Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 05:07 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 05:07 | SYDNEY

Third presidential debate


Sam Roggeveen


16 October 2008 13:12

Just a few points on tonight's third and final presidential debate, since I only followed it intermittently.

The first point is that, just as in the first debate, neither candidate was able to go much beyond vague generalities about spending cuts. The US is facing a major economic downturn and a massive deficit, yet both Obama and McCain imply that their spending programs can remain intact. Clearly, promising to cut a swathe through various programs is no way to get elected, so perhaps the candidates are not to blame for this air of unreality. Voters, it seems, have only a small appetite for the truth.

Second, this debate seemed to be the most substantive of the three. Yes, there was a portion devoted to campaign tactics, and Obama was right to try to pivot back to actual issues as quickly as he could, because although campaign tactics are of interest to the political class, voters don't much care. On the whole, though, there was an admirable focus on policy detail, and even a few actual exchanges between the candidates (in other words, they debated).

Last, a word about manner and bearing. There's been a lot of commentary in Democrat-leaning American blogs about McCain's testiness and temper, some of which has been overdrawn. But there's no getting around the fact that in all three debates, and indeed in his campaign as a whole, it is Obama who has projected calm, steadiness and self-command. That's a reassuring message to a jaded and perhaps frightened electorate.