Second Debate


As I listened to the second presidential debate on Tuesday night, my intellect struggled with rushing emotion. The emotion, in case you are wondering, was white-hot anger, at moments a devouring rage.  By the time the debate was over, I was frustrated and disconsolate.  I walked away musing to myself how unfortunate that only one of the candidates can lose the election.

John McCain's service in Vietnam was unquestionably noble.  He sacrificed dearly, and this nation should forever be grateful to him for it.  I deeply admire this part of the man's story.  I wish, however, that he had chosen not to enter the squalid world of Washington politics or, in the alternative, that he had not spent years on end walking within those circles.  It would be nice, in fact, if he would simply retire and go home. 

I do not mean to be disrespectful or boorish, but neither am I reluctant to share with you my unvarnished thoughts and impressions.  Sen. McCain's performance in this debate was doddering and, in some respects, transparently devious.

First, regarding the doddering part.  His efforts to be humorous reminded me, sadly enough, of those of an elderly person whose social sense is dulled by the onset of dementia. The Senator's excursions into frivolity were oddly misplaced. When he was asked whom he would appoint to be Secretary of the Treasury, he responded to the moderator, "Not you, Tom."  Was that not inane?  Was there an underlying meaning I missed?  Perhaps someone needs to remind Sen. McCain that the country has free-fallen into a seemingly bottomless abyss and that the stock market, in which most of our retirement funds are invested, is covered over by gaping darkness, up to two trillion dollars so far.  I do not know about you, but I hardly feel like listening to flippant asides from a politician.  Humor in this context is analogous to playing the minuet beneath the Cross.  Unbelievably, later in the evening, Sen. McCain did it again: he awkwardly interrupted the moderator to ask, tongue in cheek, whether Sen. Obama had specified the amount of the fine he would levy for the failure of a parent or employer to provide healthcare insurance.  This also appeared impishly obnoxious, unpresidential, and another anomalous attempt at laughter. Part of being an effective communicator, it seems to me, is knowing when not to reach for a humorous line.  Well, last Tuesday's debate was neither the time nor the place.

Now, for the devious part.  He proposed that Big Brother "buy up bad loans" and renegotiate new ones with the troubled homeowners.  This is a curious proposal for a free market conservative to make.  These homeowners are in the financial soup because of their own doing.  They were either irresponsible or stupid; at any rate, they each accepted an improvident home loan and, now, the value of real estate has sharply declined.  Who is to say that, after Sen. McCain and friends intervene with a new loan, the housing market will not suffer yet another decline?  Or who in his right mind trusts the government to adjust properly the value of the second mortgage?  Moreover, why should citizens who acted responsibly have to bail out those who did not?  Sen. McCain's all too pragmatic transition from free market economics to the "nanny state" amounts to a tired grasping at straws. He impresses me as one who, frankly, does not have a clue what to do.  His reservoir of ideas is depleted, and so he is left with offering voters a "solution" that amounts to one more big juicy federal carrot.

Sen. McCain's praise for the American workforce as "the best in the world" and capable of meeting head-on the various problems we face in this country was shameless demagoguery.  He has stood idly by for years in the United States Senate while hundreds of thousands of American jobs were outsourced in order to increase corporate coffers and to pad the pockets of CEOs, while he now expects the American worker, displaced as he is, to pony up hard-earned dollars to bail out these unconscionable sons of avarice.  For those who think that "obscenity" is defined by the content of a girlie magazine, I respectfully beg to differ with you and to direct your attention instead to Wall Street and, with special attention, to the fact that AIG executives in recent days took a $400,000 California vacation at our expense!

Now, a few comments concerning Barack Obama. He again came across as a glib communicator.  His appearance is one of youth, vitality, and verbal artfulness.  That stuff especially appeals to the lobotomized voter, whose numbers may well decide this election.  In these respects, the Illinois senator is undoubtedly at the top of his game.  The government, in his view, is the answer to all our ills. They boil down, hearing him tell it, to the result of the "failed economic policies of the last eight years [favoring deregulation]," which Sen. McCain supposedly endorsed and supported.  What a brazen half-truth!  The "Democrat versus Republican" mantra insults the intelligence of thoughtful people.  How dare Sen. Obama or any other Democratic apparatchik attempt to make the specious case that Republicans' support of deregulation precipitated our present financial catastrophe, when House members Richard Baker (R-LA), Ed Royce (R-CA), and Christopher Shays (R-CT) stressed the need for strict regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while Maxine Waters (D-CA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Lacy Clay (D-MO), and Arthur Davis (D-AL) were strenuously arguing against it.

Sen. Obama, in the final moments of the debate, spoke affectionately of the "American dream" and of his realization of it from humble origins.  His hope, he stated, was that all citizens would be able to realize this dream, which is conditioned, he contended, upon government charting the proper direction for change.  Hogwash!  Government cannot be depended upon to chart anything correctly!  Most, if not all, problems infecting this country have been caused by government. The immigration catastrophe!  Energy dependence! Extortionate taxes! Unrestrained entitlements!  Gender and racial preferences!  Laxity in the face of environmental pollution!  The dismantling and disrespecting of American culture!  Vietnam!  Iraq! The present financial chaos!  Who else is to blame for these maladies but government?  So, I beg Sen. Obama and his cohorts to pardon me if, when he declares that there is something fundamentally wrong with a country as rich as ours not providing healthcare to its citizenry, I am hesitant to embrace his roseate vision of government assistance. Is he living on another planet or what?  The government is a bloody train wreck, and we are in financial meltdown.

There is only one suggestion that I would zealously make to the federal powers that be.  All those who have been pigging at the trough for six years or more should resign and go to work. That would indeed be a hopeful prospect.  It would certainly cause me to stand up and to cheer.  Who knows, it might even restore confidence in the once almighty dollar too.

I would recommend, in the meantime, that America stand up in front of the mirror and take a long contemplative look at herself.  She is collapsing in every way.  Anyone with eyes can see it.  Perhaps it is time for us to turn a deaf ear to the empty blather of political promises, the fulfillment of which is not even remotely feasible, and to begin thinking in terms of what went wrong with "the great American experiment" and how we might rebuild so as to correct it.  I think the process may involve what is called "repentance."

October 9, 2008