So the last debate has passed. I thought that, in debate world, John McCain landed some hits on Obama. The story about a fairly ordinary sounding guy, Joe the plumber, who apparently would be making over (at least) two hundred grand if he bought his bosses’ business. Personally I was thinking that Joe had never filled out a schedule C in his life, and didn’t understand the difference between gross receipts and income after expenses. I think that Joe may have sealed his fate too, Turbo Tax and/or H & R Block are probably descending on Toledo right now, trying to get video of Joe using their products. He may be the biggest winner of last night’s debate.
Speaking of which, despite McCain’s seeming success with a sneer about “spreading the wealth around”, I don’t know that either candidate did anything memorable enough to say “a-ha”. As I say, John McCain was better than he had been in previous debates. One commenter said that Republicans will be asking “where was this guy before?”. But I also agree with (I believe) David Brooks when he said that he thought McCain looked angry or flustered or both. Brooks wondered if voters would want four years of that. By comparison, Obama was his (now) usual cool and calm self. Occasionally he would, robot like, ratchet up his voice one decibel, modulate his tone up one unit, raise his finger and say “Bob, I have to respond to this”. The new algorithm would fire, the subroutine (“agitated”) would run through its instruction and the little sub loop would return to original program. This was a noticeable difference from the debate with Hillary Clinton before the Pennsylvania primary, where Obama was startled to find the moderators had switched from Sunday morning mode to “Hard Copy” mode (I notice no one from ABC moderated any of the Presidential/Vice debates).
During the debate William Ayers finally came up, in a section on negative campaigning. McCain did make a sort of meandering accusation, starting it with a silly “I don’t care about a washed up terrorist”. McCain mentioned a specific dollar contribution to ACORN as well. Obama gave a limited response about Ayers, mostly saying that the McCain campaign was hyping Ayers, that Ayers had served on a board with him (Obama) ten years ago, of a group that had a lot of republicans (Obama named four or so). Then Obama gave the short story on how ACORN had paid people to register voters and some of those people made up names, and Obama was not involved, had only once participated in a long ago lawsuit with the Justice Department and ACORN on motor voter rules in Illinois. Both good, coherent answers that really didn’t address McCain’s points (on ACORN at least), but should satisfy viewers because they were more coherent than McCain was being at the time. McCain and Obama then got in a back and forth when McCain fired off an accusation that Obama, together with Ayers, funneled $230,000 grand for the Woods foundation to ACORN and that Obama started his political career in Ayers’ living room. “OBAMA: That's absolutely not true. MCCAIN: And the facts are facts and records are records. OBAMA: And that's not the facts.” And then McCain fumbled around just a bit more with Ayers and ACORN. Even I would say Obama dodged the questions, yet Obama is likely to be seen as coming out on top of that exchange because he was so smooth about dodging them. McCain seemed like a petulant grand dad accusing grandson of messing with his vinyl LP’s. He might be right, but grand dad is always accusing somebody of something. Just let him talk and eventually he’ll go take a nap.
McCain was trying to say that Obama was wrong on many issues, and seemed to almost make his case. But Obama was too cool and intelligent sounding to really seem like a wrong guy. And McCain became visibly agitated as the debate wore on, fumbling for words a few times and coming back, somewhat randomly, to Joe the Plumber and Spreading the Wealth. In the end, you might wonder if McCain is right about Obama, but then you also might just wonder about McCain - period.
It will be interesting to see what Saturday Night Live does with the debate tonight on their (almost) regular Thursday night spot.