There was a moment, when the debate ended and the wives came up on stage, where I actually knew, or thought I knew, who had won. I'm sorry to say it, but it was John McCain. McCain had come into the debate having spent the week as the King of the Loose Screws, but he got through the night without a sign of his irrational behavior, and that seemed like a big win for him.
I was, by the way, the least pessimistic person in the room where we watched the debate, a room full of blue-state pinkos, and our hearts had collectively sunk as we watched Obama miss opportunity after opportunity to score a knockout punch -- as the men in the room tended to put it. (Women are at a decided disadvantage in conversations of this sort: we have no interest whatsoever in the resemblance of presidential candidates to people like Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore.) Because everyone in the room was so depressed and simultaneously full of manly boxing references, I felt guilty even mentioning my concerns about Obama's shirt, which was too loose around his neck, and which was another reason why I thought he had lost the debate -- that, along with his incredibly irritating habit of closing his eyes while standing up.
Anyway, as I say, the impression that McCain had won lasted about a minute, when we began flipping through the stations expecting all our fears to be validated by the dozens of commentators ready to offer their views. To our amazement, the only overlap between our room and the pundits were the boxing references. Obama had won. Even the people who thought McCain had won more rounds than Obama thought Obama had won. McCain had been patronizing. He'd referred to Pakistan as a failed state, which turned out to be untrue. Even Charles Krauthammer thought Obama had done fine. A focus group of undecided voters in Nevada on the Fox Channel (Fox!) had responded more positively to Obama than to McCain.
Could this possibly be true? I don't know. But I decided to do the only thing I could under the circumstances: stop watching the pundits on television for fear it would all change again. They will be on all night discussing the heavyweight championship of the world, but I am going to sleep.