In last night's presidential debate, the CNN reaction meter at the bottom of the screen was more interesting than the debate itself, but that's not saying much.
These lines were pretty flat for long stretches for both candidates, longer for Republican John McCain. His closing speech did better than this literal screenshot, his attacks fared worse. Democrat Barack Obama hit this peak more often than McCain. Women seemed more positive than men about both candidates. Men flatlined when McCain talked about victory in Iraq, peaked when Obama talked about the $10 billion-a-month cost of the war being needed at home.
Imagine if we all had this interactive TV widget, a dial spanning 1-100 with which you could silently cheer or boo every nuance, mood, policy or worn talking point.
What sticks this morning is McCain dismissively calling Obama "That one" and us "my friends"
25 22 times. It's fusty old insincerity. Obama's "brain cramps" -- moments when he seemed to lose his train of thought -- were disconcerting. Early on, he said the computer was invented by government scientists to communicate -- that was the Internet -- but he didn't fix it.
Obama didn't sketch a New Deal -- McCain did, freaking out his conservative base right out of the box with his new plan to spend $300 billion more dollars to bail out bad mortgages.
They were both pretty flat, McCain looked pale, puffy and tired; when Obama put some energy behind his words, the audience meter seemed to rise, too. When he talked about his mother dying of cancer while fighting the insurance company for treatment, he struck a strong chord.
That's what these screenshots caught. I only took a few frames during a span of a minute -- this is a tiny timeslice.The double exposure of McCain is a moment in time I couldn't have caught if I tried.
We grew weary, and were glad when it ended.