I listened Wednesday night to the final debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. I won't presume to say who won. I wasn't on the debate team in school, and I've never studied how debates are supposed to be judged. What objective standards are we supposed to use to score debates?
However, my subjective impression of the third debate, as it has been of the two previous ones, is that Obama came across as much more presidential in his nuanced understanding of the world, his unflappably calm and self-assured temperament, his pragmatism, his earnestness, and his charismatic vitality. By contrast, McCain came across as doddering, desperate, dismissive, sarcastic, nervous, awkward, overly ideological, and vapid.
I suspect that a growing majority of the American public perceive the two candidates largely the same way and that this, more than philosophical or policy differences, is what's giving Obama his daunting lead in the polls. It's not so much that we think Obama has the better preconceived plans for improving the economy and confronting the innumerable other challenges that face our nation as it is that we believe Obama has the superior intellectual and emotional resources to handle the rigors of the job and solve formidable problems as they arise.
I suspect that this is to what "we the people" are always paying the most attention. Yes, we listen to the candidates discuss and debate their political and economic philosophies and policies, but what we really want to know is who can step into the Oval Office and on to the world stage and best accomplish what a president of the world's most powerful nation needs to for the sake of the nation and the world. And political ideologies and policy proposals are far less predictive of this than are the elusive constellation of qualities that Barack Obama appears to have in abundance and John McCain does not.
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