John McCain was very lucky that he decided to show up for the first presidential debate in Oxford, Miss., Friday night. Because he gave one of his strongest debate performances ever.
While Barack Obama repeatedly tried to link McCain to the very unpopular George W. Bush, Bush’s name will not be on the ballot in November and McCain’s will.
And McCain not only found a central theme but hit on it repeatedly. Obama is inexperienced, naïve, and just doesn’t understand things, McCain said.
Sure, McCain is a pretty old guy for a presidential candidate, but he showed the old guy did not mind mixing it up. He stood behind a lectern for 90 minutes without a break — you try that when you are 72 — and he not only gave as good as he got, he seemed to relish it more.
At least twice after sharp attacks by McCain, Obama seemed to look to moderator Jim Lehrer for help, saying to Lehrer, “Let’s move on.”
[. . .]
. . . McCain just pounded away on his central argument: Obama just didn’t “understand” how to deal with Pakistan; how dangerous it is to meet with foreign leaders without preconditions; how serious the Russian invasion of Georgia was; the price of failure in Iraq.
“He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t get it,” McCain said of Obama, also saying, “There is a little bit of naiveté here.”
It was as if McCain was paying Obama back for that moment in Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention when Obama said McCain would not serve America well, “not because John McCain doesn’t care; it’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.”
That last is for Obama supporters who were offended that McCain accused Obama of not getting it. Your man tried the same stunt. Sauce, goose, gander, etc. And note that while McCain’s “he just doesn’t understand/doesn’t get it” narrative rang loud and clear throughout the debate, there was no competing narrative from Obama.
Except, of course, for “I agree with John.” Or from time to time, “I agree with Senator McCain.” Gotta love the variety.