Some presidential elections are decided at incongruous moments. George Bush senior lost the election the instant he glanced at his watch during the 1992 debate with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. In that one brief act of bored impatience, Bush revealed his disdain for the election, and therefore for his audience. That one act reinforced and confirmed a growing suspicion among voters that Bush was out of touch with the lives of average Americans, uninterested in the normal processes of democracy.
The year after that debate, movies theaters were showing Grumpy Old Men, which brings us to tonight's debate. The connection across time to 2008 is John McCain, who has become the Walter Matthau character in that 1993 movie, a curmudgeonly, befuddled, slightly unpleasant embarrassment of elderly ranting.
The split screen TV killed the McCain campaign, delivering the final blow by offering the audience a clear view of Beauty and the Beast. On one screen we saw a calm Obama, attentively listening to his opponent, then responding with coherent, concise retorts. On the other, we saw a squirming, smirking, eye-rolling, angry McCain looking uncomfortable in his own skin, stumbling through his anger to come up with a stuttering reply.
We need to put McCain out to pasture. The McCain/Palin ticket has lost contact with reality, becoming nothing but a machine to foster hate, ignoring the issues that matter most to Americans. His attempt to paint Obama as a terrorist is just the latest affront to reason. He tried lamely again in the debate tonight to tie Obama to William Ayers, but that smelly pile did nothing but foul McCain's own nest.
McCain is lurching between solutions based in expediency rather than a founding philosophy. He has no core, no center. He disdains regulations and big government while voting for an historic expansion of government power and intrusion into capital markets to bail out Wall Street. He proclaims we must wean ourselves from foreign oil, but votes repeatedly against renewable energies. He is against torture, but then votes for legislation that exempts CIA operatives from anti-torture laws. He vows to fight global warming, but then proposed offshore oil drilling as a solution. He calls Obama a danger to the Republic, then says that no, he is a good man with whom he has disagreements. McCain has flip-flopped on so many issues so often we need to name a new type of sandal in his honor. Don't forget your McCains and sunscreen next time you pack for the beach.
Historians will view the McCain/Palin ticket as a low point in presidential politics. McCain should be angry and ornery, because he has destroyed his legacy and soiled our political process. He has embarrassed himself, and insulted American citizens by choosing a running mate ill-prepared to lead this nation. The debate tonight sealed his fate. He lost, and he lost ugly. The time has come to lance this boil, and start the healing process with an Obama presidency.