How Could Anyone Still be Undecided?

McCain may have survived the debate, but his performance over the past week tells us all we need to know.

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His  explanation for changing course was a classic: “My strong sense is that the best thing that I can do, rather than to inject presidential politics into some delicate negotiations, is to go down to Mississippi and explain to the American people what is going on and my vision for leading the country over the next four years.”

Amazing. There hasn’t been such a brazen case of chutzpah since a thug murdered both of his parents, then demanded mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.

This is classic McCain, a wild Hail Mary thrown with the intention of changing the subject and shifting attention back to himself.

He displayed the same kind of recklessness  in  his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, even though he knows that putting  such  the haplessly unprepared governor of Alaska  a heartbeat away from the presidency could be a recipe for disaster. After watching Palin stumble through interviews with ABC’s Charles Gibson and CBS News’ Katie Couric, a growing majority for voters now believe that Palin is just not up to  the job.

McCain may have managed to keep his legendary temper in check in last night’s debate, even though Obama at times appeared to be trying to goad him into an outburst.  But judging by his dervish-like conduct during the past week, a President McCain would be far from a steady hand on the helm.

On the other hand, Obama, if he can be faulted for anything, it’s for being too cool in a crisis- or in a debate. He has shown a willingness to buck his own party by saying that giving bankruptcy judges the ability to restructure individual mortgages should not be a part of the bailout, a notion that many liberal Democrats hold sacred.

His aloof, professorial style, so evident during the debate,  makes it hard for him to connect to some voters, but his unflappability can also be reassuring.  He comes across as a remarkably disciplined man who will not blow his stack, regardless of the circumstances.

Not that Obama’s a saint. He recently has gotten down in the gutter with McCain by running televised attack ads as distorted and misleading as some of those the Republican has aired, on the issues of immigration, social security and stem cell research.  By doing so, he has not  only broken a pledge not to lie in his advertising, but undermined his promises to practice a new kind of politics.  It’s disgraceful and disappointing .

But an election is  not a choice between two perfect candidates.  It’s about which of  the two flawed politicians who debated last night is better equipped to lead the nation during what will surely be extraordinarily trying times.  Would you prefer an impetuous risk-taker who is willing to do almost anything to win an election or a calm calculator who sticks to the business at hand?  Would an aggressive champion of unilateral U.S. action keep the U.S. safer than an advocate of consensus building and  direct diplomacy with our enemies? By  now, undecided voters, you should have the information you need to answer those questions. The choice is  stark and it’s yours!

Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.