This is essentially what happened to John McCain last night: he hit a few notes early, going on the offensive (the “I am not President Bush” line was a good zinger, but Barack Obama had a good response to it), but seemed to flag as the debate wnet on, after he’d used that, the ACORN and Bill Ayers bits, and pleading such crocodile tears at offense to Rep. John Lewis‘ remarks over the tenor of the audience at his rallies. But, save a few good smiles in response from Obama (nice teeth, Barry, I’d like to meet your dentist), he didn’t really dent or faze him, and he needed to make Obama lose his cool to be effective.
But, if you thought the culture wars were dead or at least took a backseat in this election, you can thank or curse moderator Bob Schieffer for bringing them back up, by starting with a question about the Roe v. Wade “litmus test” bit about judicial nominees. Eventually, it got to partial-birth abortion, and McCain’s attitude is the kind of attitude that keeps me voting Democratic every four years.
Apparently now the health of a woman during a pregnancy is now only a code word so pro-abortion advocates can get women in the clinic. It’s not a serious matter of whether the woman could die because of her child. From this attitude, we may also presume that it’s not much of a stretch to say that McCain doesn’t think it’s a big deal if a woman has to bring the baby left her by her rapist to term, etiher — Sarah Palin wears that opinion proudly. In short, the slogan ought to be: “All Your Uterus Are Belong To Us.” Think of that for your sisters, girlfriends, wives, or daughters.
(I’m really not going to go into the dissonance required to be so actively pro-life, yet be hard-core, law-and-order folk that are okay with the death penalty — or the inconsistency of seeing that a baby is carried to term, yet barely concerned with what happens to it afterwards.)
This “health” matter apparently isn’t one, and it comes minutes after McCain talks about how he’s going to put control of health decisions into the hands of voters by giving us $5,000 in tax credits to buy health care. Never mind that employers will drop health care requirements as soon as they can, leaving people in the dust with health care that is taxable as income. At least if the government pays for my health care, or requires my employer to, I know I’ll get it. I’d rather gamble with them than insurance companies.
Obama’s job tonight was to take the blows and respond calmly, even when McCain hit the same “tax increase” points over and over with the idiotic and boring Joe the Plumber rhetorical bit — which he essentially did, and had the second part of the debate after McCain got his initial wind out of the way. Watching the split screen provided the most contrast: McCain still looks pissed off every time he’s not talking. This does not help him. Obama’s smile may look more like a smirk, like he’s thinking, “There you go again, John,” but it doesn’t radiate comtempt.
McCain still looks furious that he even has to debate this newcomer, and if he’s going to be this pissy with a political campaign, how much better will he be with foreign diplomacy, and how good is he really when it comes to working across the aisle, like he claims so often? I don’t get the sense of someone who’s willing to work across party lines. I see someone who does it when that party-line crossing only reflects his ambitions, goals, or previously held beliefs.
It is true that many voters have a tendency to vote their fears. Unfortunately, I’m one of them. I feared George W. Bush’s policies, and after watching more campaign coverage than I care to remember, I now fear the policies that will be put in place in a John McCain administration.