Like most such events, the Presidential debate between Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain was pretty much a draw last night. Not really a surprise. With the rare exception of the single exchange between Bernie Shaw and Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen in the same election year, these things really don't produce all that much. The much-hyped Gore-sigh was a non-event until a few right-wingers noticed it and made much more of it than it was (for details, see Bob Somerby's many mentions of the invention of the myth of Sighing Al). Equally silly and false, there was the discussion of Pres. Bush looking at his watch during a 1992 appearance with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. The idea that these little tics and asides are noticed and become iconic moments is nothing more or less than the fantasizing of people trying to create drama where none really exists.
Having said that the event was pretty much a draw and non-dramatic, I will say that I think this presents a problem for John McCain. Part of his argument has always been that he is far more experienced and knowledgeable about foreign policy matters; that his judgment, especially concerning the war in Iraq, is far superior to Sen. Obama's. Now, anyone considering the actual facts of the matter would question the basis of such a claim, but we'll let that slide for the moment. For our purposes, I would only ask folks to think about this: If McCain has such a great grasp of foreign policy, and if his judgment is far more sound that Obama's, then how could Obama hold his own? How is it possible for Barack Obama to be able to stand on the stage with McCain and not end up with egg on his face, is McCain is the expert?
This is to say that the results of a tie, at least in this case, go to Obama, at least on points.
Having said this, I don't think this matters in the immediate aftermath. Unless someone finds a video clip of Obama sighing while looking at his watch and humming Rage Against the Machine songs while putting his prayer rug down, pointing towards Mecca, I think most people will consider the debate as some kind of hermetically sealed event, cut off from the arguments both campaigns have been making, and from the events of the past couple weeks. Had Jim Lehrer been smart, savvy, or even as tricksey as Bernie Shaw twenty years ago, he might have had a good "gotcha" for each candidate, with McCain's manic weirdness from the past couple days being top of the list. He did not do so, more's the pity.
Over all, this debate didn't really do much more than allow each candidate to repeat his talking points, elaborating a bit. I think a far more interesting debate will be next Thursday's between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. I do so hope that Biden sets aside any thoughts of chivalry and deference. I think it might be funny if one question concerned her understanding of the English language, since - from the various clips circling around from her interview with Katie Couric - it seems clear she can't even construct a sentence.