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Published September 25, 2008

What's up with the planned Presidential Debate tomorrow night. Will there be one? At the moment, it looks that way. Will McCain show up for it? No one seems to know. Might he send a surrogate? Or might it just wind up as Obama being interviewed for 90 minutes by Jim Lehrer? Good questions. Here's what might happen.

My favorite part of these debates is always the post-debate spin. That's the part where representatives of both candidates meet with reporters and maniacally insist that their guy "hit it out of the park" (they're required to use that phrase in one out of every five sentences they utter) and that every single thing he said was right and every single thing the other guy said was wrong, foolish, disingenuous and an act of desperation. They're required to argue that and also that "the American people see through" all the nonsense that the opposition candidate spewed.

I especially like the little token "just to be fair" remark that most of the spinners will make, never about anything that matters. It's usually something like, "I'll give him credit, though...he got his own wife's name right and he did have on a very nice tie." But then of course, even that is followed by, "But the American people can see right through that tired party line and collection of discredited talking points." Once in a while, a spinner will even declare that their boy did so well and the other guy did so poorly that the election is over and a concession speech is expected at any moment.

The great part of what goes on in the Spin Room — can you believe that actually call it that? — is that it never has anything to do with what was actually said in the debate. Zero. So I'm imagining that McCain pulls a No Show and Obama debates an empty podium...

Obama answers a question and then Lehrer says, "Senator McCain, you have 45 seconds for rebuttal," and we all stare at the podium for 45 seconds. In the meantime, McCain still dispatches his campaign officials to spin that he won. After the event, they're out there saying, "By not being there to answer that question, McCain hit it out of the park."

Regarding the part where Lehrer asks the candidates to explain their plans for Social Security and there's two minutes of silence from the McCain side, the spinners say, "Two minutes of nothing from McCain made more sense than two minutes of actual policies from Senator Obama." Extra points if they have the gonads to add, "The American people would rather have a president who does absolutely nothing and doesn't even show up than one who's there and who does the wrong thing."

It wouldn't surprise me if something like this actually happens tomorrow night. I'm also imagining that if McCain isn't there, every so often the news coverage cuts outside where we find Ralph Nader and Bob Barr pounding on the door, yelling, "Let us in! There's camera time that isn't being used!"

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