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A Historic Night: the First Presidential Debate of 2008
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Scroll down for updates and liveblogging…Obama hammers Bush-McCain theme, McCain emphasizes — sigh — fighting against “climate change…with Sen. Clinton”…McCain hits his stride on the war, foreign policy, Obama’s no-preconditions bungle…Gaffe of the debate so far: Obama trying to respond to McCain on his military/moral authority: “I’ve got a bracelet, too!”

What a week, huh? The high-stakes presidential debate at Ole Miss starts at 9pm Eastern. Hang out here and share your thoughts. I’ll liveblog for as long as my stomach can take it.

Expectations: Low.

Ole Miss has a debate site here.

The moderator will be PBS anchor Jim Lehrer. The debate format:

— Each debate will have a single moderator and last for 90 minutes…

— During the first and third presidential debates, and the vice presidential debate, the time will be divided into eight, ten-minute segments. The moderator will introduce each segment with an issue on which each candidate will comment, after which the moderator will facilitate further discussion of the issue, including direct exchange between the candidates for the balance of that segment…

— Time at the end of the final presidential debate will be reserved for closing statements.


A reader proposes the first drinking game suggestion:

Michelle, how about a college-style drinking game tonight – where everyone takes a drink whenever Obama says “Bush” – in his laughably ridiculous ongoing effort to link McCain to Bush.

If you’re looking to get inebriated quickly, start drinking every time Obama says “Uh.”

Or every time McCain touts bipartisanship.


9:08pm Eastern.

First question on the need for solvency and security: Where do you stand on the economic recovery plan?

Obama: He’s reciting his bailout talking points…Oversight, returns to taxpayers, no CEO golden parachutes, help homeowners. Failed economic policies by George Bush supported by McCain.

McCain-Bush! Take your first swig, people.

McCain: Mentions Ted Kennedy being hospitalized. I’m not feeling too great about things tonight, but tonight I’m feeling a little better…touts bipartisan efforts to forge a bailout deal…Republicans and Democrats sitting down and negotiating.

Bipartisanship! Take another swig, people.

More McCain: This is the end of the beginning of the crisis. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Eliminate dependence on foreign oil.

Lehrer: Do you favor the plan, Sen. Obama?

Obama: We haven’t seen the language yet. There is constructive work being done there.

The question is how did we get here? Obama takes credit for warning about the problem.

McCain: Reminds that he warned about it, too. Says he will vote for the bailout. I’ve been heavily criticized for calling for the resignation of the SEC chairman.

He’s going on an anti-greed screed.

Obama: Attacking McCain for claiming the fundamentals of the economy are sound. Lehrer tries to get them to talk to each other directly. They won’t.

I agree with a commenter below. Obama is wearing too much make-up.

9:19pm Eastern.

Still on the economy.

McCain: We need to control spending. He’s talking about earmarks as a gateway drug. Refers to his friend Tom Coburn (also cited as a friend of Barack Obama). Obama has asked for $932 million in earmarks. Points viewers to Citizens Against Government Waste for documentation. That’s one of the fundamental differences between Obama and me.

Obama: Earmarks account for $18 billion in the budget. McCain wants $300 billion in tax cuts to wealthiest corporations and individuals.

McCain-Bush, McCain-Bush!

Bottoms up. Take another gulp.

McCain goes after Obama for $800 billion he supports in new spending. Obama says he’ll close corporate loopholes. Expand health care.

9:25pm Eastern. McCain is defending his business tax proposals. He really should challenge Obama on the Bush talking point.

Side note: Obama’s got a shiny flag lapel pin.

9:34pm Eastern. Sorry, tuned out for a moment there while Obama was burbling about building broadband lines.

McCain turns to defense spending. He’s recounting all his pork barrel fights.

I wonder if this debate will ever get to the stated focus: Foreign policy.

9:36pm Eastern. Another “Bush’s failed policies” line from Obama. What’s that now? 10?

Lehrer keeps hectoring the candidates to answer his question about how the financial crisis would change how they govern.

McCain says he’d call for a spending freeze on everything except defense and entitlements.

Obama’s babbling about something or other.

McCain goes after Obama on nuclear power, dependence on foreign oil…and CLIMATE CHANGE, “an issue I’ve been involved in for many years along with Sen. Clinton.”


9:42pm Eastern. McCain is repeating his lines about cutting spending. Okay, I think he’s got his message across on that.

Obama: Bush-McCain! Bush-McCain!

McCain: Repeats his “I was not elected Miss Congeniality…I’m a maverick and so’s my running mate.”

Lehrer moves to the war. What are the lessons of Iraq?

McCain talks strategy, surge, praises Petraeus, we will come home in victory.

Obama pats himself on the back for opposing the Iraqi invasion, rattles off body count, claims al Qaeda is resurgent, complains about military spending.

9:48pm Eastern. McCain does well, finally, in attacking Obama on his surge flip-flops and not visiting the battlefront.

Obama’s answer: “I’m proud of my vice presidential pick.”

Joe Biden: Obama’s human shield!

McCain says “Obama doesn’t know the difference between a tactic and a strategy.” McCain recounts his visit to Baghdad two Fourth of Julys ago and how troops told him, “Let us win.” McCain gives a counterinsurgency 101 lesson. McCain points out Obama voted to cut off funds for the troops.

Very good fusillade from McCain.

Obama getting antsy.

McCain engages Obama on setting specific dates for withdrawal.

9:55pm Eastern. Lehrer turns to Afghanistan. Do we need more troops?

Obama: “Yes. I’ve said that for over a year now.”

9:58pm Eastern. McCain is “not prepared to threaten Pakistan as Obama said he would do…You don’t say that out loud…I’ve been to Waziristan…need a strategy…”

Sidenote: Email from reader Rich…


Overall so far…McCain is not quick enough on the uptake. Obama is more focused and clearly more prepared with the details and populist counter-arguments. McCain needs to respond quickly from two perspectives….1) What he would do moving forward, and 2) What he has done over the last 25+ years, esp bipartisan efforts.

Q1: Why did McCain say he has “spoken out” about Fannie and Freddie instead of talking about his introduction of legislation in 2003 to provide further regulation/oversight of F & F.


Q2: Obama immed answers a question of what he plans to cut during this financial crisis with a laundry list of his proposals for new spending programs. McCain misses an easy opening to say just that…”Obama was asked what he would cut and answered how he would spend”.

More later..


USMC (Retired)

Obama comes back at McCain for singing “Bomb, bomb, Iran.”

McCain returns fire with his record on Lebanon, Somalia, Kosovo. “I have a record of being involved in these national security issues which involve the highest responsibilities you can have…”

McCain recounts his Matthew Stanley bracelet story. Talks about troops, families, refusing to come back with defeat and dishonor.

Obama: I’ve got a bracelet, too!

He has to look at it…uhhh…to remember whose bracelet it is.

10:06pm Eastern. Obama attacks McCain on Afghanistan. McCain responds: “You would think if he were so concerned, he would have gone to Afghanistan.”

McCain wants a “League of Democracies.”

10:14pm Eastern. McCain takes a dig at Obama’s presidential seal…”I don’t have a seal yet”…

should have probably explained the joke a little…

10:15pm Eastern. McCain attacks Obama’s pledge to meet tyrants without preconditions.

Obama blusters on his preconditions/preparations line.

10:18pm Eastern. McCain is strong on North Korea.

Obama cites Kissinger.

McCain comes back: He’s known Kissinger for 30 years. Obama is parsing words.

10:26pm Eastern. McCain sounds forceful on Russia/Georgia. Obama follows up meekly.

10:30pm Eastern. Last question. What’s the likelihood of another 9/11?

McCain: Less than it once was. Recounts teaming up with Joe Lieberman on formation of a 9/11 investigation commission…Bush opposed us…we reached across the aisle…long way to go on intelligence services…trained interrogators so we don’t ever torutre another prisoner ever again…America is safer today than it was on 9/11, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a long way to go…he really should tie the war on terror overseas — not just in Iraq, but worldwide — to homeland security…and what about border security…

Stop. Oh, my god, he just mentioned doing a better job on our borders.

Knock me over with a feather.

Obama: He’s talking missile defense. al Qaeda in 60 countries.

McCain should have covered that.

10:34pm Eastern. Obama credits McCain on the torture issue and then gives us his Big Idea for making America safer? “Restoring our standing in the world!” Making us more “respected!”

McCain: Obama doesn’t get it. If we fail in Iraq…it would lead to defeat…Americans will judge…right path or wrong path…this is the central issue of our time.

10:40pm Eastern. Wrapping up.

McCain: “I don’t need any on-the-job training. I’m ready to lead now.”

Obama is talking about his name. Filibustering about “investing,” “The Children,” etc.

McCain gets the last word: “I know how to heal the wounds of the war, I know how to deal.”

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Barack Obama, John McCain