The Blog

Fight Night!

Scoring Obama-McCain, round by round.

11:50 PM, Sep 26, 2008 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Obama says that this is a fundamental difference between the two men because six years ago he stood up the salons of Hyde Park and bravely opposed the war. He then paints a picture of American defeat around the globe and claims that al Qaeda is stronger than it's been at any time since 2001. For whatever it's worth, this last assertion is counter to recent analysis of al Qaeda's strength. It betrays a staggering ignorance on Obama's part; his position deteriorates from there.

Round to McCain

Round 5: About that Afghanistan . . .

Obama says we need more troops in Afghanistan, which is why we need to pull out of Iraq and get tough with Pakistan.

McCain says that he regrets the mistake we made by neglecting the Afghanis after they drove the Soviets out, allowing the Taliban to take hold. He then paints Obama as reckless for wanting to cut off aid to a tottering nuclear power. The knowledge gap is beginning to show and it gets worse when Obama mangles pre-Musharraf Pakistani history.

As the exchange goes on it becomes clear that these guys like each other about as much as Ali and Foreman did.

Round to McCain

Round 6: How big a threat is Iran?

McCain says that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel and a strategic threat to the stability of the region. He notes that Russia is blocking action at the U.N. and touts a "League of Democracies" which could implement serious and tough sanctions on Iran. But "have no doubt," he's ready to throw down. He gallantly doesn't mention that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to prefer Obama.

Obama says that we need Russia and China to help with sanction. But the real thing we need with Iran is--hold on to your seats--tough, direct diplomacy!

McCain hits Obama for pledging to talk with Ahmadinejad without preconditions. Obama should just take his lumps here--this is the cost of winning the Democratic nomination. But instead he tries to weasel out of it, saying that he'll "sit down with anybody" but that there have to be "preparation." Then he tries to get cute by saying that Ahmadinejad may not be the most important person in Iran.

It's a weird pride that keeps Obama committed to a losing position when he should just find different ground to fight on. You'll notice, by the way, that whenever he loses his way, he blurts out "President Bush."

McCain says that his opponent's views aren't "just naive, but dangerous." Obama isn't doing anything to dispel this notion.

Round to McCain

Round 7: Russia. Competitor? Enemy? Partner? Discuss.

Obama says that the evidence of recent weeks says we need to reevaluate our relationship with Russia and that we should start expanding NATO immediately. But that we can't return to a Cold War posture.

McCain says that Obama's first reaction to the Russia-Georgia conflict was to urge both sides to show restraint, evincing further "naiveté." It's pretty rough, particularly when he starts talking about the specifics of South Ossetia.

Round to McCain

Round 8: What is the likelihood of another 9/11?

McCain says it's "much less than it was the day after 9/11" and that we are a safer nation, even though we are not safe. He talks about how he pushed for the creation of the 9/11 Commission against the wishes of President Bush and how he worked with Democrats to pass most of the Commission's recommendations. Most gratifyingly, he talks about how important it is to bolster American intelligence capabilities, particularly in the area of HUMINT.

Obama says that we are safer in some ways, but still have a long way to go. He smartly points out that we have yet to harden transportation points (excluding airports), chemical facilities, and other attractive targets. He also talks about the need to focus on nuclear proliferation, in order to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. This is the most comfortable and commanding he's been all night.

McCain goes back to Obama's desire to withdrawal from Iraq, saying that Obama doesn't realize how interconnected Iraq is to the wider terrorist threat. Obama responds that Iraq is a huge disaster and hindrance to everything America needs to do in the world.

Then McCain throws down the gauntlet with what I suspect will be the only line people take away from the night: "There are some advantages to experience and knowledge and judgment. And I honestly don't believe that Sen. Obama has the knowledge or experience and has made the wrong judgments in a number of areas."