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.