Live blogging: What Obama doesn't understand

Foreign policy may be seen as John McCain's strong suit, but Barack Obama was the one who performed best during tonight's discussion of those issues.

Published October 8, 2008 2:12AM (EDT)

One audience question tonight has been particularly interesting, at least to me. As CNN puts it in the chyron, the question was, "How will recent economic distress affect U.S. ability to be a peacemaker?"

For the most part, the question was an opportunity for John McCain to shine, and to explain his philosophy on foreign policy, an area where he should be strong. But -- and forgive me another digression into CNN's charting of real-time voter reactions, but it's just so fun, and so useful -- it was interesting to see how he ended what had been a really good answer on a down note by attacking Barack Obama, an attack that CNN's group of uncommitted Ohio voters really didn't seem to like at all.

If foreign policy is an area where McCain should shine, it's, similarly, an area where Obama needs to shine. He needs to convince the voters out there who remain undecided that he can be trusted as commander-in-chief, and that his relative lack of experience in that area isn't an issue. He did a very good job of that tonight. He explained his philosophy well, taking good advantage of the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, and seemed presidential as he did so. His response to McCain's attack -- specifically, to the now-familiar charge that he "doesn't understand" -- was particularly deft. He turned the charge on its head and said he didn't understand why we'd attacked Iraq, since it played no role in 9/11, and in doing so successfully turned McCain's message back against him without seeing defensive or angry.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz.