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Michael Russnow

Michael Russnow

Posted: October 16, 2008 12:50 AM

From Germany It Was Clear: So Why Didn't the Media See McCain Suffered a Nervous Breakdown?


In Cologne, Germany it's 5 a.m., and it's where I watched the last presidential debate on CNN and the first half hour of political analysis from the so-called best team on TV.

Once again, in spite of the polls, the media pundits seem intent on keeping the campaign suspenseful, with the initial comments from almost everyone that it was McCain's best performance and that he had clearly won the first half hour. How? Just by being aggressive? C'mon, Paul Begala. By making faces and interrupting Obama rudely? Who are you kidding, Candy Crowley? By attempting to retort Obama's reasoned responses to his misrepresentations of the Democratic candidate's policy, in particular to the ad nausea discussion of someone named Joe the Plumber?

Except McCain didn't retort or refute or blow away Obama in any of the attempts. He just displayed a sad, desperate man spewing the big lie like the old saying goes, "if you repeat anything often enough there is a certain truth about it." McCain apparently felt that if he kept reiterating his lame charges of how Joe the Plumber's business prospects would suffer under Obama's tax policies, even after Obama explained why his charges were untrue, he would win the undecided voters.

McCain presumably thought that if he raised his voice and looked contemptuous that independents would see in him a strong and vigorous president. Instead, he revealed the ugly side that has been talked about on the campaign trail -- his capacity to be mean and unpleasant. He was lucky he didn't blow his top for which he is well known, though he came pretty damned close.

Which is why I was astonished that in the initial exchanges on the CNN panel almost everyone -- Republican and Democratic advocates in particular, as well as the supposedly impartial journalists at the table -- had something good to say about McCain. Christ, the panelists should have noted that from the outset McCain's outbursts and constant grimacing while obsessing about Joe the Plumber showed he had actually become unglued.

Later, with the exception of Bill Bennett, it was felt McCain undid any good to his candidacy by his harping about William Ayers in an overly long segment in the middle of the debate. However, Bennett, who has appeared reasonable on other occasions, seemed determined to skew opinion in McCain's favor. Bennett harrumphed about Obama in an extremely denigrating manner to cover up the fact that John McCain in his debate performance had not been intelligently strong and forthright. It was almost as if McCain needed a champion because it was clearly his last hurrah.

Look, a reasoned presidential candidate might have tried to score some zingers in about Obama, but it was clear the Ayers "terrorist pal" charge was not going to stick, so it was very reflective of McCain's judgment, or lack thereof, to drag it on endlessly. This, even as Obama thoughtfully and patiently tried to explain to McCain -- and really the vast audience watching -- how the whole discussion and the time expended was a waste of time while the world economy was suffering.

My German friends are amazed at how the campaign is unfolding. It seems a no-brainer to them as the DAX goes down and their life savings are in jeopardy because of the securities they own, which are tied to the failures of the American economy.

Yet the TV panel has to justify its salary and keep interest in the campaign for the next few weeks, so most of these folks propped up McCain. Even with the majority's admission that the Republican blew his chance for "victory" in the last half hour, to this observer up late at night and thousands of miles from his home base in Los Angeles, they showed once again why people are fed up with the media. Why people don't believe reportage in the way they used to. And it is simply because we don't need their analysis. We have all watched the same debate they have. If they can seriously without cracking a smile tell us that McCain was so much better, as opposed to the near nervous breakdown I witnessed, then I'm going to have to consider doing in the future what I did tonight, which is shake my head vigorously and turn off the TV.

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