If you had the good sense, or the foresight, or the plain old luck to miss the debate last night, here’s an outline. It’s really more than you need, but some of it’s amusing. [Spoiler alert: I don’t like John McCain.]
John McCain needed a big night at Tuesday’s second presidential debate to turn around a race that seems to be getting away from him. So he hit Barack Obama where it hurts: in the overhead projector.
McCain was asked about the global economic crisis. The Republican candidate answered by accusing Obama of voting for “$3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago.”
The markets took another plunge Tuesday in what pretty much everybody calls the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And we’re talking about overhead projectors?
Neither McCain nor his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, gave a particularly electrifying performance and neither seemed truly responsive to the current frightening headlines about the potential collapse of the U.S. economy. How could they be responsive and truly topical when both stuck to repeating campaign catchphrases and promises that dated back to the earliest stages of the political season?
One thing became a bit clearer: “They don’t like each other,” as commentator and Democratic strategist James Carville succinctly put it on CNN.
It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.
They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record — into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.
Neither candidate was selling morning in America. At times it seemed more like a competition to see who could paint the gloaming in the least unsettling hues.
Tuesday night’s presidential debate was remarkable for the dourness of its mood, for the frequently subdued demeanors of the candidates even as they tore into each other, which they did with somewhat less vigor and venom than expected, given how little time remains until Election Day, given how nasty the campaign had recently turned.
The … debate ended with probably the starkest difference of all, over foreign policy.
“Senator Obama was wrong about Iraq and the surge. He was wrong about Russia when they committed aggression against Georgia,” McCain said. “And in his short career, he does not understand our national security challenges.”
“Well, you know, Sen. McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don’t understand,” Obama replied. “It’s true. There are some things I don’t understand.
“I don’t understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama bin Laden and al Qaida are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us.
“That was Sen. McCain’s judgment, and it was the wrong judgment.”