My Friends the Stinking Corpses and Other Reasons McCain Lost the Debate to "That One"

I said it about Sarah Palin in the VP debate , and since this election has become just a matter of repeating our favorite talking points, I’ll go ahead and repeat it again now in reference to John McCain in the second presidential debate. Hopefully some other bloggers and eventually the mainstream media might actually join me in pointing this out:

If the rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is so despicable and so full of hate (and it is), and if meeting with him or another of Iran’s leaders would in some sense validate him (and his hate speech) and in turn actually give those reckless words an international platform…. Then why does John McCain insist on repeating all of his worst lines about “wiping Israel off the map” and calling Judaism a “stinking corpse”?? He’s a candidate for President of the United States, and in a debate televised across every network in America and replayed all over the world, there he is delivering Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic talking points for him. Sure, he’s denouncing those words, but he’s also constantly repeating them on TV and amplifying them through campaign rally microphones and giving them the largest platform possible by hurling them on to the Presidential political stage. And since we all agree that talking about wiping Israel off the map and calling Judaism a stinking corpse is reprehensible and disgusting maybe John McCain should stop doing it.

I’m getting the sense that people are starting to feel sorry for John McCain. I started to think that way (just a bit) last night. He’s not some horrible evil guy obviously, but it seems like he’s turning into this uncomfortable liar who’s gritting his teeth and grinning uncomfortably cuz in his heart he knows he just can’t give his old patented Straight Talk anymore. He’s not allowed. And that bums him out so he’s trying to do the best job he can at being this Rovian Bush-figurehead thing that he’s not really down with. He probably doesn’t condone the personal attacks about Obama “palling around with terrorists” and all the guilt-by-association rumor-mongering smear’n’fear tactics his campaign has indulged in, but he doesn’t have a choice. Not sure if that illustrates a lack of intangible leadership or if it’s simply that he’s just not really the one in charge of this campaign.

The debate reaction will no doubt include commentary on McCain abrasively referring to Obama as “that one,” and trivial analysis of whether McCain avoided shaking Obama’s hand afterward (I didn’t notice, but I’ve seen it mentioned a lot today). But the real story for me, is that I felt a “Fuckit I’m gonna lose and I think I’m okay with that” sorta vibe from McCain last night.

I excuse McCain’s physical appearance and stiff mobility for the obvious reasons. But he seemed uncomfortable. Not just physically, but generally just really fish-outta-water uncomfortable. To his credit, he kept trying to show confidence (“I’ve BEEN there, I know how to DO this stuff!”) and at the end of each of his speaking segments he’d drop the mic from one hand down to the other, like “nailed it!” but he never really nailed it.

He said his hero was Ronald Reagan. Later he said his hero was Teddy Roosevelt. And the “We don’t have to prioritize! We can do it all at once! We’re AMERICANS, we’re the BEST and we can do ANYTHING!” seemed to ring hollow. Same with “I’ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I’ll get him. I know how to get him. I’ll get him no matter what and I know how to do it.”

Really? He knows how to get him? Why hasn’t he shared this info with anyone? Does he hate America? (Sorry, I tried to get thru this without sarcasm… couldn’t do it.) Speaking of the elusive Mr. Bin Laden (anyone checked the closet or under the bed?), it was interesting that Obama also “played the 9/11 card” if I can put it that way. It almost seemed as if he was using something from the opposition’s playbook, like “hey, I can bring up 9/11 outta the blue too!” but I think he did have a fair point: he talked about 9/12, 9/13 and the next few weeks. How all of us REAL regular people actually felt. Like, man, things are different. I’m gonna smile to my fellow man and help someone out and feel a connection with other citizens for no reason other than it’s the right thing to do. That feeling evaporated quickly and Obama seemed to call for that spirit to return in these equally daunting times.

But finally, toward the end, the formerly Honorable Sen. John McCain finally spoke the truth and I finally agreed with him: “That requires a cool hand at the tiller,” and again later: “I’ll also tell you, when times are tough, we need a steady hand at the tiller.” Indeed. I think we all know which one of these guys is more steady-handed and cool-headed: “that one.”

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