Reading New Republic Tea Leaves to Determine Debate Winner

Your humble correspondent is of the opinion that, without even knowing who wins the election in November, one can easily determine the winner by simply looking at the screen shots of liberal members of the MSM on the day after the election. Are the faces of Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Chris Matthews, etc. mournful? That will pretty much tell you who won the election the previous day. Likewise, simply by reading an analysis of last night's debate in Oxford, Mississippi in liberal publications, one can determine who won that debate without even watching it. It is called reading the liberal tea leaves and, since the NewsBusters Eye of Sauron has been upon them lately, The New Republic has been chosen as an example.

The first story chosen for this liberal tea leaf reading is titled, "They Both Lost." This was way too easy. What the title really tells you, without even having to read the story, is "McCain Won." The article itself merely confirms what was pretty much shouted out in the title (emphasis mine):

They both lost tonight. We can go back and forth about whether McCain's anecdotes were more intimate or whether Obama's jabs were snappier. But beyond stylistic differences in the personalities they project from behind the podium (McCain's the weary parent, Obama's the sharp young know-it-all), I thought they both conspired to bring us a narrow, defensive, small debate.

That surprised me, because McCain and Obama are two of the most exceptional political figures of their generations, so expansive in their own visions of what they represent. But you wouldn't have known that if you were, say, a Martian tuning in to this campaign for the first time. Neither of them really faced the bailout head-on, sharply differentiated themselves from the other, or (most disappointing of all) tried to offer a big argument or central narrative about what's wrong with the country. Sometimes, their positions even seemed to converge. The two of them reminded me of a bickering older couple that's lived in the same familiar space so long -- the campaign -- that they've stopped arguing about the big things (do we move? have a baby?) and are now litigating the color of the salt shakers. 

"They both lost" which means McCain won. If Obama had performed even slightly better or equal to McCain, The New Republic would have been crowing about the Barack Obama's great victory. Instead, author Eve Fairbanks, is forced to grumble about how "they both lost." Fairbanks then complained about the debate being "weirdly imitative" but who was imitating whom? Again, the tea leaf reading will reveal the answer:

The whole debate was weirdly imitative. You brag about your soldier's bracelet, I'll brag about my soldier's bracelet! Obama was more afflicted with this imitation disorder -- he called for giving Georgia and Ukraine NATO Membership Action Plans "immediately," a stance Sarah Palin was derided for taking in her interview with Charlie Gibson, and McCain has already released a post-debate ad featuring clips of Obama agreeing with the senator from Arizona. But what happened to the aggressive, hot McCain who loved to rib Ahmadinejad? McCain sounded awkward and reined-in on Iran, while on meeting sketchy heads of state -- a question on which McCain's and Obama's instincts seem naturally and sharply opposed -- the two men sounded as though they'd nearly converged (yes, you reach out; no, you don't get on a plane as soon as Kim Jong Il sends you a text message). "I'm not parsing words," said Obama. "He's parsing words, my friends," retorted McCain. "I'm using the same words your advisers used," huffed Obama.

We now take leave of Eve Fairbanks and thank her for introducing a new term into the political lexicon: "imitation disorder." The next article for a New Republic tea leaf reading is titled, "Obama Wins a Draw." This title presents only a slightly greater challenge than the one previously cited but again this means "McCain Won." See, it wasn't a bold assertion like "Obama Won." Instead it was qualified with that he won in "a draw" which means the author, John B. Judis, wants us to think it was a tie which really means "McCain Won." Should you have any doubt, the article will back this assertion up:

Most presidential debates don’t affect the outcome of the election--not unless one of the candidates visibly goofs up--and this one was no exception. All in all, it was a draw, which is a plus for Barack Obama, because he is ahead in the polls. What did Obama have to do? Like Reagan in 1980, he had to reassure voters that he wouldn’t bite them. In Obama’s case, that mean assuring them he was not a black radical or Muslim and that he had a sufficient command of foreign policy to run the country. He did that. McCain, on the other hand, did reasonably well--he escaped the economic discussion unscathed and showed himself knowledgeable about foreign affairs--but he needed to show Obama up and he didn’t. He did well, but not well enough to change the race.

I know a lot of Obama supporters are gnashing their teeth because he is professorial, doesn’t do soundbites or anecdotes, isn’t confrontational, can’t skewer an opponent, and sometimes seems either aloof or overly earnest. (Both men need to work on their facial expressions when listening to each other.)  But look, that’s Barack. He is not going to become Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan. His strongest suit among voters is that they think he is intelligent. And he confirmed that impression during the debate. He did well enough, and that was enough.  

Yeah, "he did well enough." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Obama's "imitation disorder" debate performance.

Using the examples above, see if you can apply the same methodology to read the liberal tea leaves from other publications. As a practice test try doing a tea leaf reading of this Los Angeles Times story. Yes, I know this is a very easy example but I want to ease you novices into the art of liberal tea leaf reading regarding the debates. So your bluebook exam assignment, boys and girls, is to see if you can determine the debate winner by tea leaf reading the title alone. And no cheating by sneaking a peek at the actual article titled, "McCain gets a slight edge among 14 undecided Pennsylvania voters."

2008 Presidential New Republic
P.J. Gladnick's picture