But I think one of Sullivan's readers nailed it on McCain.
While he is more animated than usual, he recites the tired talking points of his stump speech we all have heard a million times. Not conversational like Obama, he says nothing remotely original. His responses are set pieces he has seared in his memory from countless repetition.
Apart from the style and the generally "grandpa tell me a story" approach to McCain's answers, I think there was stark contrast on the following questions:
Supreme Court Justices - Obama carefully reasoned it out. Thoroughly. McCain just picked those he didn't agree with. I never thought I'd say this, but this is Bush III to a tee. No time for thinking, here. You are for us or you are against us. This is why folks like me (who in the past might have called themselves "conservative" but now are afraid to use the term) would even consider a Democrat this year. And this Democrat. And the answer on Roberts and Executive Power was right on the money. McCain is either not capable of this or sort of thoughtfullness or is not willing to show it. I'm not sure which is worse. We need competence, not ideology.
Taxes - How can the "Democrats will raise you taxes" work in 2008? I guess that is all Republican party have? I did happily find out I was middle class, though. I was sort of worried. McCain used humor to defuse his arrogance and ignorance and dodge the question. It's all about hope and optimism and other 20th Century cliches that will not rebuild our infrastructure or solve this century's problems.
Evil - McCain is delusional if he thinks AQI (or even AQ) is the greatest evil and that Iraq is where we will defeat evil. Evil can only be defeated by God. Obama stressed the need from humility and how evil can be done by those trying to do good -- to do God's work. It is Bush's (and Rumsfeld's) hubris that by hard power alone we can exact change that we can spread "freedom" (insert your best Dubya pronunciation here) The world does not work like that. In the 1980s (whether through luck or by strategy) talked about the "Evil Empire" and it appeared to work. The "Axis of Evil?" Not so much.
It was clearthat McCain's audience tonight was his base (how many times did he repeat "Judeo-Christian" and "Reagan" and he did not blink an eye about when life begins) and Obama had a much lower bar. Show up. Not appear Muslim or scary.
But seriously, Obama's confident closing pretty much summed up the differences and what is at stake this year. If the American people want 4 more years of simple, black-and-white (but ultimately delusional) answers to difficult problems then we will get McCain and we will deserve him.
Bring it on.
McCain (or the "millennial" McCain) would have made a fine president in the 80s or maybe even the 90s but the world is too complex, too interconnected, moves too fast and America is clearly much worse off than it was 10 or 20 years ago.