Take that old saw about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks and toss it in your blue recycling bin on top of your fifth of a quart economic medicinal containers. In his final mano-a-mano confrontation with Barack Obama, the oldest dog of them all, Arizona Senator John McCain proved that aphorism false by adding a new wrinkle to his typical somnambulant debate strategy; centering his entire debate performance on currying the vote of a single man, Joe the Plumber. McCain targeted Joe Sixpack's brother in law in a last ditch attempt to peddle his untapped Main Street cred to a public as skitterish as a hummingbird in a wind tunnel.
For the third consecutive debate, the Grand OLD Man of the Grand Old Party neglected to include a single mention of the middle class, but then again, he also failed to talk about three-toed albino tree elves and the general assumption is, to him, both are fictional. He definitely came out more spirited this time out. Maybe TOO more spirited. Near the end of the Hofstra University debate, at the point where he normally nods off, he went so far as to blink a series of frenzied secret communiqués to Joe Wurzelbacher using Morse code with his eyes.
Something else was happening as well. Either the studio was filled with nitrous or the host, CBS anchor, Bob Schieffer, whose avuncularity helped McCain look spry, dropped some happy juice in the green room pitcher of water, because there was an inordinate amount of smiling going on. Too much smiling. Weird smiling. By everyone. Schieffer with his "you got yourself into this, not get yourself out" patient interruptive beams. Illinois Senator Barack Obama who regularly slipped into his incredulous head- shaking dismissive smirk verging precariously on the precipice of smug, whenever his doddering opponent spouted what he considered unintelligible nonsense. Which seemed often. And in the finest Republican tradition, McCain mimicked George W Bush's "grinning for no apparent reason at inappropriate times" creepy grimace kind of smile scarily successfully.
Some whippersnapper on his staff must have taught the Republican Nominee how to use air quotes, as he tossed them around like a systems analyst conventioneer with a fistful of singles at a strip bar. Going so far as to claim that too many abortions were allowed on the basis of a woman's "health." Which he spit out like a worse excuse than skipping a spouse's funeral due to a toe throb. Whoa, grandpa. Not sure you want to rile women up. You know? Women. The people Sarah Palin is supposed to attract to the ticket?
McCain has to be frustrated. By his plummeting poll numbers. By Obama's prevent defense knocking down his Hail Marys. And by a continuing failure to meet his daily fiber requirements. But once again he was his own worst enemy, turning cranky into an art form, using the word "cockamamie" to refer to Joe Biden's Iraqi Partition policy. Cockamamie? Are you that worried about the crotchety vote? Or is that considered exciting the base? You'd better screw the base and start to focus on undecideds or it won't be long before John the Candidate has to call Joe the Plumber to clean up the explosive detritus of a toileted campaign.
Catch Will Durst's campaign update at Laugh Out the Vote, the 17th at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, the 19th at the Little Fox Theater in Redwood City, the 21st at the Crystal Bay Casino in Nevada. The 22nd at Squaw Valley's Speaker Series. The 23rd at the Huckleberry House Benefit at Bimbo's in San Francisco and the 25th at 142 Throckmorton in Mill Valley for a CD taping. His book, The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing, is available at Amazon and better bookstores all over this great land of ours.
Don't forget to check out his weekly "Burst of Durst" 60 second videos on his Red Room Media Page.
Also on youtube, episode 12 from the will & willie podcast series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA_kEgXalW8