Sen. John McCain closed his presidential debate with Sen. Barack Obama Tuesday night on a strong note, sounding experienced, realistic, and occasionally witty on foreign policy.
"(You) have to temper your decisions with the ability to beneficially affect the situation and realize you're sending America's most precious asset, American blood, into harm's way," McCain said. "I know those situations. I've been in them all my life. And I can tell you right now the security of your young men and women who are serving in the military are my first priority right after our nation's security."
McCain preached pursuit of Osama bin Laden and congratulated himself for supporting the surge in Iraq -- neither a surprising stance. Yet he also showed thoughtfulness. When moderator Tom Brokaw asked whether he thought Russia under Vladimir Putin was an evil empire, McCain replied, "Maybe," then clarified: "Depends on how we respond to Russia and it depends on a lot of things. If I say yes, then that means that we're reigniting the old Cold War. If I say no, it ignores their behavior."
Humor and nuance, both welcome. Obama, by contrast, sounded naive at times, such as when he said, "I believe that we should have direct talks -- not just with our friends, but also with our enemies -- to deliver a tough, direct message to Iran that, if you don't change your behavior, then there will be dire consequences."
Economic issues are dominating the headlines lately. Yet if you think that foreign policy, and not ecomonic, issues will dominate the term of the next president, McCain looked like the better candidate on Tuesday night.