Here's who really won Tuesday night's debate: Barack Obama's schedulers and advance teams. Silently and seamlessly, those anonymous campaign staffers created the half-hour of compelling television that followed the debate itself.
We all know about the difference between the responses of those who listened to the first Kennedy-Nixon debate on the radio versus those who watched it on television. I did both last night and the same was true.
McCain's supporters seemed happy with the ground rules. Obama's supporters seemed happy with the results. But many were troubled by the debate organizers' claim of true public participation in Tuesday's forum.
McCain's slur about the Adler projector reveals both the slovenly nature of his campaign's opposition research as well as a disconnect from reality. This is a high-tech scientific educational project, not an entertainment device.
McCain not only pointed his finger angrily at his opponent, but chose to refer to a black man in a way that omitted any reference to his humanity. Even if that was not his intention, it was not a particularly deft move.
Last night's debate came close to a Donald Rumsfeld press conference: "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know..."
McCain said: "I will always put my country first." The vision of his scary Vice Presidential choice leapt in front of my eyes and I couldn't help an involuntary cry to the television: "Like hell you do!"
Well, for a town-hall meeting, I sure didn't see a whole lot of 'town." A couple dozen of over-lit, under-whelmed people who got free tickets. As a comic, I have to say, that really looked like a tough house.
Why are these debates so incredibly boring? Is it McCain telling us constantly he is our friend while he grimaces in a way that is friendly to no one? Or is it Obama keeping his cool despite all the idiotic lies and provocations?