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As I watched the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, my mind drifted off to when I once watched the landing of the Space Shuttle. All the drama of the mission was over, and the space walk had been completed successfully. Now all that was left to complete a perfect mission, was to bring the bird in for a landing.
As the shuttle grew larger over the horizon, I remember being overwhelmed with pride over this marvel of engineering, and for the thousands of ordinary people who had come together to accomplish its mission. Then as the dot over the horizon grew larger, the sound of unabridged competence suddenly crackled forth as the commander of this magnificent vessel spoke to ground control: "Landing gear down, and all systems online. Glide path and descent, five by five." Then after several seconds of awestruck silence, as we watched the majestic bird descend, the commander's voice chimed in once again, with that matter-of-fact tone, as though he was pulling his car into the driveway. "Thirty seconds to touchdown." Then as I looked on in complete awe, the commander brought the bird in for a perfect landing.
As impressed as I was over the feat of engineering that went into the space shuttle and its mission, I found myself even more fascinated by what must have gone into building the kind of man with the competence, intelligence, and cool professionalism that could command such a vessel--and I had that very same feeling as I watched the cool professionalism of Barack Obama's performance last night. I felt blessed to be alive at this moment in history, and privileged to bear witness to the very best this nation has to offer.
I also thought about Barack's mother, and how I wish she was here to see what's become of her baby boy. Because to me, this election is as much about her as it is Barack and the nation at large. This election speaks directly to the impact that the efforts of one person can have on the unfolding of history. When Ann took the initiative to wake Barack up before daybreak to help him with his studies, her intent was simply to give her Black baby a fighting chance in a brutal world that she knew would cut him absolutely no slack. Little did she know, that her motherly love might someday embrace this entire nation, and very possibly, the entire world. Every young mother in this nation should take that lesson into account. That innocent baby that they hold in their arms, has the potential to grow up and save the world.
During this election cycle, some of the world's most experienced politicians have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at Sen. Obama, and he's handled it with a cool professionalism that has rarely, if ever, been seen in the political arena before. While his opponents sling mud in desperation, he remains firm and steady, and stays right on point.
That, is the key to his success. While his opponents have promised and preached sermons about what they will be as president, for all intent and purposes, Barack Obama has very quietly, become the president--and it is for precisely that reason, that John McCain had already lost the debate the moment he stepped on stage. Due to his many gaffs, awkward moments, and demonstrations of bad judgment contrasted with Sen. Obama's invariably steady and solid control, many Americans no longer see Sen. McCain as Barack Obama's opponent, they see him as a boorish, and disrespectful pest, harassing the next president of the United States-and they resent it.
That explains why at this point the McCain campaign is scratching its head at their slide in the polls. They've all but given up on trying to win by addressing the issues. They've even decided, for some unfathomable reason, to publically announced that from this point forward their game plan is to play in the mud. It's a desperate move, because they just can't figure out why after slinging some of their most tried-and-true mud, none of it seems to stick--and why, in spite of their most unconscionable efforts, their poll numbers continue to head towards Dixie.
What they fail to understand is, a lie needs help. In order for them to call Obama a Muslim terrorist who likes to "pal around" with a Bill Ayres, who they describe as a domestic terrorist, and make it stick, the lie needs to be assisted by an American public who wants to believe it--but in their effort to smear Barack Obama, they simply don't have that support.
McCain's primary problem is, the American people have gotten to know Barack Obama. With all of the publicity he's gotten over the past two years, they've learned more about Obama in just two years than they have about McCain in his twenty-six years in the public eye. And beyond that, they like Obama, which is not always the case with John McCain.
McCain also has another serious problem--he's a walking contradiction. While he's telling the American people that he tried to protect them from the current financial crisis before it happened, the only person he's documented as ever trying to protect is convicted felon Charles Keating. He desperately tried to protect him from public accountability after Keating was responsible for the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan, under conditions identical to our current crisis. In that case, more than 21,000 investors, mostly elderly, lost their life's savings, totaling $285 million. And even after getting a pass on that as a result of his status as a "war hero," McCain continues to be one of the senate's most prolific deregulators.
And beyond that, many consider legislation authored by Phil Gramm, McCain's chief economic advisor, the one component that was indispensable to the current financial crisis. It was also recently revealed that Rick Davis, chairman of McCain's campaign committee, was being paid $15,000 a month by Freddie Mac, right up until their financial bailout. So his words don't past the sniff test. He's either lying, or has extremely bad judgment in choosing his staff.
So while McCain is talking out of both sides of his mouth, George Bush is hiding out in the White House, Cheney is secluded in his "secret location," and Sarah Palin is avoiding reporters while slinging mud from a script, Barack Obama has quietly taken on a role of national leadership. While it is not his intent to usurp anyone's authority, at this point, all official authority has been abdicated, so he's using the campaign as a vehicle to step into the vacuum in order to reassure the American people, who are desperate for some kind of leadership. Even at his young age, he's stepped in as a sort of elder statesman to assure the people that while we are indeed undergoing a crisis, it is a manageable crisis, and together, we will see it through.
So absolutely, John McCain was fighting a losing battle when he first stepped up on that stage--and to make things even worse, yet again, he showed atrociously bad judgment, by referring to Sen. Obama as "that one." The man has an invariable penchant for digging holes and jumping in. Even sitting in my den, I could feel the entire nation wince as he said it, because what America knew, and what was obviously lost on John McCain, was that we were witnessing a footnote, casually dismissing, the next President of the United States.
Eric L. Wattree