Live-blogging the first debate

They’ve opened and now they are talking about the financial crisis. So far, Obama is attacking the deregulation that he says led to the crisis and McCain is not placing the blame where it belongs.

We Republicans came into Wahington to change the way things are done, and instead Washington changed us. I’ll veto earmarks — pledges McCain.

Obama is playing a little defense on his own earmark record. But earmarks, he rightly observes, are only $18 billion dollars of the huge wasteful spending that plagues Washington. He is claiming, once again, that he will cut taxes for 95% of working families.

McCain calls Obama on his 932 Billion in earmark requests saying he didn’t see the light until running for President (McCain has no earmarks). He calls earmarks a gateway drug for legislators. McCain also notes that Obama is proposing 800 billion in new speding.

Obama jumps in questioning McCain’s figures. 18 B won’t get the middle class back on track.

Business taxes in US are 2nd highest in the world, McCain says – that’s why business are leaving and not creating jobs here, he says he’ll cut this tax. Plus, I want to double divend for children and give a $5000 tax credit for healthcare.

our businesses effectively pay the lowest tax rate in the world, Obama asserts. Obama claims that McCain wants to tax health benefits; attacks notion that the market can solve everything.

McCain claims that Obama has voted to raise taxes on people making as little as 42K a year. Obama says that’s not true.

Gibson: What will you give up to pay for the financial rescue plan?

Obama says we’ll have to delay some things but one thing we can’t delay is energy independence mostly through alternatives. We have to invest in fixing healthcare and education and we have to make sure colleges is affordable and we also have to make sure broadband reaches rural communities and rebuild our infrastructure. We have to eliminate programs that don’t work and make others more efficienct.

McCain actually answers the question: I’ll eliminate ethanol subsidies; I’ll stop cost plus contracts for the military – defense spending is vital but we must control cost overruns; I fixed a contract that was all wrong btwn Boeing & DOD and saved taxpayers 6.8B. We have to scrub every agency of government and eliminate the ones that arent’ working.

Lehrer (UPDATE – I had misnamed the moderator as “Gibson” but I’m updating to avoid reader confusion) : so no major changes?

15B to private insurers as subsidies – doesn’t make medicaid work any better. we are going to have to change the culture. Need Google for Government! (I agree).

Lehrer : so in what major ways will this 700B bailout change your policies.

McCain – spending freeze on defense, veteran’s affairs and entitlements
obama says once again where he won’t cut — like the fact that he wants to spend more on early childhood education — so, in short, he says a spending freeze is a bad idea

mcCain – we send 700 B a year overseas to countries that don’t like us very much. have to have nuclear power – obama opposes that.

obama – yes the bailout would affect our budgets – even if we get the money back. Obama talks about nationalizing healthcare

McCain suggests that Obama cut some of his new spending to pay for the bailout. Spending restraint has to be a vital part of recovery. We owe China $500 B. McCain says that he wants people to make decisions about their own healthcare

Obama – McCain votes w/ Bush 95% of the time.
McCain – I’m a maverick and I’m proud to have another Maverick w/ me.

Lehrer : what are the lessons of Iraq?

McCain – you can’t let a failed strategy cause you to lose the war. the new strategy has succeeded and we are winning in Iraq now. We’ll see a new ally in the future.

Obama – the first question is whether we should have gone there in the first place and I opposed going there. lost 4000 lives; 30000 wounded; still spending 10B a month; alQuada resurging in Afghanistan; lesson is that we shouldn’t hesitate to use force but we have to use it wisely and we didn’t do that in Iraq.

McCain – Obama said the surge has exceeded our expectations but he have still opposed it. the next president will have to deal w/ the future not the past and obama was wrong about how to move fwd in Iraq.

Obama – a bunch of stuff about McCain having voted for the war in the 1st place based on faulty intelligence.

McCain — brave men and women who are re-enlisting want to win now. Obama refuses to acknowledge we are winning in Iraq. We’ll win in Afghanistan too! Obama voted to cut off funds for the troops.

Obama explains his vote was for a timetable not against the troops.

McCain says Obama will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and he would have pulled us out before the surge under his original plan.

Lehrer : more troops in Afghanistan?

Obama: Yes, as quickly as possible. I would send 2-3 additional brigades to Afghanistan. And press Afghan government to work for their people. Deal w/ the poppy trade. Deal w/ Pakistan. We’ve been giving them 10B dollars (w/ mccain’s agreement) and they still have terrorist safe havens.

McCain: a lot of today’s difficulties are b/c of what we did in the cold war. I’m not prepared to cut off aid to Pakistan – he said we’d launch military strikes; you don’t bluster about that — you work w/ the people and the government and if strikes are ever necessary, you do them, you don’t threaten them. we have a lot of work to do in Afghanistan; we need not just additional troops there but a new strategy, the same one we used successfully in Iraq.

Obama – if top level alQuaeda Lts in our sites, then we should take them out. difficult situation w/ Pakistan – what happens w/ cross-border attacks; decsions to make.

McCain gives Obama a bit of a history lesson. Reminds us that he voted against Reagan sending Marines into Lebanon. He supported 1st gulf war and going into Bosnia under Clinton. Supported what we did in Kosova. We’ll win and we won’t come home in defeat and dishonor.

Candidates trade bracelet stories.

Obama accuses McCain of not being consistently concerned about Afghanistan.
McCain reminds us that he has traveled to Afghanistan and he knows what our needs are and Obama didn’t bother to go there. Sen. Obama doesn’t understand the connection btwn Afghanistan and Iraq.


Lehrer : what is your reading of Iran?

McCain – if Iran has nukes, they are an immediate threat to Israel and we can’t let the Holocaust happen again. he’s proposed a “League of Democracies” — we could impose meaningful sanctions that way. Together we can (w/ french, british and germans) affect Iranian behavior but they currently are trying to acquire nukes. they are also putting the most lethal IEDs into Iraq and they are training terrorists. Obama said it would be “provacative” to call the Iran Republican Guard terrorists.

Obama – I agree that the Republican Guard in Iran is a terrorst organization. what i did is oppose expanding mandate in Iraq. taking down iraq has strengthened Iran. We can’t allow a nuclear Iran. Agree w/ tougher sanctions but we can’t do it w/out Russia and China. also need tough direct diplomacy. notion that we punish people by not talking to them hasn’t worked.

McCain – obama says he’ll sit down w/ Iran’s president and Venezuala’s and North Korea’s and talk /w them w/out precondition. We shouldn’t give these guys a platform – it says they are legitimate and doing the right things. Iran’s president is advocating the destruction of Israel. We can’t reward that. I’ll sit down w/ anybody but there have got to be preconditions so we aren’t legitimizing the bad guys.

Obama — points out that Kissinger (one of McCain’s advisors) has said we should meet w/ Iran’s leaders w/out preconditions. It may not work b/c Iran is a rouge regime. if talks don’t work, we’ve strengthened our ability to gain worldwide support for action.

McCain – corrects Obama on Kissinger — he was proposing lower level meetings; if you sit down across the table from someone who has called Israel a ‘stinking corpse’ you legitimize those comments. we have a fundamental disagreement on this – Obama’s position not just naieve but dangerous. We need to go back a little to Ronald Reagan’s ‘trust but verify.’ N. Korea doesn’t keep its word. gulags. average N. Korean three inches shorter than the average S. Korean.

Obama – well we’d say something when Iran’s leader spouts off

a little back and forth about preconditions, etc…

Lehrer : how do you see our relationship w/ Russia.

Obama – if resurgent, then threat. Actions in Georgia unwarranted. Must affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region. they are members of NATO and we have to insist that Georgia and the Ukraine are able to join NATO if they meet requirements. We can’t return to Cold War policies w/ Russia; we have some common interests (ex: nukes). Deal w/ Russia based on national security interests.

McCain – Obama said ‘both sides ought to show restraint’ RE Georgia aggression; that’s naive. I looked into Putin’s eyes and saw KGB. they run russia now. We need to bolster our friends and allies. Russia’s aggression is about energy pipeline. we won’t return to cold war. russians ought to undertand that we will support inclusion of Georgia & Ukraine in NATO. We want to work w/ Russians but we have every right to expect them to respect norms of int’l behavior. break down of political process in Ukraine is a very serious problem.

Obama – McCain and I agree for the most part on these issues. we need to help rebuild Georgian economy. We have to anticipate the problems. I warned the administration that Russian peacekeepers don’t belong in Georgia. On energy, petrodollars make Putin feel powerful so we need a better energy policy ourselves. We do need offshore drilling and domestic production. we only have 3% of the world’s oil supplies and we use 25% of the world’s oil so we need alternative energy development.

McCain – offshore is a bridge to the future. obama say he’s for nuclear but he doesn’t want to reprocess or store. I’ve always voted for alternative energy.


Lehrer : what is likelihood of another 9/11 type attack on our soil

McCain – a lot lower than after 9/11. praising 9/11 commission which was stymied by the administration at first – an area I disagreed w/ them. we implmented most of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. we are safer but still a long ways from safe. we must do better w/ on the ground intelligence; I know our allies and I can work w/ them. We are safer today but have a long way to go b4 we can declare America safe and that means doing a better job along our borders.

Obama – agrees we have improved but have a long way to go; threat in terms of transit and ports; suitcase threat; Billions on missile defense – we need b/c of Iran & N. Korea; but we need to spend more on nuclear proliferation. alQuaeda now operating in 60 countries – we need to go to the root cause. the way we are perceived in the world makes a difference in terms of getting coopration from other countries. I’ll work on restoring our standing in the world. commends McCain for recognizing problems w/ torture.

McCain – full circle – Obama doesn’t understand that we can’t fail in Iraq – to do so would encourage alQuaeda. gen. Petraeus says success in Iraq is fragile.

Obama – administation has focused on Iraq and ignored other threats from alQueda and China is everywhere now. We owe them a trillion dollars. Iraq is draining our economy of 10B a month. We can’t let our economy decline and maintain our military security. We’ve seen everything through Iraq and the next president needs to have a broader strategic vision.

McCain – I’ve been involved in every major national security decison and there are some advantages to experience. I don’t believe that Obama has that experience and he’s demonstrated inflexibility and naievity. I love veterans and they know i’ll take care of them. I don’t think I need any on-the-job training.

Obama – my father came from Kenya; he wanted to come to college in the US. I dont’ think any of us can say our standing in the world now is the same as then – in the 60s. We need to keep America safe by sending a message to the world that we will invest in education and things that matter to ordinary people.

McCain – I know how to heal the wounds of war; to deal w/ our adversaries and our friends. mentions his history of working for normalization of relations w/ Vietnam, and taking care of our veterans.


I apologize for any errors I’ve made in summarizing the candidate’s statements.

  • Shane McNulty

    Hey just a quick note, it’s Jim Lehrer doing the moderating, not Charlie Gibson.

  • Shane McNulty

    I hate to say it but both Obama and McCain bored me to tears, and I was actually jazzed about this debate.

    Obama seemed very conciliatory towards McCain, I think I heard him say, “John is right” about several things while McCain has made more less pleasant comments towards Obama.

    Apparently McCain believes that to speak with someone means you must think they’re right about something… that’s funny. Funny in a sad and tragic kind of way. How many people do you sit across from and go “Hey that guy’s full of crap”? Most of you are probably reading this and thinking that right now. So I don’t buy this “you legitimize” someone by simply talking to them. How freakin paranoid.

  • Shane McNulty

    McCain is creeping me out with this “to talk to with someone legitimizes them”. That’s paranoia.

    How many of you sit across from someone and think, “Wow that guy is full of it.” Most of you think that every time you read a comment by me on this board… but does that mean suddenly I’m right or my case is more legitimized because I’m allowed to state my case?

    No way, that’s not how life works and McCain knows better.

  • Shane McNulty

    McCain in the same breath mentions how he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw 3 letters “K G B” and then goes on to mention how we’re not going to go back into a cold war. Are you serious?

    And for the record, yes Russia did use an immense amount of force going into Georgia, but it’s not as if Russia was without valid reasons for going into South Ossetia and subsequently Georgia.

    I disagree with both McCain and Obama on this.. I’m not saying Russia should’ve invaded Georgia, but I understand.

  • Shane,
    Why do you think Russia was prepared to use overwhelming force? Not that they were prepared or anything, do you think?

  • Shane McNulty

    The standoff between Georgia and Russia didn’t just pop up this year. It has been decades in the making, so the fact that Russia had a military force waiting to go in there is no surprise.

    Would we be surprised if Israel invaded Palestine? Would we be surprised if India invaded the Kashmir region? South Ossetia has been a disputed region and will continue to be so. We haven’t seen the end of that hotspot.

  • DCH

    shane — thanks for the quick note on my mis-naming of the moderator. You can tell how infrequently I watch TV news anchors.

  • Shane McNulty

    DCH – No problem at all man, I’m sorry to say I’m just that much of a newsgeek that I actually do know the difference… in a way I feel kind of sad now. I know the difference of old white guys… wow.

  • FrenchytheSailor

    So – Who won?

  • MB

    Nice job of the summaries, DCH.

  • Shane McNulty

    McCain won. He steered the debate.

    I do think he was disrespectful of Obama, but as McCain liked to point out several times, he’s never been voted “Miss Congeniality”.

    In fact, McCain mentioned that phrase so many times I’m beginning to wonder if he has gender identification issues. Maybe he feels he’s missed out on not winning such contests.

  • Shane McNulty

    Yeah and taking a note from MB, thank you very much DCH for doing the debate updates. That’s by no means a fun task to do and it is appreciated.

  • FrenchytheSailor

    Personally, I think it was a tie.

    Although if I have to be beat over the head one more time by McCain about the fact that he was a prisonor of war I’m putting in for a Purple Heart.

  • Shane McNulty

    Well, considering that this debate was supposed to be McCain’s best subject advantage he didn’t do as well as he should have.

  • Whoah, there was a debate tonight? JK, work intruded and i had to time-shift – just finished watching it now.

    End perception – McCain can claim this one. Obama started awkward, recovered quickly and engaged well on the economy in the first half, but found himself too often on the defensive in the second half (no surprise). McCain didn’t really hit his stride until the national security part, but took the reigns there and did well holding on to them. And since its the latter part that folks remember, post-debate perception will favor McCain.

    I watched on PBS (cspan shifted it to cspan2 and screwed my dvr the bastards, glad I double checked to make sure it was recording, only missed part of obama’s opening). Watching a couple minutes of the post-debate commentary, i’m glad i wasn’t just imagining things about McCain not engaging Obama.. Obama seemed to try to address McCain personally frequently, but never the opposite. A generational difference maybe?

    I may be in the minority, but can Lehrer moderate all the debates?

  • Duck

    Press coverage after the debate was predictable. Debate not that memorable. It was a tie, and the tie goes to Obama. I didn’t expect anything different.

    I disagree though. McCain was clearly the winner. He had ball control. He took the offensive, and Obama took the bait. Obama felt the need to defend himself every time McCain took a swipe at him. This made Obama look weak and anything but self assured. McCain on the other hand rolled with some of the punches and did not see the need to respond to every one of Obama’s attacks. McCain showed his maturity. As I was watching, I was inwardly chuckling, imagining Obama verbally sparing and parsing his words with foreign leaders. McCain looked strong and presidential. Obama did look presidential at times, but he looked childish with all his quibbling.

    I did laugh when Obama said I gotta a bracelet too! C’mon, you can’t write this stuff. He played into so many Obama stereotypes with that aside. Especially when he could not remember the poor man’s name until he read the bracelet! Priceless!

    McCain’s story about the Eisenhower letters—awesome. Obama clearly was making the debate about his talking points, while McCain was able to post talking points, answer the questions and throw in what appeared to be off-the-cuff, relevant material. McCain tried humor a couple of times, showing a lot more warmth than Obama. At the end of the debate I’m sure Obama was relieved it was over. McCain, I think, could have gone several more rounds. McCain seemed to have more material than Obama.

    McCain seemed more relaxed, more comfortable.

    Still, it was a narrow victory. Hopefully the undecided will make up their own minds about the debate instead of drinking the kool-aid the press has and will be offering. But I agree McCain needed to do better especially considering this is his forte, and Obama is really going to make the next debate all about the economy. But, as long as McCain doesn’t self destruct, maybe the press will say, “it’s a tie, and since this was Obama’s strength, McCain won.” Yeah, that’ll happen.

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  • Shane McNulty

    The bracelet thing is retarded. We all feel terribly for those who died defending our nation and their families left with the loss. But somehow wearing a bracelet is supposed to honor a fallen soldier? So.. if you don’t wear a bracelet for every soldier who died do you NOT honor them? Do you have to wear 4000+ bracelets to REALLY show how much you honor the fallen?

    It’s ridiculous, the fact McCain brought it up at all is lame gimmick and the fact Obama felt he had to go along with it is just stupid.

    And frankly, if there are people in this country who go, “You know, I really thought that guy didn’t care about a soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country… but since the guy’s wearing a bracelet I’ve TOTALLY changed my mind” then that person is a retard.

  • I will say this – after watching this debate, Biden must engage Palin on a direct level in their debate – eye contact. Biden excels at mockery, and there’s a goldmine of material in Palin. There’s no way he has the restraint to not make some jokes at her expense. But if he tries to do it like McCain, without looking at her, addressing his criticism to her, it will come off horribly. The post-debate discussion will be about his arrogance, and not her ineptitude.

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