One week later and here we are. The final debate has come and gone. Did Obama win yet again, thusly achieving a clean sweep of the debates for the Obama/Biden ticket? I'd say "You bet your patootie he did," but that'd be cloyingly folksy in the same sense as Palin's performance in the vice presidential debate and all of her interviews. (Quick! Have her say something stupid and cute and hope that makes them stop asking questions!) Perhaps as choreographed and insulting as her "say it ain't so, Joe" moment at the debate weeks ago - it's hard not to see her asking Biden if she could call him Joe as having been a setup for that line. (Which sounded terribly unnatural in the context of the debate, having clearly been written beforehand (And whoever wrote it probably thought they were being clever. Wrong.) like everything else she said then.)
Anyway, not unlike the Republican candidate, the debate's paleolithic. (As in it ended nearly 6 hours ago as of my writing this. See how witty I am? Clearly I should be some sort of speech writer or televised pundit. They could ask me questions and I could tell them that no matter what, the Republicans won and the Democrats were clearly weak on everything. It's easy!) Obama was intelligent and level-headed as we'd come to expect, speaking to the American people as though we were all free-thinking adults (What an astonishing idea, eh, Republicans vying for the White House in recent years?) and answering all of Bob Schieffer's questions clearly. From McCain, we got more of the usual insistent distortions, finally throwing the low accusations his campaign ads make at Obama directly. (That was basically the theme of the debate for McCain - rattled as he and his campaign are, it was time to start aggressively attacking Obama while barely retaining his cool (Not something McCain's known for. Not a trait particularly desirable in someone seeking the highest office in the nation.) and throwing every misunderstanding and distortion in the book at him.)
First, there was the Nancy Reagan shout-out with which he opened - coming off as a politically calculated move (Not unlike his remark on Ted Kennedy having been hospitalized on the day of the first debate and stating that he was still in the hospital then, when he'd been released hours earlier and had publicly stated that he was looking forward to the debate that night.) and a general nod to the Reagan-worshiping crowd - an essential "Hey I'm like Reagan too, guys, remember? Remember, guys? Remember? I'm like Reagan! C'mon, vote for me! Coming to your senses like this isn't cool! Remember - Reagan!" (In yet another parenthetical, this is the part of the blog entry where I remind readers that yes, anything people go out of their way to say in a debate can be raked for political meaning - there's rarely anything said during debates like this that isn't calculated. Even wishing someone in the hospital well at that time of all times comes off as political maneuvering more than genuine sentiment. And we've seen McCain open with this in two of the three debates now.)
Economics came up as the first topic of debate - McCain once again declaring that the government should buy up everybody's bad mortgages, as unsound a plan as that is for economic recovery on many levels. (Also, we're supposed to freeze taxpayer spending on everything but the military and funnel all our taxes directly into the war coffers and military-industrial complex. In fact, they're intending to do a lot of other things with taxpayer money while also somehow freezing all non-military spending. Also, if the Republicans aren't cool with it? It's pork barrel spending! Like that horrible replacement projector for the Chicago planetarium, as McCain reminded us during the third debate. Spending government money on educational endeavors and public works like museums and planetariums is nothing short of communism! Clearly it's time facilities such as these all became companies and started focusing on the real American dream - making lots of money. And also not caring about anybody who makes less money than you do. Those people are bad. All of them. Terrible. How dare they try to imply you're not poor or middle class if you're making a quarter of a million dollars every year!? Everybody's doing at least that well, right? Damn those greedy liberals and their non-military spending!) Distortions were naturally, inevitably thrown out about Obama's tax plan - the usual Republican mantra about the Democrats scheming to raise taxes during this economic collapse, when under Obama's plan, 95% of Americans actually get tax breaks, while McCain's own plan favors the wealthy and sticks to the usual demonstrably false "trickle down" bullshit. (Remember, "spreading the wealth" is bad! It's our duty as Americans to cheer on our social stratification and ever-increasing class conflict as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer! If you're not rich, you probably deserve to be poor! Income should only be redistributed upwards! Like in recent years. Not the other way around.)
A mysterious "Joe the Plumber" came up as the debate's alternative to "Joe Six-Pack." (Neither of which sound like people you'd want running our government, of course, but don't tell that to the minority of people left who still believe they did the right thing in voting for Bush because "I'd like to have a beer with that man!" The whole "We stupid people can do a better job running this nation than smart people!" rhetoric it entails is pretty depressing, no matter how you look at it. And there's an ironic amount of elitism in it for all they accuse intellectuals of it. Only in America is intelligence now a negative trait for someone to possess. Thanks, neo-conservatives!) From the way he was brought up and used throughout the discussion? He could just as well have been a Republican plant. This average everyday working Joe was planning on buying the business he worked at, which brought in $250,000 a year. This is no small sum of money, as anyone who isn't ridiculously wealthy (See: McCain and the target audience of his definition of the middle class.) knows, and the general idea behind taxes? Paying proportionally - the more money you make, the bigger part of the burden you carry. (An evil liberal scheme, clearly, which extremely wealthy mavericks have had to thwart for great justice by off-shoring as many of their assets as possible and finding any tax loopholes they can to ensure that the burden remains squarely on the shoulders of the lower classes - as it once had the now mostly-gone middle class, which crumbled over the Bush administration years and its economic twists and turns.) And in a nation where employers value their employees? They provide healthcare. This "Joe the Plumber's" business (Decidedly less exciting than that of the Super Mario Bros.) concerns amounted to apparently not being so keen on providing quality healthcare for his employees under the Obama plan - let alone carrying his share of the tax burden as a very successful, wealthier business than most. "Joe the Plumber" was simply no more than a Republican meme (Which I somehow have the feeling we haven't heard the last of, at this point.) to try to prop up an "every day working middle class man" (Who could somehow afford to build a quarter-of-a-million-dollar business. Not exactly middle class.) as a fan of McCain's additional tax breaks for the rich and larger businesses. (Which he likes to call small businesses, while not really doing much to help actual small businesses, not unlike his own version of the "middle class," which isn't actually the middle class.) And as a future business owner who's very interested in slashing healthcare costs and benefits - a terrible trend in the working world in general, part of what's gotten us into this healthcare debacle to begin with - as opposed to doing his part to provide for his employees under Obama's far more effective healthcare plan. (Which also doesn't include taxing individuals for their healthcare benefits for the first time ever, as McCain's does.)
McCain threw out another claim that Obama had never voted against his party and reached across the aisle. Obama responded with three incidents in which he had. In a weak follow-up, McCain shouted that he wasn't Bush in an effort to distance himself again, saying that if Obama wanted to run against Bush, he should've run four years ago. Another rather open declaration of weakness, when McCain's own track record in the Bush years shows him to be very similar to our lame duck president - and he continues to stand by and support Bush, while many of his policies are little more than the continuation of Bush administration policies. (Not successful ones, either.) In short? "Shut up! I'm different!" The facts say otherwise, McCain.
Schieffer changed the subject to the nasty turns the campaigns had taken - McCain's advertising focusing largely on extreme distortions, outright lies, and fearmongering, while the Obama campaign attack ads at least generally have legitimate criticisms going for them. McCain immediately tried to turn the blame for the nasty campaign on Obama for his not agreeing to McCain's town hall meetings over the summer. (As though Obama had pointed a gun at him and forced his campaign to take that route for not going along with them. And for all the talk about those meetings, Obama handled last week's town hall debate far better than McCain did.) Then he went on to insist that he's running a "truthful campaign." (He's not. They can't win on the truth.) Then McCain proceeded to defend his rallies' attendees and attempted to write off those shouting hateful things as merely "the fringe," when that sort of behavior's only become more and more commonplace, and Palin especially has thrived on that sort of terrible behavior. McCain threw out his campaign's usual accusations that Obama's somehow best buddies with William Ayers - a former Man of the Year, professor, and strong community leader, hardly the active domestic terrorist that the McCain campaign's still trying to paint him as. McCain then went on to try to paint Obama's rallies as being just as violent and incendiary. (They're not at all. They lack the same violent and racist fuel that's been drawing so much attention to the Republican candidates' rallies as of late. For being such a tough POW though, apparently all it takes is a t-shirt or two to hurt McCain's feelings. Whaddaya know?) Then he went on to basically claim that Obama was plotting to steal the election with ACORN's help. Obama proceeded to dissect McCain's low blows by coming clean yet again on his relationship with Ayers and that he has nothing to do with his campaign or Obama himself in the White House. And the whole ACORN situation is just a matter of some ACORN employees committing fraud in order to collect a paid commission for their fake registries - not some deep-running Democratic scheme to steal the election from the Republicans. ACORN is actually working to purge all the fraudulent registered names now as well, ultimately failing as a latest campaign attack on the Democrats - ignoring the facts as usual, while they continue to backfire.
I chatted with a friend online while watching the debate, actually, and we couldn't help but muse that it would've only been more entertaining set to a Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban) DS game soundtrack every time Obama called McCain's bullshit, rattling McCain further. (Yes, we're huge nerds.)
The next topic was the suitability of their running mates for their roles, as well as for the presidency, should something happen. Obama was able to detail Joe Biden's qualifications quite effectively - Biden'll be a great VP, and should the unthinkable happen, he'd no doubt be a fine president too. McCain? Couldn't say too much in favor of Palin - while Obama avoided directly calling her unqualified, simply leaving it to the American people to decide - simply casting her as "someone America knows" (We know Obama by now. They've tried to shield Palin since day one, and the more we learn about her, the less people see her as even remotely qualified - as she isn't.), a role model for women (To call her that is an insult to women. As it was put well in a recent campaign poster parody Photoshop thread about Palin supporters on Something Awful, "Raped? Tough shit."), and a champion for special needs children and families. (Likely only because of her own kid, while McCain himself has a track record of fighting funding for special needs programs - somehow he's expecting us to believe he'll fit funding in now while also still only spending our tax dollars on the military.) Then McCain quickly shifted to the offensive and accused Biden of being "wrong on foreign policy," despite having more - and more valuable - experience than McCain. Biden's "wrong" because he has a better approach than McCain - who himself is open about stubbornly refusing to sit down with many foreign leaders. (Once again coloring the reality of McCain's politics in his attacks on Biden.)
On energy independence? The usual entirely unrealistic "Drill, baby, drill!" solution where we'll somehow magically find enough oil in our country to satisfy the rapid consumption. (When McCain undoubtedly won't even be alive when we see the effects of current offshore drilling, and it won't conveniently bring down the price of oil or help us achieve energy independence in any meaningful way like he and Republicans claim - it's just a handout to the oil industry in the interest of keeping America addicted.) The only other real solutions? Clean coal - going back to focusing on another fossil fuel we should be looking to leave in the past as well - and nuclear energy, which the American people are unlikely to ever trust, given its history. And in discussing trade agreements, McCain defiantly defended many of our morally questionable trade agreements that solely serve our interests and don't look out for the people in the countries we're trading with against Obama's reasonable criticisms. In regards to many of our trade agreements, we frankly aren't acting like a respectable first world nation - our interests being our sole interests, for all our professed concern for world affairs. (Which we only really see when we're looking to justify an invasion or bombings anyway.)
Then Schieffer brought up a big issue - abortion rights. And McCain went ahead and took his campaign to new lows, going from being purposefully openly unclear on his sentiments on the issue to attacking abortion and making his interest in overturning Roe v. Wade clear, while also taking up a snide attitude - absolutely brimming with contempt - to those who don't agree with him in his subscription to the Republican myth of a "pro-abortion" movement where somehow women enjoy getting pregnant and getting guilt-free abortions. He demonstrated his ignorance of the realities abortion and the importance of its legality - and in women's rights in general - as the option of a choice, with pregnancy in general not being a black and white issue as the so-called "pro-life" (In reality, simply anti-choice, as often as we see the "pro-life" crowd only truly concerned with "life" when it takes the form of an unwanted fertilized egg or fetus, or simply pushing for requiring the birth of a child even if it may be a danger to - and even potentially fatal to - the mother.) crowd prefers to. Apparently the whole notion of "women's health" is a farce in McCain's eyes (And valuing the health of the mother over the unborn child? An "extremist" position.), and women seriously wait until their pregnancy's far along before getting abortions and simply claim "health reasons." (When in reality, this very small percentage of abortions generally comes from pregnant women intending to have children, but ultimately having to terminate the pregnancy due to either serious defects in the fetus or serious health risks posed to the mother.) McCain came away from that moment looking like an outright clueless misogynist. Obama, on the other hand? Acknowledged the complicated situations in life that lead to the need for abortion, as well as the importance of comprehensive sex ed and birth control in focusing on reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. (And by proxy, abortions as well.)
In regards to education? Obama called for more funding, reform,and transparency - all things that the public school system could sorely use. McCain? Made it clear that he had no interest in investing in public education, like Bush, and was more than happy with the idea of more or less continuing to abandon it while focusing on charter schools and bringing back the Bush campaigns' dead, failed calls for private school vouchers. (It's high time these kids learned that it was Jesus who invented the lightbulb! And that it's full of god's light and magic!) Also apparently our troops should be coming home and going right to the classroom to teach! (Qualifications? Certifications? What're those?! We need to take our military-worship to whole new levels and treat our troops like they're genius superhuman American heroes qualified to do whatever they want, whenever they want! Make them jump through the same hoops as everyone else to educate them and assure they're actually qualified and capable in a field? You haven't been to WAR, have you?)
Following the debate - having watched it on NBC - Tom Brokaw noted how mocking McCain's tone had often been towards Obama throughout the debate. (Nothing new or unsurprising there.) And he also noted that neither candidate responded to Schieffer's call for them to go back to clean campaigning for the remainder of the election cycle. It's been noted online a number of times as well that McCain was openly snide throughout the debate, with his repeated compliments on Obama's skills as an orator, while ultimately using them to try to build up to painting him as nothing more than a "smooth talker." Despite the fact that Obama had more in the way of substance and actual concrete plans to address the problems we're facing as a nation. McCain had a bit of an interrupting problem throughout the debate as well - there were many times when he clearly didn't want Obama to finish what he had to say. Nothing in the way of respect there.
Debate season's finally over. I've definitely lost a few brain cells listening to McCain make some of the seriously deluded arguments he has. But in the least, he seems poised to lose the election by a potentially large margin. All I can say is - do the right thing, America. Prove, for once, that you're not as stupid as the rest of the world is convinced. This is the first major step we can take in redeeming ourselves and making good for the George W. Bush years, both to ourselves and the rest of the world.
(Also, yes, I know this entry was supposed to be the An American Carol one, but it ended up turning into final debate rambling. I did get even more movie mockery written though. That next entry will be posted later this week, I swear! Look forward to it in Conservative Satire Part III. (The last one.) And yes, I'm well aware of how rehashed this entry probably feels from the last one. Huzzah for clashes of the talking points.)