Thursday, October 16, 2008

It Just Doesn't Matter

A few quick thoughts on last night's debate:

- When McCain started to answer the first question on the economy with the words "greed on Wall Street," I realized that whatever faint hopes for a breakthrough that I had been harboring were dashed. Yes, he was more feisty than in the previous debates and yes he went after Obama harder and more directly. But given the current dire circumstances of the economy and the McCain campaign, he needed something bigger and bolder.

In fairness to McCain, I don't know if anything he could have said last night would really make that much of a difference. As the dour Charles Krauthammer noted in his post-debate analysis, with the economy in the tank and Obama's talent for coming off as calm, cool, and collected at all times, it's doubtful that even a renowned conservative communicator like Reagan could have broken through.

- For me, the low point for both candidates came when they were asked how much they would reduce our dependence on foreign oil by the end of their first term. Firstly, neither actually bothered to answer the question, instead they both talked about how in "eight to ten years" we could stop buying oil from the Middle East and Venezuela. Secondly, their ignorance on this issue and reluctance to talk straight with the American people was appalling. Yes, reducing our demands and getting more oil from domestic sources are good ideas. But the idea that by picking and choosing where we buy our oil will somehow both benefit us and hurt our enemies is baseless.

The oil market is global. The only way that you could reduce the amount of money that these unfriendly countries are getting is to reduce GLOBAL demands or increasing GLOBAL supplies. Obviously, since the US is a significant part of that total, reducing our demands will have an impact. Unless China and India keep increasing their demands. If we don't buy oil from Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela it doesn't mean they don't sell it. They just sell it to someone else at the price arrived at by the GLOBAL market. While we might all feel better by being able to say that we're only importing oil from Canada, don't think that automatically means that the Saudis are going to be getting screwed.

- It seems like we end up repeating this same plea every four years, but there needs to be fundamental changes to the debate process. We've just had three presidential debates where the candidates spent most of their time addressing issues and reciting talking points that are no different from what we've heard from them for the past two years. Other than helping Obama show that he can appear "presidential," they were an utter waste of time and revealed nothing about either man that we didn't already know. I don't know if something like the Newt Gingrich's proposal is the answer, but there has to be a better way.