8:39: I really shouldn’t be watching this on CNN, but they have so many gadgets. A countdown clock! A group of undecided voters! (Who, interestingly, think Obama will win the debate 70-30 before it even starts, thus rendering “undecided voter” even closer than ever to “dumbass.”) A group of “analysts” who will score McCain and Obama on how well they hit “opportunities,” thus rendering the actual substance of the debate exactly as important as CNN thinks it is, which is not very much at all!
8:43: Wolf Blitzer is another one of those people who really, really needs to be punched in the face.
8:48: The guy who looks like Mr. Potato Head says that McCain has a huge advantage because he has a good sense of humour, right after marveling how amazing it is that the candidates will have to speak for five minutes at a time – why, it’s nearly as strenuous as a high school forensics competition!
8:50: Actually I think I would like to punch CNN’s entire political team in the face. Maybe not Campbell Brown, she is pretty and occasionally says things that are not stupid. But the rest of them, yes.
8:55: To “set the scene” CNN has established that a debate party supporting Obama is full of black people, where a debate party supporting McCain is full of white people. JURMALISM!
8:56: However, on the bright side, everybody seems to agree that John McCain is a master debater while Obama cannot string two words together in a debate context. Nothing like setting the bars of expectation where Obama wants them. (I am not being sarcastic.)
8:58: Ted Kennedy: still not dead.
9:00: Jim Lehrer, staring at the screen, dead-eyed. YES THIS IS TELEVISION AT ITS MOST GRIPPING. Debate rules! Who doesn’t love debate rules! The audience isn’t allowed to cheer except when Obama and McCain show up, and then again when they leave, and are allowed one “woo” if either Obama or McCain busts a particularly funky move.
9:03: Financial crisis question and the bailout plan. Do you support the bailout plan, Senator Obama? Wall Street is not Main Street. He goes through his points as to what he expects from any bailout plan. The lines say the people like his points. However, in a shocking bit of news, Republicans do not like it when he blames George Bush.
9:06: John McCain sends out his props to Kennedy, whom he calls “T-Dog.” No, I just made that up. The crisis is very bad. It’s bad. It’s so bad. People will lose jobs, that’s how bad it is. If you notice I am not being specific here, there is a reason for that. And finally, let’s eliminate our dependence on foreign oil.
9:08: Do you favor the plan specifically, then, guys? Obama explains how he has been mostly right all along, and finally says “yes, we have to intervene,” but then comes out for more regulation. The lines seem to like his regulation. John McCain talks about Dwight Eisenhower, then says we need to hold people accountable, and says he got criticized for calling for the resignation of Chris Cox, which is, you know, not true, because McCain said he would fire Cox, which, like, the President can’t do.
9:12: Jim Lehrer wants them to talk to each other. Obama keeps it classy and doesn’t go for the gutshot on McCain. The lines like him. They dip down for McCain when he starts talking about, you know, nothing. McCain then again calls the USA the greatest “exporter and importer,” which A) it isn’t and B) so what if it was.
9:14: McCain starts talking about government spending being out of control aaaaand yes he’s talking about earmarks, linking corruption to earmarks (what?) and attacks Obama for earmark spending. Okay, first test here: can Obama really kick McCain in the nuts over this?
9:16: Obama admits that earmarks are bothersome, but then points out BASIC MATH! In a presidential debate! Who would’ve thunk. Talks up his tax plan, which makes the lines go SUPER HAPPY. McCain attacks Obama about earmarks some more then ignores the basic math and goes back to the corruption argument, then complains that Obama is asking for eleventy billion dollars in new spending – and Obama interrupts and reiterates, again, that earmarks alone aren’t going to do nearly enough to balance the budget.
9:20: Jim Lehrer ORDERS McCain to respond to Obama about tax policy. McCain starts talking about business flight (which is a fair point), then starts talking about earmarks AGAIN. Jesus Christ. Obama again points out his tax plan defines “rich” as “more than $250K per year” – and then mentions that McCain wants to tax health benefits. The lines mostly like that.
9:23: McCain again talks about earmark spending. This really is all he’s got.
9:26: Shifting back to the bailout again. What will they give up for the $700 billion? Obama says he’s not willing to give up energy independence and defines it as a priority. Second, fixing the healthcare system. The lines are INSANELY in favor of this. Third, competing on science and education. Fourth, rebuilding national infrastructure. (This is not quite so popular, probably because it’s a little less tangible.)
9:28: McCain wants to cut spending. Obama is super-liberal, you know! He says he’d cut ethanol subsidies (well, he’s not winning Iowa anyway, so that’s safe). He’ll cut fixed-cost military contracts! (That’ll pay for Iraq!)
9:30: Jim Lehrer says “wait, what will you cut?” Obama: portions of the energy independence program that might be more expensive than anticipated; healthcare subsidies to insurance companies via Medicare (this is popular). Obama says he’s so liberal because he opposes Bush’s policies (big Dem spike). Points out that he and Tom Coburn put together “Google for government.”
9:32: McCain: spending freeze on everything except defense (go figure). Obama: a spending freeze is dumbassed when you want more efficient government. (Paraphrased.) McCain: we spend $700 billion a year on energy independence and it has to include oil drilling and nuclear power. He starts jacking off some more about nuclear power.
9:34: Jim Lehrer: “please just admit that the financial bailout is going to make life tough for you. Please.” Almost begging. Obama admits it, then attacks McCain’s tax cuts for the rich. McCain attacks socialized medicine, because he has been on it all his life. Whoops! Then he again demands less government spending and less taxes.
9:38: McCain says “I’m not the Miss Congeniality of the Senate” for the second time. I suspect we will need a count on this one.
9:39: What are the lessons of Iraq? McCain: “I was right all along, you know. I was right in 2003, and then I was right about the surge, and I was right about everything else. In summary: I am right.”
9:40: The consequences of defeat in Iraq would have been: greater sectarian violence and expanded influence from Iran. (Wait, didn’t that happen?)
9:41: Obama: the lesson of Iraq is that it was a stupid fucking idea, and maybe we shouldn’t do stupid fucking things. Oh, and Iraq is costing the USA a shitload of money, and we didn’t get Osama, so let’s hear it for not being fucking stupid.
9:43: McCain: I was right I was right I was right. Lines are more or less okay for this, but they aren’t spiking nearly that high as Obama spiked.
9:45: Obama: The surge was a desperate attempt to contain four years of fuckups. Hey, John, were you right about the war being “quick and easy?” (Republicans, surprisingly, not pissed about this at all.) McCain: Obama is a dumbass and I went to Iraq. Independent voter lines are SAGGING.
9:47: McCain lays out the Little Golden Reader Book version of how you occupy a country peacefully as if it was somehow relevant. And then lies about Obama being willing to support troops, which Obama calls him on.
9:48: McCain has the WEIRDEST grin on his face. I think he’s starting to get pissed off.
9:50: Afghanistan! More troops, says Obama! Slams Iraq again for being a strategic mistake. And starts talking about having to deal with Pakistan, which the lines like, because Pakistan is inherently anti-line.
9:53: McCain attacks Obama for talking about having to deal with Pakistan and… is McCain saying the US needs to occupy Afghanistan in the same manner as Iraq? The lines like him, but… that’s a major commitment he just made right there.
9:56: Obama notes that John “Bomb bomb bomb Iran” McCain has no ground to say shit about people not being properly diplomatic.
9:57: McCain really loves Reagan! But not so much that he voted for marines going into Lebanon in 1983. Now he’s talking about some town hall meeting where some dead soldier’s mother gave him a bracelet and that the mission in Iraq must not be in vain and the United States can’t lose.
10:00: OBAMA HAS A BRACELET TOO! And his bracelet is all anti-war! BRACELET WARS!
10:02: McCain bitches out Obama for not going to Afghanistan, because McCain has BEEN THERE you know. He knows all the poppy shepherds by name.
10:03: It’s Iran time! McCain thinks if Iran gets nukes it’s very bad for Israel and all the other countries in the world. He says that Obama isn’t willing to call Iran bad guys to their faces.
10:06: Obama is willing to call the Iranian Republican Guard a terrorist organization (…yay?) and says that Iran can’t get nukes. This is mostly like saying water is wet, unless you are Iran.
10:08: McCain attacks Obama for being willing to talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions and meet him in person and “legitimize” him. Obama points out that the big M-A isn’t even the most powerful man in Iran, and says he’s not afraid to meet with anybody if he thinks it’ll make America safe. The lines like that. Then points out that Henry Kissinger, a McCain advisor (and isn’t THAT a coup for McCain, he said sarcastically) is willing to meet unconditionally with bad people and in fact has done such things.
10:11: OH SNAP, it’s the “even Bush is doing what I think we should do” argument. And now Obama is going to the North Korea well, which given that it’s the biggest foreign policy fuckup of the Bush terms, is a good deep well for him. McCain looks really, really pissy.
10:12: OH SNAP AGAIN Obama pulled out the Spain attack!
10:13: McCain again going with “preconditions,” the lack of which he hates nearly so much as he does earmarks. I bet he’d really hate earmarks WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS! He also points out that North Korea is bad.
10:15: McCain has a weird grin on his face again. “Lemme get this straight, we sit down with Ahmadinejad, he says he wants to kill Israel, and we say “no you won’t?” …er, yes?
10:16: RUSSIA! The great bear! The giant bowl of borscht! Talks about defending the Eastern Bloc countries because they are members of NATO, says that Ukraine and Georgia can join NATO if they can manage the requirements. Also says that we can’t have a Cold War position with Russia, because that is, you know, INSANE. The lines really like this.
10:18: McCain’s turn, and he’s gonna attack Obama for being naive about Russia – and the lines are DROPPING. McCain is sure that we are not going to go back to the Cold War. Presumably because he wants to fight a hot one.
10:20: The lines are back up for McCain talking about Georgia and the Eastern Bloc supporting them. McCain has been to Georgia, you know! But generally he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, which is impressive given that McCain is a doddering old fart. The lines reflect him sounding competent.
10:22: Obama ties Russia’s power to petrodollars and the need for America to become energy independent. Lines start going up in anticipation of his argument, and then points out more BASIC MATH by talking about how small America’s domestic oil supplies in fact are.
10:24: John McCain is sniffing loudly for some reason. It is very audible. He then lies some more about offshore drilling about how it will help on price. Obama really, REALLY wants to respond to this. He tries, but McCain starts talking over him.
10:26: Will the USA see another 9/11? McCain doesn’t think so! Because he worked with Joe Lieberman (gag). And then he says that he doesn’t want torture, which is some of the rankest bullshit he has yet spewed tonight.
10:28: Obama thinks the USA is safer too, but says there’s way more to do in terms of port control and how nuclear proliferation is incredibly important. He talks up missile defense (sigh) in terms of North Korea (which is the only likely thing missile defense can feasibly protect the USA from, so, well, that’s something I guess) but restates the need to stop proliferation, and then points out basically that he’s popular and the world likes him and that’s not nothing. And then he congratulates McCain’s shitty hypocritical record on torture. Christ, Barack!
10:31: McCain brings back nuclear proliferation to… Iraq? WHAT. THE. FUCK. The lines are mostly sharing my what-the-fuckness.
10:33: Obama basically says “yeah, Iraq, whatever, we owe China our kitchen sink plus the kitchen, that’s way worse.” Which is mostly true. Talks about the need for economic strength again, which the lines LOVE. Talks about veteran funding and how it’s important, and basically implies that John McCain has Iraq-based tunnel vision.
10:34: HOLY SHIT JOHN MCCAIN IS COMPARING OBAMA TO BUSH. The lines are notably not with him on this. Then he talks about how he loves veterans, except when there’s a GI Bill to vote for. Oh, wait, not that last part.
10:36: Obama: “My father came from Kenya.” Reeeeeeeeeeaaallly.
10:37: “When I came home from prison…” POW POW POW POW POW. And that ends the debate.
Final thoughts: McCain spent most of the debate looking to score a zinger. Obama spent most of it looking intelligent. I think Obama wins on points, but not a knockout punch. But, remember – this was the foreign policy debate. This was where McCain was arguably strongest, and I don’t even think he managed a tie – and the lines agree with me.