Obama began the debate by allowing McCain to get away with claiming the mantle of "accountability" on the issue of a bailout that rewards fraud in financial markets. Why? Because Obama won't oppose the bailout.
Obama finally spoke up on a serious and good difference with McCain on taxes, even going so far as to speak in favor of taxing businesses rather than people, but allowed McCain to seize the high ground on earmarks and "pork barrel spending."
In most cases, Obama spoke on one topic and McCain on another. This was not a debate in which both were required to speak on the same points.
Obama openly promised shock-doctrinal success for the bailout, telling us that he will have to cut back spending for useful projects. But he took the opportunity to speak about the need for all the things he may or may not fund.
Obama said, as he said many times, that he agreed with McCain, but he went to the topic of waste in Medicare and completely avoided the topic of the military.
McCain proposed a spending freeze on everything except military, and Obama rightly refused to agree! He suggested he wouldn't freeze early childhood education but he would end the war in Iraq. This blip went by very quickly, though, and then McCain ran his mouth for a long time on energy alternatives.
But Obama came back stressing health care as a priority over tax cuts for billionaires. McCain claimed Obama wants to deny people choice of doctors and claimed that he, McCain, supports the needs of veterans -- both untrue, but who would know it?
What are the lessons of Iraq? McCain said the lesson is that you need more troops. Obama said the war should never have been begun, that we should have focused on a war in Afghanistan. Nobody suggested there was any problem with aggressive wars and empire.
McCain repeated his surge hype, and Obama went along and agreed the surge was the big success it's alleged to be, but stressed that the whole "war" was a disaster.
When McCain claimed Obama voted against "funding troops" Obama replied well, although without challenging the absurd lie that funding a war is funding the soldiers. Obama by this point was looking less nervous and more energetic.
Obama came back nicely (other than the illegal militaristic policies he advocated) and went after McCain for advocating the extinction of North Korea and singing songs about bombing Iran.
But then McCain ran on and on and on. Did he talk many more minutes of this debate than Obama or just seem like it?