It was a simple question: What do you think of this bailout plan?
Although the official subject of this first presidential debate was foreign policy and national security, let's not kid ourselves--Americans tuned in to hear at least one of the presidential candidates deliver a straight answer about how they intend lead this country--both Wall Street and Main Street--through the economic crisis.
It could have been a defining moment for either candidate--a chance to demonstrate that they are indeed an Agent of Change, a Maverick, or whatever else they might claim to be. McCain could have proven that he does have mastery over basic economics. Barack Obama could have proven that he is indeed a Washington outsider committed to reform.
Instead, both McCain and Obama acted like dime-a-dozen, poll chasing politicians, afraid of making enemies or losing votes. They resorted to sacharine rhetoric and empty promises. Vote for me! I can lower taxes, improve and expand government programs, and save the economy!
So what's next: All of the drinking fountains will pour chocolate milk?
Safe to say I am not the only Obama supporter who was sorely disappointed tonight. This was the moment he had been waiting for, a moment when his leadership was sorely needed, but instead, he took the safe bet. He leads in the polls--in particular on economic issues, and so he chose to take a soft stance on the bailout plan and hope for McCain to make a critical mistake.
Well, here's a news flash--McCain didn't make a mistake. He may not have scored a touchdown, but he didn't fumble the ball, either. In a race this close, a draw is a win for McCain, and Barack Obama may have squandered one of his opportunities to break away in this race.
As for the remainder of the debate, did either candidate say anything they haven't said a dozen times already?
Tonight, the burden of proof was on John McCain. Millions of Americans tuned in expecting him to implode, expecting Barack Obama to demonstrate that he can indeed be the leader America needs. The contrast between the two candidates should have been crystal clear. Instead, what we saw was a stubborn but experienced old man, and a young, overly confident upstart content to ride the polls. As different as they may be, both were a disappointment.
The real loser tonight was the American voter.