Last night was the first of the US Presidential debates, which after initial suggestions by John McCain that it should be postponed, went ahead with the participation of both major candidates.
Since of course it took place in the middle of the night UK time, various of the UK channels have been rerunning either the whole debate, or highlights. You can watch the full debate on the BBC News site. Of course in the UK we don’t have a say, but thanks to the close relationship our governments have recently had with each other, it does have an effect on those of us in the UK.
I’ll leave any discussion of the finer points of policy, but what was interesting was comparing it to what happens over here. Certainly we’ve never had face to face debates like this, what we most commonly have is a series of programmes where each of the individual leaders of the political parties face an audience of voters. Perhaps the main example of a programme where we have opposing parties together is something like Question Time. The interesting difference between both formats and this presidential debate is the silence from the audience. In the UK there is usually an instant response from the audience to statements by the politicians, and on a number of occasions politicians have been heckled by members of the audience. The other difference was, I guess in part due to the rigid time-boxing applied to the debate, there wasn’t that much confrontation. There were a number of points where it was pretty obvious that Obama thought he was being misrepresented, tried to cut in, McCain kept ploughing on with his point, and Obama just capitulated and indicated to the chairman that he didn’t wish to respond.
Commentators seem split over who came out best. Both campaigns are not surprisingly claiming victory for their candidate, but it wasn’t really clear to me who won. In terms of policies I’m always going to be much more towards Obama, but then in a world driven by soundbites, things like McCains KGB line over Russia, however corny it may seem, probably go over a lot better than trying to explain the massive complexity of the political situation in the former Soviet Union. You can make your own mind up by watching the full debate.
20080926_Oxford_MS_FirstDebate0377 originally uploaded by Barack Obama.
Now I’m certainly not the kind of Christian who believes that God is some kind of cosmic puppeteer, and that he will manipulate the rules of the world at the request of his followers. There are however some who do, check out this video from Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family, the conservative evangelical group headed by James Dobson in the US. Here he is calling for a massive storm to hit the open air acceptance speech by Barack Obama – thereby sending a message as to who God wants to win the election.
As everybody now knows, there wasn’t any kind of storm that hit Denver on that night, but for those God fearing Christians who believe in an interventionist God who will show them who to vote for in the upcoming election, Michael Moore has pointed out that there is a big storm on the way. Hurricane Gustav is currently heading straight for New Orleans, a city which need anyone forget was decimated by Hurricane Katrina three years ago, whilst George W Bush and Senator McCain celebrated McCains 69th birthday in Arizona. Not surprisingly although some of New Orleans has been repaired, residents are once again fleeing the coast.
The interesting thing is the current prediction of when Hurricane Gustav will make landfall – just around the time George W Bush will be speaking to the Republican faithful at the upcoming convention. The timing isn’t lost on the Republicans either, who are even now talking about postponing the conference – whether it is postponed or not, the news media is already reporting that Bush will now not attend.
Now if I believed that God would manipulate the weather to influence the result of the US election, the idea of sending a repeat of Hurricane Katrina, something that produced significant criticism of Bush in terms of both preceding policy and over the response does seem to indicate a rather perverse sense of humour on behalf of the almighty. But seeing as this is hurricane season, as far as I am concerned it is just a rather ironic coincidence. Whether the Focus on the Family on the family crowd will have some great epiphany as a result I seriously doubt as well. All we can do is hope that the US is better prepared this time and that the loss of life can be minimised.
If you’re a West Wing fan you might have noticed some similarities between the presidential election campaign where Matthew Santos, a young inexperienced congressman from an ethnic minority is a candidate, and a certain Barack Obama. Hat tip to Ewan Spence for linking to an interesting article in the Guardian last week that reveals that the similarity between the two is anything but accidental. What is uncanny though is quite how much the rest of the scenario is lining up like the TV show…
There obviously isn’t that much happening in Wokingham at the moment – the big news, splashed on the front page of the Wokingham Times this week is that local links have emerged with potential US presidential candidate, Barack Obama, and he has even visited! Sounds really quite exciting until you realise that the ‘visit’ was when he enjoyed a night out in Wokingham and Bracknell a decade ago…