Election ’08: The Optimist-in-Chief

The clearest sign that John McCain won last night’s debate is that the TV pundits immediately afterward called it a draw. Don’t take my word for it. Read the transcript. McCain clearly had the facts, figures, and experience on his side.

Barack Obama, of course, didn’t torpedo his own candidacy. He stuck gamely to his talking points and his previous positions (although he seemed a bit wobbly on the whole “without preconditions” thing). Clearly he has learned a thing or two in his long months on the campaign trail about attractively packaging his liberalism. I’m sure that those true-believers who tuned in already enamored of the first-term senator from Chicago saw nothing to dissuade them, so I won’t butt my head against that wall.

McCain, however, did something more than win this debate. He effectively refuted the insinuations coming from the Obama camp that he is old and out of touch. Fresh from the bailout negotiations, it was the 72-year-old who bubbled over with energy. As someone who initially saw the Arizona senator as the best of a mediocre Republican lot (Romney? Huckabee? Pu-leese!), I thought his command on every national security issue after little time to prepare for the debate was impressive. He had no senior moments and looked every bit the happy warrior: smiling throughout, patiently but persistently correcting his younger opponent with the telling phrase, “He doesn’t understand,” and talking about antiquated notions such as “victory.”

Obama, by contrast, while he committed no gaffes (though one could describe his whole approach to foreign policy as a gigantic gaffe), frequently seemed on the defensive and frowned a lot. One would not have been surprised had he barked at least once, Dole-like, “Stop lying about my record!” Clearly McCain has wrested the mantle of sunny optimism from the candidate of “change.”

Let’s get real. This is not a beauty contest. This is about who will be the next commander-in-chief. The candidates have talked much about that 3 a.m. phone call. Judging by what you saw last night, which of these two men is prepared to answer?

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for BreakPoint.org. He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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