, while Obama seemed more in touch with the American middle class. They both made very good points on their pet issues.

McCain succeeded to a certain degree in highlighting Obama’s inexperience with foreign policy. The Pakistan gaffe didn’t help much. But it wasn’t damaging, I think, because the issue is a double-edged sword for McCain. He claims over and over that he’s a maverick, but he’s quick to point out opinions that were not formed through years of experience doing things the way we’ve always done them. This has the unfortunate effect of implying that he’s the best man for the job because he is not a maverick; because he knows “how things are done”. McCain eagerly jumped on the “change” bandwagon, but he defeats himself with this sort of argument.

All in all, though, I was pretty impressed by both candidates. I’ve said before that I think it’ll be okay regardless of who wins. My opinion of McCain has dipped, especially in light of some of his recent decisions, but last night proved at least that he can plan for talks and think on his feet. Obama, as usual, spoke fluidly and passionately, and was able to clarify his positions immediately and decisively.

The next debate should be interesting.

McCain wants a fan club

McCain’s campaign is pushing the Obama-as-celebrity angle pretty hard. Check out this gushing run-on from Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager:

We can all agree that Senator Barack Obama is one of the world’s biggest celebrities and every celebrity needs a fan club filled with adoring fans and Senator Obama certainly has his fair share.

This quote is part of an email just sent out to unveil McCain’s newest campaign ad, which you can see here.

The Obama-as-celebrity and Obama-as-the-one strategies are annoying to me as an Obama supporter, but I admit that they could be effective. It would be easy to cast the effect Obama has on people in a fanatical light.

The problem for McCain is that his people aren’t doing it right. His commercials lack organization, visual interest, and the one-two punch needed to drive the point home. He’s not coming across as the serious, intelligent choice.

He’s coming across as jealous.

Vote Obama

I voted for Obama in the Democratic Primary and I am going to vote for him in the Presidential Election (because he will get the nomination). I have not stated this plainly anywhere because I have been afraid that the people I love will not understand. But how, after reading his March 18 “A More Perfect Union” speech, can people not see that he is the one we need right now?

Here is an excerpt from the transcript posted at the Drudge Report:

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

Barack Obama sees what I see–people are who they are based on the times they lived in, the people they’ve known, the experiences they’ve had. There are so many race issues that still need to be worked out. And there is no simple band-aid we can apply to fix everything.

Obama knows that we have to acknowledge these problems…and he also knows that we simply cannot do so in an angry, violent, stubborn way. We must take a step back and be thoughtful. We must evaluate positions other than our own, and ponder the implications of our own upbringing.

This is the path to wisdom and justice, not only in our internal affairs but also in our dealings with the rest of the world.

We need someone who isn’t single-minded, who can take in all the issues and weigh them with intelligence and sincerity, and then make the tough decision.

Barack Obama is that person.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

Obama manjuu

Barack Obama has been endorsed by the city of Obama, Japan.

Members of a local tourism association and other people formed a volunteer group Monday supporting Obama and put up campaign posters at a local hotel.

“We’d like him to win the election and visit our city as president,” said 55-year-old Kiyoji Fujihara, a group representative.


According to the city government, the move arose out of an e-mail sent to city hall by a local resident in late 2006.

The message said Obama had joked “I’m from Obama” on TV when visiting Japan and that the city should consider giving him an award for the comment that became good publicity for the city.

It is not known if he actually did make such a comment, but the city last year sent Obama a letter and lacquered chopsticks, a local specialty, city officials said.

Most exciting to me, though, was this bit:

The group is also considering selling Japanese-style “manju” sweets with Obama’s portrait on them.

Mmm, Obama manjuu.

Via Japundit.

Update: It occurs to me that a person who uses name similarity in this way would be what Edogawa Conan would call an お芽出度い奴.