Obama-McCain Debates

Obama-McCain Debates John McCain has proposed a series of debates with Barack Obama in the format that he thinks best suits his skills as a candidate. Naturally, Obama has responded in kind. Taegan Goddard:

According to NBC News, Sen. John McCain proposed a series of ten joint town hall meetings with Sen. Barack Obama beginning June 12 in New York City.

Said McCain: “I suggest the town hall meeting format, because I think it’s the best way… I even propose we travel together on the same plane.”

The Obama campaign responds: “As Barack Obama has said before, the idea of joint town halls is appealing and one that would allow a great conversation to take place about the need to change the direction of this country. We would recommend a format that is less structured and lengthier than the McCain campaign suggests, one that more closely resembles the historic debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.”

McCain’s in great shape for a 71-year-old who spent five years getting tortured by the Viet Cong but ten multi-hour debates might be a little much for him. And, if not him, certainly the viewing public.

I continue to believe, perhaps naively, that the Obama-McCain fall matchup will be relatively issue oriented compared to recent contests. While surrogates and 527s and others will ratchet up the noise and vitriol, both candidates seem to have a natural aversion to mud-slinging.

More debates rather than fewer and less scripted rather than more would be my preference and, it seems, that of both candidates. If their campaigns don’t talk them out of it.

Photo: ABC News (Getty Images/ Reuters )

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I think Obama should wait until after the convention, he’s got enough work to do between now and then working on his own party.

    Besides, these kinds of debates will be the only time the campaigns are on equal footing this year, so it makes sense for McCain to favor them while Obama should favor things where he can use his funding advantage.

  2. Benedict says:

    both candidates seem to have a natural aversion to mud-slinging

    Come on, James. It was less than a month ago that Obama busted out with the McCain “losing his bearings” dig. And a few weeks before that it was honoring McCain’s “half century of service” to the American people.

    So while you may be right that McCain has a natural aversion to mud-slinging – except when the targets are conservatives and fellow Republicans – there is no evidence that Obama has that same compunction.

  3. James Joyner says:

    there is no evidence that Obama has that same compunction.

    Compare him to Hillary…

  4. Bithead says:

    Benedict;

    Exacty so. McCain is thereby fighting with both hands tied behind his back. I for one wish he could get himself over these self-imposed restrictions.

  5. Derrick says:

    Come on, James.

    Oh, don’t forget about McCain being the “American president that America has been waiting for” patriotic-bs despite the fact that I’m pretty sure that Obama and every person whose ever served as President has been an American. Or McCain’s smear that Obama is “Hama’s preferred candidate”.

    All of these were pretty ham-fisted attempts at mud-slinging, so while I think that there will be some nasty shots, I’m with James in believing that we will probably be dealing more with issues than smears in this election.

  6. Michael says:

    Come on, James. It was less than a month ago that Obama busted out with the McCain “losing his bearings” dig.

    I still don’t see how that was a dig an McCain’s age, and not on his changing policy positions.

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anyone who thinks Obama’s campaign is not throwing mud is not paying any attention. They do is in an obtuse way, but it is being done. Any criticism of Obama is called racist. Well, he has Dumbo ears and a racist wife, preacher, and friends who have violently attacked American. He personally believes America is wrong on most counts and is anti-Israel, judging by those who he keeps council with. He believes he can force private corporations into spending their money the way he wants. This man does not understand liberty or the free market. He was educated by marxist, what do you expect. Had he been conceived after Roe V. Wade. He would not be a problem as he would have been surely aborted.

  8. Triumph says:

    McCain showed by his historic and inspiring speech yesterday in Kenner, LA that B. Hussein doesn’t have a chance in any situation where the two go toe-to-toe.

    McCain was a natural, providing stinging rebukes to the tired Senator from Illinois.

    November is going to be a serious cakewalk for McCain.

  9. Davebo says:

    McCain showed by his historic and inspiring speech yesterday in Kenner, LA that B. Hussein doesn’t have a chance in any situation where the two go toe-to-toe.

    That’s some grade A spoofing there!

  10. Spoker says:

    What ever these events may be, they will not be debates.

    It is reasonable to assume they will be the same pre-programed media-centric sound bite orgies that we have seen in all campaign for the past several years. True debates, not a chance.

  11. Derrick says:

    They do is in an obtuse way, but it is being done. Any criticism of Obama is called racist. Well, he has Dumbo ears and a racist wife, preacher, and friends who have violently attacked American.

    I particularly love how you reason that its obtuse to paint Obama’s critics as racist (a serious strawman argument anyway). And then you call his wife, preacher and friends…..RACIST! The irony is breathtaking.

  12. The Political Pyrate says:

    In 2000 the republican party decided that John McCain was only second best when compared to George W. Bush. John McCain will show his second best status again when he debates with Obama.

    Anyone who thinks that Jhonny Mac will be any challenge to Obama is deluding themselves.

  13. brainy435 says:

    I’d love to see Obama try and talk policy specifics for a lengthy amount of time, all on his own. He can’t even get through prepared speeches with out making something up, inventing new states and/or directly contradicting himself. The man has absolutely no substance and its embarasing to think such a completely unqualified candidate actually has a chance of being President.

  14. sam says:

    @ Derrick:

    I particularly love how you reason that its obtuse to paint Obama’s critics as racist (a serious strawman argument anyway). And then you call his wife, preacher and friends…..RACIST! The irony is breathtaking.

    Forget it D. In Zeldorfland this is what passes for trenchant commentary:

    Had [Obama] been conceived after Roe V. Wade. He would not be a problem as he would have been surely aborted.

  15. just me says:

    I am not so sure Obama is going to be the better debater.

    He may look prettier and sound prettier, but I am willing to bet McCain knows his stuff better.

    Also, Obama mostly does well when he is reading from something he has prepared. When he has to go off the cuff, he seems to struggle a lot more.

    But I doubt we will see real debates-I figure they will be the fluffy media ventures of past years, that mostly look to get soundbites than anything substantive.

    I also hope the debates don’t start until after the conventions. I am not sure what it would do for either candidate anyway.

  16. DL says:

    Lets not get confused for a moment that this race is about the candidates belief issues. It is about who can best tell the voter what they want to hear.

    The greatest fight of all time -the “Messiah vs. the Maverick”

    Those who wish to make a fortune should now start building their “Obama ears” for Halloween time.

    For McCain a rubber knife to wear on your back.

  17. Triumph says:

    He may look prettier and sound prettier, but I am willing to bet McCain knows his stuff better.

    Yeah, totally. He’s the guy who says that Iran is coordinating Al Quaeda in Iraq. He also thinks that farm workers earn $50/hour–which might explain his admission that he doesn’t understand economics.

  18. Michael says:

    Also, Obama mostly does well when he is reading from something he has prepared. When he has to go off the cuff, he seems to struggle a lot more.

    True, but Obama seems better able to adapt his message to counter McCain’s, so while McCain may do better in the first few debates, I don’t think he’ll be able to create a dynamic message that can carry him through 10 of them.

    Just look at their recent speeches. McCain tried to preempt Obama’s “3rd Bush Term” attack, but instead of trying to use it anyway, Obama’s speech took a different direction. At the end, McCain came out saying all those negative things about himself and Obama came out saying only positive things about himself.

  19. SavageView says:

    In 2000 the republican party decided that John McCain was only second best when compared to George W. Bush. John McCain will show his second best status again when he debates with Obama.

    Perhaps this is the argument that McCain can make regarding being Bush’s 3rd term. It will only be 2nd best 3rd term.

  20. Triumph says:

    McCain’s in great shape for a 71-year-old who spent five years getting tortured by the Viet Cong but ten multi-hour debates might be a little much for him.

    Thank god that once he is president, he won’t have to endure any multi-hour debates or discussions about anything. He’ll be able to kick back, play some golf–although that might be disrespectful to the troops–and chill at 1600 Penn. Ave.

  21. Wayne says:

    Hours long non script town hall type of debates with unscreened questioners would be to McCain’s advantage. It is highly unlikely that Obama would agree to them though. I disagree with many of McCain’s stances but he knows what he believes and stands by his belief. It much easier for a man like that to do the hours of impromptu and detail discussion than someone who uses political buzz lines and spout fluff ideas.