John McCain is practically channeling some of the worst debate moments of another elderly Republican senator -- Bob Dole. (You pick the moment -- either in 1976, when he railed about "Democrat wars," or 20 years later, when his campaign trail refrain was, "Where's the outrage?"). He's visibly irritated with Barack Obama, sounding snappish and bitter.
The worst moment so far was during an exchange over ACORN, the housing group accused of bogus registrations in about 15 states. The group is "on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy," McCain said. The problem is, he didn't bother explaining what the fraud supposedly is, and he didn't really link Obama to the group, except to say "we need to know the full extent" of their relationship. It was a textbook example of an angry attack delivered poorly -- and probably one that won't hit the mark.
A few minutes later, when Obama told Joe the Plumber (a character based on a real person, who McCain is giving mythical status in this debate) how much money he would be fined for not buying health insurance under his plan, McCain was flabbergasted. "I'm happy to talk to you, too, Joe, if you're out there," Obama said. "Here's your fine: Zero." McCain's eyes went wide. "Zero?" "Zero," Obama said, still unflappable.