Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On the Ohio Debate

Politics: Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Most Improved Debater : In what may be the final debate, Obama shows how he's grown.
By John Dickerson
Posted Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008, at 8:10 AM ET (Slate)

In the first Democratic primary debate 10 months ago, Hillary Clinton didn't have to charge that Barack Obama wasn't ready to be president on Day One. He did the work for her. He was halting, mumbling, and tentative. The only confidence he instilled was in Clinton. Nineteen debates later, he's improved so much that if he's not ready to be president on Day One, you could imagine he might get there after a little study. At what may be the last debate of the Democratic primary, Obama was commanding, at ease, and magnanimous. Clinton needed him to stumble, and he didn't. He won the night.

I think Dickerson nailed this.

What most astounds me about Obama's performances in the debates is his astonishing capacity for growth. I think last night was his best ever. Not only that--he now looks and feels "Presidential"--fully ready to step into the role "on Day One," as Hillary would have it. His mixture of gravitas, increasing command of the issues (less well displayed in his response on the incoming Russian President--although Hillary muffed that one as well), and gently self-effacing humor (which has, in the last two debates, utterly undermined Clintonian attacks, and made their purveyors look silly)--show his utter sense of command and, for me at least, recall several of JFK's most memorable political talents.

I respect Senator Clinton's policy knowledge and general sense of competence (not always well displayed in her Campaign). I do not want, especially as a male, to employ language suggestive of a sexist critique (and I was thrilled by her coming to the White House in 1992, and by her designation to head the (ill-fated) health care reform effort.) But the more I see of her in this campaign, the less I like her. Part of it is her world-leading sense of entitlement. Part is her increasingly obvious psychological projection, blaming others (including but not limited to Obama) for campaign tactics and motivations in a way that is more revealing of herself (and not in a positive sense) than illuminating about Obama, who is now able to shrug them off as campaign silliness. Senator Clinton is in real danger of making herself look ridiculous. I'll leave it there for now.

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