Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:40 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:40 | SYDNEY

Debate strategy: Cross your legs and hope not to lie


Michael Fullilove


8 October 2008 14:17

I thought John McCain narrowly won the first presidential debate, but tonight I felt Barack Obama was the victor.

Obama was smoother, more relaxed, and more direct and responsive to questions. His body language was good — he looked natural sitting on his bar stool whereas McCain didn't know how to arrange his legs. (Obama often sits on this kind of stool when he's on stage. Other pollies who join him, such as Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy, invariably look uncomfortable when it's their time to perch.) Memo to Steve Schmidt: next time, don't skip the sitting practice.

McCain was scratchier and jumpier — and he has good reason to be, given that every day that passes without Obama falling flat on his face is bad news for McCain. His verbal tic — inserting the phrase 'my friends' into perfectly innocent sentences that never did anything to anyone — was on full display. Early on, McCain got some digs into Obama's ribs, but as the debate progressed he became nicer and nicer. If he took his gloves off, as Sarah Palin asked him to, I didn't notice. McCain's best moment, I thought, was when he bonded with a Navy veteran, who spontaneously offered the Republican a handshake.

Tom Brokaw was lame throughout the show, pleading with the two senators to stick to the agreed time limits but failing to interrupt them when they exceeded those limits. As Brokaw said himself: 'I'm just the hired help.'

One strange thing I noticed was that after the debate ended, McCain's party disappeared quickly from the venue, wheras the Obamas lingered to shake hands with and sign autographs for an obviously excited debate audience. Perhaps this vision was only available to those (like me) who watched the debate online: for McCain's sake, I hope so, because this was a very good look for Barack Obama.