Debate Desert

I have only seen extracts of the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, and those few seem to paint Obama as a more direct, on the ball individual. McCain doesn't excel in these things, and was noticeably keen to avoid any eye contact with his sprightlier opponent. Mind you, Obama, for all his rhetorical skills, is not a great debater either, so I guess the fact that he appears to have emerged as the winner, according to various polls, can be chalked up as a success.

Frankly, McCain had a disastrous week with his dash back to Washington backfiring badly, and his attendance at the debate was an own goal given his earlier determination not to, unless the financial crisis was solved - and I'm sorry, did I miss something, or is global finance still in a mess?

Reviews of the debate are pretty unanimous in their assessment of its dullness - you'd get more fun out of an English Speaking Union debate between novices - and the reason for that, of course, is the extreme care that each candidate takes not to say anything that could remotely be held as a hostage to fortune for the remainder of the campaign. Pity. Debates are meant to inspire passion not passivity.

I did, however, experience some political passion last night when I went to see the play "Now or Later" at the Royal Court theatre. Great play, sparkling with tightly scripted dialogue, based around a developing family crisis for the victorious Democratic candidate on the night of his winning the presidency. Focused around compromising internet footage of the president-elect's gay son dressed as Mohammed at a party, the play took up ideological cudgels for freedom of expression, and provided its own response about the dangers of liberal intolerance and its assumption of superiority. Topical, thought-provoking, a reminder that politics can be stimulating, divisive and never less than fascinating, it was like a bit of 'West Wing' on stage. Much better than a presidential debate, it seems.


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