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The third and last Presidential Debate just ended as I type this. Earlier today, the DOW plunged another 733 points, reclaiming the vast majority of Monday’s record setting 936 point gain. That same (Monday) afternoon, I heard two flash-polls ask if “the record rise in the stock market” gave you faith in the economy once again. I wondered to myself, “Just what kind of idiot would find comfort in a stock market that’s swinging nearly a thousand points from day-to-day?

Take a look at the DOW since September 25th (the day before the first of three 700 point plunges:)

DOW - 9/26 to 10/16

As you might remember, the DOW plunged 777 points on September 26, rose 121 the next day, fell another 2,500 points by October 10th, rose nearly 1,000 points last Monday only to retreat 886 points by Wednesday. As a point of reference, after the attacks of 9/11, the DOW plunged just under 685 points when it reopened a week later. Feeling more confident in the Market yet?

Early on in the debate, Senator Obama briefly mentioned Wednesday’s plunge. Naturally, Senator McCain, who is desperately running from the Bush economy even as he endorses its policies, made no mention of the Market whatsoever. He repeatedly attacked Senator Obama for “wanting to raise taxes”, claiming that his tax cuts would “create jobs”. Last month, the Department of Labor reported that we lost a 159,000 jobs in September for the eighth straight month in a row. If “tax cuts” are so great for job creation, explain to us why Bush’s tax cuts haven’t created a record number of jobs? Alas, Senator Obama never asked Senator McCain this crucial question. (I hope to do a more thorough report on just how we got where we are now in a future column, but for now, let’s stick to the debate).

During the debate, Senator McCain took umbrage to Senator Obama criticizing him and his running mate for not responding to rally attendees saying things like “kill him!” and calling Obama a “terrorist”, making the following comment:

Whenever you have a rally of 10,000 people, you’re going to have some fringe people.” [I take offense when you criticize my supporters.] “Only the most decent, patriotic people…” attend our rallies. (transcript not yet available for exact quote).

Really? Watch this video and tell me if it seems just “the fringe” of McCain attendees spewing hate:

At least it was interesting to hear Senator McCain confirm that his rallies draw roughly only 10,000 people, as compared to Obama rallies that regularly draw between 30,000 and 45,000 people.

Senator McCain claimed during the debate that he “repudiated” every offensive comment a supporter gave before him. Senator McCain must think his campaign began last week, because there are plenty of examples of Senator McCain expressing chuckles of agreement when supporters asked things like “[h]ow do we beat the bitch?” with regards to Hillary Clinton earlier this year, or when his own running mate accused Senator Obama of “paling around with terrorists?”. When exactly did Senator McCain start “repudiating” the racists/slanderous/personal attacks of his supporters? I’m no Hillary fan, but if anything, he owed Senator Clinton an apology for claiming he “repudiated every attack”.

Senator McCain made the claim that he had heard “a lot of things at [Senator Obama’s] rallies that were equally offensive” about him. I defy the McCain campaign to provide more than one example.
Joe the Plumber” became a popular topic consuming much of the early debate. JtP was a man Obama met at one campaign stop who noted to the Senator, that under Obama’s tax plan, he would pay more taxes if he bought the plumbing business he’d been working to buy for the past ten years. McCain used this event as a shining example of how Obama’s tax plan would supposedly hinder job creation. And while Senator Obama defended his tax policy as helping the middle-class more than McCain’s tax plan, he really did a terrible job of giving a convincing argument why “Joe” should vote for him instead of McCain. The obvious answer would be that… while “Joe” might pay higher taxes, his customers would have more money to spend to hire him, increasing his sales & profits. An income tax cut is no help if you have income. Once again, Senator Obama missed a softball pitch down the center of the plate.

As promised, Senator McCain injected “William Ayers” into the debate… the former 60’s radical turned Chicago professor… that the McCain campaign (Palin especially) resurrected over the past few weeks. The Obama campaign knew this was coming because the McCain campaign had been saying for days that it was going to appease the seething angry mob at every rally that has been incredulous their candidate hadn’t used this feather to bludgeon his opponent in the debates. Naturally, Senator Obama handled the attack easily.

As in the last debate, Senator McCain revealed something disastrous he planned to pursue should he become President. Last time, it was his plan for the government to buy up millions of foreclosed home mortgages (later generously estimated at a mere $350 Billion). This debate, Senator McCain announced… as part of his budget cutting measures… planned to fight for the “line item veto”, which was declared “unconstitutional” in 1998. Not sure how Senator McCain planned to convince a heavily Democratic Congress to give him such extraordinary power. So for Senator McCain to suggest he might be relying on being giving “line item veto” power in order to bring the Federal Budget under control should be of serious concern. Once upon a time, I supported the “line item veto”, giving the President the power to strike individual items from a bill. Sounds like a good idea when you think about how Congress will sometimes insert some ridiculous piece of pork that would never pass on its own, in an unrelated bill that no one dare veto… like funding for the troops. Problem is, if you give the President the “line item veto”, Congress is more likely to clog every bill with dozens of lines of pork and leave it up to the president to go through and strike out the things that shouldn’t pass. Fill a bill up with enough pork, and some things are going to slip through. And members of Congress that otherwise might vote down a bill because of all the pork in it, are more likely to pass everything in hopes that the President will catch it when it reaches his desk. The result is that you end up with more pork rather than less, and Congress passing bills that otherwise should never of left Committee.

Senator Obama did a piss-poor job of responding to Senator McCain’s “accusation” that he “never stood up to his own Party” on any “significant” legislation… unlike McCain, who campaigns revolves around his being a “maverick” for standing up to his own Party. Rather than tell McCain, “I can understand why you would feel the need to stand up to your Party in its support of President Bush, but why would I need to oppose the Party that opposes him?”, he instead tried to point out examples of him actually taking positions unpopular with his own Party. I can’t fathom a dumber argument a candidate would want to make when trying to convince Democrats to continue to support you.

One of the examples Senator Obama gave of him differing with his Party: “clean coal”. This is infuriating to ecologically minded voters like myself. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL. Extracting the most poisonous elements from coal, liquefying it, and pumping it back into the ground, can hardly be considered “clean”. A trade-off of soil and ground-water pollution for cleaner air is not what any thinking environmentalist would consider an acceptable solution.

“Health care” was another disappointing topic discussed at the debate. Senator McCain reiterated his plan to “give every American family a $5000 tax credit” to buy health insurance. Senator Obama did touch briefly on how $5000 was not enough money to insure a family of four for one year, but failed to sufficiently challenge McCain’s “cost cutting measures” to control the skyrocketing cost of health care that drives health insurance up year after year. $5000 doesn’t buy much coverage now. How much will it buy four years from now?

Another “attack point” from the Senator that claims he hasn’t been running a negative campaign: ACORN, the non-partisan voter registration group. ACORN was the focus of attacks four years ago during the 2004 race. Today, just as it was four years ago, the only reason we even know about any examples of voter-fraud by ACORN volunteers is because ACORN reported them (“AlterNet” has a great analysis of the ACORN non-issue, as does The Houston Chronicle), but McCain supporters LOVE to attack ACORN every election year. ACORN is a volunteer organization that makes its volunteers sign a promise not to engage in election fraud. Yet every election, a few idiots join ACORN simply to “expose it” for being a criminal organization by engaging in voter fraud, then saying “look at all this voter fraud being committed by ACORN!”

Want to see “voter fraud” by a company hired by the government to register voters?

Democratic Registrations found in Dumpster (2004)

Several times during the debate, McCain made a point of describing his opponent as an “eloquent speaker”. He use the word often enough to make one start to wonder if he meant something else by using it. “Eloquent”. Apparently another way of saying “elitist” or suggest Senator Obama was “burying lies beneath flowery language”. If you are already a McCain supporter, you probably loved the use of the word. Everyone else was left scratching their head.

And at this point, everyone will continue scratching their head trying to figure out the focus of the McCain campaign now through November.