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Final faceoff – Obama/McCain debate

October 16, 2008

ABC1 continues its coverage of the US Presidential race with a live broadcast of the final debate.  I’m not expecting that this will provide the giggles that the VP debate did, but I’ll be watching.  After last night’s episode of Battlestar Galactica (we’re way behind in viewing – “last night’s” was Ep 4 of S2, Resistance) I won’t be surprised if Col. Tigh John McCain declares martial law.

Oooh, follow up questions are encouraged!  If the candidates don’t ask them, the moderator will.  That sounded like a threat…

The set makes this look like a scary job interview which, in effect, it is.  A job interview for potentially the scariest job in the world.

McCain is using up some of his 2 minutes to sell his economic plan sending wishes to Nancy Reagan, who has broken her pelvis.  It’s hard to see whether this is genuine, or a recognition that he doesn’t have 2 mintues’ worth of explanation for his plan.

“They want this country to go in a new direction,” says McCain.  Surely the response to this is: vote for somebody who does not represent the party currently in charge.

McCain sounds old.

Obama is saying that the “fundamentals of the economy were weak” before this crisis.  That’s a nice, subtle dig at McCain, but perhaps too subtle.  Obama sounds measured and calm and looks very confident.

McCain’s follow up: Obama’s encounter with a plumber in Ohio called… wait for it… Joe.  Eight minutes in, and we have our first Joe! Um, what’s your actual question, Grandpa Simpson?

Aaaand McCain’s given Obama a nice, wide open invitation to compare tax cuts.  Blowback!

McCain seems to think that “spreading the wealth around” is a bad thing.  He thinks that Joe-the-plumber will spread the wealth.  God.  Stop saying “Joe the plumber“!  Both of you!

McCain’s just rude.  Stop interrupting. And he’s just talked about Ireland’s tax rates as though Ireland  currently has an economy any government would aspire to.

Obama’s talking about refocussing budget spending on preventative measures – energy, health.  Sounds like a good idea.  Let’s see how McCain responds…  Home ownership.  Increasing home values.  Isn’t over-valued housing part of the problem?  McCain knows how to save billions of dollars in defence spending – please share!  Eliminating tariffs on imported products is going to lose money, isn’t it?

We’re back to the “overhead projector”.  Hasn’t this been explained?

Hatchet vs scalpel.  That’s good imagery – McCain would probably embrace being a “hatchet” since he’s such a maverick.

“Hurtin'”.  First dropped “g”!  21 minutes in.

Next section: the nastiness of the campaign.  Is each candidate willing to repeat the campaign allegations about the other in this forum?  This will be interesting.  Or boring.  I’m predicting both candidates will avoid the question and it will be boring.

McCain regrets some of the negative aspects of both campaigns.  He’s repeating allegations against his campaign which is not addressing the question at all.

According to Obama, 100% of McCain’s ads have been negative.  The fact that he goes on to characterise this particularly dull encounter as a “vigorous debate” does bring me to question his judgement here.  He would love to see the next three weeks devoted to the economy, healthcare, energy and how the average American can afford to send their kids to college.

McCain watched sport on the weekend.  His team must have won, since Obama interjected with “congratulations” in a rather funereal tone.

Joe the plumber somehow manages to get back into it.  God.

Now Obama is talking about crowd behaviour at Republican rallies and wondering whether this was repudiated.  McCain is ignoring him, writing notes, and then interrupts.  McCain is “proud of the people that come to [his] rallies.”  Now it’s descended into “your rallies suck”, “no, yours do”.  Boring.  What’s on Dr Phil?  Agh, a Colourbond ad.  Back to Obama.

McCain’s just interrupted again to focus on the “full extent” of Obama’s relationship with ACORN, which he characterises as “maybe destroying the fabric of democracy” and the relationship with Ayers.

The broadcast has just been interrupted with a long beep, which made it seem as though Obama’s initial response was to swear prolifically.  Not the case – he’s talking about Ayers’ and his role as a Professor of Education and describes his earlier activities as “despicable”.

Now McCain is talking about “Senator Obama’s relationship with them” (emphasis mine), rather than “him”, which is definitely aimed at drawing a connection between Obama and The Weathermen, not just Ayers.  The moderator has called an end to this section, but it has been deeply unsatisfying.

To the running mates!  Obama is talking about Biden and his support for the “little guy”.  Maybe he only chose him because his name is Joe.  Joe!

What on earth can McCain say about Palin?  Oh, she’s a model for women.  Sure.  She’s a “freth of bresh air”.  Apparently she understands “special needs” families.  How is that, again?  She understands that better than almost any American McCain knows.  He’s proud of her!  Her husband’s a tough guy!  That’s a good thing.  Apparently.

Obama has called McCain on the “special needs” bullshit by saying that it needs funding.  McCain’s describing some of Biden’s foreign policy ideas as “cock-a-mamie”.

When he speaks, McCain gives the impression that he is only just managing to keep his anger in check.  It’s just his speaking style – the clenched teeth and minimal movement of the head makes it seem as though he’s containing an explosion.

On to climate change. Drilling, energy independence.

On to free trade.  The South Korean trade agreement?  Obama doesn’t really like free trade – he doesn’t think this is fair.  America has lots of Korean cars and Korea doesn’t have many American cars.  He would like to advocate for American car manufacturers.  Oh, god.  I can’t imagine why Korea wants even 5000 American cars!  Surely they only buy them as an expensive prank.  In the “I will take a Hummer to my wedding!  Classy” way.  If Americans are buying Korean cars by the shipload, that’s their choice.  Why are they making that choice?  Korean cars are cheaper.  Why?  What can government do?  What should government do?

Healthcare – would either candidate favour controlling costs over expanding healthcare.  Obama says both are required.  Anecdote about potential voters, who are not called Joe.

“Working families”.  Does Kevin Rudd get royalties for the use of that term?  McCain wants to give every family a $5000 tax credit to use on healthcare.  He’s speaking directly to Joe-the-goddam-plumber now about this.  I really don’t understand Americans and healthcare.  Both candidates are describing policies that seem inordinately complex.  Makes me grateful for our Medicare.

Obama is talking to Joe directly now, too.  The Joe-the-plumber debate.  Does he work out?  Have a six-pack (of either variety).

Joe’s been working 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I’m sure plumbers are in shortage on the MOD list here – perhaps he would have a better lifestyle if he migrates.

Roe vs Wade.  McCain thinks it should be overturned but wouldn’t use it as a litmus test on a Supreme Court candidate.  Surely this won’t play well with conservatives, but maybe he’s been practicing a highly sophisticated dog whistle where he hopes that potential voters will assume he’ll cark it and Palin will be the one to deal with SC appointments.  If not, then it’s a pretty good answer.  Go Grandpa. Ah, maybe this is the kicker: “strict adherence to the constitution” – is he talking about originalists only?

Obama also doesn’t think in terms of litmus tests.  Fairness and justice are his keys.  Obama is standing up for his opinion on Roe vs Wade.  There’s clearly been some polling on this that shows that he can pick up some support on this.

Yay – focus on the Ledbetter case for equal pay!  Good on you, Obama.  Make McCain respond to that!

McCain touched his heart when he said “We who are pro-life”.

“Nobody’s pro-abortion” – that’s a key line.  Good for Obama.

McCain just did “AIR QUOTES”.  Gah!

Oh, I zoned out and don’t know what it is that “poses a threat to national security”.  Ah – education?  Once again, Obama has answered an either/or questions with “we need both”.  Higher pay for teachers!  Oh, a pay-off: only for higher standards and accountability.  But it’s not just the teacher’s job.  Parents – step up!  Put away the video games and turn off the TV.

McCain is talking about choice and competition between schools.  How does that work?  Instead of creating competing schools, it would seem more sensible to create good schools in the first place.  McCain is also going to find bad teachers another line of work.  That sounds good, but how much effort will the government put into actually finding jobs for bad teachers?  Obama agrees on charter schools.  I really don’t get this as a concept.  Why set up a second, publicly funded system instead of improving the existing public school system?

“Your wife.”  Doesn’t McCain know Obama’s wife’s name?

Sarah Palin is brought up again as a leading expert on autism.  Where does this expertise come from?  I’m genuinely curious about this.

Final statements: McCain goes first.

He thinks the discusion has been healthy and he uses the phrase “my friends”.  Long record, careful steward.  He mashes the words “affordable” and “available” and seems to say that he wants to make health care avoidable.  He’s spent his ENTIRE LIFE in the service of his country.  It sounds a little like a self-obituary when he says “I’ve been honoured”, which is a fairly weak way to end.

Obama – drops a g.  Yep – “fundamental change”.  Excellent final emphasis of the link between the past eight years and the future.  Paraphrases the “doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result” insanity definition to good effect.  Uses “my entire career”, which is a more believable phrasing than McCain’s.  His final sentence was a tad hesitant, but I would say he went through safely.

“Go vote now.  It will make you feel big and strong”.  Thanks, moderator.

McCain’s yapping of “good job!  good job!” when he went for the handshake was a pissy ending.

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