I watched the first Presidential debate last night. The bottom line is that I was not blown away by either candidate. I tend to agree with George F. Will, who said that this debate was like a play at first base, where a tie goes to the runner. The runner, in this case, was Barak Obama. He needed to convince people that he could hold his own on foreign policy and I think he did that. Like I said, I don’t think he was at his best, but he held his own and that was enough to make the difference. McCain met expectation. Obama exceeded them.
The whole thing was far too scripted. It seemed to me that the only unscripted parts were the repeated emphasis phrases that the two candidates used. McCain kept saying, "the point is", or "the important point is". Obama kept saying, "let’s be clear." Clearly, McCain was going after Obama’s experience. He kept saying, "He just doesn’t get it." But McCain was also disengaged from the whole thing, and at times, came off as though he didn’t care about the debate, or didn’t want to be there. He rarely looked at Obama or the camera for that matter.
One thing that bothered me was McCain’s repeated reference to soldiers dying in vain if we pull out of Iraq on Obama’s time table. It presumes that the value of a soldier’s life is tied directly to the outcome of the conflict. This is remarkable considering McCains military background. It’s the equivalent of saying that a police officer died in vain attempting to apprehend a suspect who ultimately slipped through the justice system. What a load of crap! Soldiers die doing their duty, carrying out the specific orders they are given. A conflict or battle might be in vain, but the loss of life is always in the service of their country and anyone who thinks that is "in vain" knows little about the history of military conflict.
I didn’t learn anything new in the debate that would make me any more or any less an Obama supporter than I already am. In this sense, the debate has value only to those who don’t really pay attention to the election news, or are "undecided". Beyond that, each candidate was preaching to their own well-established choir.
I actually think that the vice-presidential debate this Thursday will be more interesting. I think Biden’s toughest job in that debate will be restraining from too-obviously wiping the floor with Sarah Palin.