Debra J. Saunders

What Obama did right: Obama was right to note that the $700 billion bailout will delay some of his spending proposals. He scores points with voters when he mentions the $10 billion-per-month price tag for the Iraq war when the Iraqi government enjoys a $79 billion surplus. Obama showed class when he commended McCain's opposition to the use of torture in the war on terror.

What Obama did wrong: George W. Bush is not running for re-election. The gratuitous Bush-bashing has gotten old -- and it makes Obama sound like a college student at a political rally. Maybe it works with the crowd, but most voters are looking for a leader for the next four to eight years. And it takes no leadership to kick someone with an approval rate higher only than that of Congress.

Also, Afghanistan is not the "central front" in the war on terror. As McCain countered, "If we fail in Iraq, it encourages al-Qaida."

What McCain did right: McCain understands that "maybe to Sen. Obama" $18 billion in annual earmark spending is "not a lot of money," but earmarks are corrupting. McCain noted his opposition to earmarks had earned him the nickname of "the Sheriff."

Most important, McCain did not come across as bellicose, especially when he recalled his opposition to Ronald Reagan's push to keep U.S. troops in Lebanon in 1983. When McCain warned Obama about not brandishing a gun unless he is willing to pull the trigger -- in reference to getting too tough with Pakistan -- McCain showed himself to be the adult in the room.

What McCain did wrong: Jim Lehrer was practically begging McCain to look at Obama when he criticized Obama. "Say it directly to him," Lehrer chided him. But McCain would not, or could not, do so.

What they both did wrong: Neither candidate would articulate which of their pet proposals might have to be postponed if the $700 billion bailout passes. Then again, neither intended to be so blunt.

Debra J. Saunders

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