Whoa, cool! I didn't expect Jonathan to liveblog. Thanks. We were watching over at Gagnon's but abandoned ship after 45 minutes.
I'm not sure who won the debate, but I doubt it was the American people. McCain was the first to actually answer a question, on his third try. I gave Obama credit for answering his fifth question, but it was marginal. Lehrer was good as pressing them for specifics, but he had asked such open-ended questions to begin with that he was practically begging them to recite memorized speeches.
Both guys got their main talking points in, which is irritating to whatever percentage of people have been following them for the last year. They were aiming at those who haven't been attending, I suppose, and wanted to make sure they got them in. Tedious. They recited their lessons.
I thought Obama showed the same problem I saw in Giuliani in debate a year ago: he seems unable to bear to listen to someone saying things he disagrees with. Not a good sign.
I wanted wisecracks. I don't think that is just for entertainment and comic relief, but because things can sometimes be said more efficiently that way. Whenever Obama tried to tie McCain to the last 8 years I wanted John to say something like "I imagine George Bush will be fascinated by your theory that I was one of his greatest supporters. Be sure and mention it next time you see him." Obama has a face that could do comedy, and as long as he didn't overdo it by rolling his eyes or something, could have gotten a lot of mileage from an occasional sideways glance and barely raised eyebrow. I see now how Reagan got such mileage out of "Where's the beef" and "There you go again." Those are hardly guffaw lines, but pent-up audience tension from listening to serious people blathering makes humor easier. They know what points are coming - couldn't someone work that in?