I don’t watch American news that much, so I’m not really following all the details of the campaign. But the current election is important enough that I try to at least keep myself generally posted. And tonight was Obama’s and McCain’s first live television debate, which was supposed to be the only one about foreign policy, so there were many reasons why I should watch it.
I am lucky enough to have HD TV and HD channels delivered to me, so I watched it on CNN HD. I also have “regular” CNN and I switched between them a few times, and the quality difference between the pictures is really remarkable (aside from the HD version also being widescreen). So seeing it in HD was really great.
The general feeling that I came away with is that McCain is just a sad old grandpa kind of man whose greatest asset is his ‘Nam stories, and I don’t really trust him. I sort of leaned towards Obama already before, and I’m doing more so now. There are many components to that.
One reason why I liked Obama was the looks. I know it sounds superficial, but that’s a component of how many people make decisions. So here’s the thing: Obama looked exactly as good on TV as he does on his ads and photos, whereas in McCain’s case, you can see that all his ads and things on the net are much much more doctored/photoshopped, and he looked old on TV.
The other thing was their conversation style. Obama actually tried to engage in a conversation with McCain, trying to talk with him directly. I think that’s the whole point of a debate – having candidates talk with each other, not just preaching. McCain only talked about Obama in third person, as “Senator Obama has done this and that”. It’s as if Obama wasn’t even in the room at the same time – McCain’s lines would have been the same.
The good news to me is that their views on Russia, which to me as an Estonian is important, did not really differ at all, they were pretty much saying the same thing. Both were distancing themselves from Bush who “saw Putin’s soul”, and both were saying that instead of the soul, you see a KGB-run nondemocratic regime now. And yet Obama recognized you still need to work together with them on some world affairs, which is my view too. But in general approach to Russia, both candidates are good news to Europe. (Obama also explicitly referred to Estonians and Lithunanians and some other countries as “fledgling democracies”. Which is not too far from the truth. Well, at least he said that the US should stand for them.)
In general, I think Obama did well in this debate and I am looking forward to next Thursday debate between Biden and Palin. I am expecting it to be entertaining, as the odds are there that Biden will do better. We’ll see.