By Ken Krayeske • 12:40 PM EST
Watched what passes for political discourse in the United States last night, and walked away without vomiting on the sofa.
Obviously, it starts as a sham considering that the debate disincluded three other presidential candidates - Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. This trio have all qualified for enough state ballots to mathematically have a chance at enough electoral votes to capture the presidency. That they weren't included casts the entire exercise as a charade.
That McCain and Obama both thanked the corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates, the allegedly not-for-profit but very partisan body in charge of the debates, goes to show they are corrupt, too.
Pundits say Obama won, and I tend to agree with Sean Penn, that we all lost. No mention of Palestine, as Penn said. I'll add to that list Saudi Arabia, Bagram, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib.
How Obama could debate McCain and not mention the Keating Five is beyond me. The year of the Keating Five, 1986, was clearly in play, as the first question from Jim Lehrer - the terriblest moderator ever - rang up a quote from Eisenhower. Then McCain mentioned 1983 and plenty of other dates from his history.
I felt like I was watching Obama as a character inHarrison Bergeron,content with the handicaps placed upon him by a mad society. It was like Obama had NASCAR restrictor plates on his Constitutional Law professor mind. Or maybe he really does believe all the crap he was peddling.
McCain and Obama both suffer from visions of empire. When they talked about Iraq, they talked about casualties in terms of 4,000 American lives. The "We don't do body count" ethos has permeated this debate, and there was no mention of millions of dead and displaced persons around the world harmed by this "War on Terror."
The talk was from two people vying to ride Bucephalus to victory, thinking that by marshalling American might, that they can reach the moment they will look over the breadth of their domains and weep, as there will be nothing left to conquer.
McCain invoked such arrogance first, when he said the Pakistani "border has not been governed since the days of Alexander the Great.” What makes us think that we can control it then? It destroyed the Geghis Khan, the British, and the Soviets, how will such a blind imperial adventure not do us in?
How blind are we as subscribers to the myth of American exceptionalism that we think our CIA remote-control drones can conquer the mountainous spirit of a people half a world away, and enforce democracy upon them, when we can't even guarantee that every vote will be counted here?
In rhetorical flourishes about the invasion of Iraq, Obama and McCain ignored international law, Nuremburg and the International Criminal Court. They both see America's global role as policeman and superpower.
When Obama did discuss world opinion, he framed it in terms of his father's letter-writing campaign to come to America, and how the U.S. is no longer idolized abroad. He hinted at the American dream, but failed to discuss the most appropriate way to restore it - by following the global legal mandates that our government helped institute.
Obama's view of America as a purveyor of perpetual warfare came through clearly in his claim to want to kill bin Laden. Does bin Laden deserve due process? Obama is a legal scholar. He absolutely understands that even the worst Nazis received trials. Yet he poses as shoot-first Wyatt Earp.
Actually, it appeared that Obama insinuated bin Laden was dead, because at one point he said "when bin Laden was out there." That reference seemed to me in past tense. Maybe I'm overreading.
Libertarian candidate Bob Barr claims not a dimes worth of difference between the two, and this video by the Nader campaign is chilling for the areas of agreement between Obama and McCain:
Nuclear energy, the maintenance of the Cuban embargo, the Iranian threat, the Iranian Republican Guard as a terrorist organization, three more brigades for Iraq and Afghanistan, increasing the size of the military, no withdrawal from Iraq, no universal health care, etc etc etc.
The people I watched the debate with wondered why Obama kept saying "I agree with Senator McCain." Because he does. And me, I'd be long past the point of sincerity and niceness with these jokers. I would have been angry, like fictional president Jed Bartlett suggested to Obama the other day.
It is not strange that a creature of TV-Land liek Bartlett of the mighty West Wing might find a place in this current scripted presidential election.
How could McCain and Obama talk about us being safer in the post-9/11 world because of the war on terror and not mention the fascist police state tactics they employed to stop dissent in Denver and Minneapolis at their nominating campaigns? Disgusting.
Obama and McCain spoke in platitudes, even when they talked about green energy alternatives. Solar, wind, biodiesel. Blah blah. This is where president-elect Al Gore thinks the debate needs to be:
Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmental crusader Al Gore urged young people on Wednesday to engage in civil disobedience to stop the construction of coal plants without the ability to store carbon.
Okay. Gore calling for mass campaigns of civil disobedience would have been nice in December 2000 in Tallahassee, but better late than never. And would Obama dare listen to Gore's call? Not a chance.
The folks I watched the debate with last night said Obama can't say those things and get elected. Why? Because the great masses, the ones who cheered John McCain when he sang "Bomb bomb Iran" are the ones Obama needs to appeal to. I say pshaw.
So McCain and Obama talked foreign policy, places that they could barely pronounce in Asia, and they are trying to impress an audience that watches Miss Teen South Carolina, and probably has her understanding of geography.
I can't wait to see the dueling gaffe machines Biden and Palin square off next Thursday. I won't eat before that in case I wretch.