Missing at Ole Miss
Debra Burlingame scores the first debate.


‘If al-Qaeda and militant Islamism did not exist, I would be much more comfortable with Barack Obama,” explains Debra Burlingame. Burlingame, a former attorney, is the sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, who was murdered on September 11, 2001, when the plane he was piloting, American Airlines flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon. She has been a frequent commentator on the war and spoke to National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez Saturday morning about Friday night’s first presidential debate.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Who won that first debate?

Debra Burlingame: I thought John McCain won, easily. I realize that Americans who come at the economy with a “what are you going to do for me” posture might be more attracted to what they heard from Barack Obama. He said the feel-good words about protecting the little guy. But he’s going to raise taxes on the job providers. I think McCain did a very good job of showing that Obama is a typical tax-and-spend Democrat. When he was pressed, more than once, to name the programs he would cut, he named the ones he wouldn’t cut, and then added couple more he’d create. Does anyone believe Obama would wrestle the budget to the floor and win? Obama could point to no record of rolling up his sleeves and doing the tough job of hammering out a work product that mediates competing interests. On foreign policy, it was like watching the wise old man take an opinionated college debater to school. McCain exposed him.

Lopez: Did you have expectations going in?

Burlingame: I did not. I know the media like to talk about atmospherics, who got off a good sound bite, who used humor to his advantage, tone, and style. I was listening closely for substance and I wanted to see these two go head to head on that. I do not give points for style, although I must say, it was very smart of Senator Obama to repeatedly call Senator McCain “John.” It was very smooth, it very subtly suggested “I am your equal.” But, of course, when the subject of meeting with Ahmadinejad “without preconditions” but “with preparations” came up, “John” appeared to have the clearer sense of how these things play out in the real world.

Could you ever vote for Obama? Why (not)?

Burlingame: If I could wipe out all I heard Senator Obama say in the primary season — he was then presenting himself with the more moderate positions; he now says he supports missile defense, as opposed to scrapping it — I’d take him more seriously. If al-Qaeda and militant Islamism did not exist, I would be much more comfortable with Barack Obama. He is, at best, a conventional-war commander-in-chief. His resume is so shockingly thin, he is utterly dependent on the advice of those around him. That concerns me deeply. The president has a million people competing for his ear. Without more experience in world affairs, how will he decide whom to listen to? Will he take the path of least resistance? I don’t believe I could ever vote for him because, despite his claim that Sen. McCain is about yesterday and he is about tomorrow, I think he wants to take us back to a defensive posture that would work for our enemies, not us.