Let’s Not Get So Upset About “John Is Right”

I’m with Hilzoy on this one (my emphasis immediately below and in quote from Pat Lang):

Last night, the fact that Obama said that McCain was right on several occasions caused consternation among some liberals, and great rejoicing on the right. I didn’t agree. It would have been one thing had Obama not also been willing to say, forcefully, that he thought McCain was wrong. But he was, and usually his acknowledgement that McCain was right on some point was the preface to an explanation of why he was wrong on another.

In that context, the fact that Obama was willing to acknowledge those points where he agreed with McCain struck me as gracious, not weak. As Pat Lang said: “

“There will be those, like the oaf Chris Matthews, who will think that McCain’s attitude shows him to be a leader. I think it shows that he was not raised well. His refusal to look at Obama throughout the debate, his dismissive tone of voice when continually speaking of Obama in the third person as though he were not there, his inability to say anything good about his opponent, all showed him to be a natural bully or someone who has been taught to be a bully.”

That last sentence of Hilzoy’s that I bolded, above, is the crucial point. In fact, I would even argue that granting McCain a point and then immediately bringing up a related point on which he was wrong, made Obama’s argument more effective. It emphasized his civility and maturity, in contrast to McCain’s rudeness and condescension — but more than that, it made Obama’s overall arguments stronger and more credible because he had shown that he was not a blind partisan. He was not so wedded to the infallibility of his own positions that he was incapable of seeing and acknowledging that his opponent was right about something, if Obama thought he was.

Put in a different way, in my view, Obama made himself look stronger because he was secure enough in his own understanding of the issues to grant a point to McCain. And the other side of that coin is that McCain’s inability to concede any ground at all to Obama showed him to be weak and lacking in self-confidence.

Professionals are not afraid or reluctant to acknowledge valid points in debate. I think it was a great rhetorical tactic, and Obama used it masterfully.

One Response to “Let’s Not Get So Upset About “John Is Right””

  1. Angellight says:

    If he had to do it over again, he would not be so concillitory as they expolit it into a weakness which it is not!

    The Real Big Spender is McCain at all those Gambling casinos he likes to visit with the Lobbyists who are affiliated with casinos and to the Oil companies and special interest groups, but none for the guy and gal on Main Street! McCain says No to extend unemployment compensation benefits and No to retraining education for the man and woman who have lost a job!

    http://www.time-blog.com/swampland/2008/09/craps.html

    (McCain’s Next Distraction?) From the Times of London …

    In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election. Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

    –Josh Marshall

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