Not The Kind Of Debate America Wanted

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wave to the audience before the start of the townhall-style presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. AP

This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
We were looking for a street fight. We got a cordial conversation.

Perhaps it was an exchange of ideas. But there has to be a better way of doing these debates.

Yes, I loved that real Americans asked the questions. But there was no follow up. There was no; did he answer your question?

Time after time last night, John McCain and Barack Obama were asked questions; and their answers came in the form of snippets of stump speech.

There was nary a thought or phrase that hasn't crossed the lips of these guys dozens and dozens of times before.

The one sort of new idea from Sen. McCain about finding a way to shore up homeowners and housing prices was actually floated by Hillary Clinton two weeks ago when the financial world first really started to spin apart.

The looks on the faces of the questioners said a lot.

That absence of satisfaction, that weary look of; I've just been rained on by a deluge of words, where can I go to dry off?

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