Wednesday, June 11, 2008

McCain's Town Hall Proposal

Now why would Obama agree to McCain's proposal to hold a series of town hall meetings across the nation? Sounds a little like Hillary Clinton asking Barack Obama for more debates after the 22 they already had - the petitioner is usually the underdog trying to alter the momentum or rules of the game.

Candidates recognize that there are different speech genres, and that they fare better in some more than others. Hillary Clinton is a champion debater, John McCain excels in cosy conversational settings, and Barack Obama's rhetoric soars with the size of the crowd. Our political system selects for and privileges rhetors of the latter breed.

Not surprisingly, the Obama campaign counter-proposed "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 knows that Obama draws out the crowds, so joint events will give him lots of free media coverage. Obama would be wise not to offer McCain a free ride right now, especially since he has just wrapped up his nomination contest and will do well to bask alone in the political limelight for a while as McCain has done in the last few months.

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