You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Liveblogging the Presidential Debate

Posted in 2008 Election, Politics by Stacy McMahon on September 26, 2008

Since one of the big topics tonight was alternative energy, check out the discussion at (once it recovers from the traffic spike)

10:37 – Closing statements: Obama says children around the world need to see America as that shining beacon again. McCain says he came home from Vietnam to work for a better world. McCain and Obama don’t spend any extra time on the “good game” handshake. They don’t like each other. Now for the media BS

10:34 – Obama: “that sense” of broader strategic vision is what he wants to restore. But I think that’s the issue a lot of people have with him – he’s more interested in giving people a certain sense of things than of the substance behind that sense. Have to say, though, he’s put on a VERY impressive show tonight. Obama almost seems more grown up than McCain.

10:30 – McCain is avoiding the standing-in-the-world question, a sign of the circles he travels in. Liberals care a lot about that. Conservatives have to be reminded that some other people think it’s an issue.

10:29 – Obama: we need missile defense, Al Qaeda has to be top priority. He will “restore America’s standing in the world” – a sign of the circles he travels in. Lehrer asks if McCain agrees with that

10:26 – Last question: what’s the chance of another terrorist attack on US soil? McCain: less than on 9/12/01

10:25 – McCain: drilling is “a bridge” to the energy future. Obama smirks – I bet he’s thinking there’s a bridge-to-nowhere joke in there.

10:23 – Obama admits offshore drilling is part of the path to energy independence, says McCain voted 23 times against alternative energy. Now McCain looks annoyed.

10:21 – Not really apropos of the topic, but McCain gives a nice little rather scary (because accurate) assessment of Russia’s motives and intentions in eastern Europe. Obama says he agrees.

10:19 – McCain can pronounce Saakashvili’s name correctly. That’s something.

10:17 – Obama is much more impressive on foreign policy than I expected. Unlike any other Democrat (and half the Republicans) I can think of, he’s spent a combined half hour or so tonight talking geopolitics and hasn’t come up with one single howler.

10:15 – Ok really, McCain needs to drop this obsession with “no preconditions”. It’s lame. Obama did a good job explaining what he means (though his hair-splitting between “preconditions” and “preparation” reminds me of W’s “affirmative access” instead of affirmative action)

10:11 – Obama has a head full of facts, even on foreign policy. Still not clear whether he’s more of a Bill Clinton or a Jimmy Carter in that respect.

10:07 – Obama points out that Iran has been, to some extent, whipped into shape by pressure from US expeditions in the last 7 years. And it doesn’t make sense to refuse to talk to anyone; talking is just talking. McCain somewhat unconvincingly says “there’s gotta be preconditions” or else the world will somehow take a cue that the dictator is A-OK.

10:04 – McCain says he’s proposed a “league of democracies” – I like that idea, have liked it for a long time. Dictatorships shouldn’t get to make decisions. He also says Iran is covertly fighting US troops in Iraq, which by all accounts they are.

10:00 – McCain flogging the (also undeniable) point that a set-in-stone withdrawal date for Iraq will make life a lot easier for the bad guys. Lehrer goes to a new question: Iran

9:56 – Obama does a neat trick for a lefty – he almost seems serious when he’s talking about military strategy!

9:52 – Obama makes the hard-to-deny point that Iraq would (at least in hindsight) have remained quiet if left alone, and we wouldn’t have been stretched nearly as thin in fighting Al Qaeda. “A strategic mistake”.

9:50 – Obama is looking annoyed again. He’s got a good reason – McCain is more or less playing the ‘liberal’ card on him – but looking angry and antsy isn’t presidential (not that McCain’s giggly reaction to attacks is either)

9:47 – McCain says Obama refuses to acknowledge progress in Iraq, but he (McCain) just said a minute ago that Obama is now lauding the progress in Iraq!

9:43 – McCain flogging the fact that he was right about the surge in Iraq, and Obama was wrong. Obama responds that he’s very proud of his VP pick. Obama is hanging the 2003 version of Iraq strategy on McCain.

9:40 – Ann Althouse says something interesting: “McCain says those earmarks corrupt people, and Obama is proposing $800 million in new spending. Obama looks annoyed. He doesn’t know where that number comes from.” That strikes me as potentially a thoughtful response by Obama – he’s worried that might really be the right number and he just didn’t realize it. Bad from the horse race POV, but a quality I like to see in a person.

9:38 – Obama calls Bush “your president” (talking to McCain) …I don’t think the ‘McSame’ line is very effective outside of the cohort that was already voting Obama.

9:37 – McCain: “I know spending can be brought under control. I’ve fought my entire career to control spending” – doesn’t that indicate it can’t be brought under control?

9:37 – McCain mentions prioritizing veterans’ affairs again. He must personally feel we’re not doing enough right now

9:34 – McCain has lots of specifics, especially in alternative energy. Lehrer asks his question a third time.

9:32 – Lehrer asks again. He’s not getting an answer. McCain says spending freeze on everything but defense, veterans’ affairs and medicare. Obama says you need a scalpel, not a hatchet (reminds me of Kerry’s ‘nuance’)

9:31 – Lehrer asks for specific ways each candidate will tighten their policy belt due to financial crisis. Obama says he’s worked with Tom Coburn. But that’s McCain’s name to drop!

9:29 – McCain says he’s against ethanol subsidies. He may have my vote just for that. And he’s against defense contract cost overruns. I know people in DOD contracting and he’s the real deal as far as that goes.

9:27 – Obama sounds good saying “we aren’t going to be able to do everything I think should be done”. What’s high priority? Alternative energy. What’s the difference between these guys again?

9:24 – McCain keeps flogging his record of opposing spending. Obama looks to be getting a little angry. Is he?

9:22 – Obama says business taxes only look high, McCain will tax health benefits “for the first time in history”

9:21 – McCain says tax cuts are needed because Ireland has much lower corporate income taxes and we need to compete. And $18 billion in earmarks really is a big deal.

9:20 – Obama is really flogging the tax-cuts-for-the-rich theme. Lehrer asks McCain to respond to that directly

9:17 – Obama says [total, not his own – Ed] earmarks are $18 billion, but McCain is proposing $300 billion in tax cuts. Continuing the Washington definition of a tax cut as a form of spending is change you can believe in!

9:14 – McCain identifies spending that’s “completely out of control”, brings up Congressional corruption, says Obama has asked for “nearly $1 million for every day he’s been in the Senate” in earmarks

9:13 – And no, they’re not talking to each other.

9:12 – McCain repeats the story about Ike’s letter taking responsibility for the potential failure of D-Day to defend his call for the SEC chair to resign. “We’ve got to bring back accountability”. He’s right. Most of our problems these days seem to be related to people not having to suffer from their bad decisions.

9:10 – Obama: I, the freshman senator who’s never worked in the private sector, called the Secretary of the Treasury two years ago to make sure he knew there was a problem!

9:08 – Lehrer just told them to “talk to each other” …will they? Not sofar.

9:07 – McCain and Obama are both sticking to their joint statement on recovery, and both are long on good ideas (transparency, accountability, main street not wall street) and short – completely lacking, actually – on specifics

9:05 – First question is on the financial crisis. Obama’s position is good, minus the tacked-on McCain = Bush (which isn’t really very true) …and did he really say all that in two minutes?

9:03 – Interesting that Lehrer made up the questions himself with no help or public input

9:01 – I’m here and watching…


One Response

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  1. Dave said, on September 27, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Great blow-by-blow; I enjoyed reading your summary!

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