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Trends and Tremors
I'm going to get to the specifics of the debate later in the post. But the big trend in my mind is the increasingly apparent contempt and disdain the McCain campaign has for Barack Obama. This culminated last night in McCain's "that one" comment, and regardless of what you hear from the MSM, I think there's little doubt that McCain's comment was objectifying, and that it reflects his overall contempt for Obama.
But as I intimated earlier, I think this is part of a bigger negative trend, one that McCain may not particularly support but has no choice but to continue. Essentially, the goal of the new negativity is to continue what Hillary Clinton started and what McCain tried to do over the summer: paint Obama as an other. Except now they're doing it openly, shamelessly, and without winking.
It's shameless because the tactic obviously tries to tap into the latent racism and fear that white voters have for minorities. The MSM, of course, is slow to call it openly racist, but even the Washington Post notes a particularly ugly incident at a Palin rally in Florida:
At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."This follows reports of crowds screaming "terrorist," "treason," and "kill him" when Palin talks about Obama. My thoughts on the issue via Joe Biden:
"The idea that a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop mid-sentence and turn and condemn that, you know, I just, this is a slippery slope."Of course, McCain didn't go on such an attack at last night's debate. He can't say any of the things on national television in front of a bi-partisan audience that Palin has been able to say at rallies in front of friendly audiences. And if this were another year, with another candidate, and another campaign, the "that one" statement probably wouldn't have been issue. But given the McCain campaign's recent attempts to define Obama as a dangerous "other," and the deplorable behavior at recent Palin rallies, I think "that one" was both a window into McCain's personal view of Obama and a subtle nod at fearful and misinformed voters who are now getting not-so-subtle nods on the campaign trail. Buckle up, it's going to be an ugly last 27 days.
The Actual Debate
Now that we've dispensed with today's rather unpleasant trend, we get to the question of who won the actual debate. You said Obama, and almost every statistic agrees with you. Most of the pundits, trying their best to make the election exciting and close, God bless'em, called it a draw, which makes Obama, the current momentum leader, your de facto winner. Everyone seems to agree that the format and moderator made the whole thing kind of boring, which has the AP complaining about the lack of digestible soundbites to feed their readers en masse. Somehow, I have a hard time sympathizing.
Besides what I've already talked about above, what can else can we take away from the debates? Well, McCain said my friends a lot. If you buy Slate's analysis, he may have used the phrase so often because he is not confident in his campaign's new attack strategy. Otherwise, the consensus seems to be that this was not the game-changer we were looking for.
Indeed, perhaps the most interesting thing we learned is that McCain has a new mortgage plan of his own that he was entirely unable to explain last night. So what is it? Our next topic...
Mortgaging the Future?
"It's my proposal. It's not Sen. Obama's proposal. It's not President Bush's proposal," said McCain of his new mortgage buyback plan last night. Obama's response: fine with me. The bottom line is that this follows the overall trend of the McCain campaign: it's derivative, it's reactionary, and it's risky.
In analyzing the plan, there are a few things to look at. First, everyone and their uncle should be able to see through this as meaningless posturing from someone who is losing the election because he's clueless about the economy. Second, it's not entirely new. Obama has already proposed something similar. From the AP:
Democratic nominee Barack Obama last month sounded a similar theme, proposing that the government consider taking such a step.Yes, there's nothing like differentiating yourself from your opponent by taking his ideas and pushing them to their extreme. But at least it's different than President Bush's plan....
But McCain's approach was far more categorical.
Hmm...but at least it's bigger and better than Bush's plan, right? Well bigger, yes...but that doesn't make it better. In fact, by requiring the government to buy up bad mortgages, McCain's plan gives a multi-billion dollar golden parachute to the banks! Instead of the Secretary of the Treasury being able to choose to pay for some mortgages on a case-by-case basis below cost, as the rescue legislation allows, under McCains plan Paulson and his successors would have to buy every bad mortgage that anyone can prove was obtained legitimately, at the full price! So instead of being able to make a profit on buying back assets, the net effect of the McCain plan will actually be to transfer all of the risk of these mortgages to the taxpayers, without any hope of profiting later. So much for bailing out Main Street.
As conceived by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and as passed by Congress, the rescue package would be used primarily to purchase mortgage-backed securities. It would allow, but not require direct purchase of mortgages. Under McCain's plan, the Treasury would be required to rework mortgages directly with homeowners whose houses were losing value.
So in the end, McCain's plan is yet another example of one hand giving, the other taking away. And by the way, great job playing to your base by proposing a giant government program, John. Hear that? It's the sound of all the fiscal conservatives losing confidence in you.
That Pesky Media, At It Again, Gosh Darn It
But here's my take on it: Seriously, after the McCain camp openly blasted the Times for its bias a few weeks ago, what do they expect? I'm personally all for objective journalism, but this is the editorial page, which is allowed to have a bias, and in the Times' case, it is left-leaning. Since they've already been blasted by McCain, what do they have to lose by going all out? Their normal readers already know and expect the lean on the editorial page, with liberals soaking it up and conservatives ignoring it.
Let's be fair to the Times, though. This was an editorial. It's allowed to be both biased and scathing. The article also criticized Obama's attacks, including his Keating 5 ad, though as we all know, there isn't nearly as much to criticize. Let's also not forget that the Times employs many conservative op-ed columnists. And finally, liberals have been criticizing the Times for its coverage too. So John, what's your point here, exactly? I don't always come to the defense of the MSM, but in this case McCain was asking for it.