The NYT’s John M. Broder half-heartedly sets some Obama-friendly expectations for the first presidential debate this Friday, but the fact that John McCain “uses short, active verbs that project strength,” and ”can connect with audiences on a visceral level using down-to-earth language” does not rank him as a debate champ as against the “uneven” and aloof Barack Obama.
Indeed, Broder characterizes at least one McCain performance as “uneven,” but chooses to bury it in the middle of the McCain piece. The effort reaches the point of absurdity when Broder stoops to include Obama’s Senate campaign debate against Alan Keyes as a “high-stakes” event — when in reality, Keyes was a carpetbagging joke selected by state Republicans after Jack Ryan’s campaign imploded. That debate was meaningless. Moreover, even Broder admits that Obama improved as a debater over the course of the presidential primaries.
If Broder really wanted to set expectations for Obama, he might have noted that Obama previously ran away from McCain’s suggested series of town hall debates. Or that Obama did so poorly at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the presidency that his campaign tried to claim that McCain cheated. Or that Obama is the kind of candidate who brings a Teleprompter to town hall events and even to a rodeo. Was Broder afraid that degree of candor might upset the delicate sensibilities of his paper’s rapidly shrinking readership?