Brief Notes on McCain v Obama, Debate Three

Presidential Debate 3 is history. And once again, polling indicates Obama was the clear winner. Let me offer a few thoughts.

After seeing this debate, my main feeling is, “thank god they’re over.” This was the most heated debate, but I prefer discussions that are cool, calm, and substantive. Several times, I thought it was going to devolve into a “Crossfire” type verbal confrontation. It never came to that; but I bet the media was just salivating at the possibility.

And there was a reason this debate was heated: McCain and Obama actually talked to each other. In Debate 1, McCain wouldn’t even look at Obama. In Debate 2, the townhall format limited their interaction.

In this debate, they did go eye to eye, and neither guy blinked… almost.

It’s unfortunate for McCain that he just doesn’t project well on TV. I watched some of the debate on C-SPAN, which did a split-screen display of the two candidates. Obama seemed cool, serious and unperturbed. By contrast, McCain seemed to have a nervous, self-conscious smile during much of the debate, and several times, his facial gestures seemed contorted and bothered by ticks or blinks.

I literally feel bad for him. It’s unfair that his lack of a good game face hurts him in this visual medium. But as McCain himself has said, life can be unfair.

Having said that, this was his best performance by far. Again, MacCain’s willingness to engage in discussion with Obama, instead of just looking past him, made a difference. But it now seems like a case of too much, too little, too late… if only he had done that starting in the first debate.

The reference to “Joe the Plumber” is a clever ruse by the Republican Party. The idea is to paint JTP as an average American who’d be harmed by Obama’s tax policy.

But in fact, JTP is no average Joe. His complaint is that he’ll pay more taxes if his business income exceeds $250,000. That’s not an income typical of Joe Six Pack; in fact, only the top 5% of Americans earn that much.

Comparing the experiences of JTP with J6P is an apples to oranges comparison: JTP is rich; J6P is struggling and would certainly benefit more from the Obama tax plan than the McCain tax plan.

I don’t know if people got that. But I suspect that this will get figured out in the next few days or so. And JTP, enjoy your few moments of fame, such as they are.

The worst part of the night for me was the discussion, no, the bickering, over negative campaigning and unfair attacks. No real issues were addresseed, no profound insights were made, no hidden truths were uncovered. Just two guys arguing over who was worse than the other.

I did find it interesting that McCain, perhaps out of a moment of anger, said of Bill Ayers “I don’t care about that washed-up terrorist”…yet he immediately followed that by saying, “I want to know the full truth abut their relationship.”

But John, if you don’t care about Ayers, then why do you care to know more about his “relationship” with Obama?

Message to the McCain campign: polls show the vast majority of Americans people don’t care about Ayers. Find another line of attack… if you can.

I can’t understand why several members of the press/GOP thought that McCain’s “I’m not George Bush” statement was such a big deal. Maybe it seemed like that because McCain said it so forcefully.

But look. Of course people know McCain isn’t Bush. But most people also know or perceive by now that McCain has voted with Bush over 95% of the time the past few years. A major problem for McCain is that, despite saying he’s a maverick, he hasn’t shown where he’s different from Bush in any area that matters (or at least, that matters to people who aren’t Republicans or conservatives). For example, he’s still all in with the Republican belief that Roe v. Wade must be overturned.

It’s not enough for McCain to say he’s not George Bush. He needs to show how he’s different from George Bush. I don’t believe he made that case. But I’m glad the pundidts liked the compelling way he made his losing argument.

Let me say it again: Obama is unflappable.

I couldn’t identify a single game changer for McCain tonight. Once again, Obama showed he was knowledgeable, articulate, bright, and presidential… hardly the empty suit, wide-eyed radical, or “foreigner” that the Republicans have tried to portray him as.

McCain had promised a Republican crowd that he was going to kick Obama’s “you know what.” But after the deabte was over, his supporters were no doubt wondering, “what is the what that John McCain was talking about?”

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