I sat down and watched the debate last night, wanting to see it before watching Meet the Press tonight. I've read some of the post-game commentary, mostly on the Huff and some op-ed pieces in the NY Times. And I have to say I came away from the debate with an "eh" reaction.
Obviously, the debate isn't going to change my mind. I'm not going to have this sudden epiphany over the course of two hours and suddenly become a rabid McCain supporter. If anything, the debate and this week's ridiculous show of suspending the campaign eroded any of the remaining respect I ever had for John McCain. (Check out today's Frank Rich for a great take on the "suspension.") If I heard that guy say he wasn't "Miss Congeniality" one more time, I was going to scream. Of course we know he's not Miss Congeniality -- he looks nothing like Sandra Bullock. How stupid does he think we are??
To me, the debates are like a football game (yeah, there's that sports metaphor again). I watch to support my team and hoping to see my team deliver a crushing defeat to its opponent. I did not get my wish with Friday's debate.
Did my team even win? I'm not even sure I can say that. Yes, Obama gave a fine performance. His cool calm was on display, and I had a glimpse of a future where America is in crisis and we have this cool customer calmly assuring us everything will be okay. McCain seemed petulant and grouchy. At times, I found him incredibly condescending towards Obama. But he didn't buckle under Obama's rhetoric. The fault for that lies with Obama. His refusal to let McCain ruffle his feathers kept him from really digging in and attacking McCain. He had several opportunities where righteous indignation could have delivered a devastating blow, and he let those opportunities slide. Maybe he didn't want to seem like he was beating up the old guy. Instead, he let the old guy continue to perpetuate the same untruths that has been fueling his campaign.
I know that Obama is trying to play these debates as a gentleman's game and doesn't want to dig in the muck. But when the rain is pouring down around you, you have no choice but to get a little dirty if you want to get through the storm.