Presidential debate: No knockouts, no gaffes, no pizzazz

Mccainobamadebate_2The first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama was substantive, sophisticated and, of course, historic. But it was not great television.

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.