The day before the last presidential debate, we read that John McCain is telling reporters that he will "whip Obama's ass," and has taken to self-consciously repeating the word "fight" in his stump speeches this week. I've never understood the function of trash talk before a confrontation, a smart jock could maybe explain it, obviously it's meant to be a kind of psychological warfare (boxers take the art to its highest level), but mostly it's a way to psyche up oneself and one's supporters I think. But at this point the Republican ticket is at risk of degenerating into snarling, sullen reactionaries. Correction: into appearing to be the snarling, sullen reactionaries that I kind of suspect that they are. The problem is issues: ain't got none.
So far rightward did the Bush-Cheney administration push things that there is barely a substantial issue remaining on the table that allows a true conservative to simultaneously state his or her honest opinion and appeal to undecided voters. For example, when McCain touted an out-of-the-blue plan to buy up bad mortgage debt during the second debate the biggest effect was to rile up conservative critics, a bad hit for a campaign that has the base, the anti-Obamas, and little else. And McCain's attempt to get out front on global warming has now been eclipsed by his running mate's inability to admit that humans are having negative impacts on the environment at all. Two perceptions are building this week: 1) McCain is flopping around trying to get some traction and not finding any, an indication he has no core other than his character, and 2) this ticket is two obstreperous, combative personalities at a time when that is exactly the wrong temperament to lead the country into the emerging multi-polar world. At Obama rallies, Obama says nice things about McCain, and the crowd cheers. At McCain rallies, McCain slanders Obama, and the crowd calls for Obama's head. And Obama's lead keeps widening. Go get 'em, Sarah!