26 September 2008

The Commish liveblogs the debate

8:09 p.m.: Sen. Obama's first answer to a question was, in fact, in the form of a question.

8:10 p.m.: Sen. McCain's anecdote about Gen. Eisenhower writing two separate letters before the D-Day invasion was his first decent moment of the night.

8:12 p.m.: Apparently Jim Lehrer has decided this isn't going to be a foreign-policy debate ...

8:14 p.m.: McCain: "We Republicans came to Washington to change Washington, and Washington changed us." More of this!

8:17 p.m.: Can McCain respond to Obama's 95%-of-working-families tax cut? Can he respond to the cut-taxes-on-corporations-only accusation?

8:18 p.m.: Nope. McCain doesn't look prepared, aside from his standard stump-speech one-liners. We politicos have heard just about all of these before.

8:19 p.m.: Obama: Your tax policies are directed at people who are doing well, and not the middle class. This isn't incorrect, but McCain's gotta respond...

8:23 p.m.: McCain needs to look more presidential and in control when Obama is taking shots at him.

8:24 p.m.: McCain nails Obama for voting for the Bush energy bill rife with "Christmas ornaments" for the oil companies. Every time that McCain starts getting boxed in, his quick wit salvages him a few points.

8:25 p.m.: I think it's clear that, somewhat unlike Bush and Kerry in 2004, McCain and Obama don't like each other at all.

8:26 p.m.: Still no sign of foreign policy. Maybe Jim Lehrer should check under the table.

8:28 p.m.: Not to belabor this point, but Obama has done a tremendous job thus far simply looking presidential (complete with flag pin, no less), and although McCain has had a couple very strong answers thus far, the Hopemonger is clearly in charge.

8:29 p.m.: McCain: "It's hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left." (Chuckles from both candidates) Zing!

8:30 p.m.: McCain is hitting the earmarks/wasteful spending angle hard. I hope he finds something else to talk about.

8:32 p.m.: Obama: Me being liberal? That's just me opposing George Bush's policies. That was very good.

8:34 p.m.: Lehrer is obviously peeved at each candidate for dancing around just about all of his questions.

8:35 p.m.: McCain talks about sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us -- but didn't mention the word "oil!" Arrrrgh!

8:36 p.m.: Obama looks very good. That said, as critics have pointed out, much of this is academic, and simply vaguery after vaguery. McCain looks, well, less strong. He's clearly is looking forward to Jim Lehrer moving to foreign policy ...

8:37 p.m.: Why is McCain still talking about spending? It's apparently the answer to every question.

8:38 p.m.: Obama ties McCain to Bush, turns and talks directly to him, and chides him for voting with Bush "ninety percent of the time." McCain needs to score some points here.

8:38 p.m.: McCain uses the "Ms. Congenialty" line again. Arrrrgh! Stop it!

8:40 p.m.: Hey, look, foreign policy! This is nice, 40 minutes in...

8:42 p.m.: Obama: I opposed this war, when it was politically risky to do so. What? In the Effing State Senate of the Great State of Illinois? Good grief. Thanks for your decisions on war and peace in that most crucial forum, Senator.

8:43 p.m.: Obama rebounds and ties in the budget crisis to the glut of money going to Iraq. Good point.

8:43 p.m.: McCain makes the point of the night so far. The next president won't have to decide whether we should go into Iraq again. The next president decides how to leave and when we leave. He nails Obama on miscalculating the surge. He hammers him for waiting so long to go to Iraq. He hammers him for still saying that after the fact that he'd still oppose the surge even though it has succeeded. This could be the turning point of the debate, and McCain -- finally -- scores major points. I've gotta think response is resonating in western Pennsylvania.

8:45 p.m.: Obama: Who is best equipped as the next president to make good decisions about how we use our military?

8:46 p.m.: McCain: When I was in Iraq, the troops told us, "Let us win. We don't want our kids coming back here." Says Obama refuses to acknowledge that we're winning in Iraq. McCain is absolutely tearing Obama apart here.

8:47 p.m.: Obama responds to McCain's attack by asking, in effect, was this wise? His responses are both articulate and tepid at the same time. It's weird.

8:49 p.m.: Since we moved to foreign policy about ten minutes ago, McCain has sounded like a president and a leader. Obama has sounded like he's on campus debating the College Republicans.

8:51 p.m.: We move to Afghanistan...

8:53 p.m.: Obama moves to Pakistan and sounds like a hawk.

8:54 p.m.: McCain's response: If you're going to point a gun at someone, you must be willing to pull the trigger. I'm not willing to do that right now. Says Obama is "threatening" Pakistan. We need the support of the people of Pakistan. He said he'd attack Pakistan. I wouldn't publicly state that I'd attack Pakistan. We don't need that. Big wow -- McCain turns the tables on Obama, the faux hawk.

8:55 p.m.: Now Obama thinks that the problem with Pakistan is that we "coddled" Musharraf.

8:56 p.m.: McCain responds historical background on Pakistan, noting that Musharraf took power in the wake of a failed state. McCain cites his disagreement with Reagan over Beirut. More points for the Senior Senator.

8:58 p.m.: McCain: I have a record of being involved in these national security issues. Shows the bracelet given to him by the mother of a fallen soldier last summer in New Hampshire.

9:00 p.m.: Over the last 20 minutes, McCain has simply eaten Obama's lunch.

9:02 p.m.: Obama shows off his bracelet. We honor the troops' service. The question is, are we making good judgments? Obama salvages a couple points here.

9:03 p.m.: New question -- onto Iran...

9:04 p.m.: "Let's have some straight talk," a shot at Russia, plus his "League of Democracies" proposal. I'll give you one guess who those lines were from ...

9:06 p.m.: One thing I've noticed that this is no less than the third time Obama has said "Sen. McCain is exactly right." There is no chance -- none -- that McCain would ever -- at any time -- say anything like that.

9:07 -- On to "talking to people we don't like."

9:08 p.m.: McCain forcefully responds as to why it is that the president of the United States doesn't sit down with Ahmadenijad without preconditions: it would legitimize their statements and give them a propaganda platform. He offers big-time historical references -- Reagan and Gorbachev, Nixon to China. This was already an issue that Obama stood on shaky footing with voters. McCain is now, more than ever, sounding like the old, wise hand.

9:11 p.m.: "Look, I'm not going to set the White House visitor's schedule before I'm president. I don't even have a seal yet." Hi-yo!

9:14 p.m.: McCain gets an actual laugh out of the crowd -- Ahmadenijad says we're going to wipe Israel off the map, and we're going to say, no you're not? Please!

9:17 p.m.: McCain is absolutely owning this part of the debate. The first half of the debate seems long ago.

9:18 p.m.: Softball for McCain -- Obama references Bush infamously looking into Putin's eyes and seeing his soul. Will he knock it over the fence?

9:19 p.m.: He did ... sorta ... but the delivery was subpar. However, he followed with his best points of the night, hitting Obama on his initial tepid response to Putin's initial aggression and tying Russia's aggression to the oil issue. McCain has sounded absolutely excellent -- again -- talking about Russia in a Reaganesque way -- not a neocon, but certainly not dovish. Tons of references to post-Soviet leaders and eastern bloc regions.

9:22: Obama, again: Senator McCain is right. That's four!

9:23 p.m.: "...as Sen. McCain mentioned." Five!

9:25 p.m.: As Politico's Ben Smith has pointed out, Obama has spent most of the last 40 minutes being very vague.

9:28 p.m.: Closing his remarks on post-9/11 safety, McCain tosses some red meat to the base by making a reference to border security...

9:29 p.m.: 90 minutes in, the candidates are almost looking tired. Isn't it about McCain's bedtime?

9;30: "I give Sen. McCain great credit on the torture issue." Six!

9:35 p.m.: McCain: "I don't need any on-the-job training." Too bad McCain didn't mention that Obama's running mate actually came up with the line.

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