It's President 'That One' to you
John McCain needed a good performance in the second debate - and he failed badly, sounding mean and dispirited
o Melissa McEwan
o Wednesday October 08 2008 05:30 BST
Welcome to: Townhall Debate: Muslin versus Mavrick – Beyond Thunderdome!
Before Barack Obama and John McCain are even introduced, I am struck with wonderment at the staging for the event, which is being held in what appears to be an airtight, windowless bomb shelter gussied up with an ocean of cheap red carpet, a vivid blue wall, one jarringly incongruent purple podium, and risers bought from a Bozo Show firesale. When the senators walk out, I half expect them to chuck the debate and instead play the Grand Prize Game.
Which would actually pretty fun for us all.
But, instead, we're treated to watching Barack Obama advocate change, John McCain invoke his record, and Tom Brokaw get snippy because the candidates didn't adhere to the rules and blocked his teleprompter.
By the time Obama gives what was a surprisingly stirring response, even to the ears of this jaded cynic, to a question about what each candidate would ask the American people to sacrifice, he is really hitting his stride. He sounds confident. He sounds inspiring. He sounds presidential.
McCain, on the other hand, sounds condescending – perpetually chanting "My friends, my friends," like a manic tic, and answering every question with the breathless voice of a desperate, imploring parent. "Yes, you've got to go to the dentist," says my friend Devo, doing his impression of McCain's beseeching whine, "but I'll take you to McDonald's afterwards."
Content-wise, there aren't many revelations for those who have been paying attention to the race. If you've heard their stump speeches, if you've seen or read interviews with them, there isn't much new meat to chew on here. Obama stated flatly that healthcare is a right, which is a beautifully refreshing position to hear from an American presidential candidate. Conversely, McCain defines healthcare as a responsibility.
McCain is certainly the more pugilistic of the two, referring snidely to Obama at one point as "that one," which is just cringingly ugly and truly the nadir of McCain's various attempts to treat his opponent with disdain. He attempts a joke about hairplugs, an oblique jab at Joe Biden, which falls flat and looks pointlessly mean (which it is). He belligerently defends his "Bomb Iran" performance as a joke. The Republican nominee is suddenly a very long way from the man who, in April, "pledged to run a respectful campaign."
When the debate is over, the two candidates meet onstage. Barack and Michelle Obama stay behind to chat and take pictures with the attendees at the debate, while the McCains beat a rapid retreat.
CNN reports that their campaign watchers give the debate to Obama, 54%-30%. McCain needed to win; he did not. He got owned.
Say goodnight, Johnny. It's President That One to you.
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