Remember back in 2000, when Al Gore got pilloried for sighing during the debates with The Idiot? And remember how he got lambasted for seeming to be a different person in each debate?
I heard Johnny Mac breathing at least four times during Obama's turns last night. And we got yet another John McCain for this debate. It wasn't really a different guy. It was just a different flavor. Gore had gone from pedantic to forceful to just plain lame (although he really won each debate quite handily, regardless of the wanna-have-a-beer-with-him crowd's bewildering preference for the other guy). McCain was a cranky old man who wouldn't look at his opponent in the first debate, a cranky old condescending man who wandered a lot in the second debate, and a cranky old sarcastic man who alternated between screaming and laughing inappropriately in the third debate. And he interrupted Obama a lot. Not good.
Obama was even more Obama-y then ever and McCain was even McCainier, like himself in the previous debates but on steroids. Or goofballs. He tried really hard to seem funny and sharp. But he just looked like your embarrasing uncle, who also tries really hard to be funny and sharp but only has you and your family to embarrass, not the whole freaking country. Of course, the polls had been trending towards the cool guy for some time now, so McCain doesn't stand to gain much by being more of what we're already deciding we don't like very much. But he doesn't have any other arrows in the quiver. So there it is.
For the first half hour I was bored and thought McCain was actually winning. Obama was trying not to lose, like a football team up by 20 points in the 4th quarter running out the clock. Which is fine. That's all he had to do here. But after McCain wasn't able to rattle Obama, and Obama showed yet again that he knew exactly what he was talking about on, oh, every issue, McCain's head started to smoke and he grew increasingly disjointed and embarrassing-uncle-like.
He actually was making a bit of sense for a while. And then he just started babbling incoherently, moving from one topic to another, getting angrier and more dismissive all the while. By the end, he was equating Down Syndrome with autism. And criticizing someone's health care proposal with calling someone a terrorist. This debate was the McCain campaign in a nutshell. No direction, no consistent message, throwing everything at the wall hoping desperately that something will stick, progressively more insane as it circles the bowl.
Obama did himself proud in his responses about abortion, taxes and (why must we talk about this? why?) Bill Ayers and ACORN. McCain looked like he crapped his pants after he taunted Obama for not saying what penalty would be levied for not providing employee insurance and Obama told the strangely ubiquitous Joe the Plumber that his penalty would be "$0".
McCain had at least two horrible moments. First, he pooh-poohed women's health, suggesting that women exaggerate their own health risks because they just looooves getting them some abortions. Ow, my neck! I need an abortion! Great way to get the gals on your side, Johnny.
(Oh, and while we're on the subject, I am so fucking sick of the "liberal" position always being called "extreme" and the conservative position always being called "mainstream", regardless of where public opinion really lies. What was that last word? Oh, yes. LIES.)
His other bad moment was more subtle. It was after Obama discussed the Lily Ledbetter case. McCain brushed it off with muttered comments about the statute of limitations and the case being a "trial lawyer's dream". He, of course, never bothered defending the actual merits of the case, which was a disgrace. He clearly did not want to talk about it and quickly moved on to the next topic. Another bad bad thing to say in front of the ladies. Or anyone with a sense of fairness.
The post-debate snap polls all went Obama's way. Again. And McCain's positive/negatives went even further in the wrong direction.
This is not over yet. A lot can happen in three weeks. But something really disastrous would have to occur for Obama to lose this.
McCain can most productively spend his time drafting a nice apologetic concession speech.