Obama still has the better plane. (Tom Lynn/AP)

My big takeaway from Obama’s debate performance (or “Zombiegate” as we call it in the innermost zip code of the old L’Enfant federal town inside the District boundary inside the Beltway) is that the president in his torpor and drift may have finally put to rest the right-wing theory that he’s a Manchurian Candidate.

You know what I’m talking about: There’s this notion that you hear sometimes (and trust me I’ve heard it while doing these voter stories) that Obama is secretly something other than he seems to be – that in fact he’s really an anti-colonialist, Saul Alinksy-loving, Bill Ayers-befriending radical who has been waiting for a second term to unleash his full apocalyptic hatred of America. And of course he’s a Muslim. And a drug dealer. And he kidnapped Lindbergh’s baby. You grasp the concept.

[For actual reporting on this, read the Times story from yesterday about Obama’s 2007 speech at Hampton University that has been re-hyped by Tucker Carlson: “A conspiracy theory cottage industry has sprung up around the notion that Mr. Obama is somehow foreign, if not by birth than by ideology.”]

But that’s now been put to rest by Obama’s lame performance. Everyone knows that part of being a Manchurian Candidate is you are effectively trained to do well in presidential debates.

They don’t train Manchurian Candidates to do the rope-a-dope. They train these infiltrators to be razor-sharp, to attack, strike, bludgeon. They train them to be sneaky-mean. None of this hemming and hawing is allowed in Manchurian Debate Camp. These people mean business.

So Obama can’t possibly be the agent of a foreign power or ideology. Instead, he is very likely who he says he is, for better or worse. The truth about Obama — and this is a delicate issue, but let’s put it out there — is that he has the ability at any given moment to be really quite boring.

What Obama did Wednesday night is act like himself – a guy who is so professorial that you keep expecting him to look into the camera and say, “Yes, this will be on the test.” In his normal daily worklife, he holds meetings, listens to questions, ponders his options, lays out a few thoughts, meanders a little, checks his watch to see how soon SportsCenter comes on, presses various secret buttons beneath the table to order a Coke or summon a Cabinet member, and just generally does whatever the heck he wants to do because, yo, he’s the President of the United States of America, understand?

When he talks, everyone is supposed to shut up. That’s why he was most animated all night when Jim Lehrer interrupted him when he still had FIVE SECONDS coming to him.

All evidence after four years is that Obama is a committed pragmatist who, though coming from a liberal tradition, will govern in the center if that’s what it takes to get things accomplished. His nature is to find compromise rather than exacerbate conflict and score with zingers. This doesn’t play well in debates.

The real question now is, who is Mitt Romney?

Who programmed him?