School’s Out for the Candidates

By Karin Caifa in Washington, DC

If there’s one thing that’s become apparent during this week in politics, it’s while the candidates spend plenty of time talking about what should be done in Washington, they don’t like it when others – especially their opponents – tell them what to do. In other words, the candidates do not like to be schooled. Especially in the campaign’s final days.

The unruly behavior got rolling at Tuesday night’s presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, when it was clear that John McCain and Barack Obama were not going to stay between the lines – not on the topic and especially not on time limits. Exasperated moderator Tom Brokaw finally interjected, “Look, guys, the rules were established by the two campaigns. We worked very hard on this.”

Going into that town hall-style debate, many analysts said that the biggest challenge for Obama, who once taught law students at the University of Chicago, is that he sometimes sounds too “professorial.” And rival McCain has not appreciated the Democrat’s recent “tutorials” on his campaign tactics. “He’ll give you a tax credit with one hand, raises your taxes with the other,” Obama said of some of McCain’s promises to voters. “He thinks you won’t notice. We notice, we know better, and we’re not going to let him get away with it.”

“I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to the American people,” McCain said in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, today. “And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician.”

Joe Biden got sick of McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin, attacking his comment that the wealthy should pay more taxes as an act of patriotism. “Don’t lecture me on patriotism,” the Democratic vice presidential pick shouted at a rally in Jefferson City, Missouri, yesterday. “I’m dead tired of being taken advantage of. I’m getting tired of it.”

But on the other side, the candidates sure hope voters are listening to what they have to say. “Don’t be distracted,” Biden instructed voters in Missouri today. “Every single false charge, every single baseless accusation is an attempt to stop you from paying attention to what’s affecting your daily lives, what’s happening at your kitchen table — that’s what this is about.”

In this political climate, it’s perhaps ironic that the final question of Tuesday night’s debate was, “What don’t you know, and how will you learn it?” Not surprisingly, Obama and McCain didn’t ‘fess up to much.

Karin Caifa is a political producer with CNN who contributes to this blog via CNN’s Running Mates.

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