10/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain's Debate Message: How To Lose More Friends And Alienate People

So Iraq remains the central front in the war on terror, does it? To listen to John McCain speaking in tonight's debate was to be thrust back into a time warp, where the disgrace of Vietnam has to be rubbed out, al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are plotting together, and America must go on a crusade to stomp out the infidels. For someone who purports to represent change, McCain offered muddled arguments that are almost as old as he is himself. By focusing so narrowly on the unpopular Iraq War, McCain is almost surely speeding up his own inevitable decline in the polls.

It was Barack Obama who came across as the insurgent seeking change, while McCain represented the Republican establishment. Obama landed the crushing blows by pointing out the obvious: the Bush administration's, and by extension McCain's, obsession with Iraq for the past eight years has only succeeded in crippling American power and security. McCain, he noted, has been wrong, over and over again, in predicting that Iraq would be a cakewalk and that there would be no real ethnic enmities inside it. As Obama announced that he would target and kill Osama bin-Laden, McCain could only stare in mute stupefaction.

Meanwhile, McCain tried to paint Obama as a kind of naive Beverly Hills chihuahua who would be lost as soon as he traveled to a foreign country. His grandfatherly tone was supposed to provide reassurance that he would guide the American foreign policy tiller with a sure hand, while Obama would capsize. But whether it's Russia or the Middle East, McCain's unctuous tone tonight could not disguise the fact that he's even more bellicose than Bush himself. Obama, by contrast, wants to begin the overdue job of restoring America's image abroad. All McCain proved once more is that he knows full well how to continue the Bush legacy of losing friends abroad and alienating people.

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.