[Here's the transcript.]
I'll be live-blogging the 2nd presidential debate here. Keep reloading for more updates.
For more live-blogging, check out Althouse (my mom), TalkingPointsMemo, and the Economist's Democracy in America.
As always, any quotes will be written down on the fly, so they might not be verbatim but I'll try to make them reasonably accurate.
9:04 - A college student asks Mitt Romney how he's going to be assured of having a job after graduating. Mitt Romney says we need to continue giving Pell grants. "I know what it takes to create good jobs again. . . . I'm going to make sure you get a job."
9:05 - President Obama seems very upbeat: "Your future is bright!" He segues into paraphrasing Romney as saying: "We're going to let Detroit go bankrupt." He also strains to connect education to "investing in solar energy."
9:09 - Romney: "We have fewer people working today than when President Obama took office." Romney says that the unemployment rate is the same, but it would be much higher — over 10% — if the work force were as big as it was 4 years ago. He also retorts to Obama: "You say I wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt; you did let Detroit go bankrupt!"
9:11 - Obama: "Governor Romney doesn't have a 5-point plan. He has a 1-point plan: to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. . . . That's exactly the philosophy that's been in place for the past decade." It seems like a questionable strategy to impute the whole time he's been in office to his challenger's philosophy.
9:14 - Obama promises a questioner: "You're not going to pay as much for gas." Both of the candidates seem to be under the impression that the president is the Commander of the Economy.
9:17 - Obama says when Romney was governor, "you stood in front of a coal plant and said: 'This plant kills. We're shutting it down.'"
9:18 - While continuing the debate on coal, the two of them both walk slowly toward each other while accusing the other of lying about coal statistics. Romney to Obama: "You'll get your chance soon; I'm still speaking." [Here's the video:]
9:22 - Candy Crowley starts to move on to a new topic, and Romney, as usual, starts to debate the debating rules with her. She insists on going to a new topic, but Romney talks about the old topic (energy) anyway. Obama: "Candy, it's OK, I'm used to being interrupted."
9:25 - Romney is asked about his tax plan. He emphasizes: "The top 5% of taxpayers will continue to pay 60% of income tax the government collects. So that will stay the same." He also repeats what Paul Ryan said last week: that Obama's spending increases will lead to higher taxes on the middle class. Of course, Obama says the opposite: that he's going to cut taxes for the middle class. We've heard all this before, and neither candidate's "plan" is very convincing. (See the 9:47 update in my live-blog of the vice-presidential debate, where I said Ryan had a "brilliant tactic.")
9:30 - Obama says that Romney said during the primaries that he'd give a "tax cut" — not a "tax rate cut" — for everyone, including the rich. Does Obama really think it's going to be effective for his critique of Romney on taxes to hinge on that semantic distinction?
9:31 - Romney blatantly panders to women by referring to the increase in "women living in poverty" during the Obama administration. Has there not been an increase in men living in poverty, or do men living in poverty just not matter as much?
9:36 - Obama points out that Romney was "a very successful investor," and would never have accepted a plan as "sketchy" as Romney's proposal of tax cuts and military-spending increases. Romney flips this around by suggesting that you should trust him because he's been so successful in business and government. Romney's retort to Obama: "How about $4 trillion in deficits? That's math that doesn't add up. . . . He said he would cut the deficit in half; instead he's doubled it."
9:37 - Obama is asked what he's going to do about women earning less on average than men. "That's a great question." Why should we trust Obama's explanation of any statistics, if he isn't willing to point out the statistical fallacy with inferring discrimination from raw averages which don't consider any of the legitimate factors that cause people to be paid differently based on the different choices they make?
9:41 - Romney says we need to have "flexible schedules" to help women. How is it the job of the president to decide what job schedules people have?
9:45 - A member of the audience asks Romney what the biggest differences are between him and George W. Bush. "Trade — I'll crack down on China. President Bush didn't." "I'm going to get us to a balanced budget; President Bush didn't." He says "President Obama was right" to say that deficits were outrageous under Bush; of course, Obama increased them even more. "President Bush had a very different path, for a very different time."
9:50 - Obama goes for the jugular, pointing out that Romney is investing in China while promising to crack down on China. "Governor, you're the last person who's going to get tough on China."
9:51 - Obama says Romney is different from Bush: "George Bush didn't propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush supported comprehensive immigration reform; he didn't suggest self-deportation. George Bush didn't stop funding Planned Parenthood."
9:53 - Obama lists his accomplishments in a much snappier way than he did in the first debate: he ended the war in Iraq, he's fought terrorism, something about health care, etc. He then lists several of Romney's promises, repeating that he's vowed to defund Planned Parenthood.
9:55 - Romney walks toward someone whose question has just been answered by Obama, speaking to him directly: "I think you know better. I think you know that the economy for the last 4 years hasn't been as good as the president just described. . . . He keeps saying: look, I've created 5 million jobs. That's after losing 5 million jobs!" Ah, Romney nows says there are more "people in poverty." So, men do count after all! Romney is very fluent with his statistics: "Median incomes are down $4,300 per family."
9:59 - An immigration question. Romney: "America is a nation of immigrants. . . . We welcome legal immigrants into this country." Anyone with a degree in science or math should "get a green card stapled to their diploma." He'd punish employers for hiring "those who came here illegally." He uses that phrase — "those who came here illegally" — over and over. He's clearly been advised that some people are offended by the word "illegal" being used as an adjective applied to a whole person.
10:01 - Obama starts out by echoing Romney's answer: "We are a nation of immigrants. But we're also a nation of laws." Like Romney, he says we need to encourage highly skilled people to immigrate.
10:04 - The moderator, Crowley, asks Romney to "speak to self-deportation." Romney: "No!" But a minute later, he does explain his views on "self-deportation." Romney likes to pick fights with the moderators.
10:06 - Romney brings back the issue of China, repeatedly asking Obama: "Have you looked at your pension lately?" Obama: "No, mine isn't as big as yours, so it doesn't take as long to look at." Romney: "Look at your pension — you also have Chinese investments." Crowley asks Romney "if I could have you sit down." [Here's the video:]
10:11 - Obama on the killings in Benghazi, Libya: "We'll find out who did this, and we will hunt them down. When folks mess with Americans, we go after them. . . . These are my folks, and I'm the one who's got to greet those coffins when they come home."
10:12 - Romney on Benghazi: "This was not a demonstration — it was a terrorist attack. It took a long time for that to be told to the American people."
10:13 - Romney goes on autopilot, listing his talking points about Obama's foreign policy: "The president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour," Obama is "leading from behind," his foreign policy is "unraveling."
10:15 - Obama gives a forceful rebuke to Romney's description of his response to the Benghazi attacks: "That's not what we do." He says that he called it a "terrorist attack" immediately afterwards, in his Rose Garden address. Romney says it actually took him 14 days before he used that language. Crowley intercedes, saying that Obama is right that he immediately used the word "terrorist," but Romney is right about his larger point that it took the administration 2 weeks to stop characterizing it as a spontaneous reaction to a video. [Added: A transcript on Fox News quotes Obama in the Rose Garden address, the day after the attacks:]
The United States condemns, in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. . . .What do you think? Did he refer to the killings as terrorism? If you take his words literally, he was talking about what no acts of terror will ever do, without specifying whether terrorism had just occurred. At most, there's an implication that the Benghazi killings were terrorist attacks that would not shake our resolve and so on. But that's too debatable for the moderator to be weighing in on who got it right.
We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.
The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts. . . .
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.
[Update: A hypothetical.]
[Added: Here's the video of the whole section on Libya:]
10:26 - They're asked what their plan is to reverse the trend of jobs being outsourced to foreign countries. Romney brings back the line he used at the beginning of the first debate, saying that Obama has used "trickle-down government." American businesses can't compete with countries that have more lax regulation. He threatens to impose "tariffs" on China.
10:35 - Romney shouts at Obama: "Government does not create jobs! Government does not create jobs!" That's not what he said in his first answer in the debate!
10:35 - Romney uses a line he often repeated during the primaries, but which he didn't say in the last debate: "I spent my life in the private sector, not government." A few minutes later, he makes a list of promises and says: "I served as governor and showed that I can get this done."
10:38 - Obama rattles off platitudes: "Everybody should have a fair shot, and everybody should do their fair share, and everybody should play by the same rules."
10:38 - Finally, Obama brings up the fact that Romney said that 47% of the country refuses to take personal responsibility for themselves. "When my grandfather fought in World War II and came back and got a G.I. Bill that enabled him to go to college, that wasn't a handout." And with that, Obama has the last word in the debate. It seems quite unfair that Romney wasn't given a chance to respond to Obama's attack.
At the very least, Obama "won" the debate by cutting off the narrative that had been going on since the last debate about his lack of vitality.