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McCain, Obama Clash on Foreign Policy, Economic Future in Tense First Debate

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama sharply attacked each other's judgment on Iraq, Iran and Pakistan during Friday's debate. Political analysts and historians react to the candidates' performances.

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    I'm here in Washington with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    David, your overall impressions?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I miss Ronald Reagan. He didn't know as much about the issues as these gentlemen just demonstrated they did, but he could make a values connection that people will remember weeks later, which I don't think either of them did.

    Believe me, I think each of them did fine. I think it was much the better debate than we've seen in four or eight years. I think McCain was sharp and experienced, which he hasn't always been. I thought Obama was knowledgeable and forceful.

    But there was a blizzard of policies that I don't think either of them made a values connection with people who don't already agree with them. So my bottom line is I think they both did well, but I don't think this changed the campaign in any fundamental way.


    And Mark Shields?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Ray, I think national security is John McCain's wheelhouse. And I think Obama more than held his own factually and empirically tonight. I don't think there was certainly a substantive advantage.

    On these, oftentimes it's how people react to them. I thought Obama's manner, the concern that Democrats had going in, would he be Bambi? He wasn't Bambi. He wasn't belligerent or bellicose, but he certainly showed a certain mettle.

    And the question with McCain would be, any senior moments? There weren't any senior moments.

    But I thought that John McCain's manner — he never looked at Obama. He just insisted on calling him Senator Obama all the way through. There was almost a frostiness and he punctuated, instead of the "my friends," it became "Senator Obama doesn't understand. Senator Obama doesn't understand." And I just think stylistically that didn't work for John McCain.

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