The election might still be 20 interminable days off, but the last debate will be (liveblogged) tonight. McCain has promised both to "whip" his opponent tonight, and to bring up Bill Ayers. Will Obama have an answer? Can Bill O'Reilly get more absurd? Can the poll numbers get better for Obama? Will John McCain be "unshackled"? Spencer Ackerman attempt to answer those questions as I attempt to scrub certain Spencer-supplied mental images from my brain. Anyone got some bleach?MEGAN: Are you excited for the final showdown? The claws will come out, hair will get pulled, someone will get bitchslapped for sure, I am way excited. But, enough about Project Runway, we should probably talk about the news. SPENCER: Don't talk to me about TV. I came home yesterday to find that my fleeing roommate has absconded with the Flophouse's massive flatscreen, one of the only things that makes my house livable. At least he seems to have left the speakers. MEGAN: So, I guess you'll be listening to the debates then? Or just bargain hunting at Best Buy? If you want, we can make use of my Sam's Club card sometime. Sadly, Obama won't be perched on a stool looking damn cool this time while Crankypants paces around trying to figure out why he's losing. SPENCER: I'm too elitist to shop at Sam's Club. MEGAN: They have arugula, I checked! SPENCER: So what's the format this time? MEGAN: Seated behind a desk instead of standing behind podiums, they will both get to deal with Bob Schieffer's questions and McCain won't be able to condescend to anyone but the two of them and the viewing public writ large. SPENCER: The debate going back and forth in liberal circles: is McCain really stupid enough to think Obama doesn't have a good response line to Ayers; or does Obama really... not have a good response line to Ayers? WHO YA GOT? MEGAN: I think he ought to have a good response to Ayers, but his ability to pull it off depends on how the question is framed. He didn't do so well with the whole preconditions thing in the first debate. But this is a decent start, from someone willing to call Ayers "friend." SPENCER: I just sent a desperate email to my old roommate begging her to move back to the Flophouse. I'm sorry — yeah, Tom Frank. I wonder: does the country have the maturity to handle this line:
Nor will I quibble with those who find Mr. Ayers wanting in contrition. His 2001 memoir is shot through with regret, but it lacks the abject style our culture prefers.
MEGAN: Even Paris Hilton had to find God in prison, so, my answer would be: no. SPENCER: So much packed into that one. And right you are: Would conservatives actually be satisfied, even if Ayers performed a full renunciation? But when you're down a massive 14 points in a two-candidate field you take your satisfaction where you find it, if I can butcher a Murder City Devils line. MEGAN: Well, I think this is probably at least an equally accurate description of their motivations:
There are a lot of things to call this tactic, but "country first" isn't one of them. The nation wants its hope and confidence restored, and Republican leaders have chosen instead to wave the bloody shirt. This is their vilest hour.
I think they are salting the earth, basically. SPENCER: There'll always be something viler, though. You can't expect them to have found the bottom floor. Even after the guns go off... MEGAN: That's true, but, technically, you don't salt the earth after you retreat, you salt it on your way out. SPENCER: In fact, I want to outsource my crazy-winger morning commentary to my friend's Twitter feed today:
O'Reilly tonight: "Democrats complain about personal attacks, but WAIT TIL YOU SEE Doonsbury's attack on Sarah Palin."
MEGAN: I believe that is when the Republican Party jumps the shark. Are there non-dittoheads who didn't roll their eyes at that? Because I rolled mine so far back I gave myself more of a headache. SPENCER: Speaking of Twitter, I'm taking an aside: Is anyone else getting porn spam on their LOCKED Twitter accounts? And furthermore, do you have any idea how porn spam is supposed to work on Twitter? (@unsuspectinguser, just finished shooting a bukkake movie. less gross than suspected) MEGAN: Um, some porny person tried to add me, but I blocked him and also, ew. SPENCER: Speaking of bukkake, Palin's negatives are extremely high in that NYT poll MEGAN: I am not sure I will ever be able to write as good a segue as that one, so I have decided not to try. SPENCER:
Ms. Palin’s favorability rating is now 32 percent, down 8 points from last month, and her unfavorable rating climbed nine percentage points to 41 percent.
John McCain: so few opportunities to shoot his load, and this is where he aims... Sometimes I forget people read this in the morning. MEGAN: Yes, I briefly had a mental image of John McCain's Oh face, there, which means I won't eat until lunch but I had a big dinner and baked cookies, so I probably don't need to eat breakfast anyway. And I won't be needing yogurt, that's for sure. In a completely not awkward segue, we should probably talk about John McCain's crazypants brother, who thinks that the campaign is run by idiots who write bad ads and don't let John be John. He apparently spammed the entire Republican party with his missive. SPENCER: Not to use a cliche, but it's interesting that Joe "Northern Virginia is Communist Country" McCain thinks the campaign has been too restrained. What in the world would count as "unshackled" to a man like him? MEGAN: Well, it is the People's Republic of Arlington. I'm sure he just got confused. But let Joe McCain put to rest all thoughts that John McCain got his crazy on in the Hanoi Hilton. SPENCER: And "Let John McCain Be John McCain"? This isn't a campaign strategy, it's a coping mechanism. I have no inclination to believe at this point that McCain isn't being McCain — he disgraced himself in the Keating 5 scandal and he disgraced himself in the 2000 race when he pandered to racists on the South Carolina confederate flag and he's disgraced himself today. Three points determine a line. Look, if he were my brother, I'd blame everyone else too, but the only thing more consistent than John McCain's willingness to disgrace himself in the pursuit of his ambition is the willingness of the press to believe that he didn't really mean it. MEGAN: I mean, I never really understood that, actually. Is John McCain really that much more charming than other politicians to political writers? Can you do this for a living and really buy the Straight Talk Express gimmick so easily? SPENCER: It goes back to self-loathing. If you hate yourself that deeply, then the way he uses you can be a ready substitute for caring. So think about it, press corps! Rediscover your self-worth. You're better than this man. MEGAN: So, John McCain is just the boyfriend who shines you on that he cares about you and you accept it because you don't know the difference? SPENCER: And you just end up in his bukkake movie that he leaks to the internet.