I have my komboloi in hand to ward off the utter boredom. Here we go.
McCain: People are angry. There is excess. People are angry. McCain targets mortgage lenders, but wants to keep home ownership high. Repeats his crazy mortgage bailout plan. Pretends that his plan “puts homeowners first.” Obama: This is worst crisis since 1380, and I know many of us still remember that one…Okay, he didn’t say that. He wants to penalize outsourcing; repeats his middle-class tax cut bit. Notes that McCain’s plan is a giveaway to banks, which puts Obama closer to conservatives than McCain.
Obama: Usual refrain about tax breaks for oil companies, tax cuts for his famous 95%. Fighting for Joe the Plumber’s vote. McCain: Obama said spread the wealth alone; McCain wants Joe to spread it around. This is actually more insipid than the last debate. McCain: Why increase taxes? Why would you do that? Joe the Plumber isn’t happy with that. Apparently Joe the Plumber has replaced Joe Sixpack as the embodiment of Middle America. Obama says he would prefer to be an anarcho-capitalist, but circumstances don’t allow it.
Obama repeats his claim that he supports net spending cut. Eliminate programs that don’t work–bold move! These programs are always nameless, which is probably one of the reasons they don’t work. Ethic of responsibility? What? That’s dangerously close to calling on people to accept austerity. McCain is stuttering, and reverts to his litany about energy independence. In the mythical world where we have energy independence, life will be beautiful. Perhaps Aeolus will power the entire grid. Spending freeze! (Obama says that’s a hatchet.) Ethanol is bad; eliminate tariff on Brazilian sugar-based ethanol. Fight the earmarks! What does McCain have against planetariums? McCain wants to use hatchets and scalpels.
Hatchets and scalpels and katanas, oh my!
Obama: You’re just more of the same, John. But where is Joe the Plumber in all this? I believe he may have been left behind. McCain: “You’re not convincing”–it’s not very convincing to say that your opponent isn’t convincing.
McCain: Why are your allies being so mean to me and Sarah? Repudiate John Lewis! Obama’s spent more money on negative ads than anyone (because he’s spent a lot more on ads than anyone else). He broke his word on public financing! Now it’s getting a bit more heated. Obama: All of McCain’s ads are negative, but no one cares about this, so let’s talk issues. Obama starts referring to 527s. Wow, this debate has become the inside baseball World Series.
McCain: I’m way more liberal than you give me credit for. My stem-cell research and immigration positions are anathema to my supporters. Let Joe the Plumber keep his wealth! Obama: Well, your supporters want me dead, so what do you think about that? But I don’t think that you’re like George Wallace. Heck, you’re not even like Bull Connor. McCain is about to go nuts. And…now he starts getting angry. McCain: Our crowds are great, and I repudiate all kinds of people. Isn’t it strange that Obama is the one to keep bringing up the terrorist line?
Ayers and ACORN have landed. McCain: ACORN possibly destroying the fabric of democracy. Obama: Ayers is an education professor, but used to be despicable. They were on the Annenberg board, as were some Republicans. Ayers will not be in the White House–that’s a stroke of luck. ACORN? I hardly even know those guys! I am so mainstream it’s not even funny. No, really, it’s not. McCain: I’m not saying that this stuff matters; I’m just informing people!
Weird question about the VP candidates from Schieffer. He’s basically asking each candidate to explain why it would be better if he died. Obama: Biden is awesome. Blather, blather, talking points. McCain: Palin is even more awesome. Rehashing the myth of Palin. “A reformer through and through.” McCain wants to get rid of the old boy network in Washington–I have a suggestion how he might help reach that goal. He hasn’t answered the question.
Obama: You can’t help Sarah Palin’s baby with your spending freeze! McCain: Biden was wrong on many foreign policy issues. (That’s true–he has agreed with McCain most of the time.) “Why do we have to spend more?” spake the mortgage bailout king. McCain: Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil will not be imported when I’m President, because I don’t understand how the oil market works. Apparently Russian oil is okay! Nuclear waste storage is a piece of cake. The litany on energy again. Obama: I agree with John’s crazy 10-year plan. China and Saudi Arabia make their usual guest appearances as foreign villains of the evening.
McCain: Drill here, drill now! Don’t just look at drilling. Colombian free trade is brilliant–why does Obama oppose the agreement? Why does he love drugs and hate young people? No-brainer! Obama: Oh, I understand. I don’t like death squads killing union members.
Did McCain just play the Hoover card on Obama? That’s some kind of audacity.
Joe the Plumber again–drink!
The unanswered question of the campaign: “Who is the real Joe the Plumber?”
I take it that McCain doesn’t want to spread the wealth. He really dislikes that phrase. I guess that means he wants to lump the wealth all together. Presumably it will all be under Henry Paulson’s control.
McCain: No litmus tests, but Roe is bad and I’m a federalist. Justices should be chosen based on their qualifications, unlike Vice Presidents. Did he just say that Obama voted against confirming Breyer? Obama can also time travel? He is impressive. Obama: Roe hangs in the balance, but there is absolutely no litmus test. McCain: Change the culture of America. Here comes the Born Alive bill. This could be interesting. Obama is hiding behind his old excuse for his vote. He opposes late-term abortions, except for all those that fall under the exceptions used to facilitate most late-term abortions.
The end is near, thank goodness. They’re talking about education. They have a lot of proposals, but what kind of retraining are they going to offer Joe the Plumber? Alex Massie responds to Obama:
Put away the video games? Except the ones I have been advertising on!
They’re starting to wrap up. As agitated as McCain was at certain points tonight, I think he fared a bit better than he has in previous debates. He didn’t show quite as much contempt for Obama, and he didn’t wander around the stage because he was seated, so right away he was doing better. Obama seemed more like primary-debate Obama and less like the confident and fluent candidate of the past two debates. This was probably the closest to a genuine tie of all three, perhaps because both of them were so uninteresting, but this still ends up being a loss for McCain given the deficit he has to overcome.
Update: Apparently focus groups and instant polls among undecideds rate Obama the winner again. I think one of the reasons why my assessment of McCain is more positive is that I didn’t spend much time looking at the broadcast. I listened to the debate as a blogged, so I didn’t actually see most of McCain’s twitchy behavior, which seems to have gone over very poorly. Even when listening, I noticed the exasperation in his voice, but he didn’t sound as the undecideds thought he appeared.