Here's a screen cap of indy voters' reactions to McCain leveling the Ayers charge:
And here's the response afterwards:
Harold Meyerson at the Washington Post:
Now we know why Obama’s aides were goading McCain earlier this week to raise the Bill Ayres issue in the debate. They wanted to play McCain’s rage against Obama’s measured, judicious, statesmanlike, even a bit boring presidentiality. And McCain obliged them big time.
There's something else about McCain's answers in these debates that I noticed on a visceral level watching the replays, something that reminded me of the debates I've had that left me thinking less of the other person, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Andrew Sullivan provides the assist:
At no point have we seen a grace note from McCain. When dealing with the negativism of the campaign, it would not have killed him to seem genuinely horrified at calls for violence rather than offended that anyone dare criticize him or some of his supporters. Or to wish Obama well. It's this lack of generosity of spirit that he lacks and that people want in a president. Obama still manages to say when he agrees with or admires McCain. In this whole dynamic, Obama seems more secure, more self-controlled, more mature.
The ability (or lack thereof) to make concessions in a debate can actually say a lot about a person. It conveys the "generosity of spirit" that Sully is talking about, impressing upon the other person that you're really listening to them, that you're trying to be objective about the issue and not just advocating for your side. It also shows that you're big enough to admit when the other side has a point and not to take their opposition personally. And, frankly, in these debates it separates the men from the boys, the master debaters who are thinking on both the macro and micro level, from the jokers who don't bother with things like "focusing on a theme" or "working the crowd," thinking you win debates by scoring the most points.
As much as I hate the tactic of arguing by analogy (especially sports analogies), a poker analogy is irresistible here because it's just so damn apt: it's like Obama and McCain are at a poker table, and McCain is the aggressive novice trying to win every hand. Meanwhile, Barack often folds when his cards aren't as good, and wins the big pots by baiting McCain into overplaying his hand.