The financial crisis bailout talks (negotiations, cabal, whatever you’d like to call it) are having the headlines in England. They have their own debacle, too and closely watch developments in Washington therefore. But there are impressions from the debate as well, so here we go:
The Times’ Simon Jenkins writes:
Since McCain, above all, could not afford to lose, but had come to seem an old and uncertain man, “a conviction politician without convictions”, he emerged from the event, in my view, with his standing enhanced. Obama was the Obama we know: smooth, responsible but slightly ponderous, almost an elder statesman before his time.
But the debate is not Simon Jenkins’ main concern, he goes on:
For all this, watching the debate was like asking Mrs Lincoln about the play. Outside the chamber, a politically existential event was unfolding. Never was globalisation more vividly on show than in pictures of world stock markets hanging on every intonation and nuance of the inquiry into the $700 billion rescue package for American banking.(read more)
The Independent’s Rupert Cornwell, seems to have enjoyed the show:
It was the debate that was almost swept away by a financial tempest. But when John McCain and Barack Obama did square up to each other on Friday night, they produced one of the best, and almost certainly the most watched, presidential debates ever. How many minds they changed is another matter. In this battle pitting age against youth, experience against promise, the two clashed on the economy, Iraq, al-Qa’ida and Iran. But there was no knock-out blow.
and he conludes:
On Friday in Mississippi, the 20th century was pitted against the 21st. Which man will Americans prefer? In 37 days’ time, the answer will be known. (read more)
The Telegraph’s Phil Sherwell also points to the generational gap:
Mr McCain ran through his record on a series of foreign policy crises from 1983, alluded to his time in Vietnam, mentioned his 35-year friendship with Henry Kissinger and cited the experience of General Dwight D Eisenhower on the eve of the Normandy landings in 1944.
Mr Obama by contrast promised voters the chance to study the federal budget on a “Google for government” and criticised Mr McCain for his “20th century mindset” – arguably a harsh charge when we are only eight years into the 21st. (read more)
The Guardian’s Dan Kennedy runs through a round-up of press reactions and concludes:
Obama, though, was steadier still. Like Nixon 48 years ago, McCain demonstrated that he knows his stuff, perhaps to a greater extent than his opponent. But like Kennedy, Obama proved that he can hold his own – and that may be more important in the end. (read more)
The Economist reports that both candidates did rather well:
The biggest difference between the two men was in the tone that each used. Mr McCain repeatedly offered some version of the phrase “Senator Obama doesn’t understand”. He presumably hoped to emphasise that Mr Obama lacks foreign-policy experience. He may have scored points by criticising Russia while emphasising his longstanding support for Georgia. But he sometimes seemed to sneer. Mr Obama, although he sharpened his tone from the Democratic debates, was the calmer of the two. When he felt criticised unfairly, he would often smile. He gently needled Mr McCain but he did not savagely lay into his opponent. Mr Obama is an articulate advocate of his foreign-policy views, in command of detail. That he avoided any gaffes may have been enough to reassure many voters. But foreign policy is generally considered a strength for the more experienced Mr McCain. (read more)
As things are with Washington and the opening of the Asian markets only a few hours away, it is well possible that this debate will soon be pushed aside by more pressing matters in people’s minds.
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