John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Historic Debate

Posted on September 26, 2008



            If you don’t get the history of this debate, you aren’t paying attention.


            The fact that Barack Obama could come to Oxford, Mississippi, the home of Ole Miss, and debate as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, is a testament to the greatness of this country.  It is also a testament to Obama and the amazing campaign he has run to this point.


            Obama, who announced his run for President in the same place that started Abraham Lincoln’s political career, wants to become the second Illinoisan (not counting Ronald Reagan) to ascend to the White House.  Despite all the history that surrounded this debate, this performance will not propel the Junior Senator to the Oval Office.


            John McCain performed his own history class for the American people and for Mr. Obama.


            As Mr. McCain showed, making history and knowing history are two different things.  When it comes to foreign policy, John McCain has made history, where Barack Obama simply seems to have read it somewhere. There is no substitute for experience, and McCain demonstrated how having a President with the proper experience, used in the correct way, can pay dividends for the American people.   McCain knew his foreign policy cold, he knew all the players, he knew the geography, and most importantly, he knew how to protect and defend American interests.


            Obama, on the other hand, offered vague generalities, and the normal platitudes that come from having only a superficial knowledge of the issues at hand.


            The debate also illuminated the economic philosophies of the two candidates.  Obama demurred when the issue came to spending cuts; McCain was eager to talk about where he would cut spending.  Obama was eager to talk about who he would raise taxes on (those damn people making over $250,000 a year); McCain talked about cutting business taxes.   For those who want higher taxes and more government spending, Obama clearly won.  But for the rest of us who think that government wastes too much of our tax money already on stupid and corrupt spending, McCain was the big winner.


            McCain could have been more gracious towards Obama, but it became clear that the Arizona Senator simply doesn’t believe that the junior Senator from Illinois is qualified to be President.  Obama, at times, was overly gracious to McCain, but at other times, he was visibly annoyed that his record was being challenged.


            McCain had a clear plan going into the debate:  Question Obama’s readiness to lead.  It worked.  Obama seemed to be on the defensive throughout the debate, and he failed in his central strategic mission, which was to continue to make the link between McCain and Bush.


            The Obama people obviously think that their guy lost the debate.  Their post-debate spin was that McCain didn’t get the game-changer he needed.  In other words, he may have won, but not enough to win the election.


            I am not so sure of that analysis.  I think McCain stopped Obama’s momentum in its tracks, and I guarantee that among most voters over the age of 50, he won hands down.  That is the sweet spot of the electorate, and these old folks know their history.


            It was a historic debate to kick of the Fall Season of a historic campaign.  And I believe that the historians will give the edge to McCain (as will most Americans).