Now I understand why Americans are in the habit of electing governors. Put two senators on the national stage and what you get is humdrum political theater. Here are the kinds of sentences you hear when these two legislators go at it:
"I introduced a bill..."
"I wrote a letter..."
"I put out a statement..."
"I've taken on the special interests."
"I've reached across the aisle."
"I voted against an energy bill loaded with goodies."
And lots of stuff about earmarks.
Why can't these two genuinely compelling human beings and best-selling authors get a debate going with trace elements of electricity? The most jarring clash of the entire debate was Tom Brokaw's green jacket and red tie set against the blue set.
That being said, on this night, Obama was the better senator. He demonstrated an ability to use words to construct sentences that connected to each other to express an idea. With each answer, he began with specifics and widened out to context —or sometimes the other way around. Senator McCain, on the other hand, spent most of his time repeating a memorized list of grievances about his opponent, hectoring from one to the next.
For a Senate debate you might watch on C-SPAN2, it would have been pretty good. For a presidential debate on the very eve of global economic crisis, it somehow managed to be boring. No defining moments. No sound bites for the ages. No surprises to speak of. Sure there was some substance but scarce little drama. On this morning following a presidential debate, water cooler conversations might have to be about the taste of the water. Thank God Barack Obama rejected John McCain's proposal for ten ninety-minute town hall debates. Because this one alone seemed like it lasted for 15 hours.
Mark Katz is a Humorist, political speech writer and author of Clinton & Me: A Real Life Political Comedy