Debate night

After several months of exchanging gripes over non-issues (âÄúlipstick on a pigâÄù and John McCainâÄôs real estate ignorance come to mind), FridayâÄôs presidential debate had the potential for both candidates to clearly make their case before the nation. While portions of the debate were tied up in aimless rhetorical jockeying, it did provide the undecided or uninformed voter a window into both candidatesâÄô positions. What Americans saw on Friday night: a return of McCainâÄôs âÄústraight talk,âÄù specifically on government spending. Barack Obama also managed to break out of his historically stiff debate personality and speak casually with the American people, at one point rather bluntly describing the Bush administrationâÄôs âÄúorgy of spending.âÄù Both men also restated their commitment to their current foreign policy postures, with Obama reiterating his support for shifting military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, while McCain continued to cheer the current strategy while simultaneously chastising Obama for not âÄúsupporting the surge.âÄù But what Americans did not see on Friday should be considered, as well. Amid the incessant repetition of the Wall Street and Main Street riff, neither candidate staked out a firm position on the pending bailout and its consequences. When asked what programs they would cut, both McCain and Obama provided vague answers that failed to specifically emphasize what changes they would have to make to their economic governance. Both men also showed unreasoned reflexive pandering on the issue of Israel and unoriginal statements reiterating familiar foreign policy talking points, as though the political situation throughout the world has been unchanging for the past 18 months. Furthermore, in spite of Jim LehrerâÄôs best efforts, McCain and Obama seldom spoke directly to one another and contemptuously refused to even look at each other. In the end, nobody walked away a clear victor, but voters who were looking for a general illustration of how each candidate would run the country should not have been disappointed. If nothing else, the debate showed two very different philosophies.