In the second of their three scheduled debates, Senators McCain and Obama agreed that the nation faced the most challenging economic crisis since the Great Depression. Sadly, though, neither believed circumstances were dire enough to warrant dispensing with the petty bickering and snide remarks that have become the hallmark of the current presidential race. As the federal budget deficit surpasses half a trillion dollars, millions of families teeter on the brink of foreclosure or bankruptcy, tens of thousands of American military personnel are engaged in two wars and the government is forced to step in to stabilize the financial sector with bailouts and loans quickly approaching a trillion dollars, last nights debate in Nashville quickly devolved into another round of school playground fourth grader Your Momma attacks over such issues as a three million dollar planetarium projector and a proposed five thousand dollar insurance tax credit. Even more striking about last nights performance is the fact that even casual observers of the campaign recognized the flagrant intellectual laziness of the two candidates in their repeatedly rehashing stale leftovers culled from their standard stump speeches. In a word, last nights offering was pathetic. While the respective campaigns euphemistically spun their candidates combative exchanges as aggressively highlighting the differences between the two nominees, in truth they saw the questions from the studio audience and moderator Tom Brokaw as nothing more than opportunities to attack their opponent. In the process of not addressing the proffered queries or the growing number of challenges confronting the nation, though, the two presidential aspirants gave us a bite or two of food for thought. Among the more interesting morsels were: - John McCains abandonment of fundamental Conservative principals by proposing the federal government nationalize a significant portion of the mortgage loan industry by buying up and renegotiating bad mortgages and in effect become the nations largest landlord - Barack Obamas amending the Bill of Rights to include a Right to Health Care - John McCains assertion that while Social Security reform is not that tough the system is not going to be able to provide the same benefit for present-day workers as current retirees enjoy While Obamas elevation of health care to the status of a right surely elated the Democratic Party and its Liberal base, McCains federal mortgage purchase/restructuring proposal stunned Conservative free-market Republicans. Furthermore, his offhand remarks about Social Security belied the considerable difficulty and challenges reforming the supplemental retirement program involves. Alternately, his comment about future benefits did nothing more than reinforce current workers fears that the program will either not be there when they reach the golden years of their retirement or the benefit payments will be so paltry that they will effectively be financially meaningless. In defiance of conventional wisdom that the town hall format would suppress the combative tone of the campaign, McCain and Obama traded pointed barbs repeatedly over the course of the evening. A growing personal animosity between the two took center stage as Obama often smirked and shock his head dismissively while McCain spoke, with the Arizonan at one point unwilling to address his opponent by name and referring to the Democratic nominee sarcastically as That one. With Obama having overtaken McCain in the polls and his lead growing steadily over the last two weeks, the Republican nominee needed a momentum-changing performance last night. In light of the 54 to 30 percent decision of CNN respondents and the 40 to 26 percent victory awarded in CBSs poll of undecided voters to Senator Obama, it is clear McCain fell far short of the mark. The McCain campaign can take solace, though, in the knowledge that CBS respondents still view the Republican as more prepared to assume the presidency by a measure of 83 to 58 percent. Though last night failed to rise to the status of momentum-changer, observers should not be surprised to see a tightening of the race in the national polls in the days and weeks to come. While this is a naturally occurring event in most presidential races, it should not distract from the more pertinent and insightful individual battleground polls. It is in the state-by-state trench warfare that the race will ultimately be decided. Facing the most significant economic crisis in generations, two ongoing wars and rising fears that the American dream is becoming nothing more than a quaint fairy tale, the eyes of the nation hungrily looked to Senators McCain and Obama for leadership last night. Sadly, despite the increasingly dire circumstances since last they met, in the end the two offered nothing more than bland cold cuts and stale leftovers. To Hell with the soup line, faithful readers, where do we go to get leadership? Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and the stomach pangs of the American spirit grow louder and louder still.