Less than 15 hours after he made his closing remarks in the first presidential debate, Democrat Barack Obama gave his first post-debate interview when he and running mate Joe Biden sat down with MTV News following a campaign stop in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The discussion ran the gamut from Biden to Kanye West, but Obama seemed most eager to dissect Friday night's often-testy debate with Republican nominee John McCain, specifically McCain's repeated assertions that his experience makes him the stronger candidate and that Obama "just doesn't understand" the complexities of issues like foreign policy and the economy.
"I don't get taken aback by that kind of stuff. The problem was, every time he said it, when he tried to follow it up with an actual statement about policy or his positions about what it was he presumably understood or did 'get,' it didn't make much sense," Obama told MTV News' Sway Calloway. "If you look at Iraq, for example, the question was asked, 'What lessons have you learned?' and his lesson was 'Well, we should just stay.' Well, that's not a policy. ... The question was 'Should we have gone?'
"He says that because he doesn't have a record to defend himself. We've become accustomed in our politics to folks just being able to make stuff up — it's one of the few areas of public life where the standards somehow are lowered in terms of what you say about other people," he continued. "For example, he suggested that I'm talking about raising everybody's taxes, when every analyst has shown I'm actually calling for a tax cut for 95 percent of [American] families."
He also took issue with a just-released McCain campaign commercial, which made pointed reference to the number of times Obama agreed with the Arizona senator's comments during the debate: "I don't assume the American public are passive consumers, watching these things going, 'Oh, John McCain runs an ad, so I guess it must be true.' If that were the case, we'd already be losing." Obama also addressed a recent New York Times story that pointed out "dubious claims" in some of his own campaign ads.
"The truth is, we put out tons of ads, and there have been two or three times where we've slipped beneath my standards, where it was kind of a stretch. And when that happens, I tell my team, 'Pull it down,' " he said. "In this kind of thing — where it's a fierce competition — it's not going to be perfect. [But] I think generally people will take a look at how we've run this campaign, and people will say, 'This is someone who has been positive, who's been factual and who's been trying to promote the core ideal that we need to change our economic policies so that we have prosperity not just at the top, but in the middle of America.' "
And to that point, Obama said he wasn't outwardly concerned with who actually won last night's debate (though, when pressed, he admitted that he has data that says he did), but rather that the issues wouldn't get lost in the post-debate cloud, saying that, oftentimes, the media get too focused on who won instead of what's really important to the American people: "What did each candidate say?"
"I think the pundits and the press, you guys are looking at tactics. What the American people are looking at is they might lose their job ... they might lose their house," he said. "And I could cite all the polls that showed the overwhelming number of people who watched [the debate] thought I won ... but even that's not actually relevant. What's relevant is the substance of this thing, which is people out there are hurting, and John McCain has promoted the same policies of George Bush, and people know they're not working. They understand we can't continue four more years of doing the same thing."