Tonight marks the second presidential debate, which takes place during a period of economic panic that seems to be spreading worldwide. True, following another stock market drop-off yesterday (with the Dow settling below 10,000 for the first time in four years), today's markets are merely dipping into negative territory but not yet taking the plunge (note: until late afternoon when the Dow completed another 500+ point drop). Still, the overall sense of risk is keeping everyone on edge. Just how bad has this crisis become, and how much worse can it get?
For that reason, among many others, I look forward to this debate. I hope that the candidates will be challenged to display some understanding of the problems we face, proposing their ideas for how to get out of this mess. Truthfully, few people expect that an American president can do much to fix our economy. The contagion is too deeply embedded and too globally dispersed to be repaired from the Bully Pulpit. Nonetheless, it'll be useful to see if candidates can get past Red State/Blue State banalities and face our challenges honestly, directly, and soberly.
Unfortunately, this week has seen a remarkable increase in attack ads as McCain and Obama throw guilt-by-association charges at each other, muddying the race with deception and innuendo. Both candidates blame each other for this disturbing political turn and neither appears ready to deescalate and address our real problems.
Once again, I plan to live-blog the debate tonight. It'll be an interesting experiment given the increase in variables to observe. I understand that the format calls for a Town Hall-style encounter, one more likely to inspire real interaction between the candidates and with audience members. Political observers report that McCain thrives in this format while Obama fares slightly less well. All I want? Reasoned clash, coherent specifics, and thoughtful nuance.
We will see…