Since the candidates again mostly said the same things tonight that they've been saying all along, I found myself focusing on exterior details. The most obvious one was Senator McCain's hyperactive face. If Al Gore was condemned for sighing or otherwise looking contemptuous or condescending toward George W. Bush, then McCain practically disqualified himself from the election with his goggle-eyed mugging and goofball facial expressions. He made a clown of himself, as if he didn't take Senator Obama seriously. He clearly didn't bother listening to what Obama said. The Bill Ayers question came up, and McCain said we need to find out everything about Obama's connection to the erstwhile Weatherman. Obama answered, scoring points by noting the Republicans who sat on the Annenberg Challenge board along with him and Ayers. McCain's idea of a rejoinder was to basically repeat what he had already said as if Obama had said nothing.
Increasingly, McCain reminded me of his running mate. Like Gov. Palin, he lapsed into talking points at odd moments at the risk of appearing oblivious to what was actually being asked. He grew more tongue tied and embarrassed himself by calling his opponent "Senator Government." Most post-game observers think McCain's big moment was when he told Obama, "I'm not President Bush," but I think Obama countered this well by explaining his "mistake" with reference to McCain's fidelity to Bushite economic policies. Meanwhile, liberal commentators are saying McCain jumped the shark when he appeared to dismiss life-of-the-mother concerns when discussing abortion law. I guess abortion isn't a hot-button issue for me, because it didn't register with me the same way.
The most interesting thing about the third debate is the nearly complete role reversal from a few weeks ago, when I often found myself criticizing Obama for whining rather than fighting back. Tonight, McCain spent a good part of the debate whining about those mean ads Obama was running about him. My criticism is the same for one man as for the other: it looks weak. By the way, Obama was lying when he said that all McCain's ads are negative. With my own eyes I've seen ads that emphasized only McCain's positive traits and ideas. Granted, these were early in the general campaign, but they count. I don't mean to single out Obama's lie, since both men did a lot of dissimulating, but when McCain could have cited specific ads to prove Obama wrong, he preferred to whine or, worse, to defend the mobs at his rallies. I know he was trying to say that the people allegedly yelling threats against Obama were only bad apples, but that's not what people are going to take from it.
I guess I'm obliged to address the phenomenon of "Joe the Plumber." Joe's a real person who confronted Obama to complain that the Democrat's tax plan would make it impossible for him to expand his business and hire more people. McCain has adopted Joe and uses him as a shield for Exxon and other poor potential victims of Obamite taxation. McCain milked the poor plumber for all he was worth, but my friendly advice to the Republican is this: if you want to make Americans empathize with some tax-imperiled working stiff, the way to do it wouldn't be to translate him into a cartoon character called "Joe the Plumber" but to remember his last name, you idiot!
Reading or listening to the partisan pundits is pointless. Liberals will say Obama won and conservatives will favor McCain simply because each man said the ideologically correct things. We need to know what independents think, and since there are no independent pundits to my knowledge, their comments only obfuscate the issue. Don't expect objectivity here, either, since any utterance of supply-side dogma was going to hurt McCain with me. I can only remind you that I am no partisan, and that Obama hasn't really impressed me as a savior in any of these debates, while insisting that McCain continues to look like someone coming apart at the seams, who doesn't know how to act as his ambitions hit the wall.
With his constant unsubstantiated refrain of "I know how to" do this and that, win wars (when?) or balance budgets or anything else, McCain reminds me of Thomas Nast's cartoons of Horace Greeley during the 1872 presidential campaign. It's actually a disturbing reminder. Greeley had a reputation as a know-it-all, so Nast drew increasingly brutal caricatures of him always carrying a book titled "What I Know About" some absurd topic or other. Greeley lost the election in a landslide, and within a month he was dead.