OK, so I'll provide a little running commentary on the debate. I think these things ultimately end up being not as important as everyone assumes, but because McCain's epic FAIL stunt of suspending the campaign crashed and burned so badly, this will be a chance to wipe that out and reset the narrative. So this one may be more important than others. Plus, Obama is in the Reagan position of proving himself on the national stage, even though I think that's a stupid construction.
And away we go...
...it's broadcasting in HD, which is going to make McCain look far worse than normal...
Obama gets the first question, about the financial crisis. Obama now tries to do George Bush's job for him. He's talking directly to the camera, which was a issue in the other debates. "This is a final verdict on 8 years of failed economic policies supported by George Bush and Senator McCain." Plays the "fundamentals of the economy" line against McCain.
McCain bizarrely begins name-checking Ted Kennedy. His answer is about bipartisanship. He hasn't responded to Obama's very serious charge about the root causes of this crisis. Obama did very well in that exchange.
Obama is going right back to "how did we get here." I'll tell you, he's on his game right now. "That has to do with a philosophy that says that regulation is always bad." McCain says "I warned about it too!!!" Now he's off about some unrelated antidote about Eisenhower, who he might think that he's running against. McCain's first lie of the night is when he says that he called for the resignation of the head of the SEC. He actually said that he'd fire him, which isn't within the duties of a President.
Obama: We need accountability, but not just in a crisis. This is weird. Obama's making an argument and McCain isn't.
OK, next question. Lehrer's now asking for differences between the two candidates. Begging really. This is the oddest debate I've ever seen. McCain is running against the Republican Party. He's giving stump speech lines, and they aren't working (that DNA bears line didn't go over). Claims that Obama has offered $900 million in earmarks.
Wow, thank you Obama for delegitimizing the ridiculous earmark emphasis. The earmark budget compared to McCain's tax budget is ridiculous. Going into his tax plans now. And now McCain harping on these earmarks looks kind of ridiculous when the numbers are put out there. $18 billion on earmarks versus $300 billion on tax cuts for the rich.
It almost seems like McCain doesn't understand the format of the debate. McCain is now talking about the corporate tax rate
, which is a neat trick that elides the amount of money that corporations actually pay, which in the US was next to nothing over the last decade.
McCain mentions his health care refundable tax credit without mentioning that he would raise taxes for everyone by taxing health benefits as income.
Obama just said what I said about corporate tax rates AND health care taxes. He's on FIRE right now.
McCain's trying to call Obama a flip-flopper. Obama's having none of it. McCain is right to mention the energy bill, actually. But given all the other wins here, I think Obama's ahead on points.
Lehrer now asking what each candidate would have to give up because of the financial bailout. Obama is saying he can't do everything that needs to be done, but there are some things that have to be done. Mentions energy independence, health care, infrastructure and education. This has become a domestic policy debate for the first half-hour and McCain can't be happy about that.
McCain says we have to get rid of ethanol subsidies and end cost-plus defense contracting. And that defense spending is the highest part of the budget. That's all good. But then he mentions the Boeing contract, which effectively ends his ability to compete in Washington state.
Lehrer now butting in and trying to get the candidates to tell the American people to renege their policies. McCain just stepped in it, calling for a spending freeze on EVERYTHING but defense, veterans affairs and entitlements. Obama calls it "working with a hatchet and not a scalpel." That is an AWFUL, AWFUL answer.
McCain is the first to mention Sen. Clinton. Lehrer asking the exact same question a third time. Obama has given this answer already. He's patiently explaining it to Lehrer again. "We've got to know what our values are, and who we're fighting for." A budget is a moral document. Good work there by Obama. McCain responds "socialized medicine!!!" when health care was brought up 20 minutes earlier.
Obama NAILS McCain, lashes him to Bush's borrow-and-spend policies. Now McCain is running against Bush, too. This is an absolutely bizarre debate. By the way, McCain, you can't call yourself a maverick.
...we're on to Iraq, and McCain is spinning the Iraq myth yarn. Let's see if Obama gives Digby's
answer (probably not). Obama goes back to whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place. And says that we never finished the job in Afghanistan. "McCain and Bush had a very different judgment, and for the good of the country I wish they had been right." Goes through the entire litany, the dead and wounded, the lost lives and treasure. There's that "Iraq has a surplus" talking point, which I hate (How dare they not pay to fix what we blew up!), but in general that's a good answer.
McCain tries to look to the future, and then goes right back to the past pre-surge. (head tilted like a dog)
Obama: John, you like to act like the war started in 2007! Then tells McCain how many things he was wrong about, how many things all neocons were wrong about, on this war. That was good stuff. McCain responds by telling a story. Eye roll.
McCain smears Obama on the troop funding issue. Obama goes right back at him. And invokes the Afghanistan/Iraq dichotomy.
Obama needs a better line than muttering "that's not true" when McCain lies about him.
New question on Afghanistan. Obama wants more troops. Ties Afghanistan to Iraq in terms of the troop strength being limited. Having these troops in Iraq is "a strategic mistake." I don't think anyone can deny that Obama is being pretty assertive in this debate. Obama's at least giving a comprehensive answer here (infrastructure, the drug trade, Pakistan) instead of saying "We need more troops and then, you know, something."
McCain gives the puzzling answer that Obama was wrong to talk about strikes inside Pakistan out loud
; we might have to enact those strikes, but you shouldn't say so. That's weird. The rest of McCain's answer was basically what Obama said.
Good answer by Obama on Pakistan and how we had a Musharraf policy and we coddled the dictator. McCain says that his vote against sending Marines to Lebanon means that he's allowed to sing about bombing Iran.
...McCain loves these stories, doesn't he? I don't have the sense of things, but maybe they work. He is rambling now, I know that.
Obama says "I have a bracelet too!" Obama brings up the "muddle through"
comment that McCain made about Afghanistan. McCain's response is "b-but he hasn't visited Afghanistan a lot!" Um, your VP pick didn't have a passport until last year.
This part is unappealing to me. Because it's two people talking past each other.
...Now, it's two minutes for McCain to fearmonger about Iran. He immediately and irresponsibly brings up a Second Holocaust, and then talks about this nonsense "League of Democracies." Does that League include Spain, the country whose leader you refuse to meet with? He fearmongers on Iran and Russia in the same answer! Yay!
Obama's response. The single thing that has strengthened Iran is the war in Iraq. Iran's influence has grown in Iraq. Good way to spin this. Obama feels the need to talk tough about Iran for political reasons, but he is talking about engaging in tough direct diplomacy.
...The "Ahmamadadadadinnerdijajajajad" moment was pretty amusing. This whole idea that sitting across the table with enemies legitimizes them is just kind of ridiculous. Obama correctly says that Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person in Iran, which probably will get lost in the crowd or be considered a "gaffe" because it's absolutely accurate. Brings up the fact that Kissinger, McCain's own adviser, has called for talks with Iran.
Obama brought up the Spain gaffe. McCain is sure fond of saying "What Senator Obama doesn't understand..." and he lied about Kissinger.
Obama's good at telling McCain that he's wrong and he knows it
. That's a pretty good frame. McCain thinks he's got Obama on the run or something. He's yipping and getting real animated.
Here's a two-minute question on Russia. Obama's answer is measured by kind of wandering. McCain again says that Obama doesn't understand the issue. This is his message for the night.
Somehow this got on to energy, where Obama says "we can't drill our way out of the problem." Hammers him on McCain's record voting against alternative energy for 26 years. McCain now talking about "Nunn-Lugar" as if anyone knows what he's talking about. Obama was going to put in a bit about Yucca Mountain there but McCain filibustered.
The last question is pretty broad, about 9-11. McCain lies about torture, and walks the "safer but not yet safe" tightrope. Obama says we're safer in some ways. But we still have a long way to go. That's pretty similar. Obama takes it back to Iraq and Afghanistan. Then makes a good line about how the way we are perceived in the world is just as important as any military and intelligence action. Ugh, Obama gave McCain credit on the torture issue. TORTURE!!! McCain's lying about it. He voted against an intelligence bill that would ban torture practices in the CIA.
Obama started this debate pushing McCain around. McCain ended it pushing Obama around. I think Obama eked it out, but he ended badly.
McCain tries to connect Obama to Bush (!), and he continues to say that Obama doesn't have the experience to lead. Obama's closing statement is about how our standing in the world has been diminished (by WHO, Barack?). McCain couldn't let it end without a POW line. He seems pretty sensitive about being attacked on veteran's issues.
Labels: 2008, Barack Obama, debates, John McCain