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Debates, budgets and comrades

John the Plumber
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

I have a cold. I hate having a cold and my normal reaction is to medicate myself as best I can and go to bed early.

I couldn't do that last Wednesday as I had a monkey on my back. No, it wasn't a dependence on cough syrup. It was my political junkie monkey and he was doing everything possible to keep me awake and in front of the tube.

You see, I saw the clip of John McCain saying he was "going to kick his [Barack Obama's]." in the debate. Now this is a risky statement to make as it puts considerable pressure on a candidate to actually follow through.

Anyone who has ever been in a debate or covered a debate or seen a debate for that matter knows that sometimes one person finds an opening to score a point and sometimes that doesn't happen. While the format of this debate allowed for considerable give and take, it was well moderated and certainly wasn't a verbal street fight.

At this point in the campaign this debate was the last big free event at which both candidates could appeal to people who are sitting on the fence. The undecided voters were the folks both of these candidates were hoping to reach.

Would kicking Obama's backside be enough reason for someone to decide to vote for McCain?

Well, I thought both men spoke at length about things that do matter to the American people: the economy, healthcare and taxes. And in my mind there was no butt-kicking here.

McCain seemed to cast himself in this discussions as some sort of gosh-darn everyman who made repeated references to Obama's eloquence. Let's be frank here. McCain came from a powerful and connected military family and he has spent decades in the Senate as one of the nation's political leaders. He is a wealthy man through his marriage. He isn't a "Joe the Plumber" suddenly thrust into the limelight.

Although he mentioned his experience, he certainly didn't lean on it. Instead he repeated key phrases such as "Joe the Plumber," and "spreading the wealth" another way to call Obama a socialist.

I'm not sure if my time wouldn't have been better spent in bed asleep. I know who I'm voting for and there was nothing said that would change my mind.

If you missed the debate go to the Los Angeles Times Web site ( for a full written transcript of the proceedings.


So the moment is at hand in the Bay State: we are now facing our own homegrown economic problem. From the press release I received from the governor's office: "Faced with an estimated budget deficit of $1.4 billion, Gov. Deval Patrick today started implementing a fiscal action plan to close the gap that includes more than $1 billion in immediate cuts and spending controls across state government, identifying additional revenues and a responsible draw on reserves. The announcement comes as the Administration has revised the state's revenue estimate, on which the budget is built, by approximately $1.1 billion.

"'With the economy slowing and state revenue declining, we have to act,'" said Gov. Patrick. "'These decisions are not easy. I know there is a good idea or a good person behind every one of these cuts. But we are going to share the sacrifice now so that we can all be stronger when the economy recovers.'"

Now, every mayor I speak with on a regular basis has been saying the sky is going to lower a bit this year and it might fall next year with the FY10 budget. It's now time for citizens to renew scrutinizing what the Legislature does and to urge the adoption of a formula that would spread state aid fairly to all cities and towns despite what that might do to the amount of money Boston receives.


I went into my favorite lunch spot the other day City Jake's Caf at the corner of Main and Worthington Streets in Springfield only to be greeted by a robust "Hello Comrade!"

My buddy Jake is a proud member of the John Birch Society and he and I frequently discuss politics over one of his great sandwiches. He has long made the point that the same group of power brokers supports both McCain and Obama and neither represent real change in his opinion.

Jake's salutation, though, was due to the government's move to invest in a number of banks, which he believed was a move toward socialism.

Although Jake and I disagree on many issues surprisingly, we also agree on some the political discussions add some spice to Jake's tasty cuisine.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.