Robot Debate

Well, I’d have to give it to Barack Obama on points…
It was a kind of lifeless, robotic affair–both of the candidates playing it pretty safe. Even McCain, with his barely controlled temper, was relatively subdued and mature-seeming–maybe he does have that in him when he needs it– maybe he took a little something before the debate to calm him down a bit…
Even the frame of this dull, predictable, slowly moving picture, was lifeless.
A real town-hall meeting might have people speaking passionately… frowning, laughing, making sounds of approval or disapproval, asking follow-up questions if they didn’t get a real answer the first time around.
This group–supposedly screened by the Gallup poll to be independents (how that can really be determined so clearly is hard to know)–sat there like cardboard cutouts. After getting to ask their one question, their microphone was apparently shut off (or removed). They were clearly instructed by the TV producers of the debate to sit still and shut up, like good little citizens should.
God forbid they got irritated or interrupted the candidate to require a little specificity or plain truth.

With only one or two exceptions, and those were short and without real punch, both the candidates were predictable, repetitive and boring… And, in a race where Obama is ahead (Thank God) a dull, predictable debate was all he needed to stay ahead.
It doesn’t matter so much that McCain is a liar about his record and his sleazy associations–and about some of Obama’s plans and programs— Or that that he (McCain) seems very unstable and deluded; twisted by the horrible things that happened to him in Vietnam and suffering all sorts of humiliations and defeats before (at the hands of the very Republican lizards who now run his campaign!)
And it doesn’t matter if both candidates exaggerate or twist things around or ignore uncomfortable facts about their voting records or backgrounds…
What really mattered last night–again, with Obama ahead in the polls in most places– is that he seemed calm, collected, authoritative; in short, “Presidential.” That much, despite his usual talking points, Obama certainly achieved.
As I said, McCain, crazy and angry as he clearly is most of the time–came off pretty controlled and somewhat Presidential himself.
What you have to look for is those little odd, jerky, disconnected flares that suddenly come out of him… Standing, suddenly, a little too close to audience members, telling strange, disconnected jokes that nobody gets (in order to be a funny, joe-six-pack kinda dude)– that nutty twinkle he gets in his eye sometimes and that bizarre, scary smile that appears out of nowhere–especially when he’s really angry.
Last night, McCain did his best– And he didn’t do what some people thought he might do– And, incidentally, what I fervently hoped he might do– Bring up Bill Ayers and Obama “palling around” with terrorists.
I wish McCain had brought that up– It would have sunk him irretrievably. Maybe, if he keeps slipping in the polls, he’ll bring it up at next week’s debate.
I guess we just have to expect Sarah Barracuda to keep bringing all that up–until her adoring mobs go from cries of “He’s a terrorist! (about Obama) or even, at one of her recent rallies, “Kill him!” (Obama) to actually doing something violent (God forbid).
This woman gets to be a nazi thug urging the masses to hate and commit violence while old Uncle John gets to be the kind, honest, decent old man.
Dishonest of course, and also very dishonorable….
Country first… what utter bullshit!

Anyway, I’m really tired of hearing all the same old words, phrases, plans and figures (5 million jobs! 300 million in tax cuts, blah blah blah) that don’t seem to mean anything anymore–from both the candidates.
It would be nice if we had a Franklin Roosevelt now– seems like the only man who could bring us through this horrible crisis we’re in… Obama, whatever his strong points and whatever his hidden depths of ability and strength is still too much the party politician for me… Too much a man who plays it safe.
Who knows– maybe he will surprise us all– Maybe he has a Roosevelt in him and it will emerge once he wins the election. After all, Roosevelt was the consummate party politician but, after taking office, saw that the regular fixes and slogans wouldn’t work–and set about saving America.

I hope that next week’s debate is livelier and has elements of passion and anger and demands from the moderator (though it seems unlikely) and that the candidates stop spouting either robotic phrases and figures or plain lies.
But that’s just because I want to be inspired and even feel some real hope in this dire time.
On the other hand, if Obama is still gaining in the polls, let him be boring and Presidential again– that will be good enough.
Maybe a desperate McCain will accuse Obama of being a terrorist– Then Obama could wrap it all up with a couple of sentences.

– Mike Feder (New York City – October 8, 2008)

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