Peter Wehner goes over Barack Obama and the Philadelphia debate in two different columns.
At Commentary Wehner assesses the hysteria of some on the left who didn't like the questions. Every word of this column is a must read; I've quoted it at some length below, but do read the whole thing:
"Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasn’t just the candidate’s pastor but also a close friend...
"In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And let’s say that the GOP candidate’s press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as 'friendly.'
"Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers...
"The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here..."
Over at National Review (subject link), Wehner analyzes Obama's answers to the debate questions in some detail, noting that Obama "was on the defensive because of associations he’s had, things he’s said, and positions he’s embraced... People who were once impressed with Obama are beginning to wonder if the image he projects — post-partisan, post-ideological, post-racial, a uniquely unifying and hopeful figure for America — is deeply at odds with the man himself. As the election plays out, we will see if these concerns are valid. But it’s fair to say that for Barack Obama, the magic is gone."
Saturday Update: Michael Barone: "The Rules Change for Obama."