Debate: Round One

McCain and Obama in first debate
McCain and Obama in first debate

Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama squared off this evening on their first presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi.  John McCain announced earlier Friday that although he suspended his campaign to help work on our nation’s financial crisis, he will be appearing at the debate at Ole Miss University.  All of the politics, attack ads, speeches, press statements, campaigning, and political conventions have come down to this first round of head to head contest between the two candidates.

First commentating on Jim Lehrer.  With the experience of 10 presidential debates under his belt, has been accused and criticized for being non-confrontational.  That did not seem to be the case, and quite evident during the first half-hour of the debate where he pushed McCain and Obama to more interaction.  The candidates at the beginning, seemed to want to make their cases in a typical way they would normally give press conferences, but Lehrer wouldn’t let that fly.  “Say it directly to him,” became an early theme and the two eventually followed along.

McCain and Obama head to head
McCain and Obama head to head

Even though this debate was supposed to be focused primarily on foreign policy, the great debate on our financial crisis that our country is facing was the first and most important topic debated Friday evening.  Pulling from an Eisenhower quote of “military strength being economic strength,” moderator Lehrer pulled the financial crisis into this first debate.  Once the debate did get into actual foreign policy, well over a half-hour after the start, with the question of, “what are the lessons of the Iraq War,” both McCain and Obama got equally fired up with their respective views. 

Throughout the debate Senator John McCain seemed quite adamant at bringing up the past, his history and his record on certain issues.  It was obvious at times that he did get excited and somewhat emotional.  Obama, seemingly came across more relaxed and at ease, even conceding to arguments the two agreed on.  But even though some points were conceded, many others were not.  Both candidates were active in correcting facts that were misrepresented. 

Not for nothin’, but it was a strong debate on both sides, with each making valid points.  The 90 minute plus debate over foreign policy was handicapped to approximately 50 minutes due to the issues on the economy and the financial crisis.  So by that rationale, and because the two had similar positions of needing more detail on the bailout plan, we would have to judge this debate on what we heard in those 50 minutes.  Obama a few times was stronger in confronting McCain on his opposing views and even made a point in directing his comments directly at McCain, specifically on the point of the Iraq war.  Despite who was right or wrong, Obama seemed to be a better debater especially at that point, and set the tone for the rest of the debate seemingly put the pressure on his opponent.  Being behind in the polls, losing this debate was something McCain couldn’t afford to do.  Not saying he did, but it was entertaining and made great fodder to set off the next few weeks of more debates and commentary.

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