Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Smile! You're on television!"

I was able to stay awake for tonight's debate thanks to Bob Schieffer and a really superior debate format. McCain and Obama actually were forced to listen to each other, and, more or less, respond. Granted, it wasn't Lincoln-Douglas, but what the hell -- by contemporary standards, it was quite good.

On the other hand, I suspect what the candidates had to say was lost on much of the audience. What may have counted most, I'm afraid, were the smiles -- the reaction shots. How did the candidates look when they weren't talking? How did each of them look in the background while it was his opponent's turn to speak? Hell, the American people never cared all that much about words. How confident did each of them seem to feel? Americans love confidence.

As we all know, eye-rolling isn't allowed -- not even in response to the inanities of Sarah Palin. The only alternative is a knowing, deprecating smile -- and both candidates did their best to maximize the knowingness and deprecatingness of the smiles they proferred while their opponents were speaking. Obama's grin was broad and crocodilian. McCain's was forced, distorted, and suggestive of the crazed irrationality the Obamites have attempted to attach to McCain's image over the past couple of weeks.

McCain smiled so badly, in fact, you might think Obama had won the debate -- but that broad, "I'm a wide mouthed frog" Obama smile was just a little too smug, a little too "Ivy League." I'd guess the broad Obama grin antagonized the rabid McCainiacs more than the McCain grimace amused the Obamites -- and that any semi-mythical "undecideds" who may or may not exist in the real world continue to wish they had a third viable choice.

* * *

Yes, the markets tanked again today as a few newly released figures reminded the herd and the computer programs designed to emulate the herd that, bailout notwithstanding, it's still a recession out there. Other figures, by the way, indicate that it's still an inflation out there as well, despite the recent sharp decline in the price of oil. A few mainstream economists -- in the media, no less -- are beginning to use the word, "stagflation."

Over the next few weeks, the implementation of the bailout probably will ease the credit markets considerably, but we'll still be deep in the woods as far as the broader economy goes. Thirty years of ideologically driven screw-ups are not about to be remedied in a few days.

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