One can’t help but feel a little sorry for John McCain and Sarah Palin these days.

In any other year, their brand of kill-the-poor economics and bomb-everyone foreign policy might actually prove appealing to a majority of the electorate. But circumstances have placed them in a spot where they have to defend the policies that caused the first Great Depression of the millennium and people are finally starting to notice.

The presidential debate last week showed, in stark contrast, the styles of the two men seeking to become the 44th president.  Barack Obama was cool, measured and steadfast. McCain was angry, petulant and vindictive, to the point where I thought he was going to walk across the stage and start hitting Obama with his cane.

It’s unfortunate for McCain and Palin that they have to run in this climate. They weren’t the ones who wrecked our economy or sent thousands off to die for no good cause overseas, but they’re the ones who will feel the wrath of voters nationwide next month, providing people have enough food to sustain them until then and they have enough gas to drive to the polls.

The only good news for the Republicans this week is that the soft bigotry of low expectations means that it will be seen as a victory if Palin doesn’t walk off the debate stage in tears on Thursday. As long as she speaks moderately grammatical English, and doesn’t soil herself in fright, she’ll have exceeded the goals set out for her.

Not since the Great Hoosier, Dan Quayle, embarrassed the nation in 1988 has a vice-presidential candidate proved to be as ill-prepared, inarticulate and overmatched as Palin, to the point where it’s becoming sad.

Gov. Palin is a very likable person. If she were a contestant on Survivor, I’d be rooting for her to win. And at some point in the future she may very well have something to offer the nation in terms of leadership. But right now she just looks scared, out of her depth and eager to get this humiliating experience behind her.

There’s an odd sense of anticlimax developing around this presidential election, a feeling that we as a nation are fucked no matter who wins. The damage has been done by Bush and Cheney. Our great nation lies in economic ruins, our moral leadership in the world has been permanently damaged and not even Franklin Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln can pull us out of this one.

If I didn’t love America as much as I do, and if I hadn’t been victimized by the economy of the last eight years as much as I have, I’d be laughing right now and saying that we got what we deserved.

Four years ago we knew enough about Bush and Cheney to know that giving them another term would bring about a massive financial, military and moral crisis and yet roughly 3.5 million more people voted for the Apocalypse over reform in 2004.

Even when Cheney ate a baby on live TV and Bush started talking backwards during a news conference, people still didn’t catch on to the fact that Satan was their co-pilot. Not even Condi Rice turning her head 360 degrees and vomiting pea soup on Katie Couric during an interview tipped people off to the evils we had coming to us.

The chickens have come home to roost and they’re finding out that the farmer doesn’t have any feed left because he mortgaged everything and gave the proceeds to the Chinese and to Halliburton.

The most interesting thing about last week’s debate is how similar it was to the first Bush-Kerry debate of 2004. Obama repeated the same things Kerry said back then: the Iraq war was a mistake, we failed to find bin Laden in Afghanistan because of a strange obsession with Saddam Hussein and that our economic policies are killing the country.

Kerry was an imperfect messenger who allowed himself to be damaged by lies about his record. Obama, though, has learned the lessons of how to fight back effectively and will not allow the same thing to happen to him.

Or so we hope. A country dumb enough to vote in two substance abusers with a God complex not once but twice might be foolish enough to do so a third time. That’s why it’s so vitally important that you vote early, and often, this year.

It’s too bad that an honorable man like John McCain has to take the blame for the excesses of the last eight years. But that’s the way it’s going to have to be. If we want to stamp out the Satanism of the last eight years, poor ole John has to go.

The most encouraging thing we can say at this point is, ironically, something John Kerry used to say: Help is on the way.

Voters Guide

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