A friend once noted that I’m not very good with beginnings.Â In blogging, sometimes I find I have a brilliant idea (at least I think it’s brilliant), but will struggle to express myself because I want just the right beginning.
I even had this problem as a runner.Â The first few minutes of the run would be the toughest.Â Once I found my stride, however, I could hold my pace for great distances.Â I learned to use this to my advantage when I rand road races.Â I’d start slow, not minding so much if people passed me, but afer the second mile, I’d be the one doing the passing. Â From then on, no one would pass me.
That’s kind of how I saw John McCain’s debate performance last night, except his “second mile” didn’t come until maybe forty or forty-five minutes into the debate. Â
Only later did catch the beginning* on FoxNews and thought Obama looked stronger in his opening remarks.Â About a third in the debate when I had inititally started watching, McCain looked nervous, almost uncomfortable.Â On the watch for Obama’s use of “um,” given the Democrat’s predilection for the word when not using a TelePrompter, I also caught my candidate used the exclamation more than was warranted.
At this point, he only seemed better because Obama was worse.
McCain flubbed what should have been an easy question for him, “What do you see as the lessons of Iraq?” Â He used a lot of words to say the war was mishandled, we needed to change our strategy and we did.Â Fine.Â Once he stated that, he seemed to ramble a bit. Â He should have been more specific here, talking about the need to take the war to our enemies.
He was only saved because Obama decided to revisit the past and say (once again) he was against the war.Â It wasn’t really a rebuttal. Â The reason McCain won the round was because of how badly Obama lost.Â Instead of addressing his own inexperience and inaction, he pointed to his “vice presidential selection Joe Biden.”
Soon after that, my man found his stride.Â While his rival continued to interrupt his thoughts with “um” and “ah,”Â McCain spoke more fluently forcefully.Â He kept Obama on the defensive. Â Still, given Obama’s gift for rhetoric, I thought he’d finish more strongly than McCain.
I was wrong.Â McCain didn’t break stride whereas Obama stumbled.Â In his final remarks, the Illinois Democrat started well by relating the story of his father, but faltered when he said, “I don’t think any of us can say that our standing in the world now, the way children around the world look at the United States, is the same.”Â He went from a positive to a negative, then proceeded to a banality.
McCain, however, began his last statement in almost the exact opposite manner.Â He went from a negative, how badly veterans were treated when he returned from Vietnam, to an assertion of his strengths, telling us what he “knows how to” do.Â Obama wanted to send a message.
The difference between their two endings struck me more than anything else in the debate, the more gifted orator was pedestrian, the scrappy legislator was inspiring.
I had expected something entirely different.Â Maybe like me in road races, once John McCain finds his stride, he doesn’t let up and finds that he has a strong kick at the end.
*Stuck in LA traffic, I didn’t get home until about 6:20 PST