Not a Whole Lot of "Town," and Other Town Hall Debate Reactions

Well, for a town-hall meeting, I sure didn't see a whole lot of "town." A couple dozen of over-lit, underwhelmed people who got free tickets. As a comic, I have to say, that really looked like a tough house.

Not sure what the much-ballyhooed format does for us. Having the candidates begin their answers with "Thank you, Fiona" and "Why, that's a very nice question, Oliver" doesn't seem like such a huge plus to me. Although getting to stretch their legs did seem to agree with the two senators. Certainly McCain. Walking around seems to have helped diffuse the rage. For God's sake -- let the man walk around when he wants to.

Net result? Once again: I think if you already like Obama -- you like him more after tonight. Likewise McCain. If you want to vote for him, tonight would've given you no more reason not to. And if you're on the fence, I don't know... Are there really that many people genuinely on the fence? How big could this fence be?

You could see both of them working their notes from the last debate. Obama was too gracious last time -- so tonight he came out swinging. McCain was too angry last time, so tonight he was more soft-spoken and very free with the "My friend" and "my friends." At least he didn't say "maverick."

But we already know the next few weeks are going to be less about any policy distinction and more about character assassinations and vicious insinuation. And the reason we know that is because the Republicans told us. Publicly. They confessed that if they continue to talk about the economy, they will lose. So they've decided to ratchet up the personal attacks. (By the way -- is it really okay to say that out loud? Geez. And here McCain is worried Obama "telegraphed his punch" to Pakistan.)

I would have loved for someone from the audience to ask McCain to his face if he sincerely believes Obama "pals around with terrorists" or wants to "attack our own country." And if not, why does he allow that to be said in his name? When Sarah Palin works up a crowd with "Obama doesn't see the same America we do" to the point that and a guy yells out, "Kill him," and she -- to the best of my knowledge -- says nothing to quell the sentiment -- where is the sense of shame? How is fueling hatred and racial stereotype and appealing to the very worst in all of us -- how is that putting "country first?"

It's not. And regardless of how the election turns out Obama has already done this nation a huge service by raising the level of debate and showing -- by tireless example -- that we can be better than that.

And we are. People are at least now seeing this poison for what it is. And I really do believe that Good will prevail over Crap. I think the Best In Us is actually going to prevail over the Worst In Us.

And if we continue to push Barack Obama towards the White House -- we are headed for a great New Day, my maverick friends.