Even as a firm and absolutely unmovable supporter of Sen. Obama, I have to admit that I think John McCain came away the winner of this debate. Not because of his positions or intentions with regard to the best direction for our country, but simply because as I saw it, he outperformed Obama on the stage.
This has been Obama's weakness throughout the duration of the primary campaign as well: being unable to throw a knockout punch in a debate. He is famously articulate and rarely misspeaks. In a debate, what this means is that there are pregnant pauses between his words and phrases because he is deliberately choosing the specific word he's after instead of just letting the jabs flow and backing his opponent in to the corner. I have absolutely no doubt that to read a transcript of the debate, Obama would come off as the professorial diplomat and McCain a worthy but condescending adversary.
There were plenty of opportunities for Obama to step up and just lay it down. His campaign made serious progress last week with the 'enough is enough' message regarding the consistent lies and misrepresentations from McCain's campaign.
Tonight it was McCain wrongly claiming that his own advisor, Henry Kissinger, disagreed with Obama on direct communication with Iran. Obama was right, McCain was wrong and Obama knew it.
At another point, McCain slammed Obama as "the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate". Not 30 minutes later, he was patting himself on the back for the bi-partisan 9/11 commission he was a part of bringing together. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops that Barack Obama's vote in favor of forming this commission was deemed "liberal" by the study that McCain has cited. Expanding health care coverage for children? Also liberal. Creating an Office of Public Integrity to serve as a bipartisan Congressional watchdog? Also liberal.
I just kept waiting on Obama to just say it, "Enough is enough. You know John, you've continually misrepresented my words and my intentions. You've criticized my supposed inexperience in foreign relations and then chosen a running mate who only just got her passport one year ago. You hold a convention that claims Country First and yet you mock the decision I made to walk away from a 6-figure salary to be a community organizer in the Southside of Chicago. You like to claim that you're a maverick but you've voted with President Bush 95% of the time this past year to gain favor with the conservative base to win your party's nomination. And even in this debate, you won't look me in the eye and it disturbs me how comfortable you are looking the American people in the eye and repeating these falsehoods over and over. If 45% of the people are for you and 45% are for me, then fine, let's go after those remaining 10% and see who the American people chose based on the merits of our arguments. But let's do it with facts."
Ironically, frighteningly, one of Obama's strongest characteristics, his desire to rise above the fray and usher in a different kind of politics and civility may be the very thing that keeps him from having the opportunity to do so.
Also, don't miss Laura's post below this one
UPDATE : From the Times. Exactly.
McCain kept painting Obama as naïve, and dangerous, insisting that he “doesn’t quite understand or doesn’t get it.”
Obama should have responded “Senator, I understand perfectly, I’m just saying you’re wrong.”
On the surge, he could have said that McCain was the arsonist who wanted to be praised for the great job he’s doing putting out the fire he started.
When Obama took quiet umbrage at McCain’s attack about troop-funding, he could have pounded the lectern and said with real anger: “John, I am sick and tired of you suggesting that I would take funds away from our brave soldiers. I no more voted for that than you did when you voted against our funding proposals that would have imposed a timetable. And unlike you, I did not vote against funding increases for the troops that have come home with devastating physical and mental injuries.”