I only got to listen to the last half of the debate (audio only) and I gave the edge to McCain. McCain rattled more XXXX-istans than Obama and I thought Obama was struggling to get his points across comprehensibly. I did think the “Senator Obama just doesn’t understand” was overdone. Obama said he had gone to Eastern Europe with Sen. Lugar to oversee the securing of old Soviet missiles. McCain trumped Obama with the claim that he was partly responsible for originating the Nunn-Lugar bill that paid for securing those weapons. Whether McCain’s claim was justified or not, it rang true.
Imagine my surprise this morning to see the polls on CNN that gave the debate to Obama by a huge margin. But it may well be that the difference between my perception and the polls was that I only listened to the last half of the debate.
However, McCain made one big blunder and Obama called him on it. McCain claimed that Obama had voted against funding the troops (I think twice). Obama replied that McCain had voted to fund the troops with no timetable for withdrawal, and that he had voted to fund the troops WITH a timetable (and both had voted against the opposite). He explained that the differences were about the timetable, not funding the troops. Obama was totally credible at that point, and it was clear to me that McCain had been caught trying mislead the voters with the old voting record manipulation trick. I think this was a hugely embarrassing moment.
I thought one of the substantive points of difference between Obama and McCain was on that preconditions thing. I don’t know how clear it was to the viewers what was going on. When Obama says that he is willing to meet with anyone without preconditions, he means “he” in the sense of “his administration” not himself personally. McCain insisted that it be taken literally and that Obama personally was going to meet with anyone thereby giving that person credibility by having talked with the President of the United States. This was disingenuous of McCain. McCain’s interpretation was, in fact, so unreasonable that I wonder if Obama realized what McCain meant.