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Sunday, October 1, 2023

McCain’s pounding beats Obama’s rope-a-dope debate style

Muhammad Ali mastered the rope-a-dope and beat harder punching sometimes flailing opponents. Obama allowed McCain to hit him with verbal attacks without stinging counter-punches. Perhaps he was hoping McCain would make mistakes to exploit with an effective comeback. He didn't.

Muhammad Ali mastered the rope-a-dope and beat harder punching sometimes flailing opponents. Obama allowed McCain to hit him with verbal attacks without stinging counter-punches. Perhaps he was hoping McCain would make mistakes to exploit with an effective comeback. He didn’t.

I’m in the 7% of Obama supporters who thought McCain won the debate easily, probably because I know many view the verbal sparring the way they do boxing matches. I guess I’m like the men Nora Ephron describes watching the debate with who want to see “knockout punches” and notes that “women are at a decided disadvantage in conversations of this sort: we have no interest whatsoever in the resemblance of presidential candidates to people like Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore“, the later light heavyweight champion in the 1950s.

Much of my reaction is comes from finding McCain’s personality and style turpitudinously repugnant, and wanting Obama to leap across the stage and slap the arrogant, obnoxious, condescending, scowling, belligerent braggart silly.

I want Barack to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, I want him to hit him with a Marciano “Suzie Q” right cross.

What can I say?

I took boxing lessons from a Golden Gloves champion when I was a kid, and, like Joesph Palermo, I’m one of those liberal males who are stuck with boxing imagery and metaphors (see his “Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee” from Feb. 2008 about Hillary vs. Barack.)

I remember watching Rocky Marciano beat his idol, Joe Lewis on television, and saw documentaries showing him winning his first championship against Jersey Joe Walcott knocking him out with his famous “Suzie Q” right cross.

Several positive reviews for Obama. A CBS News instant poll finds:

    40% of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. 22% thought John McCain won. 38% saw it as a draw.

    68% of these voters think Obama would make the right decision
    about the economy. 41% think McCain would.

    49% of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. 55% think McCain would.

Two focus groups, one by GOP pollster Frank Luntz and another by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, both declared Obama the winner. Here’s video of Luntz, some pretty powerful stuff:

Independents in the MediaCurves focus group “gave the debate to Obama 61-39. They also think he won every individual segment. Republicans gave the debate to McCain 90-10, Democrats to Obama 93-7.”


I hope the demeanor of McCain as “troll-like” and “grouchy”, the terms Chris Mathews used, has the negative effect some commentators suggest it will.

McCain is a bully and bullies are like trolls and can be grouchy. Unfortunately too may voters like bullies, and may in fact be bullies themselves. They probably find McCain a kindred spirit. I suspect McCain was the kind of kid who sought out the bookish boy with the pocket protector in the schoolyard and taunted him to impress his thuggish friends.

Image of troll trying to eat a cow is copy-free from Wikimedia.

The minute and a quarter split screen video of the blinky McCain’s smirking grin is already is reportedly being circulated all over the Internet.

Perhaps television pundits will replay it, and the Democrats will use it in an ad because it may turn the non-bullies off.

For the undecided Reagan Democrats for whom a good retort is worth 20 IQ points, I thought Obama was too cerebral. I liked that he was cerebral, but the point of the debate isn’t to prove to me he’s far and away the best choice, the only choice, to be president. It’s to get undecided voters to vote for him.

My wife, Betty, thought it was more a draw. My other bed mates, our ten month old Westies, Mac and Duff slept through the debate, and then when I slept an hour later than their usual wake-up time of 6:00 AM Mac wouldn’t stop licking my face until I got up to let them out and feed them.

Life goes on.

(I posted this column a second time so I could add my posting standards as a separate column with the title “Miss Martin’s Classroom Rules of Manners” here. Please review them prior to adding a comment. These guidelines and rules are in addition to those already established for all of Capitol Hill Blue which you should read as well. These are on the bottom of the page.)

32 thoughts on “McCain’s pounding beats Obama’s rope-a-dope debate style”

  1. I was surprised to hear AB Stoddard of “The Hill” indicate that Palin did very well in her prior debates.
    The problem is, Palin is woefully inexperienced on foreign policy. She may do well on the economy as she does have a budget surplus in Alaska.
    Alaska however has decided advantages over about every other state in terms of oil revenues.
    So I am not sure even that experience would apply.
    I dunno. It will be interesting to watch. Or perhaps just painful

  2. Helen , it will be an interesting debate if mccains camp doesn’t manage to get the rules so tight that no real questions can be asked . You know they’re going to have her programed with prearranged responses . I also hope they look closely for an earpiece .

  3. Hal,

    I respect your opinion about the Obama/McCain debate. However, that is where our agreement ends. I think that Obama’s strategy for this first debate was excellent.

    He stuck to facts and figures without name-calling and condescension, unlike McCain.

    He was clearly more open and honest in his body language than was McCain who came across as defensive and angry.

    The majority of opinions — both of pundits (both left and right) and voting Americans believe that Obama outperformed McCain in nearly every measurable aspect of the debate.

    I look forward to more of the debates. I have always waited to watch the debates to make my final decision as to who to vote for — although as we get to the debates I’ve already pretty much made up my mind.

    Am also looking forward to the Biden/Palin debate on Thursday evening. This should be a VERY interesting debate.

  4. Well Hal , interesting piece but it seems that the majority of viewers disagreed . What you refer to as ” mccains pounding ” apparently came of as mean spirited and nasty to many . His attacks and vitriol didn’t compare well with Obamas trademark calm cool demeanor . As for as your ” rope a dope ” comparison , Forman lost because he fought a stupid fight wearing himself out , plus he wasn’t in proper shape . To quote Joe Frazer who was at ringside ‘ he could never have done that with Marciano ” , refering to the fact that Rocky could bang for 15 rounds nonstop . Obama seems ready to go the distance with a steady measured style which makes him look much more reasuring ( and presidential ) than mccain who appears to be flailing away .

  5. Anyone can rewrite and post deleted comments again adhering to my standards of civility to other posters.

    Rather than censoring out parts of posts, I will delete entire comments which don’t meet my standards for civility towards other posters. Anyone can copy their posts and email them to themselves, an easy way to omit portions and post again.

    As for writing about politicians and others in the news, I don’t expect posters to be more civil than I am.

    I will err on the side being too strict in deleting posts that I think are in the slightest way disparaging of fellow posters.

    To give an example I will leave the above post on, but generally even saying another poster is posturing will be reason enough to delete the entire post. Such language while seeming benign too frequently leads to escalation and then an entire thread can deteriorate into name calling.

    One of these days I will write up my standards so everyone can be clear as to what they are. I will include some examples.

    I am not going to defend every deletion decision I make but I hope most members of this commenting community understand I am not about to suppress any opinions on issues as long as they meet the overall CHB guidelines which are on the bottom of this page.

  6. Hal: I would challenge you to write an “opinion” piece that excludes the use of paranthetic explanation to make a point.

    Make no mistake about it, my reply to “sherry” was “most definately” intended to be desparaging of her “comment” and her posturing.

    Since you have already commented on and suppressed my remarks, I suggest you post my “reply” in its entirety.This would serve as an example of the censorship threshold you maintain and let those who visit CHB decide for themselves whether or not they agree with those boundaries.

  7. “Gaz you even commented on the extent of McCain’s disabilities and whether he was faking. For Pete sakes.”

    Yes, I did comment on it. I said watch his hands. I’ve watched him enough times waving his arms and holding a microphone up to his mouthfor five to eight minutes at a stretch without showing any sign of discomfort.

    Obama probably should not have used the internet thing in an ad. No question about that. But the point was to show that McCain was not only back in the 20th century he was back in the 19th. Obama is subtly raising McCain’s age and saying it is a detriment to the country. And McCain responds with the POW bit, saying that he cannot use his arms and hands so he relies on others to do his email for him.

    Based on what I have seen I do not believe that response to be accurate. It goes to his veracity. If he is going to lie to the public about the extent of his disability, if any exists, what else is he going to lie about.

    It sounded like whining to me. Do we want a President who whines?

  8. Having rolled those dice too many times… I concur.

    A casino and 400-room hotel has been proposed on Indian “trust” land (it wasn’t reservation land but will become so if the trust is approved) less than a mile from my house. Now, THAT is a gamble on my future… and, no, I don’t want it and they can just shove it.

  9. Gaz I agree civility needs to return to politics however the argument could be made, law enforcement officials using the term “held accountable” is an intimidation tactic.
    I would be happy if civility returned to this site. Won’t happen. Emotions are running to high. People don’t want to discuss/debate. If there is disagreement, people resort to personal insults (see above)
    Gaz you even commented on the extent of McCain’s disabilities and whether he was faking. For Pete sakes.
    I would really like to get back to issues.
    Currently, I trust McCain more on foreign policy and Obama on the economy. Now the question is not experience, it’s which is the worst? I believe Obama would be a disaster on foreign policy. McCain a disaster on the economy. Both of these issues are demanding our attention.
    Here’s a thought. Why not have both candidates show their cards in terms of their economic/forrign policy teams? That would be a deal breaker for me

  10. Deleted by moderator.

    Note that posters must not only refrain from personal attacks but on my columns using innuendo to imply unacceptable attitudes will result in the entire post being deleted.

  11. Slander and libel allegations are civil court matters. There are no district attorneys, just lawyers representing the plaintiff and defendant. Anyone who watches courtroom dramas knows the difference between a criminal and civil case.

    Nobody bothers bringing presidential candidates to court.

    Here’s an example. McCain keeps repeating, and just this morning said it again on Septhanopolis, that he stands by his ad linking Obama with Franklin Raines. (View McCain ad and Obama’sounter-ad here. Note that the McCain ad removes the Raines quote from context, where in the same interview he said that he never talked to Obama about mortgages or Fannie Mae.)

    This ad is important because it links the amiable non-threatening Obama with another black man with two pictures of Raines that make him look downright evil, and then follow it with the picture of a vulnerable looking white woman. Many pundits have suggested it is an appeal to those who are uneasy voting for a black man.

    McCain denies fact that the ad is a lie with two unrelated justifications.

    One is that the connection between Obama and Raines was reported in The Washington Post. He uses newspapers when it is convenient and in this instance leave out the inconvenient fact that the so-called reporting was first in the Post’s style section and then repeated in two more articles. (Reference).

    Two is another often repeated charge that such ads wouldn’t have been used if Obama had agreed to town hall meetings.

    In other words, it’s Obama’s fault that he uses lies and distortions in ads.

    It would be interesting to see these defenses presented to a jury in a civil slander or libel trial.

    In this election it is the voter who sits on the jury.

  12. The stance by Blunt and his cronies is nothing short of ridiculous. Nowhere does anyone claim that they are going to use prosecutorial or police powers to quash criticism of Obama. All they are doing is announcing that these people are going to be on the alert for the terrible lies, innuendoes, etc., that is so much a hallmark of a campaign run by Karl (Marx) Rove.

    These people have a right to point out that the McCain campaign is spreading lies about Obama. Do you have any idea how many times I have received email claiming that Obama is a Muslim, the antiChrist, a baby-killer?

    On the latter, you can find ample evidence that McCain’s campaign considered a YouTube campaign using Limbaugh’s ugly fable about Obama’s asking Palin whether she intended to kill her Down Syndrome child before birth or after. If you think that is good politics then you need to go find Rove and Limbaugh and enlist in their tawdry group of people who are not above such gutter abominations.

    It is time to return to civility in politics. The sort of crap that Blunt pulled is vile, despicable, and outrageous. And your post of it with the characterization of the supposed Democratic tactic as fascism (not facism) is contemptible.

  13. NY Times as fiction – no wonder a major part of the Rove tactics the McCain campaign is using to discredit the press is focusing on The New York Times.

    Any sensible NcCain supporter would have to think twice about their allegiance to him if they took complex investigative report (LINK).

    Aside from his connections with gambling lobbyists, which many will find difficult to grasp, there’s the more disquieting description of his love of gambling at the craps table:

    Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

    A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

    McCain has been quoted elsewhere as saying he believes he has a method of beating the odds at craps. He jokes about his love of gambling.

    I’ve done a bit of reading about casino games of chance 1 and while there are different odds of the dice falling in various combinations, in the long run the house always wins.

    I hope Obama puts together an ad with some of McCain’s smirking gambling statements along with images of dice rolling and piles of chips and the voice-over saying something about McCain willing to gamble of your future.


    1. My hometown is poised to have a huge Indian casino built on a tract of wooded land.

  14. Maureen Dowd: Obama lines he could have used

    McCain: “doesn’t quite understand or doesn’t get it.”

    Obama: “Senator, I understand perfectly, I’m just saying you’re wrong.”

    On the surge: You are the arsonist who wants to be praised for the great job you did putting out the fire you started.

    I am sick and tired of you suggesting that I would take funds away from our brave soldiers. I no more voted for that than you did when you voted against our funding proposals that would have imposed a timetable. And unlike you, I did not vote against funding increases for the troops that have come home with devastating physical and mental injuries.

    Read rest of column here.

  15. Zu,
    Comments such as yours remind me all the more why I just absolutely detest the rudeness and anger that has become the democratic party.
    Speaking of facism:

    Blunt, GOP say Obama ‘truth squad’ seeks to squash free speech with police power
    Chad Livengood • • September 27, 2008

    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Gov. Matt Blunt and Republicans are accusing Barack Obama’s campaign of assembling a “truth squad” with law enforcement officials to intimidate Obama critics from speaking out against the Democratic presidential candidate…..
    The controversy was sparked by a KMOV televion report featuring St.. Louis County Attorney Bob McCulloch and St. Louis City Attorney Jennifer Joyce saying they would respond to paid advertising twisting Obama’s record


  16. Neon, if it makes you feel better to yank out the race card, go ahead.
    There are racists in this nation to be sure. Not every older American supporting McCain is a bigot. My 73 year old mother, retired business woman and life long democrat is voting republican for the first time in her life.
    She was a Hillary supporter. When Obama said the Hillary supporters can get over it, he doesn’t need them, he lost her.
    The bitter people clinging to religion got her again. She is a devout Christian, though I have never known her to be bitter. My late father, a devout Christian owned guns. When he was a boy in the depression, a gun was a great way to obtain dinner on the farm.
    And my dear momma is about as sick of the race card as I.

  17. Obama wasn’t speaking to the “red meaters”, he was attempting to create a path for older voters who are having trouble voting for a black man. And he may well have made in-roads into that group.

    Add in the fact that this debate was intended to be about “Foreign Policy”, McCain’s suppossed strength, and I would say it was a good night for Obama.

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