John McCain performed a lot better in last night’s debate than he did in the previous one, but I still spent so much time yelling at the screen that my wife thought a Lions game was on.

McCain had the right idea on taxes, which is that any tax increase on any group of people is a dumb idea, especially in this economy. But he needed to spell out why in a simple way, and he didn’t do that.

For example, the subject of “Joe the plumber” came up. Obama said that under his plan, Joe would get a tax cut because his plan would only raise taxes on the top 5% of all wage earners.

McCain danced around and had the right idea in his sights, but never pulled the trigger. He needed a simple line to say why any tax increases on anybody will harm Joe’s business.

Here are a couple of things that McCain should have pointed out:

“How come you liberals are so fond of ridiculous cause-and-effect metaphors like ‘If a butterfly flaps its wings in China it causes a tornado in Kansas,’ but you’re unable to understand, or at least admit, that raising taxes on one group of people has a negative effect on another group of people? You cannot raise taxes on the large companies that manufacture the materials Joe uses in his plumbing business without ensuring that the cost will be passed along to Joe!”

Another frustration is the William Ayers connection. McCain could really hit the bullseye without even getting too detailed.

Here’s what McCain should have said when the opportunity arose:

“Bob (Schieffer), all I’m trying to say is that you can’t tell me that if I was once on the board of an organization, and, say, Ted Kaczynski was also on the same board at the time, that you and your friends in the mainstream media wouldn’t be scrutinizing that fact a lot more than you’re scrutinizing a similar scenario as it concerns my opponent’s history.”

To defeat Obama in these debates required a person with an eloquence, brevity and an explanatory style that painted a picture to the average American of the dangers inherent in Obama’s past associations and current positions, and the GOP didn’t nominate one.

This doesn’t mean McCain will lose next month. It’s always possible that Americans will demand four more years… of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression.

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