Live-blogging the first debate



6:52 p.m. Eight questions the debate could answer (Washington Post). It says the first debate is usually the most important.

8:00 p.m. – We’re underway. Welcome to all of you who have already given up on the Twins tonight.

8:03 p.m. – Lehrer outlines the specific. Nine-minute segments. The audience has promised to remain silent. (They won’t).

Where do you stand on financial recovery plan

Obama: We’re at a defining moment. Two wars and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. His plan (a) Oversight (b) Taxpayer protection (c) None of money to go to CEOs (d) Help homeowners. He’s outlined the Democratic proposals.

McCain Opens with concern for Ted Kennedy who’s in the hospital. McCain says he’s feeling better because Republicans and Dems are talking to each other.

“This is the end of the beginning,” McCain says. Calls for an end to dependence on foreign oil.

8:10 p.m. McCain says he will vote for the plan. Calls for more accountability. Obama says “we need it but not just when there’s a crisis.”

8:12 p.m. The bailout plan is still a standoff. McCain says he’d vote for it, however it’s constructed, apparently.

8:16 p.m. – McCain hits Obama for “earmarks.” Obama says earmarks accounted for $18 billion in lat budget, says McCain is asking for $300 billion in tax cuts for wealthy.

8:19 p.m. Fact Check. Wall St. Journal last spring pegged cost of McCain tax cuts at $400 billion.

8:22 p.m. McCain hits Obama on cost of Obama’s ‘earmarks’ Obama talks about loopholes. Says

Obama said he could “pay for every dime” of his spending and tax cut proposals “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens.” That’s wrong – his proposed tax increases on upper-income individuals are key components of paying for his program, as well.

8:24 p.m. – Question: What are you going to have to give up in terms of priorities, to pay for the rescue plan?

Obama says it’s hard to anticipate, acknowledges there are things that won’t be able to be done, but doesn’t answer the question, restating stump speech of what must be done instead.

8:28 p.m. – Lehrer should utter the magic words, “you didn’t answer my question.”

8:29 p.m. – McCain says he’d do away with ethanol subsidies. I wonder what people would be asking Tim Pawlenty if he’d made the #2 spot on the ticket. Still, that’s the only item he indicated he’d cut… at least specifically.

Lehrer says “neither one of you wants to change government significantly as a result of the bailout?” Again Obama talks about what he would do, not what he wouldn’t. He says he may cut programs that haven’t even been implemented yet.

8:32 p.m. – Lehrer incredulous that neither candidate sees the bailout affecting the government.

McCain calls for a spending freeze (did I hear a groan in the UBS Forum?). Obama says that’s using a hatchet where you need a scalpel.

8:35 p.m. Via Twitter:

Erik Hare -McCain responds with a shibboleth and an attack. At least he’s on the problems with Defense spending, but not what people care about.

8:38 p.m. – Quick review from the comments section:

It’s like they’re just restating their standard stump speeches… over and over and over again. “Excuse me, if I may, Senator.” Lehrer is doing a pretty good job as a moderator. And did McCain just suggest a spending freeze? You know his aides are sitting there, cringing.

Question: Much has been said about lessons of Vietnam, what about the lessons of Iraq?

8:39 p.m. – McCain, “You can’t have a failed strategy that nearly leads to losing the conflict.”

8:41 p.m. – Obama: The first question is how we got into the war in the first place.

8:43 p.m. – via Twitter:

dslunceford Anyone else notice that Obama refers to McCain as “John,” while McCain refers primarily to “Senator Obama?”

8:44 p.m. I think Obama is trying to work Palin into this. He talks about Joe Biden handling Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Obama acknowledges things are better in iraq, “but that was tactic to confine the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement.” Says McCain talks like the war started in 2007.

8:46 p.m. – McCain says Sen. Obama “refused to acknowledge that we’re winning in Iraq.” Obama says “that’s not true.” And, indeed, if you look at the above paragraph, it’s not.

Afghanistan: More troops?

8:50 p.m. Obama: Yes.

8:53 p.m. McCain: I think he said “yes” although he never said “yes.” Now, he’s on to Pakistan, so he’s not prepared to threaten it.

Which brings this comment from Twitter (actually it came before McCain mentioned it)

planetrussell NATO statement today in re Pakistani forces opening fire on 2 US copters near Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Gentlemen, what say you?

McCain says Marriott bombing was a sign from terrorists. He also says the tactics in Afghanistan will be the “same ones Obama has opposed.”

Obama says nobody is talking about attacking Pakistan. “Coming from you, someone who’s talked about extinction in North Korea…. ” (drowned out by laughter in the UBS Forum. I presume it had to do with the “Bomb Iran” Beach Boys thing.)

8:59 p.m. – McCain injects the bracelet of the dead soldier story. I’m betting he’s about to show the bracelet. He didn’t, though. I wonder if he’s still wearing it. (My error, he showed it.)

9:03 p.m. – Question: What is your reading from the threat from Iran?

McCain: If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it’s a threat to the state of Israel and other countries in the reason, who’ll want to acquire nukes. “We cannot allow another Holocaust.” Military strike? No, a League of Democracies to meet to impose “significant sanctions on the Iranians.”

9:06 p.m. Obama – “I believe the Republican Guard is a terrorist organization.” He says “the notion that we not talk to our enemies has not worked.”

9:08 p.m. “What about talking,” Lehrer asks. McCain says Obama has said he’d talk to head of “terrorist states” without precondition. Note: McCain has said he wouldn’t speak to Spain.

>> Kansas City 7 Minnesota 1 (Couldn’t see that coming, could you?))

9:14 p.m. McCain was stumbling through the economic section, but steeled himself during the foreign policy portion of the debate. Obama forceful, but is being put on defensive consistently. Who’s “winning”? You tell me.


9:16 p.m. – Obama: “Our approach has to be evaluated. Their actions were unwarranted. Russia must leave the two Georgian provinces, but doesn’t say how that’s going to happen.”

9:19 p.m. McCain: Uses “naivete” for the third time in the debate to describe Obama. No accident, of course. “We want to work with the Russians, but we have every right to expect the Russians to behave.” McCain does a nice explanation of the role Ukraine will play in the conflict.

Obama says he and McCain agree. Cleverly (desperately?) steers the conversation to energy and drilling for oil.


9:26 p.m. – Less than it was Says he’s proud of getting 9/11 reforms written into law. The heads of the 9/11 Commission have a different view. They said the country is still “dangerously vulnerable.”

9:29 p.m. Al Qaeda is operating in 60 countries, we can’t just fight them in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama says.

9:33 p.m. – Obama talks about the war in Iraq and says we can’t fund Veteran’s Care or provide health care for children. Fine, but why didn’t he say what the new bailout would have us NOT doing when he was asked earlier in this debate?

9:35 p.m. – McCain: “I know how to heal the wounds of war.” End of debate, but don’t go away! We’re just starting here at the debate-watching party.


9:40 p.m. – No “undecideds” have been swayed. Poor Curtis Gilbert of MPR was going to do a story on what the “undecideds” think. That’ll be tough, now.

9:42 p.m. Undecided: “I saw an Obama who provided information, but I didn’t like his character. McCain seemed less clear, but I liked his character.”

“Which is more important to you,” moderator Jeff Horwich asks.

“Over the months I thought Obama had better stump speeches, but I didn’t see that tonight so I’m in more of a quandry than before.”

9:45 p.m. – John (Undecided) – “I thought McCain was a cadaver.” OK, there’s some political analysis. “He looked like he was just out of storage. He says he’s now in the Obama camp.

9:46 p.m. – Tina (Undecided): “McCain was condescending.”

9:49 p.m. Mitch Berg (McCain supporter and writer of Shot in the Dark blog) “I thought McCain mopped the floor with him on gravitas and experience.” In the first few minutes, he think McCain looked stiff.

9:51 p.m. Obama supporter: She was originally a Clinton supporter and says Obama ‘takes away the cowboy effect we’ve gone with the last few years.”

9:52 p.m. Jamie (Undecided): Was a Clinton supporter. During the debate “I made the joke to my friend that I think they gave McCain a nap because he looked more alive than I expected. I felt they both seemed nervous in the beginning. McCain seemed to have more of a presence.”

9:55 p.m. Barry (Independent) “I’m bummed out. We still don’t know how we’re not going to be (in Iraq) for 100 years.”

9:58 p.m. That didn’t take long, there’s already an ad out:

10 p.m. Matthew (Obama supporter): “I felt McCain was as divisive a character as Bush, even if he did some bipartisan work years ago.”

We’re done here. Thanks for sticking with me this evening. Keep on talking in the comments section. I’ll be here off and on through the weekend.