As I start writing this, half hour into the “debate” or “discussion” or whatever you want to call this sad show, I am scared. Really, really scared. These guys don’t know what the hell is going on. They seem to be falling back on the most insipid generalities in “explaining” the financial crisis and the bailout. What an insult.

McCain is doing marginally better in that Obama’s “answers” are more generic, whereas McCain is at least attempting to be a little specific about his policy goals, but it is clear that he doesn’t really understand. He is still on his crusade against “taxes and regulation”    — party like it’s 1994!

Initially, McCain had a clear (and politically courageous) answer to a woman who wanted to know what kind of “sacrifice” the next president would ask Americans to make. He said clearly that he would cut all spending except defense and veterans’ services. Unfortunately he took it right back by saying he will invest in healthcare and other entitlement programs. So, I’m not sure what his position is.

But this answer was still slightly better than Obama’s, which was a general ode to what kind of service culture “Americans are hungry for.” He talks about the tax cuts for the rich, but that didn’t really address the questioner’s issue (assuming of course that she isn’t a millionaire, but an ordinary American asking what sacrifice she will be asked to make).

McCain is looking a little volatile. He seems unable to control his nervous energy. Obama, by contrast, looks calm and sane (but boring –whatever happened to that charismatic guy that the Dems fell in love with last year?) On another style note, I’m going to throw something at the TV if McCain says “my friends” one more time or if Obama draws out another “and” for, like, ten minutes.

OMG… WTF… did McCain just point sideways at Obama and say “that one” while smirking????

McCain’s answer to the alternative fuel research is that government should invest initially and then hand it over to the private sector when it becomes profitable. No surprise there. Obama’s answer was so bland and generic that I’ve already forgotten it.

McCain’s subliminal speech is getting unsavory. He referred to his military service completely out of context. He mentioned hair transplants (no doubt a jab at Biden, and in very poor taste). Now he’s accusing Obama (obliquely) of being anti-American just because he has criticized war mongering.

I can’t believe McCain is actually saying “we have to know the limits of our military” and our “ability to beneficially affect” the situation (or something like that). Yet he’s the one stubbornly dedicated to “victory” in Iraq –whatever that means. He also said that if we listened to Obama, Iran’s influence would have increased and Al Quaeda would have a presence in Iraq, as if that’s not PRECISELY what happened when we went into Iraq. Of course, this is nothing new.

Interestingly, so far, Obama has been a bit more specific and convincing on foreign policy and McCain has been more specific on the economy (including a new policy plank — apparently he wants to help renegotiate our mortages) — I guess we know what subject each of them was cramming for.

When McCain rambled on (after insisting on “following up” out of turn – as each of them has done more than once) about nothing in particular, repeating “I know how to get it done” I thought he was having a senior moment. But minutes later, Obama rambled on about the need to help the former soviet satellites –including economically (is he REALLY suggesting this in this economy?)—he seemed to have lost his train of thought. And he’s not even old!

The last words. Nice to hear Obama spell out that he comes from a poor family. McCain shouldn’t say things like “our generation” — he doesn’t belong to the same generation as most of us! He’s actually 10 years older than the oldest Baby Boomer!

Well, my friends, this was (except for the aforementioned mortgage renegotiation thing introduced by McCain), pretty much just their stump speeches by way of tortured segues from the questions posed by poor hapless audience members who thought they’d learn something new about the candidates’ positions. Incredibly, neither seemed to have modified any of his positions as a result of recent developments.

This is really embarrassing. Not to mention dread-inspiring. One of the most difficult economic turns in our history; two wars; precarious global relationships, and we’ve got a couple of lightweights on policy… unless they just don’t trust us to understand and are talking down to us. Which is even worse.

Speaking as a Democrat for a second, I wonder if we picked the wrong guy. I miss Hillary Clinton. We soooo could use a smart, wonky person right about now.