I just returned from viewing the Town Hall presidential debate this evening, with people who were not shy about expressing their opinion that Barack Obama looked more natural, more confident, more relaxed and articulate than did John McCain.
Now, during the debate my hosts laid out a delicious kosher Chinese dinner, and, fueled by anxiety, I scarfed my vegetarian chow mein and egg rolls, chopsticks furiously flying from plate held head-level, to mouth.
But now at home, as I sit to write this, I need chocolate. And with my Costco-sized bag of chocolate chips, I'm trying to spin this positively. A conservative friend calls, asking who I thought "won" the debate; I insist he tell his view first, and he said that on economic issues, it was a tie; on foreign policy, McCain had the advantage.
I wish I could agree. Obviously, on a day when the stock market plummets--again--the audience is feeling insecure, powerless and afraid. Both candidates sympathized. Both support the bail-out, or "rescue," according to Obama, and also called for government help for homeowners. McCain mentioned buying out troubled loans; Obama proposed another WPA: "...helping state and local governments set up road projects and bridge projects that keep people in their jobs."
In other words, the economy's bad. Let's throw tax money at it, and, at the same time, lower taxes. Obama wants to do it for "95% of the population," and McCain wants to "raise taxes for no one." Neither candidate distinguished himself with an innovation, and despite philosophical differences, ended up sounding pretty similar, insisting the Feds step in and turn the whole mess around. I'm leery.
We heard each guy continue to repeat his pet themes. For Obama--evil CEOs "on Wall Street" with golden parachutes who don't "pay their fair share of the burden," his scalpel, not hatchet-carved expense cuts, McCain's misguided support for entering Iraq.
For McCain--life as a maverick who slices pork earmarks, "I know how to do it," on everything from saving social security to negotiating with enemies, his record and experience, Obama's erroneous scoff of the surge.
May I ask: What's wrong with shopping? At one point Obama asked the audience to recall that fateful day of 9-11, denouncing one of Pres. Bush's suggestions--that Americans continue to make purchases. At the time, with everyone in shock and afraid to leave our homes, businesses suffered. Why bash Bush for asking people to try a little "retail therapy" to help keep these businesses afloat?
Because Obama paints business as the bad guy. He repeatedly implied that businesses that make more than $250,000 annually, and their sinister CEOs, have more than they should and therefore owe the government an even bigger cut of their income. He's encouraging a hate of the "haves" from those who "have not"--yet. This politics of envy conflicts with the American Dream that, believe it or not, still fuels millions of immigrants and striving citizens.
Hearing this, I was plotzing, and fantasizing the answer I thought McCain should have given: "Do any of you ever patronize your neighborhood florist? Have a favorite little restaurant? Do you ever take your dry cleaning into a place on the corner? These are all businesses that Obama thinks should have to pay more taxes, because, due to the hard work of their owners, they might have found your customer loyalty and thereby some success. Instead of plowing those profits back into the business, as most small-business owners do, invigorating the economy by purchasing advertising, buying better equipment or hiring more workers, Obama thinks they should shoulder even more of the tax load. Who do you think suffers in the end?
And I (as McCain) would continue: "Is there anybody here in the audience who owns a small business? Is there anybody here who has ever thought about starting one? Maybe you make the best cookies and want to start baking in bulk. Maybe you have a great idea for a housecleaning company, or a dog-walking service or want to buy a franchise. Is there anybody out there who dreams of getting rich? Of maybe even making $250,000 a year? You're the one from whom Obama wants to take more money. You're the one he thinks needs to pay more in order for your taxes to be 'fair.'"
And that's the thing that makes me pop those nuggets of chocolate: I was so frustrated with McCain's ham-handed, heard-'em-before responses that I was answering the questions, and Obama, myself.
The scary thing is that Obama is sounding so much like McCain (foreign policy, energy and environment, the bailout) that he's camouflaging his true intent to redistribute wealth, start up a nationalized health program paid mostly by employers (eliminating private health insurance)--and spend, spend, spend, on education (always a local issue before!), checks to people who don't pay taxes, and 15 billion annually developing energy sources--the kind of research entrepreneurs are willing to do for free.
Yep, in this debate, I could even envision Obama as president, he was that relaxed, confident and vigorous. He'd practiced for this event well. Meanwhile, McCain, his see-through comb-over obvious from the camera-angle, leaned crookedly on his stool, sounded tense, and made less sense. He'd started out four or five points behind in the polls, and I think tonight might have exacerbated the situation. Though he has better policies for our country's safety and economy, we never heard any snappy, memorable epiphanies.
I've got plenty to pray for, as we enter the holiest day of the Jewish year tomorrow night on Yom Kippur. Not only will I repent sincerely for my own transgressions, but I will fervently ask God to look favorably on our nation as He determines the outcome of the next several weeks. I've got to cook tomorrow for our pre-fast, and prepare for the break-fast that we'll serve to guests at the holiday's conclusion.
But in the meantime, I'm nervously munching on chocolate.