Friday, September 26, 2008

Live Blogging the Presidential Debate

9:01. They should be holding the debate in Morehead, KY. What a great night! An unbelievable warm wind is blowing through town. There's a beauty in the air.

9:03. First question is on the financial recovery plan as an element in national security. Obama begins with "we are in a defining moment . . ." Obama starts like the French post-structuralist Michel Foucault with about 20 questions in a row. Then elaborates principles and doesn't really get to any point. Frustrating.

9:06. Now it's McCain's turn. What an awful red and white tie. He looks like a candy-striper. McCain starts better with bipartisan testimonial and emphasis on problems of everyday people. But now he's dribbling off about the House Republicans and ends up sounding like Sarah Palin.

9:08. Lehrer brings both candidates back to the question about the plan. Obama goes back to fundamentals yet again. Too much process. Too much history. Too many principles. Why not just say what he thinks about the plan as he knows it?

9:10. McCain doesn't want to deal with the plan either. Now McCain's talking about Dwight David Eisenhower on the eve of D-Day. Maybe he could throw in something about George Washington before he crossed the Delaware.

Ugh! This reminds me of my adviser Paul Kress who told me once that the questions on Ph.D. comprehensive exams could vary, but the answers were always the same. That's what Obama and McCain are doing, giving their rote answer whatever the question.

9:13. My prediction that this debate would be pretty mediocre looks like it's going to pan out. Maybe neither of them wants to say they want to support a $700 billion bailout. But I am glad to know that John McCain has "a fundamental belief in the United States of America."

9:14. Poor Jim Lehrer. He's asking decent questions like how McCain would lead the country if he was President. McCain's talking about the mating habits of bears in Montana instead. If McCain wants to get into bears, why doesn't he discuss what they do to fertilize the woods.

9:16. Obama finally gets in a decent point about McCain's proposal for reducing tax cuts for the wealthy. He also talks about cutting taxes for 95% of Americans but would have done better to focus on his principles here. Blogger are never satisfied.

9:18. McCain goes on about earmarks and finally gets to a point about low taxes and cutting spending.

9:20 Obama is starting to bore into McCain's tax cuts for corporate taxes. McCain responds by comparing Ireland favorably to U. S. because it has a low corporate tax. Then its back to earmarks. Freud was right about the compulsion to repeat.

9:21. McCain moves to his health care proposals. That makes him a sitting duck because McCain wants to tax health care benefits. Obama catched McCain on tax loopholes for the rich instead.

Finally, Obama moves to health care but he doesn't do it particularly well.

9:24. McCain goes back to earmarks yet again, but I have to admit that the repetition has its effect. It looks like McCain has a strategy for piling up proposals to distract the debate. It has an effect to muddle up the whole exchange. More mediocrity.

9:26. Question about what Obama would give up in relation to the financial bailout. Obama starts with his priorities again--energy independence, health care, science and technology, education, and college. But what would he cut?

Of course, Obama was hurt in the Saddleback Forum because he did answer the questions. I guess he can't win either way.

9:28, What would McCain cut--Obama's liberal voting record? McCain does mention ethanol subsidies, cost-plus contracts in defense spending. It's better to be more specific. Then he talks about examining every agency in government.

9:31, Obama now dithering in his answer--he needs to give examples of what he would delay. He does on the stump. Why not now?

9:32, Lehrer tries for a third time and McCain offers an across the board spending free. But Obama doesn't have an effective answer.

9:34, McCain's now doing better than Obama.

9:34, Lehrer makes a fourth attempt to get an answer to the question. Obama still doesn't offer anything specific. Democrats all over the country feel like wringing his scrawny neck. Obama says he has to make tough decisions but he doesn't say what tough decisions he would make.

9:36, McCain talks about cutting spending. It's better than discussing priorities, but it's still vague. It's nice to know that we owe the Chinese $500 billion.

9:38, Obama does now get to McCain's connections with Bush. McCain responds by mentioning that he's a maverick but not Miss Congeniality.

9:39, Lehrer runs up the white flag and asks a question about Iraq. McCain blames the failure in Iraq on George Bush, congratulates himself on Petraeus but doesn't mention the general's name at first. Now McCain is undercutting himself with his fantasies about stable democracy and a strong ally.

9:40, Now Obama gets a chance to reply about opposing the invasion in the first place. But he should just say the invasion was wrong and stupid. Obama's beginning to hesitate a fair amount even though he's doing fairly well on Iraq. Why doesn't he get to his withdrawal plan.

Obama's tying himself up and is falling a little further behind.

9:43, McCain's not exactly covering himself with glory . . . or coherence as he moves to criticize Obama.

9:45, Obama is driving me crazy. Why not discuss his withdrawal plan? Now McCain moves to a moment of military sentimentalism.

9:46, McCain is talking about bringing "peace and prosperity" to Iraq and he looks smug doing it. A little premature I think.

9:48, Finally, Obama gets to his plan to end the war in Iraq. He should just be more emphatic about that.

9:49, "Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory--" Obama lets McCain get away with this.

9:50, Obama doesn't have a good rhythm for debating. He needs to cut and thrust first, then explain.

9:51, Obama shouldn't cite so many authorities. He just needs to say what he wants to do.

9:52, Obama's not doing that bad in explaining his Afghanistan policy though.

9:52, McCain goofs by referring back to Afghanistan in 1989. McCain disagrees with announcing his administration's policy toward Pakistan. He refers to Waziristan and calls for a surge in Afghanistan even though the generals have already said that was a dumb idea. McCain is more coherent than Obama but not exactly the coherence king.

9:54, Obama isn't bad on cross-border attacks on American troops from Pakistan. This is Obama at his best.

9:57, McCain says that Obama doesn't understand and talks about Ronald Reagan in Lebanon. This doesn't make much sense. McCain's constant appeals to military sentimentality don't work in the context of a debate.

9:58, McCain's now congratulating himself on the number of interventions that he's backed. I don't know if that's a good record. McCain's getting a little fired up about Obama claiming that he talks recklessly. Now Obama has to get fired up as well.

9:59, Obama has his own sentimental story about a mother who doesn't want to see more soldiers die in Iraq. Not bad as Obama segwe's back to Afghanistan. Funny that Obama's strongest point is Afghanistan.

10:02 I'm not sure that McCain's that effective

10:03, Hopefully, Lehrer is going to take a break. Darn, I could really stand a blogging break.

10:04, McCain responds to the issue of Iran with his "League of Democracies" idea. That's weird, especially because American neo-cons are the only people outside the comic book world who believe in the League of Democracies.

10:05, Obama pretty good on the invasion of Iraq resulting in the strengthening of Iran. Now, he moves to his intolerance for a nuclear Iran. Obama is sounding pretty good on Iran.

10:08, Now they're getting into the question of talking with Iranian leaders "without conditions." McCain sounding weird about "legitimizing" Iranian leadership.

10:09, It's interesting that McCain refuses to look at Obama while Obama is talking.

10:10, Obama is pretty good on talking with the Iranians and is effective in using North Korea as an example of how bad isolation is as a policy

10:12, Obama is catching up, but McCain responds by saying that talking is "dangerous."

10:13, Now McCain is criticizing the idea of talking with the North Koreans. I think the media is going to hop on McCain here.

10:14, We're getting higher quality debate now. McCain's getting more fired up.

10:16, Now it's onto Russia where Obama is fairly weak compared to McCain. Obama is starting off pretty well but McCain has several knives that he can use in response. Obama wants Georgia to be able to join NATO. I don't like that at all. Georgia's government is basically the Caucasus version of Bush and McCain.

10:18, McCain pulls out his first knife in saying that Obama was naive in equating Russia and Georgia. McCain is gaining confidence now and the confidence makes him look more effective.

10:19, Now McCain is undercutting himself by going into a long-winded explanation of his approach to Georgia.

10:20, McCain could have had an advantage here, but his long-windedness is undermining him. He's talking a lot about countries and leaders that no one cares about and no one should care about. One of the students leaves to have a couple of beers.

10:21, Both McCain and Obama are positive about Shakashvili who is a real idiot. Obama's pretty effective about the whole Georgia issue.

10:23, Obama is moving onto energy again. He's not very good about his plans because he insists so much getting out his principles first. McCain is looking really smug while Obama is talking. One more permutation and McCain's going to display his "horrible smile."

10:24, Was Nunn-Lugar the whole Yucca Mountain mess?

10:26, Lehrer brings out the big gun of the likelihood of a 9-11 attack. McCain responds with the commission to investigate 9-11. Yet another distraction. Finally, he gets to the point that the U. S. is safer today.

10:28, Waiting for McCain to stop blathering so Obama can finish up. Obama thinks we're safer in some ways and actually gets some facts in. Obama sounds better here because he's being specific. I wouldn't say that Obama's developing a lot of momentum, but he is evening things up at the end as he talks about chasing down al-Qaida.

10:30, Obama talking about how little the U. S. is respected in the world.

10:30, McCain moves to Iraq. Obama should have done a lot better on Iraq.

10:32, What about the poor live bloggers? I thought this debate was going to have a break. But enough whining. Obama is talking about how the Iraq war has weakened this country.

10:33, Obama's not doing too bad on the need to de-prioritize Iraq. Not bad.

10:34, McCain emphasizing that he is more experienced than Iraq. McCain testifies that he "will take care of" veterans without being specific. Sentimentality doesn't work here.

10:35. Obama is making a closing point. Now Obama is moving onto his general vision. He wants to "keep America safe" through issues of "how ordinary people are going to live out their dreams."

10:36. McCain goes to his hole card--being a POW.

Next week on October 2, the two VP candidates.


anansei said...

I think McCain's Kissinger Gaffe will be something that bites him in the press - well I hope - Good Live Blog - I really enjoyed it

Ric Caric said...

Thanks Eric. It's kind of funny. I thought McCain came out ahead but that he also gave the media a lot of information to use against him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blow by blow. As if all us hillbillies are too stupid to understand it without your summarized interpretations.

(rolling eyes)