This 90 minutes of live TV dragged in the middle (it felt like a very long middle), the perfs were wooden at times and the script repetitive in many parts. I was looking at the clock by the time it wrapped up.
In the post-debate pundit sweepstakes, I flipped around the dial Friday night, and found myself agreeing with CBS News' Bob Schieffer, as is often the case.
"There was no knockout here tonight," Schieffer opined to Katie Couric. "Nobody made any gaffes. We're about where we were when we went in" in terms of public perception of the GOP and Democratic hopefuls, he said.
I feel shallow complaining about the lack of theatrics or fireworks, but c'mon, with the polls this tight didn't someone think about a little sizzle? A zinger or two? Moderator Jim Lehrer, to his credit, kept the discussion focused on serious stuff. It veered into petty-fussy here and there when McCain and Obama felt the other was misrepresenting the other's position or voting record, etc.
But even there, neither seemed to break a sweat, although McCain definitely registered irritation with a wince-smirk far more than Obama did. He looked like he was holding back a "nyah nyah" when he was needling Obama about his shortcomings (in McCain's view) as chairman of of the Senate's Foreign Relations subcommittee on European Affairs.
You know you're in a dry debate when one of the most animated moments between the participants comes in a tussle over what Henry Kissinger (him again?!) did or didn't say about who the president should or should not meet with.
There might've at least been some humor to be found in McCain and Obama's dueling pronunciations of the surname of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad surname, except that there's nothing funny about that cretinous anti-Semite and his dangerous anti-Israel campaign.
Going through my notes, if I had to pick a few memorable lines from this gabfest, I'd have to give the advantage to Obama. It took courage for him to raise the issue of America's diminished standing in the world in the last five weeks of the campaign.
"We are less respected now than we were eight years ago," he said.
And this from earlier in the debate, after McCain went on and on about the "brilliant" Gen. David Patraeus and how the surge is working in Iraq: "You like to pretend the war started in 2007."
McCain, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy saying the phrase "pork barrel spending."
And he used the only prop of the night when during a rant about the dangers of other white meat in politics.
"I've got a pen," he said, holding up what appeared to be a Sharpie to amplify his assertion that he would use his line-item veto to strip such spending out of bills, and draw public attention to those who seek earmarks. But he came across sounding more like an agent than a presidential candidate. "You will know their names. I will make them famous."
Although McCain and Obama fell all over themselves trying to prove how much they are a friend to "Main Street," it was Lehrer who spoke for us at home in moment of frustration at not getting a concrete answer from either candidate on how the economic crisis would affect their governing agendas.
Surely the talk of a $700 billion (or more) bailout of the financial sector would have to put a crimp on some of their grand plans, Lehrer queried, more than once. After both responded in vague generalities (Obama wouldn't budge and kept yakking about what he has to do to save the country, Lehrer looked at the senators standing in front of him as if he wanted to knock their heads together.
"One of you is going to president of the United States in January..." Now there's a memorable line.