John McCain comes out and immediately starts scratching notes down with a fat Sharpie. What is he writing?
"Remember to do the lollipop dance!"
"Next time go with pink tie, blue tie, or anything but this damn thing that looks like Santa's underwear!"
"Soy Milk! Pepto! Vienna sausages! Ensure!"
Question #1 from Uncle Fester. What are you gonna do about this here economy?
Obama: Exactly what I've been saying I'd do for the last two weeks.
McCain: Will you look at this? It's Senator Obama at a town hall meeting! Finally! Well, isn't that *kind* of him to lower himself in this way? I'm just thrilled that you came down off your high horse and agreed to a town hall meeting at last, Senator Obama. Good for you!
Follow-up from Tom Brokaw: Who's going to replace Paulsen as Treasury Secretary?
McCain: Not you, Tom. 'Cuz you suck. You and your mainstream media. I'll tap Meg Whitman. I mean pick Meg Whitman. She's no beauty queen, ya know.
Obama: Warren Buffet.
Question #2 from Oliver Clark: Who's going to bail out the middle class?
McCain: Look, it's all the fault of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Oliver, I bet you're so dumb that you'd never even heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before this crisis. But I had. I hated Fannie and Freddie before it was cool to hate 'em! Which is why I suspend the rest of this debate in order to fix the economy more. There are some of us who stand up to 'em, and there are others who take a hike. I'm not saying who though. But he's sitting right over there. And his name rhymes with Snow-bama.
Obama: I asked for regulations when McCain was stitching up regulations in counted cross-stitch. But you're not interested in politicians pointing fingers. You're interested in what's in this bail-out for you. We have to strengthen the home owners.
Follow-up from Brokaw: Is the economy going to get worse before it gets better?
Obama: No. But we have to fix our regulatory system.
McCain: It depends on what we do. If we fix it, it will get better. But if we don't fix it, it won't get better.
They both seem to think we're going to stand up and cheer for their intent to get special interests out of Washington. We are not really that stupid.
Question #3 from Angry Inarticulate Harpy: How can we trust either one of you with our money when BOTH PARTIES are responsible for this crisis?
Obama: You are right. No one is completely innocent. You budget your household, while Washington spends beyond its means. However, let's remember that Bush turned a tidy surplus into a historically enormous deficit. I'm going to cut spending. McCain will say that I'm spending more, but I'm cutting more than I'm spending for a net cut.
McCain: I'm a reformer. People like me.
Follow-up from Tom Brokaw: Energy, health care, and entitlement reform. What would you prioritize?
McCain: All three at once. And also balance a goldfish bowl on my head and sing Sinatra.
Obama: Energy is first, then health care, then entitlement reform.
Question #4 from an old lady on the internet: What sacrifices will you ask American people to make?
McCain: We may have to eliminate some programs. We have to eliminate some earmarks. Especially ones added in the middle of the night. We can attack health care and energy at the same time! We're not rifle shots here, we're Americans!
Obama: After 9/11, Bush told us to go out and shop. The American people are hungry for the kind of leadership which will tackle problems not only in the government but outside it too. We all have to think about how we use energy. The young people of America are interested in how they can serve.
Follow-up from Tom Brokaw: How would you break the habits in this country of carrying too much debt?
Obama: We have to set an example in Washington. We have to share the burden.
McCain: Nailing down Senator Obama's tax plan is like trying to nail jello to a wall. There have been five or six tax plans and if you wait long enough there will probably be another one.
No kidding: The reaction graph during McCain's turn to speak is consistently flatlining. His jello joke got no love. Now McCain's reaction line is going into the negative as he criticizes Obama.
Question #5 from the internet: What are you going to do about social security and Medicare?
Obama: We are going to have to take on entitlements quickly. Maybe not in the first two years, but definitely in my first term as President. But let me hijack this question to repeat myself: I will cut taxes to everyone who makes under $200K.
McCain: Hey, I'll answer the actual question, unlike Mr. Smartyhead over here with his tax cuts and his fancy pants. I know how to fix social security. I know how to fix Medicare. I'm not too popular with my own party, much less his. People hate me! I'm just not using the term "Maverick" tonight because I don't want those wretched comedy writers to have any fun. Curse them and the way they torment my perky little friend in the glasses!
Question #6 from Ingrid Jackson: What would you do to make sure Congress moves fast on climate change and greenhouse gas?
McCain: I'm not President Bush, alright? I'm Joe Lieberman. The answer is nuclear power! It's safe and clean, and free!
Reaction line: FLATLINE.
Obama: This is not just a challenge, it's an opportunity. If we create a new energy economy, we can create 5 million new jobs. We have to invest in solar, wind, geothermal.
Apparently Al Gore is in the audience. He must be an undecided Tennessee voter.
I'm tired of hearing "He voted 23 times against this!" and "He voted for this 42 times!" It's just boring and we all know those senate votes cannot be taken out of context. "He voted against this bill that feeds kittens!" not mentioning that it also kills everyone's grandma.
Tom Brokaw, dripping with sarcasm: In case you gentlemen haven't noticed, we have colored lights around the stage, green yellow and red. Those lights are actually symbols that represent how much time you have to answer the question.
McCain, sadly earnest, with gestures: Just wave your arms at me, Tom, when you want me to stop, and I'll look at you.
Question #7 from Sally Struthers: Should health care be treated as a commodity?
Obama: Here are a lot of specifics about my health care plan and John McCain's.
McCain: I'm nervous about government mandates.
Follow-up from Tom Brokaw: Health care. Is it a right, a privilege, or a responsibility?
McCain: A responsibility.
Obama: A right. And by the way, there's no mandate.
Obama's reaction line with the undecided women is maxed out all through his answer on health care. On Pundit Points, the score is now 7 to 54 with Obama wiping up the bright red carpet with his opponent. If this is what McCain does when he takes his gloves off, I'd hate to see what will happen if he rolls up his sleeves.
I forgot to listen. Time passed. Then I heard McCain tell me it's going to take a cool hand on the tiller to execute the foreign policy that's needed now. When I think of a cool hand on the tiller, I do not think of John McCain. John McCain is like a whip made out of fire on the tiller.
Dear John McCain,
When you say "I will do it. I know how to do it. I've been doing it my whole life!" it leads me to wonder why it hasn't gotten done. I'm thinking specifically of your assertion that you will get Bin Laden, that you know how to get Bin Laden, but that you're not going to tell us about it. You sounded like a real ass when you said that.
PS You're boring the life out of me.
PPS Stop trying to crack jokes. When the audience isn't allowed to respond, it's just awkward for everyone.
Dear Barack Obama,
You too are boring me, pretty much. All of this sounds very familiar. But at least you sound smart.
PS Sorry I didn't canvass this weekend. I had a wedding to go to. I hope you will still win Virginia.
This whole half of the debate is rolling off me like acid off a duck's back, as Dan would say. I am ashamed to reveal I'm a little relieved that the DVR cut it off at 90 minutes. Without a doubt, Obama won this. He was calm, confident, and reasonable, and he focused on the people, not on McCain. McCain had a lot of failed wisecracks, a lot of repetition, not terribly convincing.