Friday's presidential debate highlighted two things. First, Barack Obama indeed has the experience, knowledge and fortitude to be a great American president. He politely considered McCain's attacks, then confidently countered them. He presented the issues and his determined plans to solve them. Agree with it or not, he has a new, forward-looking strategy.
Secondly, the debate showed that John McCain is a shadow of his former self. This is not because of his years. It is because he has lost touch with America. He thinks we are still in the 20th Century. He thinks we are still in Vietnam. But even more regretful, Sen. McCain has lost touch with himself. He still calls himself The Maverick, but he knows it doesn't ring true. Not after he caved on tax cuts, caved on religious fundamentalists, caved on his running mate. Throughout the debate, McCain couldn't bring himself to even look at Barack Obama. McCain spent a good part of the debate grumbling into the podium. At first I thought it was because McCain was angry, but then it became clearer. He couldn't face his opponent because he can't really face himself--the compromised version of himself.
This campaign and the Republican Party have done what the North Vietnamese could not. They turned him. They broke him. Obama is a lean, strong reminder of the sort of tenacious achiever McCain used to be, of the Maverick he once was. And McCain couldn't bear to face that reality.