Fuck, I’m late. Goddamn DHL. Long story. Alright let’s get started.
8:09 p.m. Obama looks quite stern and solemn talking about this economic crisis.
8:10 p.m. McCain tells us that he “hopes” that he’ll vote for this rescue plan. Way to commit yourself, bro.
8:11 p.m. I’m sorry, I know I’m biased and all, but only one of these guys looks presidential. The other one looks like a giant teddy bear you’d buy at a gift shop.
8:13 p.m. Lehrer is really trying to get the two to talk to each other in this classical debate format, and they’re struggling to break out of the mold of talking to the moderator rather than each other.
8:14 p.m. McCain tries to draw a connection between this financial crisis and government spending. A bit of a reach there; good to see he’s living up to his promise of not knowing anything about the economy.
8:16 p.m. Obama is coming out really conciliatory here. He’s beginning each answer with where he agrees with what McCain said, and then tries to highlight differences. Ah, nuance.
8:18 p.m. McCain tells us he doesn’t “want to go back and forth” with Obama on this spending issue. Of course not, it’s only a debate after all. He also informs us that he was called “the Sheriff” by someone on the appropriations committee. Ok, Sheriff.
8:19 p.m. Obama, after McCain rattles off some numbers: “I don’t know where John is getting his figures from.” Good times.
8:21 p.m. McCain brings out the first “my friends” of the night. About 17 minutes after I would have expected it.
8:22 p.m. I’m glad Obama directly responds to this nonsensical Republican claim that he will raise taxes. He clarifies that he will lower taxes for anyone making less than $250,000. Nice forceful point. He also brings up a little known point (well, little known outside the lefty blogosphere) that McCain is going to tax health benefits too. Read Bob Herbert’s column from a couple of weeks ago on this issue.
8:25 p.m. I love Obama’s little contemptuous smirk when McCain starts talking crap. I also love that he responds “That’s just not true.”
8:26 p.m. Lehrer actually uses the phrase “financial rescue thing.” And this is the moderator.
8:27 p.m. Obama is very impressive when he talks about the economy generally and the energy industry in particular.
8:29 p.m. This may sound a little mean, but do you think a guy McCain’s age can remain standing for an hour and a half?
8:31 p.m. Oops. Obama just called McCain “Tom” instead of “John”.
8:34 p.m. I have to say, this is a pretty even contest so far, in that neither candidate would have convinced supporters of the other to even think about voting for the other guy.
8:36 p.m. I love that in this country, McCain’s allegation of the federal government taking over healthcare under a President Obama is a bad thing. Obama responds with another one of those contemptuous smirks.
8:39 p.m. Moving on to Iraq. McCain claims “We are winning in Iraq.” Can someone please explain to me what “winning in Iraq” means? I don’t mean to ask this snarkily; I genuinely want to know the contours of “victory”.
8:42 p.m. Obama’s best little sequence of the night. He connects McCain to Bush on Iraq, brings up the fact that he opposed it from the start, and basically that he’s been right about everything regarding the unknown cost, the unknown fallout, and the unknown exit strategy. Can’t argue with that.
8:45 p.m. Obama is firing right now. He brings up the fact that McCain thought Iraq would be “quick and easy” and says “you were wrong”. He brings up the fact that McCain said the Americans would be “greeted as liberators” and says “you were wrong”. Really good one-two punch right there. He also takes away McCain’s “surge” talking point by saying that he’s confused about when the war began; he reminds him it started in 2003, not 2007.
8:51 p.m. Uh oh. Obama’s talking about a surge in Afghanistan and more troops in Afghanistan, and talking about cross-border attacks. I think I know where this is going.
8:54 p.m. I’m suffering from serious cognitive dissonance right now. McCain is my candidate? He’s certainly the one who sounds more reasonable on Pakistan and FATA. He talks about the importance of having the Pakistani population and leadership on America’s side. Of course, I don’t believe a word he says, but if I did, he’d be my guy, on this issue at least.
8:56 p.m. Wow. What a put-down. Obama tells McCain that he agrees with McCain on being prudent, but that coming from a guy who “called for the extinction of North Korea” and “sung songs about bombing Iran”, the claim isn’t so “credible”. Oh, snap!
8:58 p.m. McCain’s first Ronald Reagan reference. Almost an hour in; seriously destroying the over-under on that one.
9:00 p.m. A bracelet-off! Both candidates bring up bracelets they were given by mothers, one mother (to McCain) saying that her son’s death shouldn’t be in vain, and one mother (to Obama) saying that no other mother should have to go through what she’s going through. Both mothers presented a bracelet to their candidate to bring home the point.
9:03 p.m. Again, so far, this is a pretty even contest. On to Iran. McCain, for some reason proudly, claims that he’s proposed a “league of democracies”. Who exactly thinks that any meaningful action can be taken on any global issue without Russia and China?
9:06 p.m. Obama connects Iran’s rising influence to Iraq, and importantly brings up my Russia and China point: you can’t do fuck-all about Iran’s nukes without those two. (He didn’t say “fuck-all”).
9:08 p.m. McCain can’t pronounce “Ahmadinejad”. Well, it’s better than not being able to pronounce “nuclear” isn’t it?
9:11 p.m. Oh, man. Obama brings up the fact that McCain’s adviser Henry Kissinger, among four other recent secretaries of state, have endorsed his strategy of meeting with leaders of Cuba, Syria and Iran without preconditions. Made him look pretty stupid there.
9:16 p.m. Excuse me, but since when did Henry Kissinger become some sort of foreign policy guru? Why does his agreement or disagreement with one candidate’s ideas matter? Has he ever been right about anything?
9:18 p.m. McCain’s strategy seems to be simple: keep insisting that Obama “doesn’t understand” important issues, or in other words, paint him as naïve, and too young. He’s doing his best, but I don’t know how much those charges will stick given that Obama’s been right about most every foreign policy issue in the last 6 years.
9:20 p.m. Will someone please explain to John McCain that it was Georgia – not Russia – that was the aggressor state last month? Please? Oh, well. We are all Georgians today.
9:23 p.m. Obama’s excellent in connecting neutral issues where both candidates largely agree, and connecting it to an issue where he’s clearly dominant. In this instance, he connects Russia’s rise to a lack of energy independent in America. Very sound debating strategy.
9:25 p.m. Talking over each other and bickering now. Last five minutes.
9:28 p.m. Blah blah blah. I feel like I’ve heard all this stuff before.
9:29 p.m. I exhale very deeply every time Obama mentions “Pakistan”. Why am I getting increasingly concerned about this?
9:32 p.m. These last few minutes have highlighted the two candidates’ strategies. Obama wants to continually associate McCain with George Bush, and McCain wants to continually paint Obama as naïve and someone who doesn’t “get it” (and talk about earmarks and pork-barrel spending). On the whole, I think Obama has been more successful than McCain, but I also think that greater success is because Obama’s general campaign has been about that one single issue, whereas McCain is yet to decide on a single narrative against Obama and seems to be more ad-hoc in his criticisms.
9:36 p.m. You want to hear a roomful of groans? Just have McCain bring up his POW-ness.
9:38 p.m. And that’s that. As I said, pretty even contest. Two more debates, but what I’m REALLY looking forward to is the vice-presidential debate.