That was the moment of decision where John McCain, once again, went the wrong way. If McCain was indeed to win the race with the mainstream before all hope was lost, he had to somehow distance himself from that fragile wacko base that used to be known as the Republican Religious Right, and reactivate the image he had cultivated over the years of being a supposedly reputable heroic persona with astute insight and a clear compelling vision for the good of all Americans. Not that I ever bought that line of crap, but that’s what he’s been trying to sell, every since he lived down that Keating thing.
But Wednesday in his last chance to salvage, not only his campaign, but his whole political legacy, McCain didn’t do, or even attempt to do the noble thing. Instead, he gave in to the dark side and all the pent-up anger inside him from having to watch himself slowly lose this election. So he swung for the fences with all the bile and grimace he could muster. Oh yes, and don’t forget the schmaltz, McCain slathered on plenty of schmaltz. While the word has come to mean something like clichéd sentimentalism, in the original Yiddish it meant something like “chicken fat.” And by the end of the night McCain looked like a candidate that had congealed. In fact, his public presentation was so off, so out of touch with the kind of behavior the majority of 21st Century Americans are expecting from their president that it makes small surprise of the fact the man is so old school he does not even know how to do email.
I have long said that the election for president is like getting to pick your dad who is going to occasionally be mad at you and give you stern speeches—or in some cases incarcerate you for attempting to exert 1st Amendment freedoms while he pilfers the cookie jar. This night, as he had done in the past, Obama came off like that annoyingly right and reasonable dad, frustratingly clear and patient when pointing out our short comings, and explaining why our allowances need to be cut; but basically still someone you could depend on and trust.
Meanwhile McCain came off like some creepy cranky grandpa you hope you never have to stay with if real parents aren’t available. It really was a facial thing: he looked like the jerk his record shows him to be. And when McCain made his well-expected big grandstanding effort at lobbing a William Ayers stink-bomb on Obama, Obama parried deftly and, as the LA Times fact check on the debate verifies, in short understandable order dismissed McCain’s claim of lies as a lie. Obama then scored his best shot of the night noting, “The fact that this has become such an important part of your campaign, Sen. McCain, says more about your campaign than it says about me.”At which point McCain demonstrated another of his patented eye rolls and resumed blindly attacking Obama with his worn out assortment of already debunked misrepresentations or begging for a vote while demonstrating a barely introductory level familiarity with the seven techniques of propaganda.
At some point as we watched McCain stretch his mouth around the latest hateful thought that was so visibly crossing his mind throughout the night, John McCain completely defied the laws of medical science and ate his own self and the last remains of his reputation. As the bevy of after-debate polls showed McCain statistically looked terrible in every way pollsters can measure asinine behavior. Smugness, condescension, blatant deceptions, rudeness, and cheap pandering, they just don’t play as well on nationwide TV as they must in some Washington cloakrooms.
Sneers, interruptions, snorts into the mic while off camera, McCain’s face was his worst enemy. At one point when Obama noted that even Fox News had disputed the McCain misrepresentation that Obama had tried to raise taxes on people earning as low as $42,000, John McCain threw such a huge, theatrically huge, double-take eye roll, that the kind folk at Daily Kos were inspired to create and post a gag reel of his best eye rolls in the debate on YouTube within hours. And at that point John McCain not only sealed his loss of the debate, but of the election as well.
Game Over, John McCain. You have beaten yourself. Of course, that is just this set of polls. Who knows how you will do in November with your buddies counting?
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ