Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Live-blogging the second Obama vs. McCain presidential debate

Get ready! I'll be live-blogging tonight's debate in this post, so keep reloading for live updates.

UPDATE: The debate:

The New York Times not only has the full video, but also lets you search for any phrase, see a graph of when the phrase was said (and by whom), and jump right to that phrase in the video.

UPDATE: The debate in 10 minutes:

My pre-debate analysis.

Other live-bloggers (greyed-out links are obsolete):
9:02 - Starting!

9:06 - McCain walks over to the man who asked the first question and gets surprisingly close to him. He's pacing and self-consciously shifting his body position as mediocre actors often do.

9:10 - I can't remember seeing another debate with such an awkward note-taking set-up. I feel sorry for McCain having to reach over to that tiny table next to him.

9:11 - Yikes, McCain walks over to Obama and stands right in front of him while giving his answer.

9:15 - Obama gives a much more thorough answer to the man who asks how the bailout is going to help him.

9:16 - Strong moment from Obama: Brokaw asks, "Are you saying the economy is going to have to get worse before it gets better?" Obama: "No. I am confident about the economy."

(Disclaimer: since I'm doing this on the fly, the quotations in this post aren't necessarily verbatim, but I'm trying.)

9:19 - Obama grants an audience member's premise that both parties share the responsibility for the financial crisis.

9:20 - Obama: "I'm proposing more spending cuts than spending."

9:22 - McCain, showing his nervousness: "I have voted against excessive spending and outrageous." Outrageous what?

9:24 - McCain name-drops my old Senator (from when I lived in Wisconsin), Russ Feingold -- the actual "most liberal Senator" (besides Bernie Sanders).

9:25 - Josh Marshall asks: "Can't we have the angry McCain?"

9:27 - Obama will eliminate everything that doesn't work and make sure that everything that does work works even better. Sounds great!!

9:29 - McCain is really going after the anti-overhead-projector vote.

9:30 - I'll give McCain credit: he's probably giving the most impassioned, empathetic performance he has in him.

9:30 - Cringe-inducing word choice from Obama: "A lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11..." He can safely assume we all remember.

9:34 - I think the town-hall format is flattering to both of them. Obama can be underwhelming in the conventional debates because he's soft-spoken (completely different from his speeches), so the more intimate, informal setting puts him in a better light. And everyone knows McCain loves town halls. Since the race is a zero-sum game, anything that "helps" both of them actually helps Obama and hurts McCain.

9:37 - Brokaw inappropriately refuses to let Obama rebut McCain's allegation about Obama's tax policy.

9:39 - Jon Cohn (not to be confused with me) says that CNN's instant graph of voter reactions to the debates seems to show that McCain's attack on Obama for excessive spending -- McCain's signature domestic issue -- got no response.

9:44 - We already heard from both candidates on nuclear power at the first debate, but McCain apparently thinks we need to hear more. At the first debate, Obama clearly said he's never been against nuclear power. (And he just said it again in this one.) So McCain knows he can't get away with outright saying Obama's against it. But he takes a more nuanced and sarcastic approach: "Senator Obama says he's for nuclear power but it has to be 'safe' ... or something like that..."

9:55 - Tom Brokaw asks: "Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?" Are single-word multiple-choice answers in a presidential debate simplistic, patronizing, or ridiculous?

10:01 - Obama reprises McCain's attack on him from the first presidential debate: "There are some things I don't understand..." [UPDATE: A theory.]

10:06 - Mickey Kaus says:
McCain rails against Obama's "$860 billion" in proposed "new spending," yet he just said he wants the government to buy up all the bad mortgages in the country, give all homeowners new purchase prices and protect them from their ill-advised decisions? Sounds expensive.
[UPDATE: McCain changed that proposal within 48 hours after the debate.

10:10 - A woman in the audience essentially asks both of them whether they agree with Obama's famous comment that he would order unilateral strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan if necessary, which would seem to put McCain in an awkward position: either he doesn't answer her question, or he contradicts himself. He doesn't answer the question. Predictably, he takes the opportunity to falsely claim that Obama is in favor of "attacking Pakistan," which prompts a huge grin from Obama.

10:14 - Obama: "McCain wants you to think I'm green behind the ears ... he's somber and responsible ..." McCain: "Thank you very much!"

10:15 - McCain's defense of singing about bombing Iran: "I was joking with a veteran." That's why it helps to understand how the internet works -- if you're a presidential candidate, you are never just talking to someone; you're talking to America. And if you say things like that, you'll be talking to the world, because people around the world are going to see it. And they're going to draw their own conclusions without getting the benefit of McCain explaining it away with "context."

10:21 - Good point over at TNR:
McCain vows that he'll get bin Laden because "I know how to get him." If that's really the case, maybe he could just tell Bush when he gets home tonight? That would save some time.
10:24 - Brokaw: "Is Russia today an evil empire?" McCain: "Maybe!"

10:26 - All of the first 3 debates have included the phrase "stinking corpse."

10:27 - Obama needs to be coached to stop beginning so many of his answers with dead air while he thinks of what to say: "Uhhh ... ehhh ..."

10:29 - The last question "has a certain Zen-like quality, I'll give you fair warning. 'What don't you know, and how will you learn it?'" Obama: "Here is what I do know..." He's pulling Sarah Palin's trick from the VP debate: "What's your greatest weakness?" "Well, let me tell you about how experienced I am!"

10:34: Worst breaking-the-fourth-wall moment: Brokaw to Obama and McCain: Hey, you're blocking my teleprompter!

10:35 - It's over. In my pre-debate blogging earlier tonight, I wrote:
I assume McCain is going to flail away, trying to throw a bunch of guilt-by-association slime over Obama in a desperate attempt to avert electoral disaster.
I'm glad to know I was wrong.


Sofa King said...

Being "for" nuclear power is pointless if you aren't willing to allow fuel reprocessing. It would be like being "for" gasoline but not allowing refineries.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Twice McCain said that in foreign policy we need a cool hand on the tiller (I think that's the way he phrased it -- awkward, but no matter). I wonder how many Americans shared my immediate reaction: "Well, that isn't you, buddy."

Anonymous said...

'I wonder how many Americans shared my immediate reaction: "Well, that isn't you, buddy."'

I'm not one of them. Obama brought in a guy for his own ticket that doesn't think he's ready to be President. The bulk of his foreign policy strategy is centered around 'walking back' screw-ups he's made in prior debates or on the campaign trail.

So you are a candidate and you claim the Iraq war is lost and we should just come on home.... oops! your opponent proposed a plan that actually wins the war in Iraq and is relentlessly beating you over the head with it.
What do you do?
As quickly as possible change the subject to Afghanistan. Sounding tough by calling for more troops will hopefully help the soft image.

You're in a Democratic Primary debate, where you get asked if you'll meet unconditionally with each of the world's most vile dictators in your first year of office.... where you of course say "I will".
Oops! ...it's universally decried as a naive and inexperienced response, something you of all people can't afford.
What do yo do?

Spend the rest of your campaign parsing words, introduce the nuance of 'preparations' vs. 'preconditions', and try to tout 'diplomacy' as a new idea in foreign policy. (All the while hoping that U-tube didn't record that debate ....even though it was a U-tube debate).

For a guy who's first inclination seems to be to introspectively analyze how America is to blame whenever an international event occurs ...I'm not sure Obama's hand would be on the tiller at all.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), we've had a lot of international events transpire during the course of this presidential campaign ...offering a perfect glimpse into what each candidate's response was at the time, what was actually done, and what happened. Why we'll spend more time analyzing their posture or demeanor during a debate than what they actually said they would do is beyond me.

hombre said...

McCain's unwillingness or inability to KO this lightweight is just staggering. (Jennifer Rubin does an on the money take on Obama at http://www.commentarymagazine.com/

I am saddened and embarrassed for the nation at the prospect of having either of these dolts in the White House, but McCain is the lesser evil.

Say, doesn't Pakistan have 180 million people and a guy named Khan who probably knows how to build suitcase nukes? Let's poke 'em inna eye, huh!

Anonymous said...

What a nice piece of Live-blogging, thank you very much Jac...
I appreciate your acute comments, being overseas and too tired to stay awake to watch, I have a very sensible idea of what went on last night.

Deanna said...

To those who think Obama faltered for having "dead air" before answering, thus showing he "had to think"...
Well, it's about time we had someone in the White House who actually THINKS BEFORE HE ACTS.

rumetzen said...

I could probably rag on you about "objectivity" but It doesn't really matter. I see your point about the CNN approval ratings. When McCain started to rant about what Obama was apparently doing/refraining from doing (so most of the time), the graph went down. But when one of the candidates started discussing the question, it went up. Mom commented that Obama was a more "presidential" speaker than McCain was. It was really frustrating how McCain seemed to
a) Focus on Obama
b) Dodge the questions
c) Take a cynical approach when he did answer.