The first presidential debate has happened. It lasted 97 minutes. The moderator, Jim Lehrer, was disappointing. His questions addressed broad concepts rather than clear issues, and he did a terrible job keeping the candidates in check. He was supposed to moderate the debate. Instead, he posed questions that allowed the candidates to recite their talking points and argue semantics without having to cite their sources. John McCain took full advantage, extending his answers well beyond the alotted time and changing the subject with long-winded anecdotes. Barack Obama had the decency to ask Lehrer to continue at one point, but he, too, was guilty of taking advantage of Lehrer's meekness. Hopefully, the next two debates will have better moderators.
As for the actual content, John McCain kept his cool better than anybody expected. For the majority of the debate, he answered his questions with a level head, but most of his responses had zero substance. Half the time, Senator Obama had to interrupt him because he was supporting his points with pure falsehoods. Barack Obama successfully rebutted dozens of times throughout the night. His constant interjections of "Not true, John" did well to dismantle many of McCain's tired talking points.
The climax came during a question on dealing with foreign leaders, when John McCain vehemently disagreed with Barack Obama on the importance of talking with Ahmadinejad of Iran. McCain forcefully defended his refusal to talk to aggressive foreign leaders, while Obama dismissed him as erratic and undiplomatic. This exchange showed Senator's McCain's true temperament, a frustrated man whose worldview is racist and Americacentric. The best jab came when Obama asked McCain if he'd refuse to meet with Spain, referencing McCain's gaffe last week. He had no response.
The closing remarks of the candidates were particularly important. Barack Obama spent several minutes talking about the world's opinion of the United States. Having recently spent several months abroad, his vision of bettering America's standing on the international stage resonated with me deeply. McCain's closing remarks on placing trust in his experience did not.
The outcome of this debate will not be considered the best case scenario for either candidate. John McCain, on the surface, was able to hold his own. Elementary investigation into his points would reveal his inadequacy as a candidate, but that doesn't mean he will lose any blind supporters. I think Barack Obama successfully strengthened his base support and his performance will usher left leaning independents to his side. It's too early, however, to declare a winner.