Debate! CNN has seriously, seriously, no kidding got an analyst score card for each of six analysts. No commercials, no pause for commentary, but dammit, the pundits are going to have their fingers on the smite button nevertheless. These score cards are displayed on the screen in glowing red and blue circles. The analysts can give positive and negative points to each candidate. Scooby Snacks will be tossed out by the moderator for every multiple of five a candidate receives. Water will be removed via a tube and valve from each candidate's drinking cup for each negative point.
Someone named Castellanos enters one negative point for McCain before the moderator finished the first question, causing a loud sucking sound in the veteran Senator's podium. There is also a bar across the bottom for audience reaction, and those in the special "audience reaction room" will be turning knobs for strongly disagree up to strongly agree. Their feelings will be reflected in a line graph at the bottom of the screen with the Repubs in red, the Dems in blue, and the Independents in green... whee! Graphics!
Question #1: What's up with this bailout?
Obama: "This is a final verdict of eight years of failed economic policies."
McCain: "Republicans and Democrats are working together to fix it."
Followup: But, do you like this plan? Or?
Obama: We have to look to why this happened in the first place and deal with the anti-regulation philosophy that led us to this point.
McCain: I am going to vote for the plan. But first I'm going to have to tell you a big long story about Eisenhower, who was my butcher. Listen, you! Lamb chops from Eisenhower's! Right after that, I'm going to hold those greedy bastards accountable.
Followup: Now, now, don't be shy. You two boys talk to each other! We put these podiums in proximity for a reason.
Both candidates politely refuse and make squinched up smile faces like they just smelled a ripe old lady.
Question #2: What would you do about this financial mess, as President?
McCain: We Republicans came to power to change government, and government changed us. Also, earmarking and pork barrel spending are bad. I will veto every bill that comes across my desk. I will make them famous. You will know their names. I have a pen that is old, and that old pen makes it hard for me to make sure all my pronouns have antecedents. Sometimes I skip whole parts of my rehearsed answers, and just continue as if I had said them!
Obama: I'd stop giving tax cuts to the rich. Billion, million, 18, 300, 700. In his tax plan, you'd be selling your children to buy Trump a new helicopter.
McCain: The system of earmarking and pork barrel corrupts people. I didn't win Miss Congeniality in the US Senate. I didn't win golldarned Miss Congeniality in the thumpin-humpin US Senate!
Obama: Let's just be clear. Let's... just... be... clear.
Senator Obama looks odd in this much makeup. Both of them look kind of botoxed. McCain looks like he had a few spots removed. Tonight he's a smoother, stiffer, more exfoliated Senator, one with a completely immobile upper lip. Obama looks a bit like an action figure of himself. Obama seems like he's kicking McCain's smooth, exfoliated bottom on the whole tax cut issue. He loses me for a moment when he talks about taxing health care benefits. I get distracted by his enormous, hooklike thumbs and his white eyeliner. No spoolin' -- it really looks like he has white eyeliner on, like we used to wear in 1989.
McCain doesn't know what "walking the walk and talking the talk" means. Nor does he understand the meaning of the word "existential." Finally, he clearly wants to be known as "The Sheriff" but he's too shy to come right out and ask us to call him that.
Analyst Castellanos gives McCain a point for chuckling. Analyst Borger has apparently been having a quiet moment to himself in the bathroom up to this point, or else he's just profoundly unimpressed.
Question #3: Whichever rescue bill comes about, what would you do to pay for this?
Obama: It's hard to anticipate what the budget will look like next year. We're not going to be able to do everything that I think needs to be done, but there are a few things I think have to be done: alternative energies, health care, affordable education, and rebuilding infrastructure. There are things we have to do structurally to make sure we can compete in the global economy. GREAT answer. If I were an analyst with a scorecard, I'd make a nice fat tick on the blue side there and drop that guy a sandwich.
McCain: Obama is the most liberal member of the Senate [I thought that was Joe Biden?] and it's hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left. We have to do away with a lot of defense spending with fixed cost contracts. I know how to do that. I've been involved in these issues for many years. We have to scrub every agency of government.
Moderator: So neither of you has changed anything about your campaign as an effect of the bailout?
McCain: I want a spending freeze on everything but defense.
Obama: That's like using a hatchet when you need a scalpel.
McCain: Well I want nuclear power too -- 45 new plants, how's that for a hatchet? EH, JERKY? YOU LIKE THAT HATCHET?
Moderator: Are you going to acknowledge that the financial ruin is going to affect the way you govern the country in any way? Or what?
Obama: We'll have a smaller budget. And we have to prioritize based on our values and knowing who we're fighting for. We're not going to cut out our health care ideas to fund tax cuts on the rich.
McCain: I don't want to hand health care over to the federal government. I mean, the federal government is already carrying its keys, the banks, its purse, AIG, its umbrella, the mortgage industry... giving it health care also might make it drop its latte.
Question #4: What are the lessons of Iraq?
McCain: The lesson is that you can't let failed policies stand until they make you lose a war. After I hired a new general and invented the surge, we are now winning the war and in a couple weeks we will leave Iraq a beautiful nascent democracy and the envy of all the world.
Obama: I opposed the war in the beginning, mostly because we weren't done in Afghanistan.
McCain: He won't even go to Iraq much! He hasn't even met with the generals!
Obama: In 2003 you said there were WMDs -- you were wrong. You said we'd be greeted as liberators -- you were wrong. You said there was no history of violence between Sunnis and Shias -- you were wrong.
McCain: Senator Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy. A tactic is like something that you vote for, but don't agree with. A tactic is like when you visit troops. See?
Moderator: Can you guys stop interacting? I know I said it was my special wish, but I take it back. I no longer wish it. In fact, can we get these podiums moved apart? Stagehand?
Question #5: Afghanistan?
McCain says, "You don't do that! You don't say things like that out loud! Senator Obama is trying to be a cowboy, but he has no hat -- do you get what I'm saying? No. Hat." Obama says something about Afghanistan too but I can't remember what he said. McCain seems to think that Petraeus is capable of parting the Red Sea.
Castellanos the analyst apparently thinks we're on a "Whose Line is it Anyway?" points system.
McCain scolds Obama for talking about bombing Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Obama brings up the fact that McCain sings about bombing Iran. McCain goes on for a very long time about his war experiences both in Viet Nam and in the Senate. They compare bracelets coming from troops' mothers. Obama reminds McCain that he said we could "muddle through" in Afghanistan. McCain reminds Obama that he hasn't ever visited Afghanistan.
Question #6: What is your reading of the threat in Iran?
Confession: Uh, I kind of spaced out for a while and wasn't paying attention, but I did notice that when McCain said "ACH-MEH-DINNAH-JHAD" very carefully, Obama said "That's a hard one" under his breath. In a not very nice way! Don't be a snooty patooty, now, Senator! Don't beat up on the old man!
Okay, I'm paying attention again. The kids are fighting over whether or not Kissinger said this or that. Dan just pointed out that McCain didn't wear his lapel pin. OMG! Totally breaking news! He's like not wearing a lapel pin! What an outrage and stuff! Let's like make this go super-viral because this is like wrong and bad. You have to wear a lapel pin and put a flag on your plane! Otherwise you like hate America!
McCain: "I looked into President Putin's eyes, and I saw three letters: K, G, and B."
Senator McCain, I look into your eyes and I see... no lapel pin on your retinas.
Question #6: Are we going to have another 9/11?
McCain: We've done a lot, but we need to do more.
Obama: I agree.
Obama goes on to illustrate handily how the Iraq war has wrecked everything for us, and even the Republican reaction line goes way way up over the X axis. McCain starts talking and the reaction lines plummet down under the X axis, until he tells us he loves veterans, at which point it goes up a bit. He delivered that line very well -- he should use it again.
At the end, the wives come out. Michelle Obama is wearing a busy print in kind of an Asian-style cut, and Cindy McCain was wearing some knock-yer-eye-out red.
Let's check in with our pundits: Begala has Obama winning by half. Castellanos has given out points like an old man in church giving tootsie rolls to the Sunday school kids. King has it as a flat tie. Donna Brazile predictably gives the win to Obama. The only person who has McCain winning (by 1) is William Bennett. Well bully for him.
My opinion: McCain came off as very very well-versed in foreign affairs and very assertive and confident. He has been everywhere and talked to everyone. However, he was kind of snitty, low on eye contact, high on irritation, and seemed pissy and unfriendly. Obama came off as very thoughtful, principled, and interested in sticking to the truth and coming up with real solutions. He is definitely presenting as the alternative candidate. He didn't really wow me on foreign policy, but it's not his strength and he mostly just had to hold his own in this debate. He came off as congenial and accommodating, more friendly to McCain and kind of amused by the experience. A little low on passion tonight but still tough enough.
I give it to Obama, but it wasn't a trouncing. One interesting point: Obama referred to McCain many times as "John" and McCain never once said Obama's first name. Kind of weird. That and the lapel pin thing.