Tuesday, October 14, 2008

So much for great debates (Daily Northwestern 10/10/08)

I clearly need to apologize. I promised to write about the best moments in this endless presidential campaign. That was youthful na'veté. I'm pretty optimistic for a cynic, but there have been no best moments. There have been few good moments. There have been, by and large, only bad moments and worse moments. Maybe next week will be better, but this past week was the worst.

We got a heartbreaking debate, one so boring that Politico hailed it as the worst debate of all time. The campaigns promised us a shootout with .357 magnums, but the boys showed up with slingshots. Given the state of things right now, with two ongoing wars and a financial crisis, we deserve a debate more sophisticated than watching Dennis the Menace and Wilson bicker. The impish, wandering McCain gave us the "that one!" moment. Some have called it racially charged. I do not think it was. It was just bizarre and creepy. Obama, on the other hand, gave us no moments; he simply sat there looking more bored than Paris Hilton. Meanwhile, the rest of the world entered fiscal cardiac arrest. Loves it.

We saw the McCain campaign vomit a new wave of desperate, negative attacks. They have again attempted to turn Obama's middle name Hussein into an epithet. They have rattled on for days about his tenuous connections to Bill Ayers. They have slyly mentioned Obama receiving donations from abroad - as if McCain hasn't. They have allowed threats - calls for Obama's life - from their audiences go unanswered, "condemning" them only after the fact. These are the dots they want us to connect, and the many lines will spell "danger." Given the magnitude of this moment in history, these attacks sound not just small but insulting.

And we saw Obama do very little for fear of looking like the "angry black man," as Ben Stein called him. When the other team nearly accuses you of treason, you do not need to sound measured. You hit McCain harder on corruption involving the 1989 Keating Five scandal, not just with an online documentary nobody will watch. You list the names of every lobbyist working for McCain. You recount every nasty Chelsea Clinton and "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" joke that compromises not only his judgment but also his decency. You nail him on only knowing one thing about money: Yes, sometimes earmarks are silly. Then you call him on trying to spin all of this into his baseless maverick image. And when you're done and you've won, you render him obsolete, a tired relic, a has-been hero who will be remembered only for discovering FOX News's most successful anchor - Sarah Palin.

Maybe he shouldn't do all of this. Obviously he should leave it to his surrogates and spokesmen. McCain is too far beneath him right now. But I can't be the only one who wants to see Obama himself reach down there and turn the lights out. This is getting old.

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