We may not come away with much that's different after this debate, but there is a new character, at least John McCain would like us to think so---Joe the Plumber. Joe was the guy who appeared at an Obama rally, (probably a plant), and was resurrected by Obama's rival for strictly rhetorical purposes.
And, while McCain came across loud and clear tonight wanting to distance himself from the President, he made no attempt to distinguish himself from other Republicans like Ronald Reagan, or Richard Nixon.
Instead, whether unwittingly, or otherwise, his repeated references to Joe the Plumber couldn't help but conjure up others who worked overtime to contain leaks like the infamous White House plumbers whose efforts to get Richard Nixon re-elected led to the break-in at the Watergate Hotel, and what would have been the biggest voter fraud scandal in history. It also led to the repudiation, and ultimate resignation, of the man history will someday record as America's meanest President.
Given John McCain, and Sarah Palin's elusiveness with the press, and penchant for secrecy, it would be wise for the McCain camp to lay off Joe the Plumber instead of evoking memories of another irascible, and cranky, commander-in-chief whose strong suit was not only hubris, but manipulation.
While Obama came across like a breathless statesman, McCain came through like the bull in a china shop that he is---incendiary, competitive, and humorless making it hard to accept his premise that he will use the military option as a last resort. Indeed, the military option may be his only option. One can no more picture a President McCain sitting across the table from Hugo Chavez, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than one could imagine Richard Nixon singing "On the Good Ship Lollypop."
Some are calling McCain's performance tonight his best yet. Yet, while he showed that he's been working out, he also showed that he just doesn't have the mettle to meddle in foreign affairs, so much for his national security credentials. And, more importantly, haven't we had enough plumber imagery to last the next couple hundred years?
Diplomacy is a foreign word to John McCain--not Islamofascism, mind you, but diplomacy. Tonight's debate only confirms what we already know about Barack Obama---he's a born statesman.
What's more, we can't really afford any more cheerleaders for lost causes. The devil is not in the details; the devil is in the vision. The Republican notion of free trade is as dangerous as it is obsolete. We're seeing now that free market fundamentalism is about as effective as a wartime economy. McCain promises more of the same. With Obama, we have leadership that can at least envison peace.
Should we make the mistake of handing the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the senator from Arizona, not only is Washington guaranteed to see more rancor, and recycled plumbers, than we've seen since Tricky Dick's swan song, but the national anthem will be replaced by "hasta la vista, baby."