My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


All I Needed To Hear From Last Night's Debate Happened In The First Five Minutes 

Tom Brokaw: "The audience members and thousands of people on the internet have submitted questions for our candidates, and I have selected the list to ask tonight" (or something to that effect)

Barack Obama: "What we are seeing is the final verdict on eight years of . . . " blah blah blah

John McCain: "Friends, I have a plan, and it starts with energy independence . . . " and then not a word about Democratic obstruction of energy independence.

Tom Brokaw selected the questions--that's the fastball down the heart. You know it's coming, but you really shouldn't swing at it. Of course, then Brokaw manipulated the questions to avoid any hint of a question that deals with either experience or judgment, so John McCain has no opening to go after Wright/Ayers/Rezko. Strike One.

Then Obama gets to spout his version of history, unchallenged and undisputed. The final verdict on the economic policies of the past eight years is that, just as we learned at the end of the Clinton administration, the cycle returns and every up has its down. It is remarkable that we did not slip into massive recession following 9/11, and with all the anxiety about the price of gasoline, Americans still have managed to keep the economy humming along. But there's always a price--six years of surprising prosperity is bound to have a tough down cycle. Call that one the slider that you were sort of expecting, but really didn't want to swing at. Strike Two.

Then, given the opportunity to both defend the record of tax cutting that kept the economy moving AND to slam Obama's friends for their involvement in the meltdown of the nations's financial sector, McCain chooses to talk about energy independence and some new idea for the Treasury, and I don't know what else. I kinda started to tune out. That's the hanging curveball that you just can't get the bat off your shoulders for. Strike Three--looking.

Look, there are those that think McCain won on points. But, like I wrote in the prelude to yesterday, even a unanimous decision was inadequate to the needs of the moment. McCain needed a knockout, and he came out and tried to out-dance the dancer.

I don't know if this can be salvaged at this point. Opinion is starting to harden, and Obama is starting to show up in polls at 50%-plus. I think McCain's only possibility is to force the point in the next debate, challenge Obama in the opening statements to forego the pre-arranged format, and insist on a 90-minute townhall where they can both expound on their ideas and their credentials. If McCain lets himself get dragged into another scripted tit-for-tat, I don't think he can turn this around.

But just as importantly, McCain needs new ad guys. I like the beginning of the ad "Dangerous," but writing in the conclusions "How Dishonorable" and "How Dangerous" was weak . . in my opinion. And that seems to be a recurring themeof the ad campaign--begin to make a great point and then muck it up with a goofy conclusion. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is splitting his time between articulating a vision for the future (chock-full of deception, no doubt, but still a vision) and hammering McCain on every front.

It's starting to feel like 1996 again.

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