[Presented in reverse chronological order]
8:35PM OK, one more one last thing. McCain kinda sucks with or without a teleprompter. But Obama keeps fumbling the easy ones, where all he has to do is segue into his stump speech talking points. If that reminds you of his initial response to the Georgia invasion, it’s for good reason. The man simply is not ready for the burden of this office. But I’m more than ready for another martini. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll see you next week at the next debate. Cheers!
8:33PM One last thing. McCain is finishing with, “Obama still doesn’t understand.” It’s true that McCain pulled a lot of punches. But he’s won on points — and at the end, I think that was his strategy all along. Had he come on too strong, McCain would have left himself open to those charges of being imprudent. Tonight he was prudent, if sometimes overly so. Obama came across as an impudent naif — and that’s not what Americans want, need, or can afford in times like these.
8:30PM OK, I’ll give you a real close now. Obama strikes me as a modern Chamberlain, praising his (oh-so-transient) “peace with honor.” McCain, however, comes across as “peace when we’re done kicking you ass and not one moment sooner.” And since this was ostensibly a foreign policy debate, I give the win to McCain. Oh, and one other thing — Obama is still talking as I write this. But he’s spending his last answer angling for the European vote, which does nothing but reinforce my point.
8:27PM Now that it’s almost over, may I at long last say … “oh, the humanity!”
8:25.5PM I mean, who would notice?
8:25PM “I’ve never said I object to nuclear waste.” Then let’s store it on Chicago’s south side!
8:24PM Last question …
8:23PM Obama expected Russia to trade its “peacekeepers” in South Ossetia and Abkhazia with “international peacekeepers.” And how did he propose to do that, even prior to the invasion? If you thought I was too harsh calling him a “naif” before, surely you agree with me now.
8:22PM This debate still has ten minutes or so to go. But it’s not too soon to give you a wrap. McCain is no debater. He wouldn’t last a second during Question Hour in the British Parliament. And yet Obama is coming off in third place in a two-man session.
8:19PM Quoting Obama, “Both sides ought to show restraint.” Both sides including … GEORGIA! And again McCain draws a contrast between himself and Bush. And again Obama comes off as me-too at best, a naif at worst.
8:18PM Don’t get me wrong — McCain is hardly my dream candidate. Unfortunately for me, and the nation, Cal Coolidge has been dead for quite some time now.
8:18PM Do I sound dismissive about the distinguished senator from Illinois? Oh, good!
8:17PM How do you see Russia? Obama: “uh … um … ah … we need to assess…” Maybe even a study group!
8:16PM On to Russia …
8:15PM “Aw, please,” says McCain. It’s about time somebody said that to this contorted naif.
8:15PM “Preconditions” = “Preparation,” says Obama. To again put it in high school terms: Studying for your exams is the same as expecting your teacher to just give you an A.
8:14PM I don’t know if McCain will win. I still doubt it, and sometimes I dread it. But if he doesn’t do better with Jews than any Republican since… ever, then there’s something wrong here.
8:13PM “I’m not going to set the White House visitor schedule before I’m elected.” And Obama just got another welt across his behind.
8:12PM Every time Obama complains that the Bush strategy hasn’t worked with Iran, he reinforces the point that his own plan is just more of the same, only granting Iran even more prestige. How stupid does he thing we are? How naive is he?
8:11PM Obama is man enough to admit that “it may not work” to have the Iranian president over at the White House. Back in high school, we used to say, “No sh*t, Sherlock?”
8:10PM “Let’s talk about this,” says Obama. Isn’t that the goddamn problem, you inexperienced, officious little whelp?
8:09PM Pardon me as I wet myself while McCain spanks Obama over his promise to negotiate with Iran “without preconditions.” It’s like gay porn, only this stuff turns me on. (Sorry, Bruce!)
8:08PM “Tough, direct diplomacy against Iran!” I wave papers in your general direction, you Persian sons of hamsters!
8:08PM But yet we need “tougher sanctions.”
8:07PM Obama just said sanctions haven’t worked against Iran!
8:06PM Oh, and he slid it in under the wire, but every Jew watching just noted McCain say “never again.” Obama should have followed suit, but so far hasn’t.
8:05PM The best way to hurt Iran is to lower oil prices. McCain ought to be hammering that fact as part of his Drill Now, Drill Frickin’ Everything mantra.
8:04PM In the comments, Dave writes, “‘Paahkistaahn’ might be closer to the correct pronunciation, but it comes across as effete. (Jenjiss kaahn?)”
8:03PM Lehrer says they’re even on time. But that they’ve run out of five minute thingies. Give it to Lehrer for running an even debate, if nothing else.
8:02PM “You’d think Obama would have gone to Afghanistan.” And then McCain further slammed Obama for hiding behind Senate rules (although I doubt many people caught that one).
8:01PM “No soldier ever dies in vain,” says Obama. That’s in direct contradiction to something he said during the primaries. Can someone look that up for me, please, while I drink? (I’m lazy, it’s true.)
8:00PM Can I vote McCain for Best Old Uncle?
7:58PM Do a shot every time McCain says “I have a record.” He doesn’t *need* to say, “And my opponent doesn’t.”
7:58PM Now there’s a bit of history I’d forgotten. McCain voted against his “dear friend” Reagan’s deployment of Marines to Lebanon. Kind of squashes that whole “prudence” complaint.
7:57PM This is Obama’s first really solid answer. So I can promise you it’s the one all the news outlets (save *maybe* Fox) will be running tomorrow.
7:57PM Heh. Obama just slammed McCain about “prudence” after that “Bomb bomb bomb Iran” song. It’s a fair cop.
7:56PM “Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan,” says Obama. This must be Obama v2.0. Three-point-oh?
7:54PM “You don’t say that out loud,” says McCain, about Obama’s promise to invade Pakistan. My exact words, from the first time Obama made his stupid, juvenile threat.
7:53PM You know, Obama is right — and has been right — about calling for more troops for Afghanistan. But now he’s calling for more eradication of poppy seeds… and extending the Drug War to Afghanistan is the single biggest mistake Bush has made in that country.
7:52PM I just spent HOURS talking to Austin Bay about Afghanistan last weekend. And his assessment — wise when Obama was writing junior high school love poems — does not match up with that of the senator from Illinois.
7:50PM Obama has got to stop doing that half smile thing. I know, because I do it too. All the freaking time.
7:49PM Wasn’t Obama promising to reduce our troops in Iraq “in 16 months” at least 12 months ago? Why won’t the left call for his warmongering head?
7:48PM I live and breathe this stuff, even while drinking, but I can barely follow Obama’s answers. McCain is hardly inspiring, but he at least seems to make sense.
7:47PM I haven’t been paying attention to CNN’s audience-o-meter. Can someone tell me how the candidates are doing? It’s a gimmick, but I’m curious — and I have to LISTEN to these debates while I focus on typing on the screen.
7:46PM “Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy.”
7:44PM I’m going to miss some stuff now, while I go shake another martini. I trust you’ll understand and forgive.
7:43PM McCain says the next President won’t decide IF to go into Iraq, but HOW to exit and WHAT to leave behind. And it’s there that Obama’s judgement has been wrong for years.
7:42PM Obama has GOT to stop counting the costs of the Iraq War, at a time when Americans are feeling better about it. It’s bad politics, bad strategy, and absolutely shitty leadership. If you’ll pardon my English.
7:41PM Obama opposed Iraq. Who knew! But didn’t he also oppose the surge that McCain endorsed before Bush and before the Pentagon? “Distraction… Afghanistan… blah blah blah.”
7:41PM OK, quick question: Without peeking, repeat one thing Obama has said.
7:40PM If I’m not mistaken, there’s been a foreign policy question, and an answer to match. “We are winning in Iraq… with honor,” says McCain.
7:39PM “It is well known that I haven’t been voted Miss Congeniality” in working with Bush. And then McCain outlined lots of places where he has parted ways with Bush… while sneaking in an endorsement for Palin. Nicely turned, McCain. More of this, please.
7:38PM “I just have to make this point, Jim.” Obama his hitting McCain hard for voting for “most” of Bush’s budgets.
7:36PM “Spending 300 billion dollars on tax cuts.” That right there explains why I haven’t voted for a Democrat for President since 1992, and would rather not until they beat that sentiment out of themselves. Preferably using ball-peen hammers.
7:35PM I understood that there would be a foreign policy debate. And that there would be no math.
7:34PM McCain just put Obama on defense again on energy. “You can’t get there from here.” I’m starting to wonder if the old guy has been laying low this whole time.
7:33PM McCain would freeze spending on everything but defense and such. Obama says, “yes, but…” Which has been his entire performance so far tonight. That’s playing defense. That’s playing to lose.
7:32PM Obama’s liberalism is just “opposition to Bush’s failed policies.”
7:31PM Obama says some things “will have to be delayed.” Lehrer says “What?” Obama answers with stuff he doesn’t want to delay, and stuff he doesn’t want to cut, and taxes he wants to raise. And college tuition! Somebody’s got to pay off his wife’s loans.
7:30PM If this were Oxford, it would start like this: “Resolved: That we would like to hold all of the primaries over again.”
7:29PM “It’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left.” “I oppose ethanol subsidies.” I know McCain wasn’t planning to take Iowa, but I wonder if he just kissed off Indiana and Ohio, too.
7:28PM Joe Biden has possessed the body of Barack Obama. He just. won’t. stop.
7:28PM Affordable college? Infrastructure? What was the question again, Barack?
7:27PM Obama: “I don’t have a plan.” OK, he didn’t quite say that, but he does say we need “energy independence.” And then he gave a nice little reach around to Detroit automakers. Hello, Michigan’s 17 electoral college votes!
7:26PM Lehrer has done OK, I suppose, but this ought to be his last major debate.
7:25PM What a wasted chance. McCain is stumbling now. But Obama says, “It’s just not true, it’s just not true.” But he never says how it isn’t true.
7:25PM McCain just took one of those uppercuts. It’s not connecting, quite, but at least he finally tried one.
7:24PM But I’ll give Obama this much credit: “Loopholes” is usually a Republican complaint. He’s taken that one away. But now he’s talking health care and against free markets and this is a foreign policy debate?
7:24PM Is Obama really claiming that American businesses don’t actually pay enough taxes?
7:23PM 95% of you will get a tax cut! I’m giving you money! Vote for me!
7:22PM 15 minutes in, it’s clear that McCain is missing chances to throw uppercuts. But he’s ahead on jabs.
7:21PM Obama is begging off on the numbers, and claiming he’ll go “line by line” through the budget. Well, fine. But instead of arguing “change,” Obama is arguing about earmarks. McCain has forced him off that hill called Hope and Change — and that’s an operational, maybe strategic, little win on his part.
7:19PM McCain just accused Obama of being a johnny-come-lately on earmarks, and that “maybe that kind of money” isn’t serious to Obama. Right now I’m liking this fight.
7:18PM Has anyone factchecked Obama’s claim that he can cut taxes for 95% of families when one third of taxpayers pay no income tax at all?
7:17PM Ah. Under McCain, 300 billion in tax cuts to the “rich,” says Obama. It’s starting to get nasty. Which means it’s almost time for a second martini.
7:16PM Wow. McCain just claimed that Obama has earmarked almost a million dollars a day as a senator. Can someone look that up, see if it’s right? Obama just took one on the chin, then weakly claimed that NOW he’s refusing earmarks.
7:15PM “What would you do to lead the country out of the financial crisis?” McCain: Control spending. And then on to earmarks. Yes, McCain has had two unforced errors, but he’s also pretty adept at turning questions to his strengths.
7:14PM I’m glad to see McCain placed equal blame on Washington for once, and not just on Wall Street. But it took him a week to get there?
7:13PM Speaking of unforced errors, Obama just mentioned “failed energy policies.” Like the Democratic ban on oil drilling that Democrats just allowed to expire because they weren’t brave enough to actually go and change them?
7:12PM “People will be held accountable in my administration.” Nice contrast with Bush, who would fire someone for peeing in his hat.
7:11PM McCain is telling a great story about Eisenhower. Telling it so well you might believe McCain was there with him. You might even think he was there. First health, now age. That’s a couple unforced errors already.
7:10PM Obama is leaving himself wide open for McCain to bring up all the Freddie & Fannie money Obama has taken in four short years — but will he?
7:09PM “I am optimistic,” says Obama. Wouldn’t have guessed that from his first answer.
7:08PM BAM! Didn’t take long for McCain to bring up our “dependence on foreign oil.”
7:08PM McCain seems solid, and he’s playing up the bipartisan angle. Obama would be smart to follow suit. He’d have been smarter to have started off that way three minutes ago.
7:07PM McCain “isn’t feeling well” about the economic situation. Smart to bring up the health issue, even tangentially?
7:07PM Nice note from McCain about Ted Kennedy, who was rushed to a hospital earlier tonight after a “mild seizure.”
7:06PM Fumbled the “trickle down” line.
7:06PM But he’s got on a tie pin. (I don’t wear one.)
7:06PM Obama’s first answer is very well rehearsed, but maybe obviously so. And his tie seems a little… nightclubbish.
7:05PM “We are at a defining moment in our history…” And I think maybe I fell asleep already.
7:05PM “We must achieve security and solvency.” A quote from Eisenhower to lighten the mood. The question goes to Obama.
7:04PM Both candidates look good. Cordial. Maybe even warm. Wish I could say the latter about Lehrer.
7:03PM Part of the fate of the free world depends on a coin toss. Don’t think about that.
7:03PM I’m sure I’ve used this joke before, but Jim Lehrer looks amazingly lifelike.
7:01PM OK, here we go. I’ve just taken a rather large dose of cocktail to fortify myself for the impending disaster. Or brilliant performance. Or whatever.
7:00PM Somebody just accused Christiane Amanpour <sp?> of being pretty much unAmerican. Good thing it was from a fellow unAmerican journalist, otherwise there’d be hell to pay.
6:57PM Here’s a better link to Bruce’s Vicodinblog.
6:55PM My sources inform me that Tony Blair is actually a cat person. Pajamas Media regrets the error.
6:54PM The Obama guys are cracking me up, claiming McCain is a “peerless” debater. I mean, Tony Blair’s dog is probably better at this stuff.
6:50PM Can Obama pull off the commander-in-chief role? Will anyone care three weeks from now? McCain has run a (mostly) smart campaign. How’d he get snookered into holding the foreign affairs debate first?
6:47PM The talking heads agree: Both of these guys pretty much suck at debates, but give McCain the edge. It’s a heavily handicapped race — or maybe a race between the handicapped.
6:44PM In a global first, Bruce Carroll is Vicodinblogging tonight’s debate. I’ve got ten bucks says he passes out before it’s over.
6:42PM I’ll admit though that I’d give up booze for a month if I could play with CNN’s map software and giant touch screen.
6:40PM (All times Mountain, or else I’ll have to do math.) After splitting a bottle of cheap champagne with my bride, I’ve poured myself a hefty Ketel One Citroen martini. And if Wolf Blitzer keeps going on about how people can turn the little dials for stuff they like, I’m going to need my second Ketel One Citroen martini in record time.