October 8, 2008

Commons Bar Plays Host to Politics

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The music was turned off at Benchwarmers Bar on the Commons; the volume on the television sets was raised, and all eyes turned up to look as Tom Brokaw, the moderator of the second presidential debate, introduced Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
As the debate began, activity around the pool table died down. Conversation at the bar was kept at a minimum. Those seated at tables neglected their food and drink to crane their necks up at the televisions above them. Bartenders and waiters took extended pauses to watch as the two presidential candidates discussed the economic situation.
However, as the approximately hour-and-a-half-long debate progressed, many returned their attention to the reconvening pool games or their halted conversations and took their focus off the debate. While many around the bar continued to devote much of their attention to what was being shown on the screen, there were those whose reactions and applause were reserved for impressive pool shots rather than a strong statement from either of the candidates.
[img_assist|nid=32533|title=Willful watching|desc=People congregated at bars such as Pixel to watch last night’s debate on the bar’s large screen. The bar later opened for its regular Tuesday night festivities.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]Not only did attention to the second presidential debate decrease the longer it continued, but interest also declined from the first debate to the second.
“I’m surprised at how attendance waned,” Ivan Small grad said. “It seemed like nobody cared.”
Small watched the first debate at a different venue, and commented on how the crowd was much larger for the first debate than was the crowd gathered at Benchwarmers last night. He even went to three or four places that were not showing the debate before arriving at Benchwarmers.
Part of the decline in interest may be attributed to the repetition from both candidates.
“They constantly repeat themselves,” Hong Bui grad said, citing McCain’s repetition of how he saw the letters “KGB” in the eyes of former Russian President Vladimir Putin, and how Obama constantly reverted back to his tax plans.
While interest in the debates might be declining for the reasons Bui mentioned, she finds the debates interesting despite the fact that she cannot even vote in the election. Bui is from Vietnam, and,because she is not a United States citizen, she is ineligible to vote. Nevertheless, she remains a devoted watcher of the American presidential debates.
“I watch this to really observe how democracy is run in this country,” Bui said. “I find it fascinating.”
While the moderator came up with the questions for the first presidential and the vice presidential debate, questions last night were taken from the audience, as well as people who submitted questions online.
“This was more engaged,” Small said about the new format. He mentioned how McCain and Obama were able to walk around during this debate as opposed to being restricted to standing behind their podiums as they did during the first debate.
“It strikes me that McCain is a very talented speaker,” John Phan grad said. “McCain is better at sending a nice message.”
He believed there were times during the debate where McCain would not restrict himself to the question asked, but would go on a tangent in order to make a certain point. In citing the question focusing on American relations with Pakistan, Phan did not believe McCain completely answered the question, but instead used it as an opportunity to successfully highlight how Obama does not have foreign policy experience.
Because he spent much of his allotted time articulating his policy, Phan did not believe Obama was as successful as McCain in powerfully captivating the viewers. Phan believed that this point in the presidential campaign is the opportunity “to leave impressions,” adding that viewers are going to learn new information from watching the debates.
Phan believed that for Obama, “the impression he gave was weaker.”
No matter what impressions McCain and Obama left on viewers after the second debate, Small said that this election still contains “two of the best qualified candidates we’ve had running for president in awhile.”