Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Town Hall Debate Liveblogging

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That’s it. New thread.

McCain gets the last word: he graciously admits that he doesn’t know the future.

Obama points to Michelle and makes a golly-gee husband joke that seems to go over well with the audience. Obama dodges the question and goes back to his biography, hits his usual closing statement riff.

Question What don’t you know, and how will you learn it?

The “talks” issue is also a foolish fight for McCain to have started. Obama’s position is infinitely more reasonable here, just plain commonsense.

McCain hits the “We can never allow another Holocaust” line again, for the third or fourth time tonight. Someone’s worried about Florida…

Ezra Klein echoes Jeff in my comments:

10:19: It’s remarkable that McCain can accuse Barack Obama of abrogating basic tenets of sound global leadership by promising to kill bin Laden but when asked about Russia, says that he looks at Putin and sees nothing but “KGB.” The score card appears to be that Obama will prosecute the hunt for al Qaeda while McCain will restart the Cold War. Which sounds more responsible to you?

Question: Hypothetical question from a veteran about whether or not we’d support Israel if Iran attacked it. McCain goes over to shake the man’s hands, a cheap moment that is nonetheless the first genuinely empathetic moment he’s managed all night.

Question: This is a yes or no question: Is Russia under Putin an evil empire? Ryan says: Whaaaaaat? McCain says “Maybe.” This was really a question?

I’m seeing word on some blogs that the RNC is preemptively spinning this as “not a real town hall debate.” That means they think McCain’s losing.

Question: How do we pressure Russia to be more excellent?

Then it’s more surge surge surge.

McCain lights another candle in the Church of St. Petraeus.

Question: Afghanistan.

McCain is really on the defensive here—he’s spooked on both the bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran issue as well as the fact that he’s “will follow Osama to the gates of hell but not to the cave where he lives.” Tries to claim the bomb-Iran song was a joke, tries to claim he’d cross the Pakistan border to get bin Laden too. He’s crashing and burning tonight.

Obama demands a follow-up, this time he gets it. This is such a ridiculous fight for McCain to have picked—it gives Obama the chance to be a tough guy. He also gets to embarrass McCain on the warmongering statements in his past. Very nice use of the demanded follow-up.

Comments are alive with the notion that

1) blood is our most precious national resource
2) McCain has more than one hero.

McCain tries to back-peddle on this Pakistan issue as something you don’t say, not something he wouldn’t do. Weak.

Question: Should the United States chase al Qaeda into Pakistan? The question is framed as a no-win: either you break sovereignty a la Cambodia during Vietnam, or you let al Qaeda escape into Pakistan. But this, of course, is just a mask for a question with an easy answer: invade Pakistan, kill bin Laden, and sweep up the pieces later. This is what Obama (eventually) says.

McCain rambles and rambles on this question too. He tries to tie it into the surge, but fails.

McCain, like all American politicians, loves interventionism, but not all interventionism.

Brokaw: What is the Obama Doctrine for the use of force without direct national security interest? Obama, like all American politicians, loves interventionism, but not all interventionism.

There’s a funny arms race going on with breaking the time limits. Each time, each person stretches it just a little further.

My commenters don’t like “Greatest force for good in the history of the world.” Not one bit. Why do my commenters hate America?

Obama comes back with the line from last week: “McCain keeps saying I don’t understand. But he’s been wrong about everything ever.” Segues into Iraq.

After an interminable speech, McCain hits his closer: “We don’t have time for on-the-job training.”

McCain answers “American exceptionalism.” For about two straight minutes.

Question What about America as a peacemaker?

McCain makes a joke about how Obama didn’t answer his bait about the size of the fine. McCain is looking really bad on just about every level.

Obama owns health care. Completely.

Camera catches McCain clenching up and sighing in the background. I’m seeing a pattern… Is this the George-Bush-checking-his-watch moment?

Brokaw: Is health care a fundamental right or a responsibility? McCain says “responsibility” but seems to misplace the agency—he seems to say it’s government’s responsibility. Obama says it should be a right.

McCain’s doing worse and worse on health care; even tries a bizarre hair-plugs joke.

More on the Ohio undecided voter device, from Tim:

I love this CNN audience reaction stuff. McCain is getting some hits, but Obama is NAILING energy and health care. Voters across the spectrum like him on these issues. There is no issue on which McCain gets points across the spectrum.
Tim | Email | Homepage | 10.07.08 – 9:58 pm | #

McCain flubs the health care question pretty badly—talks about putting health care records online (huh?) and then starts talking about mandates. I thought all 27 debates during the Democratic primary were about how Obama hates mandates. Now I’m confused.

Hits McCain on the taxing health care issue. Obama is doing very well, it must be said.

Jeff in the comments notices what we’ve been talking about here in the living room—McCain’s calling Obama “that one.” Another weird moment that didn’t come across well from where I’m sitting.

Camera catches McCain making eyebrows at somebody—weird moment. It sort of looked like he was mocking Obama; I wonder if that’ll get replayed.

Obama feels our pain on health care.

Question: “Should health care be a commodity?”

Obama doesn’t get to talk about that one for some reason.

Follow-up: Should we fund a Manhattan Project for energy, or should we fund garage industry a la Silicon Valley? Weird question that sounds more profound than it is—what would the difference be in practice?

Brokaw whines about the time again.

Obama hits the word “investment” with regard to his energy plan again, and again I think it’s a good framing. Hits McCain on having been in Washington forever and having voted against alternate energy forever.


Yeah, McCain is mostly flat lining on the CNN scroll. Apparently uncommitted Ohio voters don’t respond to Herbert Hoover jabs.
Neil | 10.07.08 – 9:47 pm | #

McCain keeps dropping Joe Lieberman’s name. Because everyone loves Joe Lieberman. McCain is rambling on this one, big time: he couldn’t even get out his canned response on nuclear power. Then back to American exceptionalism: turns out we’re the best innovators.

Question: What’s the deal with climate change and green jobs?

McCain says again “Our best times are ahead of us.” Is there a drinking game on this I’m missing?

McCain says “it’s not that hard to fix Social Security.” The solution is more bipartisanship. McCain’s not too popular with his own party, much less the Democrats. Since everyone hates McCain, we know we can trust him to get things done. Huh?

Obama takes his response in the next question anyway, and makes his tax plan very explicit with firm numbers. Very strong answer, I thought.

Obama wants a response. Brokaw refuses.

McCain goes after Obama on taxes with a very weird metaphor about jello.

Obama points out the stupidity of the across-the-board freeze, but doesn’t say what he should: that you don’t freeze spending in a recession.

From the comments:

I thought the town hall was McCain’s strong point. He’s stumbling around like a drunk high schooler.
Jeff | Email | Homepage | 10.07.08 – 9:31 pm | #

Gravatar Yeah, I agree, McCain has been terrible so far.
Neil | 10.07.08 – 9:33 pm | #

Gravatar What is the composition of this group? Are there ANY young voters there?
Tim | Email | Homepage | 10.07.08 – 9:33 pm | #

Good points all.

“A lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11,” Barack says. All, I reckon. Pivots from Bush’s “go shopping” advice to a call for real community and real sacrifice. Ignores McCain entirely, which is probably the right call.

Question #4: I guess this one was about spending? There was a lot of chatter in the room. McCain’s talking about cutting defense spending, also Barack Obama’s love of overhead projectors. Then he gets in a nonsense stab about priorities—I said we can do it all! Barack hates health care! Really a stupid moment.

(Oh, here’s the question: “What sacrifices will you make to restore the American dream?”)

Brokaw yells at everyone about time.

Then he hits McCain’s record, particularly the tax cut for the big corporations. Spending vs Earmarks: The Rematch!

Sweet Caroline is touched by Barack’s suggestion that we have to prioritize “like a family.” “Oh, we’re a family! Me and Barack!” In the meantime, Obama is hitting hard on energy independence, which is says is priority #1, hell yes. Health care is priority #2. Education #3.

Brokaw hits McCain on time again.

McCain says we can do it all. Yay! Sweet Caroline, who is on fire, points out that only mavericks can get away with something like that.

Brokaw follow-up: We’ve got to make some hard choices. What are your priorities from my arbitrary list?

Sweet Caroline points out that McCain’s had the stop-talking red-light for about a minute and a half now. Brokaw had to shut him down.

But then he turns on the bipartisanship, which strikes me as counter to the premises of the question. She said, “You’re all crooks.” He said, “I work with everyone.” That doesn’t make me feel like he’s *less* of a crook.

McCain also feels her pain. That’s good.

Obama uses the word “investment” to describe his infrastructure programs on energy and health care. That’s a good framing.

Obama feels her pain: “I understand your cynicism.” Hits Bush in reply—when George Bush came into office we had surpluses, George Bush doubled the debt, etc. And McCain voted for it all. I think that was the smart play.

Question #3: “How can we trust either of you with our money when both parties got us into this global economic crisis?”

Brokaw follows up: Mr. Obama, are you saying that the economy is going to get worse before it gets better? Obama says that he believes in America, but that we need 21st century reforms for a 21st century economy. McCain says “it depends.” Why does McCain hate America/capitalism/puppies?

Obama tries to break down the buyout. Then he tries to lay down his cred on reform. Then he hits McCain on his campaign manager. I might have reversed that order.

It turns out it was Obama’s “cronies” who caused this problem! Damn you, Obama! Why have you ruined our economy?

McCain loves the bailout now—he calls it a “rescue.” He suspended his campaign, you might remember.

Question #2: More bailout.

Brokaw tries to remind them about the time limits.

Obama likes Warren Buffet too, but dodges the question to talk more about the middle class.

Brokaw gets in his first follow-up. McCain is asked who’d he appoint to the job of putting in charge of the bailout, flirts with Tom Brokaw a bit in response, then names Warren Buffet, Meg Whitman.

Big problem for McCain tonight: the camera angles can’t hide how short he is.

McCain digs at Obama about his much-vaunted town hall plan—”It’s good to be with you at a town hall debate”—and immediately starts rambling.

Obama starts off calling it “the final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years.” Hits CEOs and the Big AIG Post-Bailout Party.

Question #1: How will you bail out the Average Joe on Main Street?

The debate is starting now. After two straight wins for Team Obama, I’m expecting the media to push pretty hard for a McCain win, particularly as this is McCain’s supposed point of strength. I’m mostly interested in how bad the questions are going to be…

Written by gerrycanavan

October 8, 2008 at 12:59 am

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