The first presidential debate of the election season was full of dodged questions, both subtle and overt accusations, and many stories.
Early on, Sen. McCain resembled his running mate Gov. Palin by dodging and fumbling in his responses to questions. McCain’s reliance on planned and panned umbrella answers became nauseating to watch. The Republican nominee gave many reasons to hit mute on the remote — enabling the closed-captions to spell out his oft-repetitive stories rather than display the audible awfulness he provided. Many times in the debate it appeared that McCain was not really paying attention to the detailed questions from moderator Jim Lehrer or responses from Sen. Obama. When Obama would critique McCain, an unease took over McCain, and he tried to shrug it off with an uncomfortable laugh or awkward smirk. Lehrer pushed Obama and McCain to make it absolutely clear what their economic plans will be and how they differ from each other. The candidates then accused each other over their interpretation of pork spending, allowance and elimination.
Indeed, this was supposed to be McCain’s debate. He really stuck his neck out earlier in the week by “suspending” his campaign to “save” the nation’s economy, then decided to head to Mississippi just in time for the debate. Had McCain skipped the debate, the University of Mississippi would have been out a reported $5.5 million after the many renovations the school underwent in preparation for the debate.
The risks McCain took in suspending his campaign could have been salvaged by a solid debate, but it’s difficult to argue that McCain came out of the debate with as much as a tie with Obama. Early poll results across the spectrum of media reflect it as a win for Obama due to the fact that he won over the majority of undecided voters, whereas the results were nearly split among party lines.
The responses from the candidates varied drastically. Sen. Obama gave his answers in a calculated and cautious manner, trying to tie up any loose ends. Sen. McCain told story after story, and they moved at a glacial pace. The audience must have felt at times that they were around a campfire toasting marshmallows during John McCain story time. It’s a wonder the debate didn’t end with him singing ‘Kumbaya.’ McCain repeatedly told an unfunny Ms. Congeniality of the Senate joke a few times. And if the word “friend” was the trigger word in a drinking game, alcohol poisoning would have ravished the nation last Friday night.
Obama came through with some of the best exchanges in the debate, such as when responded to his opponent, “McCain calls me wildly liberal, that just means I’m opposing George Bush.” Obama also pointedly called out McCain with his support of Pres. Bush’s “orgy of spending.”
The debate was supposed to focus on foreign policy, but it was difficult to sway away from the impending economic crisis. This seemed to keep Obama in cautious check, as many of his policies are seen in the best light with a strong economy. Talking about the cost of programs is a difficult thing to do in the economic struggle nowadays.
Round one is in the books for Obama and McCain, and the judges are leaning toward the Blue corner.