THE BLOG
09/26/2008 11:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Flatlining the Debate [Updated]

Since John McCain has already declared himself winner of the first debate (even if he is not Miss Congeniality), does it matter that he seemed like a doddering old party stuck in another era of politics? He was better than Ambien, better than Lunesta in putting the electorate to sleep.

Watching the "debate" with the blue, red and green lines rising and falling, it was stunning to watch the lines go flat as voters of all persuasions dozed off. McCain seemed intent on giving us a tour of all the war zones he'd visited and I'm afraid he occasionally dragged Obama down to his snooze-fest level. He mentioned Ronald Reagan almost as much as he mentioned his war-zone visits and everyone fell asleep.

He seemed to think "You're wrong!" was a rhetorical flourish.

I wish Barack Obama had lifted himself above Mc Cain's snooze-lines. At times, he seemed infected by McCain's lethargy. But Obama was clearer and cleaner in verbal style than he's ever been. I wish he weren't so generous in acknowledging McCain. Perhaps he is too kind to his mean-spirited rival. He is more gentlemanly than he needs to be. It must be a great burden not to seem "uppity." But his new clarity was certainly welcome.

I do hope Obama will continue his clear, direct delivery. I would still like more fire from him. He is authoritative and knowledgeable but at this point. his cool may be self-defeating.

What a bind he must be in! He has to be cool for the people who think he's uppity. He has to be knowledgeable for the people who think he's a new newbie. He did both well. But let's have the fire next time.


UPDATE, 9/27:

Watching the first debate with two friends from the UK--one a Member of Parliament and one a novelist who is a life-long Labour Party supporter, I became aware of things Americans might not notice: One was McCain's low level of fact checking and consistency, his assumption that the electorate would not notice his many reversals and descents into gobbledy gook. The other was my MP friend's commentary on rhetorical mistakes: the over use of sentences beginning with "I" by both candidates, the misunderstanding of the art of debate (better honed in the UK).

But we all agreed that in substance Obama was the most presidential, the most prepared to lead this complex country and the most open-minded. He has both intelligence and emotional intelligence. We could all imagine him negotiating with foreign powers, deliberating calmly on domestic problems, and bringing his far-reaching intellect and obvious goodwill to bear on all matters.

In no way do I mean to slight Obama for his cool deliberation. It is a great strength in a public servant. Sometimes the campaign trail calls for more emphatic statements. Obama is learning that as he goes along.

The main point is: we would all feel comfortable with this smart, humane man in the White House. His values are sound. His brain is capacious and wise. We all wished he were already there!

Read more reactions to the first presidential debate from HuffPost bloggers, including Nora Ephron, Bob Shrum, Madeleine Albright, Paul Reiser, Arianna Huffington, Sean Penn, Sheryl Crow, and more.