(7:00PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)
The best moment in Friday’s presidential debate, for me, was when John McCain brought up the bracelet he has been wearing during the campaign. McCain gave Barack Obama an opening and Obama came back with a knockout punch.
It was great that Obama had bracelet too, but what made the counter punch so devastating was what Barack did with the opening McCain’s bracelet story provided.
But first, here is some background. McCain has been using the bracelet anecdote on the campaign trail repeatedly. Back in March, ABC News wrote about McCain and the bracelet.
Toward the end of almost every speech he gives or informal remarks he delivers at a town hall-style meeting, Sen. John McCain tells the same story.
If you watch him carefully, you can even tell when it’s coming.
The Arizona senator will shoot his right arm forward in his suit sleeve, revealing a dark metallic band low on his wrist. It’s probably an unconscious gesture. He doesn’t hold up the bracelet. He doesn’t look at it. But very soon he will tell the story. He has told it hundreds of times.
The Obama’s debate prep team had him ready for McCain’s bracelet jab. McCain’s right jab was predictable and the 72-year-old “maverick” telegraphs when he his about to throw it.
Here’s McCain in the debate:
And I’ll tell you, I had a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and a woman stood up and she said, “Senator McCain, I want you to do me the honor of wearing a bracelet with my son’s name on it.”
He was 22 years old and he was killed in combat outside of Baghdad, Matthew Stanley, before Christmas last year. This was last August, a year ago. And I said, “I will — I will wear his bracelet with honor.”
And this was August, a year ago. And then she said, “But, Senator McCain, I want you to do everything — promise me one thing, that you’ll do everything in your power to make sure that my son’s death was not in vain.”
That means that that mission succeeds, just like those young people who re-enlisted in Baghdad, just like the mother I met at the airport the other day whose son was killed. And they all say to me that we don’t want defeat.
A war that I was in, where we had an Army, that it wasn’t through any fault of their own, but they were defeated. And I know how hard it is for that — for an Army and a military to recover from that. And it did and we will win this one and we won’t come home in defeat and dishonor and probably have to go back if we fail.
Here, McCain has precisely laid out why his thinking on Iraq is flawed and how he continues to pick at America’s old wounds from the Vietnam war to score political points. McCain believes there is too much invested in Iraq and therefore the United States must stay in Iraq.
McCain’s Vietnam loss aversion causes him to commit a sunk cost fallacy. So even though the case for war that was originally made has long since been disproven, for McCain the U.S. must continue on with the mistake. McCain is a gambler, so when he’s losing it’s double or nothing. He raises the stakes and digs himself, and the country, in deeper.
There is no surprise that Obama and his team were prepared for McCain’s bracelet story, but what Obama was able to do with this opening must be commended. In the debate, Obama responded:
Jim, let me just make a point. I’ve got a bracelet, too, from Sergeant – from the mother of Sergeant Ryan David Jopeck, given to me in Green Bay. She asked me, can you please make sure another mother is not going through what I’m going through.
CNN transcript corrected using NY Times transcript.
Not only did Obama defuse McCain’s bracelet story with a bracelet of his own given to him by the mother of a fallen solider, but unlike McCain, Obama has not used it repeatedly on the campaign trail to prop himself up. McCain has diluted his bracelet story with constant retelling, while Obama caught McCain by surprise, I think, with a bracelet story of his own.
But even more so, Obama devastated McCain’s faulting sunk cost thinking. Using McCain’s “flawgic” if and when a soldier dies in a war that should not have been started in the first place, more and more soldiers must be sacrificed to the mistake to, somehow, make it not a mistake. Once troops have been committed to a mistake it is too late to pull back and make adjustments. This is akin to George W. Bush perpetually saying ‘We must stay the course in Iraq’ between 2003-2006.
From the debate, here is how Obama continued after saying he too had a bracelet:
No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they’re carrying out the missions of their commander in chief. And we honor all the service that they’ve provided. Our troops have performed brilliantly. The question is for the next president, are we making good judgments about how to keep America safe precisely because sending our military into battle is such an enormous step.
Bam! Obama lays a powerful left hook across McCain’s nose. Obama’s response here is a thing of beauty. “No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they’re carrying out the missions of their commander in chief,” Obama said. He squarely places the responsibility on Bush for every solider who has died in the wars Bush has waged as president.
Obama also defuses the idea that a soldier’s life has been wasted in the line of duty by doing his or her duty. For Obama, the soldier’s life is not wasted at the time of death. There is no reason to add more soldiers’ deaths, to prove that the first soldier’s life was not wasted. A soldier who dies in the line of duty is not a wasted life because a hopefully wise leader has made the decision to order the troops into harm’s way.
This, I think, is where Obama goes for the knockout on McCain. “The question is for the next president, are we making good judgments about how to keep America safe precisely because sending our military into battle is such an enormous step,” Obama said. If the president has poor judgement, such as is the case of Bush, then it is the president whose vanity throws away the lives of American soldiers.
It is the judgement of the commander in chief that is vital to this nation’s security. When the commander in chief lacks wisdom, like Bush, then that leader will weaken America’s security and waste our military. And just like Bush, McCain made the wrong decision to invade Iraq. So therefore, if any soldier did die in vain in Iraq, then it is Bush’s and McCain’s fault and sending more soldiers to their deaths does not change the vanity of the original poor decision.
Continuing, Obama underscored this point in the debate:
And the point that I originally made is that we took our eye off Afghanistan, we took our eye off the folks who perpetrated 9/11, they are still sending out videotapes and Senator McCain, nobody is talking about defeat in Iraq, but I have to say we are having enormous problems in Afghanistan because of that decision.
And it is not true you have consistently been concerned about what happened in Afghanistan. At one point, while you were focused on Iraq, you said well, we can “muddle through” Afghanistan. You don’t muddle through the central front on terror and you don’t muddle through going after bin Laden. You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.
I think that is something we have to take seriously. And when I’m president, I will.
McCain was knocked off his debate game. He never saw what hit him. After Obama landed the rhetorical blow, McCain went off dithering back to the Senate muttering about subcommittee assignments and shouting at the clouds.
Obama wasn’t just presidential at that moment, he was this country’s president. Obama proves he has the judgement and wisdom to lead our nation.
Cross-posted from Daily Kos.