I jotted out the following during the last ten minutes of the debate:
McCain has far exceeded my own expectations for his performance in this debate. He sounded remarkably convincing and knowledgeable. Except for when the topic was the economy, my mind more often wandered while Obama spoke. It was as if I did not feel I would miss anything by not paying too close attention to Obama's thoughts about foreign policy. Obama seemed to agree with McCain about a lot of things.
Surprisingly, I actually thought McCain's statements about Pakistan and Afghanistan were reassuring. I disagree with McCain about staying in Iraq. I disagree with McCain's stance concerning Iran. But I'm not convinced we need an escalation in Afghanistan -- something Obama seems to want. I thought McCain's retort that Obama has not spent enough time in Northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan was strong.
Obama may have made a major mistake by (retroactively) adopting -- verbatim --- McCain's position on Russia. Obama has made it clear to everyone tonight that he supports McCain's belligerent stance vis a vis Russia. Obama backs the provocative Western plan to invite Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Although arguably it is an important position he would want to maintain as a bargaining chip. Maybe Obama is just realistic; he assumes he does not have the credibility to shift the neocon-directed foreign policy concensus during a campaign. (Note: I blogged about NATO expansion here and here).
Having said that, I'm more convinced than ever that McCain is scary; that the McCain-Palin ticket must not be elected to the presidency. Towards the end of the debate McCain raised the specter of Russian aggression in the Crimea (I recently blogged about this prospect here). McCain's defiant stance regarding the Crimea is more frightening to me than his policy on Iran. Why? Because Russia has a very strong claim to the Crimea. I think if McCain wins -- a prospect which increased tonight -- relations among major global powers could well turn as erratic -- therefore tense and nerve-racking -- as this crazy election campaign.
Obama came across better in the earlier part of the debate which concerned the financial crisis, yet stopped short of delivering a knockout blow on that front. It looks like Obama will have to win this election on the economy.