What a lame mode of discourse this is…and this is better, at least in form, than most, because they could at least go at each other and indeed were encouraged by Lehrer to do so.
My main disappointment is that both candidates are much too cautious, especially in affect. We’ve all heard them saying really tough, hostile things about the other from lecterns, but face to face they’re timid and concessionary by comparison. This just doesn’t look good. “Senator, you’ve heard me say X when you’re not around: I’m going to say it to you now, to your face: X; how can you possibly defend that?” They’re also, I assume, overprepared (though much less obviously pulling talking points out of their pocket to force into the stream, relevant or not, this time).
A lot of this stuff is technical and lot involves numbers. Without graphs and tables, it becomes a mego without any takeaway; I can’t remember a bit of it. The economic discussion needed a blackboard and a few slides of tables and graphs.
I’m surprised that Obama isn’t quicker to seize opportunities; I keep anticipating good lines that he doesn’t deliver. McCain said, once too often, that he hadn’t been to Afghanistan, and the conversational rhythm fairly dictated, “I regret that I haven’t been there; I will go to Afghanistan, and when I do,I won’t orchestrate a deceptive stroll around a market with invisible security off camera in all directions, and I also hope my judgment about that part of the world improves more than yours has, Senator.”
Perhaps there’s some strategy that’s too deep for me, but I’m surprised how tentatively, and occasionally, Obama has used the words Republican and Bush. Come to think of it, what about the words lie and inconsistent. I understand why it’s a good idea to be gracious, and Obama repeatedly noted when he agreed with McCain on this or that, but for Pete’s sake, you could come away from this with no clue that McCain has spent the last two months with no clue. Worse, you could come away thinking Obama hasn’t noticed that McCain has been flailing and clueless.
I hope this isn’t too important either way.