In sum, I thought both men acquitted themselves well, and unfortunately right now with Obama leading in the polls McCain needed more dings on Obama than he got. So Obama is starting to look like he's trying to sit on his lead and run the clock out, we'll see if he succeeds.
Apart from the debate, I wanted to discuss some historical parallels from my own lifetime that I see in Senators McCain and Obama.
For all my vehement criticism of him and his questionable associations, I think Senator Obama is an honorable man, as is Senator McCain. My issue with him is that he's far more comfortable with the far left than people realize, much further left in his own way than President Bush, for example, is a creature of the far right.
Which leads me to my next thought, that Bush is the Nixon figure hanging over this election much in the way that Nixon, though not on the ballot, hung over the 1976 Presidential race between Ford and Carter. Carter was able to make the 1976 election a referendum on Nixon and thus was able to narrowly defeat the incumbent President Ford. Obama is trying to do the same thing by tying McCain to the discredited President Bush, and so far it looks like he's succeeding.
With either man we are going to get a repudiation of Bush -- the only question is how decisive a repudiation, and what form it will take. McCain decisively repudiates Bush on torture, for example, which is one of the many reasons I admire him. And he proposes, and I believe him because of his long record as a deficit hawk, that he will be tough as nails on needless new spending, which is critically necessary after the drunken spending spree both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been on these last 8 years, all of them overseen by President Bush with nary a veto.
Obama, on the other hand, promises to change everything -- except to rein in the profligate government spending. His only quibble with government spending is that we have not spent enough. On health care, more government spending. On the environment, more government spending. On a whole host of issues, the problem for Obama is framed as being the rich and/or the war in Iraq. The Obama solution: withdraw from Iraq post-haste, and tax the rich, and the combination of the two will pay for all his wonderful new government programs, which he says will benefit 95% of America.
So who's Ford in this parallel, and who is Carter? As if you didn't guess already, I think McCain stands in as Ford, and Obama as Carter. And that's where the problem lies... both Ford and Carter were repudiations of the much-despised Nixon, but Ford was a moderate repudiation while Carter was an ultra-liberal one. Personally, I much prefer the Ford model -- an honorable, moderate Republican battling the excesses of a profoundly liberal Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House.
Was Carter more effective, for having inherited such a Democratic Congress after having defeated Ford? No, he was not. As I predict will be the case with Obama, Carter was rolled by the Democrats in Congress, and was increasingly regarded in his own party as weak and ineffectual. This judgement was mirrored abroad by our old enemies in the Soviet Union, and our then-new enemies the Ayatollahs taking over Iran while Carter watched, helplessly.
Folks thought that things couldn't get worse in 1976, and that Carter would turn things around, would "save" America. I see a similar sentiment now, that things can't get any worse, and that only Obama can save America now.
I fear Obama will make things much worse, that he will follow the Carter model of being rolled by aggressive Democrats in Congress, and emboldened adversaries such as Putin in Russia, Chavez in Venezuela, and the decaying, corrupt Ayatollah's regime in Iran. Also, as was the case with Vietnam, where the Democrats cut off all military aid to South Vietnam and let it collapse, I fear the Democrats under Obama will gladly cut off all aid to the nascent democratic government in Iraq, regardless of the disastrous consequences for ordinary Iraqis or for American prestige.
Even if McCain is not the Reagan figure so many Republicans still hunger for (maybe Palin is? we'll see!), I think the American people would be better served in the next four years by a moderate, effective President McCain facing down a Democratic Congress than by an ultra-liberal and ineffectual President Obama being dominated by that very same Congress.