Both men stepped to the podium...I mean 1970's style coffee table and sat on on either side, ready to engage in America's oldest and proudest tradition: yelling at each other. Debate moderator, Bobby Sunshine (okay, it was CBS's Bob Schieffer) assured America that this won't be one of those wussy optimistic, hopeful and respectful debates when he immediately pitted the political adversaries against each other. Neither man had time to cross his legs at the coffee table of love when Schieffer demanded to know how each candidates economic plan differed from the other.
McCain uncluttered his thoughts and then spoke deliberately and cautiously about the broad strokes of his economic leanings. By the time he was finished and the camera panned to Obama's pretty face the small line graphic that CNN had at the bottom of the screen to indicate when viewers heard something they liked, spiked sharply up for women. I've said it before and I will say it again: the ladies love them some Obama. After America had blinked the stars out of their eyes, McCain began his first rebuttal of the night and subsequently began the first anecdote of the night. Poor "Joe the Plumber" is trying to support his business, but it turns out Obama and his government cronies won't let them. In response, Barack subtly bit his lip and shook his head in Senator McCain's direction as if to delicately say: "you motherfucker." The real nugget of information during this question is that both the Democrat and the Republican want to lower taxes, they just don't necessarily agree on for whom. I guess they can't agree on everything.
Next, Schieffer directed their attention to the current deficit in the government's operating budget. And then the blinking started. Each candidate closed and re-opened their eyelids like a hummingbird giving us a heads up that they were about to lie and about to do so egregiously. Obama did a good job of providing specific applications of how and where he will apply cuts. It is no small feat for someone fiscally liberal to convince the masses that he won't raise taxes or increase the deficit but Senator Obama did his best to do so...and America promptly nodded its head in approval via "approval lines" at the bottom of the screen. McCain used his time to jump into his previous topic. A smart move, given that he was on a roll. He then assured us that he would be CUTTING GOVERNMENT in his administration by CUTTING GOVERNMENT and participating in CUTTING GOVERNMENT related activities. But just as things almost became serious, tangible arguments, Barack and John rectified the situation by debating the metaphorical applications of hatchets and scalpels.
Then Bobby Sunshine (I definitely prefer that name) lobbed the candidates a softball: their increasingly nasty campaign ads. All each candidate had to do was apologize for the actions of rogue partisan jerks in their respective campaigns and add some more humanity to their persona. Both decided that was not the cool thing to do. McCain said Obama has spent more money on negative campain ads than anyone in history. Somehow this had to do with the increasing subjugation of "Joe the Plumber." Obama said "100%" of McCain's ads have been negative. After Bob turned to Obama and eagerly asked "you take issue with that?" with the breathlessly evil delivery of Emperor Palpatine, it was clear that the only winner in this round would be my pessimism.
And then the moose in the room came up: running mates. A nervous tittering of laughter echoed around the group I was watching the debate with. Obama painted his running mate as a Bunyanesque figure. He comes from a small town, is knowledgeable about global issues and is 50 feet tall with laser vision! Then McCain began to wax poetic about his little spit-fire of a role model and reformer! Woman love her, he proudly proclaimed as the orange women's line plummeted like it fell from a plane.
McCain then further vindicated my theory that this election mirrors the '05 West Wing election when he proclaimed his love for nuclear energy during the Energy and Climate portion of the debate. Obama, meanwhile offered the first and only actual mention of a timetable when he said he could eliminate our use of foreign oil in ten years. He then meekly added something about alternative fuel sources and broached the subject of off-shore drilling. This awoke Johnny Drill Now from his slumber and John McCain began making demands of Obama, Bob Schieffer, the audience and God, himself that THEY. DRILL. NOW. DAMMIT! Then the topic of free trade somehow led to a random tangent about select South American countries. But Bobby Sunshine came to the rescue when he re-focused the wandering candidate's attention on the most volatile issue of the night: healthcare.
The health care portion of the debate was when both candidates finally stopped appealing to the American public and started fighting for the heart and mind of the mythical "Joe the Plumber." Who is this Joe and makes him so powerful? John McCain argued that Joe was better off keeping his money and deciding which healthcare he gets to be taken advantage by. Barack Obama countered by saying that Joe's premiums were being inflated by emergency room visits by those without insurance so universal coverage was the way to go. And each man went to great lengths to assure Joe that the other man hated him and all his Plumbing ways.
Things got ideological with the inevitable Roe v. Wade portion of the debate. Each candidate agreed that picking Supreme Court justices by qualification and not "litmus tests" was the way to go. They were both remarkably civil until Johnny Mac casually pointed out that Barack wants babies to die. Barack just flashed a smile and the orange line nearly jumped off the graph.
Finally, Bobby Sunshine assured us that it was time for the last topic: education. I am not sure how many people thought this would be a prominent topic in the debate, but I know I was definitely blind-sighted. Both spoke the praises of choice and competition in improving the public school system. Obama seemed to favor vouchers, however, while McCain clearly favored charter schools. As a graduate/survivor of a public school, I was pleased to hear each man's stance.
The final statements then followed as such.
McCain: You can trust me with your money, Joe!
Obama: Shit's bad, so we need to do new shit to fix the old shit.
And that, FOXNews, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, is how you recap a presidential debate.