Powell is considered a moderate Republican, has donated to the McCain campaign, and indeed was touted as a possible running mate for McCain, and he doesn’t just endorse Barack Obama. In a measured and thoughtful statement he questions McCain’s judgement in both his selection of Sarah Palin, and over the recent financial crisis, and then addresses the whole terrorist/Muslim issue head on. It is pretty clear that he thinks that the McCain campaign is quite deliberately associating Obama with a terrorist and letting people believe that he is Muslim, so he unequivocally says that Obama is Christian and always has been. But then he goes further, and questions the assertion that a Muslim can’t be President, highlighting a particular example of a Muslim American who has died serving his country in Iraq. Certainly it is a statement well worth listening to, the question is now how will the McCain campaign respond. Will they turn on Colin Powell? We’ll have to wait and see – but I doubt stuff like this will be uncommon.
There has been quite a bit of discussion over the fact that McCain seems unwilling to publicly use Jeremiah Wright in the campaign. Call me sceptical, but my thought is that it pays the McCain campaign to not highlight an association between Obama and a Christian pastor if potential voters think he is a Muslim. This video also shows the effect of keeping on repeating the palling around with terrorists comment on parts of the electorate, despite the reality being rather different.
All in all though it is a disturbing picture of the opinions of some of the McCain supporters.
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.
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.
Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in the UK.