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The Final Debate: Their Essential Selves

Before we get started: Does anyone know whether Joe the Plumber is kin to Six-Pack Joe?

This was by far the most interesting debate to date, perhaps because we are -- at last -- down to the wire. Just as people often reveal their truer natures in times of crisis or under extreme pressure, McCain and Obama tonight seemed reduced to their essential selves. Cool Obama was quintessentially cool. Tense McCain was INTENSE. Both men smiled a lot, but both seemed less good-natured than like well-mannered pit bulls (without the lipstick), snarling behind teeth bared in imitations of mirth.

At this point, most voters who care have figured out where the two men stand and differ on health care and the economy. Given that people ultimately vote for The Person rather than The Issues, the final debate needed to answer lingering questions of
character, trust and judgment. If McCain hoped to gain ground by highlighting Obama’s association with Bill Ayers, he failed. Obama’s recitation of his relationship with the former terrorist-turned-education-professor -- serving on an educational reform board funded by a friend of Ronald Reagan -- made it seem a non-issue. So much for
Obama’s terrorist pals.

McCain should have taken Obama to the mat on abortion and Obama's vote as Illionis state senator against legislation to protect infants who survive abortion. Obama successfully deflected, first acknowledging that such a vote indeed would seem bizarre if not for the fact (his assertion) that existing law already required aid to such infants. Meanwhile, Obama used language beloved by conservatives, saying not only that we need to seek ways to reduce abortion, but asserting that “sexuality is sacred,” and that people shouldn’t engage in "cavalier activity." That sounds like the abstinence crowd talking, not the far left.

One of the most pecular moments came when McCain suggested that Obama’s understanding of free trade was limited because he hasn’t traveled south of the border. "Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer," McCain said. "But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.”

Como? This was just plain weird, especially coming from the fellow whose running mate defines foreign policy experience in terms of Vladimir Putin’s head popping into Alaskan airspace. (Note to future presidents: Get your passport today.)

The best part -- at least to some of us -- was when moderator Bob Schieffer pressed each candidate to explain why his vice presidential running mate was better qualified than the other’s to fill the presidency should circumstances warrant. Obama gets points for recognizing Sarah Palin’s political talent and more or less leaving it at that. McCain did neither Sarah Palin nor his candidacy any good with his response. Palin is qualified to be his running mate because she’s a reformer, a role model for women, a breath of fresh air -- and because she understands special needs children better than anyone? Role modeling and helping children with special needs is surely important -- and fresh air is welcome -- but this is not the sort of resume that inspires confidence in the midst of two wars and a global financial crisis.

The night was Obama’s to lose. He didn’t.

By Kathleen Parker  | October 16, 2008; 12:42 AM ET
Categories:  Parker  | Tags:  Kathleen Parker  
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Next: The Final Debate: McCain's Last Stand


I've gotta hand it to you Kathleen, you crazy conservative -- you're bringing it. This is really good stuff. Thanks.

Posted by: simpleton1 | October 16, 2008 1:35 AM | Report abuse

Acts 13 V. 25:

And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

McCain or Obama in the current context?

We don't even need a fact checker here. The expression that appeared again and again on McCain's face during this final debate said only one thing. And we choose to quote from Obama's mother here, namely, 'look buster, this is no picnic for me either!'



Posted by: | October 16, 2008 1:42 AM | Report abuse

I agree - this was the most revealing debate. I've always believed policy trumps personality, but watching those two tonight made clear whose temperment is most conducive to real leadership.

Obama reminds me of Nelson Mandela. He maintains a strong and quiet dignity regardless of what vile hatred and lies are thrown at him. McCain's agitation magnified Obama's belief in himself and confidence in his platform. You are fortunate to have the opportunity to elect this fine man.

I lost faith in the American voter about eight years ago. Your growing appreciation of Obama's outstanding leadership qualities is slowly restoring it. Perhaps recent events have caused a collective epiphany.

Posted by: ngeisler | October 16, 2008 1:45 AM | Report abuse

"McCain should have taken Obama to the mat on abortion!" Please!
Abortion is a private, medical procedure between a doctor and a patient. It is not political! Most people came to the Colonies to avoid organized religion, especially Catholic! There was not a Catholic church in this country during the founding. If America is too female- friendly for Catholics or others who oppose a woman's right to exercise her Constitutional right to privacy, perhaps another country would be more desirable. The best way to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is don't have 'sex' with pro-lifers.


Posted by: Chagrined | October 16, 2008 2:10 AM | Report abuse

Bruce, you're mentally ill. But You probably have it more together than your candidate, old twitchy, itchy, squiming Johnny Mac, who acted like a two year old at a family outing all not. You just wanted to give hima time out and let the adults speak. Senator Obama did just fine tonight, because he stayed focused on what was important. Bob Schieffer did a great job too, because he kept on top of the candidates to make sure we got answers. Best debate of the three. Final Score: Senator Obama: 3
2 year old from AZ: ZERO

Postscript: How about those Phillies?

Posted by: pookiecat | October 16, 2008 2:10 AM | Report abuse

Great summary and analysis, Ms. Parker.

Posted by: T-Prop | October 16, 2008 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin as vice president disqualifies McCain as president.

In politics we cannot approach universal agreement (there are still those who think Nixon did nothing wrong). But it is obvious to a sizeable majority (including many Republicans) that Ms. Palin, to borrow from Christopher Hitchens, is "utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses." No matter how one views McCain, the possiblity of Palin as president is unacceptable.

On this question during the debate, I don't think Obama's "cool" persona served him well. He should have sounded alarms about Palin. At the least he should have contrasted Biden's experience with that of Palin, rather than going on about how Biden has represented the little guy. This took the pressure off McCain to defend Palin's credentials for the job.

Posted by: rmbus54 | October 16, 2008 2:22 AM | Report abuse

Good points Ms. Parker. I respect your swimming against the stream in recent opinions (say "hi" to Chris Buckley for me).

On the abortion issue, at least Senator Obama respects the right for women to make their own decisions rather than have morality legislated on them. I am opposed to abortion personally but respect a woman's right to choose.

Among the many hypocrisies of the Republican extreme right is ardent stands to "protect the life of the unborn" while at the same time rejecting any attempts by the government to ensure basic healthcare for the needy as "socialized medicine".

So if you are 16, poor, uneducated and pregnant, you must carry the pregnancy to term (even as the result of rape or incest), but there are no guarantees for the health of youb baby after it is born.

Posted by: daddy00 | October 16, 2008 2:33 AM | Report abuse

rmbus, your post is correct. I think that Obama did just fine on commenting on Palin. Most people who have watched her, even some of the conservatives - as you can tell - see her as a liability. With the recent findings of TrooperGate and people who are extremely unhappy with her in Alaska, she may find that her star has started to fall.
Anything ugly he would have said would just have irritated and caused people to be angry at him. They would have latched onto it as an attack against "poor little Sarah". She does have armies of people who are willing to overlook her shortcomings (of which there are many) and view those that do point them out as picking on her. Look at Couric & Gibson.
By concentrating on Biden and his looking out for the little guy Obama defended his pick. Joe certainly knows more than "I can see Russia from my house".

Hey, I ate at Taco Bell recently - I could be ambassador to MX....


Posted by: gjkbear | October 16, 2008 2:47 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Parker,

Thank you for your artful, and insightful, commentary about the candidate's debate "performances".

I presume you are steeling yourself for another 12,000 angry e-mails from frustrated conservatives who have as many - if not more - anger management problems than John McCain. All of them will be looking for someone to blame for this debacle of a campaign, and you may be sure they will continue to rage at anyone who suggests they simply look in any available mirror.

Posted by: trnmstr | October 16, 2008 2:48 AM | Report abuse

I can't relate to Joe the plumber. Not my situation at all.

Posted by: CuckooRaja | October 16, 2008 3:46 AM | Report abuse


Stress destroys judgment, intelligence and creativity and calls forth mental imbalance and aggressiveness. Even worse, it activates defense mechanisms - "psychological blinders", that distort the perception of reality.

Therefore, high stress tolerance is by far the most important quality of a president.

The stressful presidential debate is a good "stress tolerance test". Once again Sen. Obama proved his high stress tolerance "in battle".

It is evident that with Obama, we will have a president capable of making intelligent, wise, realistic and balanced judgments, keeping his mind cool under the very stressful conditions of presidency that will be worse than ever due to the severe economic crisis.

Regarding McCain, judge for yourself..

J.Grandville, M.D.
Expert on stress and developmental psychology

Posted by: drgrandville | October 16, 2008 4:12 AM | Report abuse

"Given that people ultimately vote for The Person rather than The Issues, the final debate needed to answer lingering questions of
character, trust and judgment."

That's where you, Parker, and your rabid right-wing fellow travellers, are dead wrong. If you were able to come out of your privileged bubble, you would know that, this years, people are more interested in the issues than in the person. With 401(k)s melting away n the financial debacle, disappearing jobs, unaffordable healthcare, and rising foreclosures, the average voter is looking towards the person most likely to offer solutions. Obama offered solutions throughout all three debates,and demonstrated his knowledge of and thoughtfulness about, the issues "du jour". Moreover, his demeanor has been unfailingly calm, collected, and respectful. Compare this with the erratic, incoherent, ignorant, angry, rude, behavior of McCain. Come November, people will vote for the cool, calm, collected, and knowledgeable one.

Posted by: Gatsby1 | October 16, 2008 4:37 AM | Report abuse

McCain on FOX: "Lose the debates - does not lose the election!" Watch:

Posted by: varniklili | October 16, 2008 4:56 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Parker- Excellent analysis of the debate. This was probably the best, non-bias analysis I've read so far. The conservatives should thank you for bringing out the truth. As a centrist liberal I have voted Republican when he/she was the right candidate. I may not have agreed 100% with the ideology but if the candidate had the better tempermant, better ideas, better advisors and attitude then I would vote for the best candidate regardless of party affiliation. I think Barack Obama passed that test whether he was a Republican or a Democrat, I would still vote for him.

Thank you for your honest opinion.

Posted by: lindlk | October 16, 2008 5:01 AM | Report abuse

Senator McCain looked old, over-Revlon-ized, confused and out of it. Sad but true.
In my opinion, there is something seriously--medically--wrong with him. Perhaps it's the natural decline of age, exaggerated by the pressures of the campaign; maybe (God forbid) his melanoma has spread to his brain; maybe we are seeing the effects of never-treated post-traumatic stress. He's entitled.
Unfortunately, we don't know, because neither his medical nor his military records have been fully released.

Posted by: kstack | October 16, 2008 6:04 AM | Report abuse


Very sensible and insightful analysis. I might have to start reading you regularly -:)

Posted by: kavm | October 16, 2008 6:57 AM | Report abuse

It's unanimous! All of the Post pundits loved Obama and thought McCain sucked.

Didn't see that coming!

Congrats to the media on the imminent coronation of their viceroy!

Posted by: bobmoses | October 16, 2008 6:58 AM | Report abuse

I'm still trying to figure out how having a Down's syndrome child equates into a deep-seated knowledge about autism. . .

Posted by: cymric | October 16, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse


In this debate, as well formerly, he has showed clear signs of a high level of stress.

Stress destroys judgment, intelligence and creativity and calls forth mental imbalance and aggressiveness. Even worse, it activates defense mechanisms - "psychological blinders", that distort the perception of reality.

Obama on the other hand has shown a superior stress tolerance in demanding stressful situations like the presidential debate and in unprepared TV-interviews.

In him, we will have a president capable of making intelligent, wise, realistic and balanced judgments, keeping his mind cool under the very stressful conditions of presidency that will be worse than ever due to the severe economic crisis.

For more, see my blog at:

J.Grandville, M.D.
Expert on stress and developmental psychology

Posted by: drgrandville | October 16, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Ms Parker, thanks for your thoughtful insight. I am a regular reader of yours now.

Posted by: YAAD2000 | October 16, 2008 7:30 AM | Report abuse

What do Joe the Plumber and Joe Six-Pack have in common?......................JOE MOMMA!!!

Posted by: sdtxyz | October 16, 2008 7:34 AM | Report abuse

McCain dwelling on that rediculous claim about Bill Ayers connection to Obama because they served on some board together really undermines his credibilty. He must be absolutely desperate to keep bringing up that dead end issue. Then to try and say Acorn has practiced in voter fraud the likes we have never seen before, hello what have the republicans been doing for the past 8 years with gearymandering in Texas and other states not to mention Ohio precincts not being fully staffed in heavily democratic regions.Another republican strategy to accuse the opponite of what exactly they are guilty of themselves. Again McCain looses credibility here. Only those who get their misinformation from Rush Limbaugh and other hate monger talk radio personalities would beleive these crazy claims. McCain became nastier and meaner as the debate wore on. He really is the grouchy old man in his bathrobe yelling at the neighborhood children to stay off his lawn. All he really has left as a strategy is to throw false accusations, be sarcastic and nasty and not talk about the issues such as the economy. In the past this has worked for republicans but the economic crisis we have today people want answers not sneering and grimacing and unimportant accusations.

Posted by: gosslaar7611 | October 16, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse

McCain was blinking continuously and he had a nervous forced sometimes maniacal grin. Because the DOW fell over 700 points yesterday, John McCain should have said he was suspending his campaign, taken himself to Wall Street, and attempted to get maveracky with the market.

Posted by: davemarks | October 16, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

I keep seeing that McCain was more focussed and knowledgable than previous debates. I'm not sure what these people were watching. Mr. McCain acted confused and desperate much of the time; his answers were often unclear and incomplete, and he sometimes persisted in pushing his talking point slogans even after Mr. Obama had clearly and simply stated why they were simply wrong. I don't care what your politics are; how can you have watched these two men for the past year and think that somehow Mr. McCain would make an acceptable President? That somehow once he got in, he'd be magically all better? Only the most fanatic ideologues, who confuse their desires with the needs of the country, can vote for Mr. McCain with a clear conscience.

Posted by: jcrobin | October 16, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

McCain said that he has often gone against his party and has the scars to prove it. Well he has also gone 90% with his present party's president (bush) and he definitely has scars and wounds to prove it. His messed up campaign is a good example of this and his messed up changeable personality shows he has nothing new to add to his repertoire of mistakes. His choice of Palin for VP is a sad mistake which he can only blame himself for. One thing that strikes me as a great similarity between McCain and Bush is both their inability to admit they made a mistake and go about trying to correct it. Instead they just keep trying to convince everyone that the decision is correct or was correct. Stubborn to a fault. This is not a good characteristic to exhibit and does nothing to resolve our current problems nor what will surely come, future problems.
It makes for distrust and shows a considerable lack of judgement. In the end I am glad that our election cycle does last so long so that people really get to see who their candidates really are.
One thing is so clear to me McCain-Palin are not who I am voting for. I hope the rest of you take a good long look a second time before voting for this disaster in the making.
Palin is not ready to be the President of the USA and she does not represent me as a woman and nor does she represent most women I know. This is a joke and a fallacy to even try to "spin" onto the American women and Americans in general.
For those of you who are so excited to see the polls in favor of Obama, I am so excited too, but do not let this keep you from voting please. Your vote is needed and it will make this election. If you get too confident now and stay home thinking your vote isn't needed it would be a big mistake. Please vote now if you can but for sure on the 4th of Nov. BE THERE at the voting booth.

Posted by: theresakoenig | October 16, 2008 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Parker writes: Obama used language beloved by conservatives, saying not only that we need to seek ways to reduce abortion, but asserting that “sexuality is sacred,” and that people shouldn’t engage in "cavalier activity." That sounds like the abstinence crowd talking, not the far left.

On abortion Obama is in the correct direction. No one is pro-abortion, they are for the individual's right(in this particular case obviously a woman) to make their own decision. The problem with the current debate is it is about the horse having left the barn. The discussion should be about how to reduce unwanted pregnancies. After all, although this is not a new under the sun problem, it is mostly as we view it a modern post World War II problem. If we got just a bit further back in history 14 or 15 was not an unusual age to marry off a daughter, yes even her in the good old USA. I give Obama kudos to start to inject some realism into this debate and get past the shouting pro- and anti-abortion crowd (forget pro-choice or pro-life, they are essentially lies to the true debate). Although this discussion plays little to me, the wide range of opinion from Obama lets me see how he thinks, processes information, and how he can explore the many sides of all the issues that face this country and world today, which is what we need for president.

Posted by: optodoc | October 16, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Better check for a whoopee cushion before the next time you sit down in the office of National Review!

Posted by: officermancuso | October 16, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

As they are both so INCREDIBLY lacking, it's hard to say anyone won.

Posted by: pmw1 | October 16, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Under President George W. Bush, funding to inner city high school afterschool programs was cut, even though graduation rates had increased and teen pregnancy and juvenile crime around the schools had decreased. What is pro-life about that?

Partial birth abortion is the absolute last option for a pregnant woman with serious health problems and I am completely disgusted that McCain stated that "health" could mean anything. That is completely false and he knows it. The procedure is dangerous to the woman as well, and doctors only do it if they have to for the health or life of the woman. It is not something you can just demand.

Posted by: corridorg4 | October 16, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I agree:

Ms. Parker- Excellent analysis of the debate. This was probably the best, non-bias analysis I've read so far.

Posted by: dalvaprado | October 16, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Astute analysis, Ms. Parker, and I agree that the debate format encouraged a more thoughtful exchange of ideas. It's unfortunate that ideas were not exchanged. Senator McCain didn't appear to even consider what his rival was saying, only that admired Senator Obama's eloquence. Most of the debate, Senator McCain was leapfrogging over ideas and landing on hotbutton phrases.

Bob Shieffer was especially effective, and I admired how he controlled the event. The question about negative campaign innuendo and insulting rhetoric allowed both candidates to demonstrate fundamental character differences. Obama responded thoughtfully, McCain seemed flummoxed.

Posted by: cheryllyne | October 16, 2008 9:07 AM | Report abuse

No to mention he confused Autism for Downs syndrome...Newsflash McCain: TRIG HAS DOWNS SYNDROME NOT AUTISM!!!!

Posted by: Beka13 | October 16, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Very good summation, Ms Parker (meaning of course that I agree with most of it).

As an Australian observer, I wonder if this means that US politics has shifted to the right on both sides? I suspect so. I'm aware that American politics has always been more right wing than most Western democracies, but with the Republicans moving so far to the right, the Democrats seem to have shifted across to the right as well. This shift would have been driven by pragmatism and current events, one would presume.

Is there any past or emerging 'left wing' in the USA, such as a liberal party or even a semi-socialist party? Is there a 'green party' like in other countries? If not, I wonder why.

Posted by: Meem1 | October 16, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

To use a phrase much used for Palin - Mrs.Parker you are breath of fresh air! I have always felt that each party has something to offer the American people. I have deep respect for many folks on the right and left and I am glad to see real journalists on each side speak their true minds and not follow the talking points that have been given them.

Thanks for calling them , as you see them.

Posted by: robind_nc | October 16, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Loved the format and Bob Schieffer's masterful control of the conversation. As an Obama supporter who used to respect John McCain as the only Republican I could ever vote for, I am saddened to see his decline into pure anger and bitterness. Maybe he's just angry at himself for selling out to become what the Party wants him to be, not who he was once proud to be. I have to believe deep down inside he's ashamed at what he's had to do to get this far.

His performance compared to Obama's cool clarity seemed so random and desperate...a stream of consciousness throughout. I actually felt bad for him. I didn't know if he was going to punch someone or cry at times. He just wasn't with it.

Finally, I can't let this one remark pass: Sarah Palin knows more about special needs children than just about anyone? And autism in particular? Please. That's precious. And it was a desperate ploy pulled out of nowhere last night as an attempt to show she's like us. A good mother, a gosh darn special woman and role model. [cringe] She's a Mother alright...and not just the Mother of Ambition.

Posted by: vwp11 | October 16, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

As a former Republican who worked as a volunteer during Reagan's 1980 campaign, I have watched as Reagan has been turned into an idol and an icon of Republican ideals, which time and maturity have shown me he doesn't deserve. Trickle-down, supply side economics were the first thing I called into question about the Republican party. But the election of "new" Republicans like Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich and a blithering idiot like George W. Bush(Nixon minus the brain) hastened my exit from this cartoonish flat earth society party. In the hue and cry of Rush, the AM Hate radio crowd, and FOX "News" chirping constantly and unceasingly about the "Liberal Media", it has been lost on America what an extreme, idea-phobic, far right party the Republicans have become. Whatever McCain MIGHT offer this nation, he cannot escape the fact that Republican rule over the past eight years has meant DISASTER for all of us, from Torture, to a wasted $5 Trillion on a sequel to Viet Nam, to the financial crisis, to Katrina, to Terri Schiavo, to jobs shipped overseas, to the politization of the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales. I guess you could say that I'm still in "Shock and Awe" that my former party has become such an American version of the Taliban, with such utter disregard for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the laws of the land. Electing Republicans to run this country is tantamount to letting the inmates run the insane asylum!

Posted by: squirebass | October 16, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

You hit the nail on the head. He cannot honestly defend his vice presidential pick. That showed his lack of judgement. The "elite" of the republican party see it and have been seeing it. This group is not so easily manipulated and prefer not to damage their reputations defending the undefensible.

All who are left defending Palin are the low information voters, who get their news from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: sandnsmith | October 16, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse


That's 4 debates and 4 convincing wins for Obama/Biden!

In recent history, has there ever been such a feat? Maybe Clinton got a clean sweep over Dole, I can't remember.

But usually, the other guy/girl wins at least one of these things.

McCain can't seem to learn from his mistakes. In every debate, he came across as angry and frustrated. He did not show any respect for his worthy opponent. His answers, while at times firey, were typically incoherent an rambling.
In fact, McCain seemed to get worse, or at least grumpier, with each debate.

Obama, on the other hand, remained cool, calm, and collected each time. He gave clear answers to the important issues of this election. He looked much more presidential and made me far more comfortable envisioning Obama as president.

I can't imagine McCain, or, GULP, Palin, as president, especially at a time in our history where we need a reassuring and calm leader to see us through things.

Posted by: jgarrisn | October 16, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad you mention the moment from the debate that seems to be getting swept under the rug in press coverage: John McCain's response as to why Sarah Palin would be a better President than Joe Biden.

But I think you left out the best part. He whiffed. All he had to do was say "Sarah Palin would make a fine President." That's all. But even he couldn't bring himself to say the words. Think about that. How sad is that? Even John McCain himself doesn't trust the judgment of John McCain regarding the selection of his vice presidential candidate.

Posted by: uretards | October 16, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Parker, I have rapidly growing respect for you as this campaign drags on. I'm far from conservative, but have always respected the intellectual and informed dissent of conservatives like WFB in his generation, and David Brooks now. I just always felt that maybe smart conservative commentators necessarily suspended their critiques and towed the party line during election season, so that the GOP crowd would actually listen to them the rest of the time. You certainly have not done that this Fall.

Posted by: jamesmafyew | October 16, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Kathleen, thanks for your incisive and clear analysis of last night's debate outcome. Your column is fast becoming a must-read for me!

Bob Schieffer's question regarding the better VP candidate was spot-on, and left Mr. McCain with precious little to say. Witness his incredible gaffe concerning Mrs Palin's understanding of special needs children, referencing autism rather than Down Syndrome.

Nor did Mr McCain sufficiently and clearly disavow the crazies in the Republican rallies who continue to shout such abominations as "terrorist" and "kill him" referring to Mr Obama.

In spite of Mr McCain's obvious poorly controlled anger, Mr Obama continued to maintain a thoughtful, cool demeanor....a trait I certainly want when my next President sits down at the diplomatic table with our adversaries.

Obama/Biden '08!


Posted by: pamela18335 | October 16, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

By pulling his punches on the subject of Palin, Obama showed respect for voter intelligence lacking in the speech acts of Palin and McCain, no doubt in part because the latter two are necessarily depending on the lack thereof: Their policies poll less than 50% approval so they have to win on "character", a bad joke considering that's political speak for smearing one's opponent. In their defense, it would seem hard to underestimate the intelligence of voters who think Obama's an Arab much less an Arab terrorist.

Posted by: jhbyer | October 16, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

McCain's focus on Colombia struck me as odd, too, until I started putting a few things together. McCain's chief Ohio fundraiser, Carl Lindner, was fined last year by the US government for providing aid to Colombian right-wing death squads.

Carl Lindner was also Charles Keating's employer before Keating struck out on his own in the 1970s.

Posted by: thrh | October 16, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

To Mr. Obama, and everyone else who stands as a pro-choice leader. I have not, nor could I ever endure an abortion just because it is something I could personally NEVER do, I made hard choices as a young adult and gave a child up for adoption. Personally (emphasis on Personally) I could just never do that. I consider myself bapticostal and very knowledgeable in Biblical teachings. That being said, I personally believe that I could never judge another person for their decisions or condemn them. This is what pro-lifers want to do to all. Sorry PEOPLE.. you are not God and are not ENTITLED to judge. Not only that, if Roe vs Wade were overturned, within the hour, emergency rooms would fill with women bleeding to death do to torturous self-inflicted abortions with wire hangers, knitting needles, etc. Doesn't anyone remember stories of these incidents. If you want to know what it was like for a young girl prior to Pro-Choice decisions please read "My darling, My Hamburger" 1970's era. Very enlightening.

The healthcare issue is another biggie.. Sorry folks, I am one of those people who is not covered (work in small firm with pre existing conditions for everyone but myself) and there is no way my boss can cover me and the other 5 in our office and keep doors open to help clients. So, I go to those 'walk-in' clinics that Mr. McCain says we need more of and I drop my $215 just to get in the door, another 200-300 for exray taken & read, and then I go pay $75.00 for 10 pills, and this is just for a pulled muscle that created so much pain I couldn't sleep. Same visit from someone with the federal government issued issurance availability, (I only know 25 people with this coverage which is not a large number)they can choose from several plans, and one of my friends (the one who has the best coverage at the best price and deductables) pays about $200 per month for her coverage, then $15 visits, free eye exams, low dental payments, and her trip for same pulled muscle was $48- office visit, x-rays, prescription. I would pay $200 out of my pocket per month to have that. Who wouldn't?

Ranted long enough, thank you, Good luck Mr. Obama, I respect you a great deal.

Posted by: Smarra | October 16, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Joe Six-Pack is Joe the Plumber's poor relation. Reportedly, the latter makes over $250,000 a year, which has some pundits naively doubting he's solely a plumber. Plumbing is the family business of the richest branch of my kinship tree that includes lawyers and professors. Only the doctor cousins make more.

Posted by: jhbyer | October 16, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama's comment on sexuality was brilliant, because he, so far as we know, has lived up to that ideal by not having adulterous affairs. He deftly relies on the intelligence of voters to recall John's sordid marital history. For the GOP to choose such a morally flawed (by their standards) candidate over the far more gifted Mitt Romney suggests their real standards are less noble.

Posted by: jhbyer | October 16, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Ol' Tounge- Poppin' McJerk had his sorry A$$ whooooped; he proved that he can get a job at FOX News when he retires !!!!

''Joe-the-Plumber'' is the new Repugnant ''Joe Six-Pack'' !!!!!

Hey Joe, I have a job for you - - the Repugnant Party Machinery and the McJerk Campaign, is 'CLOGGED-UP' with ALL THE CRAP BUILD-UP OVER THE LAST EIGHT YEARS and THE STENCH IS UNBEARABLE - - - you know what to do !!!!!!!

Posted by: mewindows | October 16, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

How refreshing to read a conservative commentator that's not afraid to go against party orthodoxy and state her independent mind. I've really been enjoying your columns of late, Ms. Parker (and your appearance on Colbert). Here's hoping the future of the Republican party belongs to people like you and that the Krauthammers and Gersons of the world will soon fade into the irrelevance they so richly deserve. Thanks.

Posted by: Chip_M | October 16, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Kathleen, I hope Conservatives wise up over the next few years, & get back to intellectual roots. The worst thing that could happen, in my opinion, is for the McCain/Palin ticket to prevail. Republicans need to pull themselves together, and become a reasonable alternative to the Democrats. Right now, they're just terrifying. I admire you for being willing to acknowledge that Barack Obama is the better candidate, and he'll be a fine President.

Posted by: nidawi | October 16, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I have news for you Ms. Parker --

Many of us on "the left" -- far, near, or in-between -- also view sexuality as sacred, not to be viewed in a cavalier manner. The abstinence-only crowd does not have a monopoly on "right thinking," and people of faith do not have a monopoly on morality and values. Perhaps, if we can rise above some of the attitudes and verbiage that shuts down dialogue and contributes to the culture wars, we would realize that in essence we do have much common ground. If Obama can illuminate and heal that disconnect, then that is only one of his many strengths.

I agree with much of what you've said though, and I've long been a reader of yours because you do often capture points that are germane to both sides of an issue.

Posted by: Leebot | October 16, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for your article's points. I agree with you. I wanted to ask, also. What was up with McCain saying that Palin knew better than anyone about autism in children? Her child has Down's syndrome. I know he could have been referring to a mother with a child with any time of affliction...but it seemed to me that McCain was not clear on this. Also, he didnt seem to remember Michelle Obama's name when he called her *your wife*.
McCain was a tense, aggravated old man. His facial expressions of incredulous doubt he shot to the cams and Obama were borderline ridiculous.

Posted by: Sidda | October 16, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The turning point for me in last night's debate was when McCain went after Obama for not repudiating some of the things said by Obama supporters, particularly the reference to the George Wallace rallies. When
Obama specifically mentioned the "kill him" phrase shouted recently, McCain refused to repudiate that. Instead, McCain turned and indignantly defended his supporters against any besmirchment, essentially accusing
Obama of defaming his supporters by repeating what they said.

I was a young teenager during the Wallace years; I recall some of the impressions I felt then, and I consider the comparison of the angry tones of then and now warranted. When I heard some of the things said at
recent McCain rallies, I felt a shock of emotional flashback to the inflammatory rhetoric and violent clashes of the 60s. I profoundly hope we never descend to that again.

McCain deflected the repudiation which he absolutely should have made. Of the reference to George Wallace rallies and an assassination threat, which is the more heinous?

Whatever moral high ground McCain might have thought he could claim instantly evaporated. That moral blot will endure until McCain humbles himself to publicly repudiate his own supporters and apologize to Obama.
It had best come sooner than later; if he waits until the election is over when there is no more political risk, his action will have little value.

Posted by: nmb52 | October 16, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Parker, to answer your question, "Does anyone know whether Joe the Plumber is kin to Six-Pack Joe?", I can tell you that the information I have is that Joe-Six-Pack is heartbroken because Sarah Palin dumped him for Joe the Plumber. It seems that Palin has a thing for regular Joes.

Posted by: norengo | October 16, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse


Good stress tolerance is the most important quality of a president.

This is because stress blocks intelligence and judgment. Even worse, it activates defense mechanisms - "psychological blinders", that distort the perception of reality, making the judgment even worse.

Therefore it is of vital importance that the president has a high level of stress tolerance.

The presidential debates have been good tests of stress tolerance, because in an unprepared TV appearance, the candidates are exposed to a highly stressful situation that reveals their true nature.

To judge for yourself who is most suitable, see the "Voter's guide for assessing the suitability of a president" at
It is based on the most recent knowledge in the field.

J.Grandville, M.D.
Expert on stress and developmental psychology

Posted by: drgrandville | October 16, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I don’t understand the common GOP argument that Obama is for socialism and the redistribution of wealth. The fact of the matter is that the Bush economic policies have redistributed massive amounts of wealth from the middle and lower classes to an obscenely wealthy minority. Our country has increasingly experienced a dangerous polarization of wealth, with only a select few reaping the benefits of economic growth and consumption. Obama is in favor of reversing this trend. His redistribution of wealth will benefit a much larger group of people, whereas McCain’s will continue to distribute wealth to the already wealthy. I don’t think many Americans understand that we have already witnessed a massive transfer of wealth, and that Obama is merely trying to level the playing field for the average to lower-income American worker. This is not socialism, its a way of mitigating the consequences of unregulated capitalism and free trade. Additionally, in a time where our country faces such a multitude of domestic and international challenges, it IS patriotic to pay taxes–how else are we going to pay for all the changes we need to make? McCain is going to freeze government spending. I’m pretty sure that completely debilitating the US government will not help us solve any of our problems. The list for why we need Obama NOW goes on and on

Posted by: erin5 | October 16, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Parker: thank you for your thoughtful analyses. So refreshing to read through a dozen paragraphs without a single rabid conservative rant. Too bad there aren't more like you. What a pity the lunatics are running the Republican asylum.

Posted by: larryb1 | October 16, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Is it possible that McCain is forgetting names now? He should relax more since he was looking like a potential stroke victim at the last debate.

Posted by: luyehara | October 16, 2008 6:22 PM | Report abuse

This is for Chagrined...

If you'll check your American history, you'll find that Catholic churches were introduced to the English colonies in Maryland in 1634. In fact, Maryland became a model of religious tolerance during our early history.

(Above courtesy of Wikipedia)

Posted by: jasper1231 | October 16, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

As I watched the debated go on, I kept wondering whether I was hallucinating or whether McCain was really handling things as poorly as it seemed. He appeared to have no game plan, neither in terms of the style of debate he pursued nor the take-away message he wanted to leave with the viewers. I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish, but as Kathleen Parker indicates, he surely failed to score many points.

AND, his answer on the VP choice question was priceless, and is maybe the clearest indication of his minimal intellectual skills that we've seen yet. His response was embarrassing.

Posted by: BwanaDik | October 16, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Parker says: "...such a vote indeed would seem bizarre if not for the fact (his assertion) that existing law already required aid to such infants."

Hey! You're getting paid enough, why didn't you look this up before submitting your column? Why the snide "his assertion" unless being smarmy was more important to you than being accurate and complete?

Also, re Palin's supposed expertise with special needs kids -- she only had her special-needs baby a six months ago, and has been on the campaign trail for two of those. This does not an expert make.

Posted by: ankhorite | October 16, 2008 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Kathleen, please understand something about the abortion issue when Obama was a state Senator. We here in Illinois already had a law at the time that required any infant that survived abortion be given life saving care. The decision to give such care was between the Doctor and patient and there are times when there is no hope. I can't tell you the times I've seen infants subjected to what amounts to torture in a misguided effort to keep them alive at all and any cost. It is frightening.
Regardless, the law that Obama opposed was also opposed by Republicans because of it's language. It would have served to undermine Roe v. Wade. I think this is simply an outrageous charge that people are making because they refused to understand the state of our original law at the time. In 2005 a bill with similar lanuage but that didn't undermine Roe v. Wade was passed in Illinois and is now in effect.

Posted by: itsanyoneguess | October 16, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Kathleen Parker has an Obama thrill going up her leg now. Drop the conservative pretense already. You're about as conservative as Mccain.

Posted by: plm3d1 | October 16, 2008 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Bruce and those with Biblical references in mind:

The analogy of either candidate filling those shoes is rather off the mark and out of context. This is the United States, we need a man to fill the shoes of either Roosevelt, Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy. We also need men who live the life that Christ preached. You seem to worship McCain. Please, don’t allow such temptation (oops, a Biblical reference) to creep into your comment.

Neither man is perfect. Neither fulfills the teachings of Jesus. They might try but fail. And that’s the beauty of being human. Each has the opportunity to “change.” And there’s that word again: change. And who preached that first?

Vote your pocketbook, your ethics, your needs, your preferences. Just don’t compare either man where the comparison is invalid.

Posted by: raiffer | October 17, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I want to add to the voices here commending you on your careful, generally balanced commentary (I think you would have been wise to analyze the situation of the legislation in Illinois before implying this was Obama's interpretation when you could have checked the facts). I have appreciated your clarity and courage as you have absorbed a wave of negativity.

That being said, I propose that you coalition with other like minded Republicans to start a conversation, both public and private, that would reclaim the best of the conservative viewpoint as a viewpoint, not a dogma or weapon. We do need this perspective as we move into a new and challenging chapter of the nation's history. The rabid, often assaultive diatribes that are the most disturbing of the conservative voices were accepted as a necessary drift to win, it seemed to me, and conceeding moral ground to Rove et al was at best unwise. I think it would be relatively easy to identify those you wish to welcome to your conversation: divisive, destructive, and distorted commentary would not be welcome.

I would welcome reasoned, intelligent discourse on the conservative viewpoint that could both inform and balance our understanding of our challenges and the potential solutions available.

Posted by: pbkritek | October 17, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Obama SCREWS Lower/Middle Class Taxpayers by Allowing the Bush Tax Cuts to Expire-Taxes Increase!
The Democrats have a dirty little secret that they don’t want you to know. It is that their mantra of Bush’s “Tax Cuts for the Rich” is unabashedly false. The rich paid a higher percentage of the total tax bill under the Bush plan than under Clinton. In fact, the expiration of the Bush tax cut savages the low- and middle-class voters.
This case has been made and fact-checked with the ever-liberal Snopes.Com. The Tax Foundation used “tax table” rates between the Bush and Clinton tax plans to shows a huge difference for low income taxpayers, sometimes even a 100% tax increase when going backward to the Clinton “tax table” rates versus Bush.
Not so fast, says Snopes! Tax rates do not equal marginal rates, so they run some numbers that supposedly reflect that. Even using their own numbers in the table below, the results are damning.
Single tax payers in three typical low to middle income categories have the taxes increased 12% on average
Single Taxpayer making $30K – Pays 15% more in taxes when Bush tax cuts expire
Single Taxpayer making $50K – Pays 10% more in taxes when Bush tax cuts expire
Single Taxpayer making $75K – Pays 11% more in taxes when Bush tax cuts expire
But married taxpayers in typical low to middle income really get the shaft! Their taxes are increased 20.5% on average
Married Taxpayer making $60K – Pays 19.5% more in taxes when Bush tax cuts expire
Married Taxpayer making $75K – Pays 21.5% more in taxes when Bush tax cuts expire
Married Taxpayer making $125K – Pays 20.5% more in taxes when Bush tax cuts expire

Posted by: 4elise | October 18, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Your analysis was a 8.

John's body language was easily read. His spoken responses were more confusing. Often he did not answer the questions, and his prop--Joe, the plumber was his crutch and made him look a bit foolish and irrelevant.

He talks one way and acts another. His position on Sarah -- was very interesting --he talks about her like she is his daughter or relative not running mate.

I simply feel he is a sick grumpy old man who needs to be put out of his misery. I also believe many people of his age are sharpe and mentally sound, but not him. He is to irratic and acts like a loose cannon ready to go off.

Posted by: carrm67 | October 18, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

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