McCain didn't even get close.
Substance mattered little. Few of the questions Tom Brokaw chose to ask the candidates were unoriginal and a bit insulting. Why bother picking the same foreign policy questions we heard answers to at the first debate? Did he think either candidate was going to change his position on Iran, Israel, Russia, Iraq, or Pakistan in two weeks?
But back to demeanor. McCain couldn't quite look in the eye a Black man from the audience who asked him a question. McCain condescended to him with a "you probably never even heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," and when the man raised his eyebrows as if to say, "get out of my face," McCain did just that, forgot his name, referring to him as someone else, and muttered some nonsense that had nothing to do with the question asked.
I suspect a lot of folks missed the conversation beneath the conversation. I suspect a lot of Black folks did not.
And so, later, when McCain showed his disdain for Barack Obama by referring to him as "that one" when drawing a distinction between their voting records on the Bush-Cheney energy bill, McCain stuck a dagger in his own heart. Take a look:
See the Black man sitting behind Barack Obama? That's the man McCain condescended to earlier in the debate. Notice the way he tilts his head to his right when McCain spits out his equivalent of "you people." As though he's been slapped right across the face. He was suppoedly an undecided voter before the debate. I bet he's undecided no more.
McCain's contempt for people of color and women has been well-documented. A man who would call his wife a trollop and a c*nt in public has no honor. No dignity. That he couldn't look at Barack Obama in the first debate, that he could dehumanize him in the second, all against the backdrop of the Klan rallies and the atmosphere of hate and violence he and his running mate have whipped up in recent days, proves beyond all reasonable doubt that John McCain is dangerously unfit to be president of the United States.
And thanks to the intense interest in this election, hundreds of millions of voters are finally seeing him for who he is.
As one of my favorite bloggers wrote:
10.33 pm. This was, I think, a mauling: a devastating and possibly electorally fatal debate for McCain. Even on Russia, he sounded a little out of it. I've watched a lot of debates and participated in many. I love debate and was trained as a boy in the British system to be a debater. I debated dozens of times at Oxofrd. All I can say is that, simply on terms of substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority, this has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out.It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate. It reminds me of the 1992 Clinton-Perot-Bush debate. I don't really see how the McCain campaign survives this.
Wednesday morning reactions:
Even conservatives can't spin the results from last night. Stephen Hayes from the Weekly Standard declares Obama the winner:
I cannot believe I actually agree with something written in the Weekly Standard!
While they did shake hands immediately following the debate, this was an odd moment captured on video. If someone puts out their hand, you shake it - no matter if you already have previously in the evening.
Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics thinks the town hall was boring and poorly-moderated, but no big news is good for Obama:
The Los Angeles Times looks at McCain's dilemma:
John Dickerson at Slate gives his take on the "that one" reference:
It was certainly condescending, and reinforces a message we saw come out of the first debate: John McCain's dislike for Barack Obama is so great he simply cannot hide it. A "cool hand at the tiller?" I think not. Make no mistake that this is getting A LOT of play. The top Google searches yesterday? #2: "that one" and #4: "mccain that one"
I love the headlines at the Telegraph in the UK. Alex Spillius pens a great one - Obama wins as McCain shows shades of McNasty:
Twenty years from now, will McCain's "that one" be included in other notable debate moments? If voters react like one undecided citizen from the Springfield News Leader (MO) focus group, it just might:
I expect to hear a lot more about "that one" today. I'm sure Letterman or SNL will find something good to do with it.
David Zurawick of the Baltimore Sun looks at McCain's other awkward moment of the night - when he condescendingly assumes a young African-American has never heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:
And they don't expect it to get any better after the debate:
At least someone is telling it like it is. I am truly saddened that more in the media are not expressing their outrage and disgust for the hate mongering the McCain campaign - and especially Sarah Palin - have perpetuated over the last few days.