Obama Wins First Debate

Despite John McCain’s purchase of internet ads earlier in the day proclaiming victory before he even agreed to participate, the first debate turned out to be a  win for Barack Obama. Obama was cool, calm, and presidential. McCain spent the debate searching for ways to take cheap shots against Obama while making several factual errors. Errors ranged from his statement on Eisenhower’s two letters to the names of foreign leaders.

John McCain wasn’t even consistent in his attacks. Early in the debate McCain claimed “Senator Obama has shifted on a number of occasions.” Later he claimed Obama was too inflexible like George Bush. Obama can’t be both shifting and inflexible. It was particularly absurd for McCain to accuse Obama of being like George Bush when it is McCain who holds essentially the same positions as Bush on most issues.

McCain’s primary attack line was to claim that Obama doesn’t understand foreign policy or is naive. Obama shot this down when he showed that it has been McCain who has repeatedly been wrong and has repeatedly showed poor judgment:

“When the war started you said it was quick and easy, you said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong.

“You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni and you were wrong.”

McCain showed that he just does not get it when he claimed that the next president will have to decide when and how to leave Iraq and what the United States will leave behind, while trying to downplay the decision of whether to go to war. While the decision with regards to going to war in Iraq is history, future presidents will have to decide whether to go to war. McCain’s poor judgment in supporting the decision to go to war in Iraq shows he cannot be trusted in the future to make decisions regarding whether to go to war.

McCain clearly had decided before the debate that he would repeatedly claim Obama did not understand foreign policy but this didn’t fool viewers who were watching Obama discuss foreign policy issues in more detail and more coherently than McCain. The networks which tracked audience reaction among independents found favorable responses to Obama’s statements on the issues and negative responses to McCain’s attacks. While McCain was engaging in cheap attacks, Obama showed his ability at seeking bipartisan cooperation when he was willing to say McCain was right when he was right and explained why McCain was wrong when he was wrong.

It seems that Henry Kissinger’s name has come up more in the past few days than in the past decade as Obama and McCain differed over negotiations with enemies. Andrew Sullivan noted that Kissinger “who was prepared to meet with Mao, is not exactly queasy about directly engaging foreign tyrants.” He cited a recent statement from Kissinger supporting high level talks with Iran without conditions. The absense of preconditions is far more important than which specific leaders are involved in such talks.

McCain distorted and attacked Obama’s position on Pakistan without seeming to realize that Obama’s view represents present U.S. policy and that George Bush had gone into Pakistan earlier this month.

McCain also appeared much less prepared than Obama, often repeating lines from his stump speech and convention acceptance speech. Was it really smart to repeat his joke twice about not being elected Miss Congeniality in the Senate when his running mate really was Miss Congeniality? McCain’s error in choosing his running mate was demonstrated in the post-debate coverage. Joe Biden was all over television supporting Obama’s positions while the McCain campaign did not dare allow Sarah Palin to appear on television. Yet we are to believe she can take over as president should they be elected and McCain were to become incapacitated?

Obama also won the pre-debate battles, both in forcing McCain to back down on his threat not to appear and in rearranging the schedule to have the foreign policy debate first and the debate on the economy second. If McCain could not win a debate in the area of his supposed strength he will have an even harder job at winning a debate on the economy. We got a preview of this at the start of the debate when the financial crisis caused Jim Lehrer to first ask about the economy. McCain could not say anything coherent on any topics beyond cutting spending and cutting earmarks. McCain sounded especially weak and hypocritical in criticizing Obama for seeking funds for Illinois when compared to the much greater requests per capita by Sarah Palin.

It is also notable that Barack Obama wore a flag pin but John McCain did not. Does John McCain hate America?

The first post-debate polls show a victory for Obama among independents. CBS News/Knowledge Network40% of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. 22% thought John McCain won. 38% saw it as a draw. Media Curves found that independents agreed with Obama on the issues discussed found that. CNN had Obama winning 51% to 38%.

For more opinions, Andrew Sullivan has a run down of comments from live bloggers tonight.


  1. 1
    Tommie Young says:

    There is a time and place for everything. A time to be born; a time to die. Few want to get old and wiped off the scene. I don’t. But I must as time is calling–and it is calling John McCain. Time has passed him by. He is a war hero. A grumpy, spiteful, and angry man. And being old he deserves to ‘steal away’–quietly. I wish he would, and not embarrass us older folk. Obama represents the present-the future. Forget his pigment. The color of brains is gray. He’s loaded with that. Let the sunshine in–a new day. A new direction. A better tomorrow.

  2. 2
    Andy says:

    All that Obama has done is pose for every magazine cover, went on every daytime & latenight talk show, & spend over 100 million dollars making sure his ad’s are on EVERY website online. Mccain on the other hand, has been working. Mccain doesn’t have the luxary of acting like Paris Hilton, he accually goes to work everyday. Maybe Obama should spend less time in colleges, with his team going around making sure every 18 year old is registered to vote for you know who, & spend more time with his nose to the grindstone.

  3. 3
    Rudolf Hartono says:

    The words of Tommy Young are absolutely right!
    Those are wise spoken words! With all my respect to John McCain I wonder why has it  come so far with John McCain. I really don’t understand. And why is it that nobody of his friends could have tell and explain him that his time has already passed.   It is because Obama who is a very wise human person, who never will make the elderness of McCain as an issue during his campaign!!
    Barrack Obama the next president of the United States!

  4. 4
    Scott Rainnes says:

    Was it Confuscious that once said, “You can cover your “ills” with make-up, but you can’t “make-up” for your ills?”Nah- come to think of it, that was me… Anyhow, Obama has shown time, time & again, including lin last night’s first debate, that he is clearly a True Leader, Diplomat, and frankly, most physically & mentally “fit” to be our next President…The contrast in both Presidential candidates is as clear in the Vice-Presidential canditdates as well…Obama/Biden is the ticket of the “future” and we can only hope that America is ready to “MARCH ON!!!”

  5. 5
    OutsideTheCountry says:

    It’s embarrassingly obvious that the Republicans are doing their best to throw the election.

  6. 6
    derek says:

    WOW this is what OZ looks like.  You know what I find facinating is that CBS puts out polls after the debate that don’t seem to add up while their dwindling masses do the hamster dance.  109%, of those who polled the 68% majority to the 41% minority think Obama can do a better job with the economy.  104%, of those polled on Iraq said by a 55% to 49% gap that McCain is better on the war.  Let’s be accurate in the duty of reporting the news giving 110% is an ideal not a fact.

    9 times Obam was forced to agree with McCain
    Obama could not control himself when McCain undressed his position on several issues and Obama had to interupt.  Conversely McCain stowickly stood in comic relief floored at some of the absolute BS Obama was attempting to get by the veiwers.  Then every time he made the Dali Bama cut himself a switch and took him straight out to the wood shed where he tanned his hide.

    Short visit won’t return I saw a track back from that phony poll but you clowns keep going eventually somebody stupid will come along and join

  7. 7
    Chicago Steve says:

    I watched part of the debate with no sound because we were at a bar that had the cubs game on.  Obama appeared confident, direct, forceful.  McCain looked angry, annoyed, and condescending with his mock smile every time that Obama was on the attack.

  8. 8
    Pamula Vanvleet says:

    Like Wow!!! I used to vote Republican only, but after that debate and what I have seen of the Rep party over the last eight years, I truly believe it is time for a change…….Obama will be that change……..

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:


    Internet ads? Both candidates do that. At least Obama didn’t buy ads claiming he won the debate Friday morning, before he even agreed to participate in the debate.

    McCain actually goes to work every day? Guess again. He has been absent from the Senate the vast majority of the time since he first began to run. He has been present far less often and cast far less Senate votes than Obama during the campaigns.

    As for the celebrity BS, it is actually McCain who has frequently appeared on entertainment television shows and has partied with celebrities.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:


    Nice try trying to discredit the poll because you don’t like its findings that Obama won, but you forget that there were at least three polls after the debates showing the same result, plus the reactions being tracked by some of the networks also showed that independents were more impressed with Obama.

    Obama was not “forced” to agree with McCain. Obama pointed out areas where he already agreed with him. There’s a big difference here, but Republicans who are more concerned with attacking than serious discussion of the issues wouldn’t understand that. Of course while Obama was not afraid, as McCain was, to acknowledge where they agreed, he also was successful in pointing out where McCain was wrong while McCain could not accomplish this.

  11. 11
    EVELYN says:

    I AM GLAD OBAMA, WON THE FIRST DEBATE,it showed people he know’s what he is talking about and what he will do,as Pres. and He will keep his word, I don’t like the way McCain,attact’s with lie’s like he has been doing since I have been watching the debate, and the other talk’s going on,OBAMA, speak’s from his heart for other’s, not just lip service.
    Yes OBAMA is the right man for the Pres.He will do very well in all way’s, and sometime’s talking with some one on and about war is better than bring in the gun’s and causing more blood to flow.
    it is like 2 kid’s fighting, if they talk thing’s out there would be less blood shed

  12. 12
    Mark Baker-Wright says:

    I’m just looking for a count of how many times McCain used the name “Reagan” in the debate.  I only saw the last 40 minutes, but it sure seemed like Reagan was mentioned quite a lot….

  13. 13
    Ron Chusid says:

    I only see four times.

  14. 14
    Roschelle says:

    Many conservatives think the McCain/Palin campaign is fading fast and are hoping for a Shotgun Wedding to give their candidates a boost!

  15. 15
    B.K. says:

    This message is for Andy.  It’s sad that people like you are really allowed to vote.  Do you think that Obama’s not working?  Comparing him to Paris Hilton is foolish.  He is smart and trustworthy and well deserving of becoming our next president.  I honestly think McCain has millions of American’s fooled.  It was in his best interest to be more proactive when it came to the $700 Billion Bailout.  It was his way of drawing the attention of voters and making them think that he would make wise decisions for Americans in the future.  You don’t even know just how involved McCain really was with this Bailout.    By getting more involved with the bailout, McCain was buying time before the Presidential Debate so he could have some excuse not to show up.  I can see why.  He was not ready and I don’t think he made a good impression on most voters. 

  16. 16
    Bettye Blackmon says:

    To Andy,
    It is old foggies like you that will never change.  You hear
    what you want to hear, you see what you want to see and
    critisize people that are striving for a change.  We need Obama for president not McCain.  By the way I also watched the debate and listened, (something you founded hard to assertain).  Had you paid attention instead of using
    your own made up mind you would have realized the
    difference of the two debaters.  Obama made sense, McCain did not.

  17. 17
    Sarah Palin says:

    Interesting article. I really like your blog overall. Really makes me think! Thanks!

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