Best part of the whole debate:
When Jim Lehrer asked the candidates, “Much has been said about the lessons of Vietnam. What do you see as the lessons of Iraq?” McCain babbled about how awesomely we began there, how (for causes not even remotely articulated) we had a wee bit of a strategic stumble (managing also not to specify that said stumble stretched from about a month after we got there in 2003 til the end of last year) and finished up by announcing that we have won the Iraq War. (News to me.) Obama, who went second, then gently stepped in to say that, yeah, the actual lesson of the Iraq War that pretty much everybody (except McCain) has learned was, we should never have gone in there in the first place. Har.
Worst part of the whole debate:
Jim Lehrer’s first question: “Gentlemen, at this very moment tonight, where do you stand on the financial recovery plan?”
(Candidates each speak for several minutes, demonstrating remarkable ability to discuss their tax and spending platforms without once touching on the financial recovery plan.)
Jim Lehrer’s next question: “All right, let’s go back to my question. How do you all stand on the recovery plan? And talk to each other about it. We’ve got five minutes. We can negotiate a deal right here.”
(Candidates further demonstrate ability to say nothing to the point and also refuse, even when point-blank instructed by Lehrer, to speak to each other.)
Jim Lehrer’s next try: “All right, let’s go to the next lead question, which is essentially following up on this same subject. And you get two minutes to begin with, Senator McCain. And using your word “fundamental,” are there fundamental differences between your approach and Senator Obama’s approach to what you would do as president to lead this country out of the financial crisis?”
(Candidates argue about the differences between their tax and spending platforms. Neither apparently has any idea that we are even having a financial crisis.)
Jim, who has the patience of a saint and is my new hero: “All right. All right, speaking of things that both of you want, another lead question, and it has to do with the rescue — the financial rescue thing that we started — started asking about. And what — and the first answer is to you, Senator Obama. As president, as a result of whatever financial rescue plan comes about and the billion, $700 billion, whatever it is it’s going to cost, what are you going to have to give up, in terms of the priorities that you would bring as president of the United States, as a result of having to pay for the financial rescue plan?”
(Candidates go on as if they never even heard the question.)
Jim Lehrer: “What I’m trying to get at this is this. Excuse me if I may, senator. Trying to get at that you all — one of you is going to be the president of the United States come January. At the — in the middle of a huge financial crisis that is yet to be resolved. And what I’m trying to get at is how this is going to affect you not in very specific — small ways but in major ways and the approach to take as to the presidency.”
(Candidates suggest that maybe we’ll stop spending money on something or other, described respectively as “things that aren’t vital” (McCain) and “things we can cut out with a scalpel rather than hatchet” (Obama). I go to the internet and start looking up emigration requirements to Australia.)
Jim Lehrer: “Before we go to another lead question. Let me figure out a way to ask the same question in a slightly different way here. Are you — are you willing to acknowledge both of you that this financial crisis is going to affect the way you rule the country as president of the United States beyond the kinds of things that you have already — I mean, is it a major move? Is it going to have a major effect?”
Can’t wait for the veep debate!