We are seeing people's economic status slipping further and further behind. We've seen people who have not only lost their jobs but now are at risk of losing their homes. We have a sharp contrast in terms of economic policies. John McCain wants to continue four more year of George Bush policies and, on the foreign policy front, wants to continue George Bush's foreign policy.In other words, Obama thinks a foreign policy that includes not losing a war is somehow offtrack from what the Founders might want, yet thinks bailing out people for making poor choices on home loans somehow is one.
The pundits are saying this was the toughest debate yet. Agreed, because the candidates finally gave us a glimpse of their mindset, temperament, and candor. Neither were very impressive.
Barack showed why he's survived up to this point. When the fire gets hot he simply turns to his radio quality speaking voice and goes into a Willy Wonka vat of syrupy rhetoric. He has a way of producing a near-narcotic effect, especially when he throws in the hope and change things, rendering the question forgotten after 2 or 3 minutes. Of course he's not answering the question at all, simply using the old media trick of falling back on boilerplate talking points during a crisis (ie, a tough question). Last night neither Gibson nor Stephanopoulis let him get away with it.
Which got them honorary new rear ends from the nutroots gang for essentially, gasp, asking follow-up questions...and sometimes...shock...even two! This diluted the golden pablum like never before. Shoot, score.
On Iraq, both candidates continued their incoherency. They continue to speak about departure timetables as if they are something that might actually work and not vapid pandering to the anti-war set. These comments are usually couched as "pressure to bear" on the Iraqi political coalition to act but they're really just gifts, not only to the AQ and Ba'athists but to Ahmadinejad as well.
Speaking of A'jad, the question about Israel and Iran was most enlightening as we saw Obama snaking around through the tall grass before finally agreeing he'd support them in a pinch. Hillary jumped on this hard and made a very easy point, even mentioning the recent news that Ahmadinejad has come out as 9/11 troofer. Neither were asked about possibly going after Bush administration officials for war crimes after the election, though.
The seminal moment came during questioning about the economy and Social Security. When challenged by Gibson about his threat to raise the capital gains tax despite the fact that government revenues rise when this rate is cut, Obama's answer was basically one about fairness. Not sure where the fairness promise resides in the Constitution as to setting tax rates, but that says a lot. Most making under 35K don't pay federal taxes anyway and Bush is the first president in my memory to write ME a check. I've seen my bank statement today--I'm still not rich. So it seems Obama's sense of fair is something pretty extreme in waiting.
He was also busted for promising not to raise taxes on people making under 200K then agreeing he might eliminate the 97K cap on FICA, which would amount to a tax since those people could not be able to claim those benefits in proportion to contribution after retirement. Many don't understand that, but McCain has a huge opening to hammer Barack about the head and shoulders with those words when the time comes. It was clear that when Barack can't use his rambling narcotic replies he's much less effective.
There was one moment where I wanted to scream at the TV and it was the question about how each candidate might use George W. Bush after he's gone. Each nearly laughed it off, clearly displaying their BDS. Barack almost pulled a Saddam by saying he might enlist Bush 41 over 43, a pretty big slap that 41 probably didn't appreciate. Obama might as well have said he'd install an inlaid Bush 43 face on the floor of the White House foyer. Yet there was nothing about what they'd do to stop Jimmy Carter? Seems they missed some big scoring opportunities there.
All in all, tough but fair. We need to see these suckers under fire because if they can't handle Charlie Gibson, they can't handle the world.
Barack's reaction was almost as revealing as the debate. On the "gotcha" nature of the questions:
"Last night I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people," Obama told the North Carolina crowd. "Forty-five minutes before we heard about health care, 45 minutes before we heard about Iraq, 45 minutes before we heard about jobs, 45 minutes before we heard about gas prices."Again, they don't want questions, they want speeches. Thing is, they could let both of them talk for 45 minutes without interruption and neither would offer any realistic solutions for any of those things. Besides, Obama was given an opportunity to show his financial acumen on the topic of capital gains and blew it.
So with that we've seen the last debate, now that Barack realizes they're actually going to challenge him (the VRWC no doubt). Said he,
"I'll be honest with you. We've now had 21," Obama said of the debates. "It's not as if we don't know how to do these things. I could deliver Senator Clinton's lines. I'm sure she could deliver mine.""Lines", indeed.