So last night, instead of dissecting the debate right away, I played a little game with myself and I recommend that you play it, too. It's called "close your eyes and imagine." It's actually quite simple yet quite powerful. After the longest campaign in the history of the world, the 2 candidates are omnipresent; you can hardly go a minute without either hearing about them, reading about them or seeing them. However, we still think of them as candidates. So last night, I tried to forget about my biases, and my substantive policy views and tried to imagine what they would each look like as the President of the United States. How will they look addressing the American people especially in the time of crisis? How will they connect with world leaders especially those they don't like - and those they have offended in the past? How will they interact with those that disagree with them in the Congress - especially if both chambers end up being majority ruled by the other party? How will they deal with complex issues that transcend the simplistic dichotomy of left and right and that go beyond war and spending? After watching the candidates side by side in three debates, I cannot guarantee you who will do a better job with the economy or who will do a better job in Iraq. I do, however, have a fairly definitive answer who made me feel better during the "close your eyes and imagine" game. What was yours?
That said, why not have some fun with some highlights from the debate?
When asked about their VPs:
McCain: .. And, by the way, she [Palin] also understands special-needs families. She understands that autism is on the rise, that we've got to find out what's causing it, and we've got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children.
Obama: .. I do want to just point out that autism, for example, or other special needs will require some additional funding, if we're going to get serious in terms of research. That is something that every family that advocates on behalf of disabled children talk about. And if we have an across-the-board spending freeze, we're not going to be able to do it. That's an example of, I think, the kind of use of the scalpel that we want to make sure that we're funding some of those programs.
McCain: .. But again, I want to come back to, notice every time Sen. Obama says, "We need to spend more, we need to spend more, that's the answer" -- why do we always have to spend more? Why can't we have transparency, accountability, reform of these agencies of government?
McCain: Joe wants to buy the business that he has been in for all of these years, worked 10, 12 hours a day. And he wanted to buy the business but he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes. You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket which was going to increase his taxes, which was going to cause him not to be able to employ people, which Joe was trying to realize the American dream.
McCain: I admire so much Sen. Obama's eloquence. And you really have to pay attention to words. He said, we will look at offshore drilling. Did you get that? Look at.McCain's arrogance in this one is only trumped by his silliness. "Look at" is about as good a guarantee as either one of you can give us about anything at this point. If he is truly so concerned about words, this is one of the lesser offenses in the debate.
McCain: I would have, first of all, across-the-board spending freeze, OK? Some
people say that's a hatchet. That's a hatchet, and then I would get out a scalpel, OK?
McCain: I know how to save billions of dollars in defense spending. I know how
to eliminate programs.
McCain: Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going to give a new direction to this economy in this country.
Obama: .. the fact of the matter is that if I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush's policies, it's because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people, on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities, you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush. Now, you've shown independence -- commendable independence, on some key issues like torture, for example, and I give you enormous credit for that. But when it comes to economic policies, essentially what you're proposing is eight more years of the same thing. And it hasn't worked.
McCain: And, Sen. Obama, when he said -- and he signed a piece of paper that said he would take public financing for his campaign if I did -- that was back when he was a long-shot candidate -- you didn't keep your word. And when you looked into the camera in a debate with Sen. Clinton and said, "I will sit down and negotiate with John McCain about public financing before I make a decision," you didn't tell the American people the truth because you didn't.
Obama: I think the American people are less interested in our hurt feelings during the course of the campaign than addressing the issues that matter to them so deeply.
McCain: By the way, when Sen. Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadians said, "Yes, and we'll sell our oil to China." You don't tell countries you're going to unilaterally renegotiate agreements with them.
McCain: Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer. But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.
McCain: .. as he said, his object is a single payer system. If you like that, you'll love Canada and England. So the point is...
Schieffer: So that's your objective?
Obama: It is not and I didn't describe it...
McCain: No, you stated it.
Obama: I just...
McCain: Excuse me.
Obama: I just described what my plan is. And I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there. Here's your fine -- zero. You won't pay a fine, because...
Obama: Zero, because as I said in our last debate and I'll repeat, John, I exempt small businesses from the requirement for large businesses that can afford to provide health care to their employees, but are not doing it.
McCain: Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations, because what Joe wanted to do was buy the business that he's been working for 10-12 hours a day, seven days a
week, and you said that you wanted to spread the wealth, but -- in other words, take Joe's money and then you decide what to do with it. Now, Joe, you're rich, congratulations, and you will then fall into the category where you'll have to pay a fine if you don't provide health insurance that Sen. Obama mandates, not the kind that you think is best for your family, your children, your employees, but the kind that he mandates for you.
McCain: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications.
McCain: Just again, the example of the eloquence of Sen. Obama. He's health for the mother. You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, "health."
Obama: Well, we have a tradition of local control of the schools and that's a tradition that has served us well.
McCain: We have to stop the spending.