2008 Presidential Debate I: Liveblogging

Dü-ba-dü-ba-debate!

» Skip down to my conclusion «

8:15pm
ADVERT: McCain wins debateI’m eating pizza and cooling some beer (Big Boss Bad Penny) in the fridge in preparation for liveblogging the debate. Luckily, I won’t have to work too hard on my analysis tonight. According to an ad leaked this morning, McCain has already won.

8:45pm
If Nader is so popular and powerful that he cost Gore the election in 2000, then why isn’t he allowed at the debates?

9:00pm
You can watch the debate live at MSNBC.com

9:05pm
First punch goes to Obama, tying McCain to the deregulation that caused the economic mess. Nitpick: The way Obama says “and” as a sort of “uh” bothers me.

9:10pm
Obama rambled a bit in his response to the economic crisis question, but McCain took it to the next level. He managed to bring in “foreign oil” at the end.

9:15pm
McCain claims he saw this economic crisis coming, even though last Monday he said it was strong.

The moderator, Jim Lehrer, is trying to start a fight, by forcing the candidates to address each other.

9:20pm
Both of them clearly don’t want to commit to an actual plan to fix our economic problems. We’ve had 15 minutes of both of them saying nothing. Gotta love politics.

McCain clearly wants to talk about earmarks and oil not the current economic crisis. His jokes are falling flat.

I wish people would understand that Obama does not plan to raise taxes for the lower and middle classes. He needs to say it more simply.

9:25pm
There we go. “95% of you will get a taxcut.” – Obama

Obama gets props for explaining McCain’s healthcare plan.

McCain is pretty good at controlling the conversation, but I don’t think earmarks are as important as John McCain clearly does.

9:30pm
I’m glad Obama is sticking to health care reform even in the shadow of the economic crisis.

Good for McCain. Corn subsidies do, in fact, suck.

9:35pm
Note to Jim Lehrer: Neither candidate knows exactly which programs they can’t do because of the economic situation.

McCain: “Drill baby drill! And nuclear power plants in every backyard!” To be honest, that’s fine with me.

9:40pm
McCain wants to keep government out of health care but admitted earlier that he would basically have the government own every home and bank in America.

And for the record, McCain has a bad voting record considering veterans benefits.

McCain’s record of opposing Bush used to be strong.

9:45pm
Time for foreign policy now.

Here’s the distinction: McCain claims he won the war in Iraq. Obama says the Iraq was a disaster even if things are going better now.

McCain loves Gen. Petraeus. We get it.

9:50pm
Getting some fireworks now. Obama just slammed McCain on his Cheney’esque statements that he made in 2003 about how the war would be easy.

McCain just said that Obama won’t admit we’re “winning” in Iraq. He just contradicted himself from 5 minutes ago when he said Obama is now admitting the surge working great.

Now McCain is lying about Obama wanting to cut troop funding. I hate that argument. Not voting for funding for the war doesn’t mean that the troops will be left in Iraq without shelter and bullets. It means they’d have to be brought back.

9:55pm
McCain is an excellent debater, even if I don’t agree with what he’s saying. However, Obama is doing very well compared to his performances versus Clinton.

Should I get another beer?

McCain is trying to paint Obama’s stance of calling for strikes inside of Pakistan as reckless. This is the same McCain that sang about bombing Iran.

10:00pm
Obama brought up the Iran singing episode. Awesome. But McCain is still coming across well in my view.

McCain’s explanation of why he sang about bombing Iran makes no sense. “Here is other great stuff I did…” As Mitt Romney famously said, “it’s a non- sequitur. It’s a non — null set.”

Uh oh. It’s a bracelet competition! I have a Stephen Colbert Wristrong bracelet. I win.

10:05pm
McCain’s “League of Democracies” just sounds hilarious. Charlie wonders if their HQ will have a Hall of Justice.

10:10pm
Do they ever take a break?

Obama is just owned McCain on the “meeting without preconditions” debate. I’m glad he explained it simply as meeting with people even when they don’t already agree with you. But will the average TV audience pay attention to the nuance or just reward the bluster?

10:15pm
Is McCain crossing the line of assertiveness into the territory of jerkishness?

10:20pm
Will Obama let McCain call him naive? I hope he calls out McCain for reckless bluster on this issue. Bringing up “Bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran…” again would be good.

10:25pm
Now McCain says we’ll need to fight Russia on behalf of Ukraine. Screw beer, it’s time for Scotch.

10:30pm
McCain talking over Obama didn’t look too classy.

McCain has helped make it possible for Bush to torture prisoners, his continual rallies against it are truly cynical.

Why is Obama fearmongering on suitcase nukes? Aren’t those impossible right now? And he shouldn’t give McCain credit on torture.

10:35pm
McCain doesn’t realize that Al Qaeda wouldn’t take over Iraq if we left. They are a very small part of the problem there. Always have been. But what he’s saying sounds good to the uninformed.

McCain just came out and bluntly said Obama doesn’t have enough experience. Obama won’t, but he should blast him on his veterans benefits voting record since McCain keeps harping on it.

And McCain closes with a POW!

Conclusion
The dichotomy is between substance and style. On substance I think McCain is in a hopeless hole. He almost has to resort to lying because the public isn’t jumping at the chance of four more years of Bush-style policies. Therefor, Obama practically wins on substance by default. There were some areas where he too quickly tried to out-Hawk McCain, but that’s a larger problem with his campaign.
McCain came across as strong and assertive. But he’s parrying away from the issues.

Stylistically, Obama performed better than he did against Clinton, but he is clearly not a master of the soundbyte. McCain was assertive and able to shift the debate to the points he wants to make, even if they were mostly lies or exaggerations. But I also think he crossed the line a few times with his disdain for Obama.

So, a clear win for Obama on substance and slight win for McCain on style. Unfortunately, I have a fear that style will win out among the public.

13 Comments

  1. Andrea

    Are they EVER going to get to foreign policy?!?

  2. Chris

    Happy now?

  3. Andrea

    Does it sound weird to anyone else how they pronounce “Pakistan” and “taliban”?

  4. Jordan

    Get another beer. Get one for me too. Thanks.

  5. Chris

    Tal-E-ban… Pak-E-ston.

  6. Do you realize that McCain just defended a military coup? He actually tried to justify the military coup that brought Musharraf to power.

  7. Chris

    Good point Jim! But don’t forget he already supports Bush’s imperial powers. Not a big leap from one to the other.

  8. Andrea

    Ackma-who?

  9. Chris

    Spain!

  10. Andrea

    McCain has some of the same mannerisms as Bush. Like the “he-huh” breathing laugh thing.

  11. McCain finished with a lie about Obama. Anyone surprised?

  12. Chris

    Jim,
    Not me…

  13. Chris

    Thanks for reading folks!