By Michael J.W. Stickings
UPDATED FREQUENTLY -- PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THE DEBATE.
THIS HAS BECOME A VERY LONG POST. SCROLL DOWN FOR OUR LATEST UPDATES.8:51 pm - Okay, here we go. Less than ten minutes before the debate. Keep checking back. I'll be updating this frequently over the next couple of hours.8:53 pm - First observation: CNN is populated with fools. In response to Jeffrey Toobin's poing that Palin's interview with Couric was a disaster, John "Magic Board" King said that everyone has a bad day now and then. Really? Palin's utter incompetence can be chalked up to a bad day? And don't get me started on Gloria Borger, who has yet to say a single intelligent thing in all my time watching CNN throughout this entire campaign -- okay, I'm exaggerating, but she's just so... trivial.8:56 pm -- Here's the problem going in: expectations. According to Toobin, generally a solid Obama supporter and Democrat, Palin just needs to look competent. See how low the expectations are for her? I wrote about this yesterday. David Gergen at least argued that she needs to look like a leader -- in other words, much more than merely competent.9:00 pm - By the way, I'm drinking Yamazaki single malt whisky (aged 12 years). The Japanese tend to like their whisky watered down, but I'm having it straight, with just a trickle of cold water. I prefer my whisky a bit smokier than this, but it's good stuff. Hopefully -- if I may take from my favourite song of all time by my favourite band of all time -- it'll keep me going through the show. (Hello, hello, hello... is there anybody in there, just nod if you can hear me...)9:04 pm - Palin asks if she can call him Joe. Nice, populist touch, even if her plan is to attack him. And Biden's off to a good start: very sober and restrained, but hitting Bush hard. Yes -- focus on homeowners, talk about Main Street. He's making good points while contrasting Obama-Biden from McCain-Palin.9:05 pm - Palin, predictably, is playing the populist card, but she's doing okay so far. There's no real substance to what she's saying, but at least she's speaking coherently and is looking straight into the camera. But praising McCain for the bailout bill? Putting politics aside? Bullshit.9:07 pm - This is good. Biden talking about his record and bipartisanship. And calling out McCain for his stupid comment about the fundamentals of the economy. This is what Biden has to do: focus on McCain. Make this about McCain. And McCain wasn't talking about the workforce, which is Palin's defence. "A team of mavericks." More bullshit.9:09 pm - Palin: Americans want something different? Yeah, Obama. Really, how are McCain and Palin going to stop the greed on Wall Street? Hockey moms, Joe Six-Pack. Yup, she's trying to be the folksy all-American.9:11 pm - Biden is being so careful. Taking it to McCain -- on McCain's love of deregulation, for example -- but, again, being very restrained. Let Palin look like she's trying too hard. And here she is, attacking Obama and Biden on taxes. So predictable.9:14 pm - My friend and co-blogger J. Thomas Duffy just sent me a post he's done. Check it out.9:15 pm - Palin won't answer the questions the way the moderator wants? She'll talk straight to the people? Thankfully, Ifill cut her off. It's because she's just a wellspring of hollow talking points.9:17 pm - Biden is right. This is about class. Higher taxes for the wealthy, who have already had their taxes slashed, doesn't equate to higher taxes for the middle class.9:18 pm - Oooh, Palin has details of McCain's health-care plan. Biden needs to go after her on this. It's a market-oriented plan, with Americans required to find their health care on their own in the market. How does that sound at this time of financial crisis?9:20 pm - Biden: solid. Tax breaks not for Exxon but for people from places like Scranton. Good job. He has such command. "The ultimate bridge to nowhere." Cheap, but a nice touch -- and one that drew a laugh from the audience.9:23 pm - Stay in control, Joe, stay in control. She's just trying to taunt you. Really, though, she's attacking him for supporting Big Oil? She basically wants to allow Big Oil to rape Alaska.9:24 pm - She didn't answer the question, by the way. What would she take back from her promises? She can't think of one friggin' thing? They'll keep all their promises? Bullshit.Creature: "He has command, but he's coming across a bit too strong. I'm not sure he's playing well.J. Thomas Duffy: "Palin just threw a Shout Out to the base conservatives, when she called on people to 'step out of the way and let the Private Sector handle it' ... She hasn't flubbed anything yet, but she's sounding awfully canned."Creature: "Though her folksy shtick make me sick." I hear you, my friend. (Thankfully, this whisky is really good.)9:28 pm - Come on, let's get to social and foreign policy...9:29 pm - Palin just wants to read from her mental script, avoiding pretty much every question. It's crazy for her to defend her and McCain's record on alternative energy. Come on, Joe. Don't let her get away with it. Obama's the one with the viable plan for energy independence.9:31 pm - Ah, climate change. As she told Couric, she doesn't think it's all man-made. No one says it's all man-made. But she clearly doesn't get it. You have to know and understand the causes in order to do anything about it. What an idiotic response.9:33 pm - Yes! Biden makes that point. It's man-made. And you have to know the causes. McCain has voted repeatedly against funding alternative energy. Invest in clean technology, export that technology. Good stuff. All the Republicans have is more and more drilling.9:34 pm - "Drill, baby, drill," says Palin. Insane. Drilling won't make much of a difference in the short-term, if any at all. We're looking decades into the future. Oh, and she neglected to answer the question (about clean coal). Again.9:36 pm - "How do we deal with global warming with additional carbon emissions?" asks Biden.9:37 pm - Social policy... Same-sex benefits. Good answer from Biden. Constitutional benefits. And Palin? -- no change to "traditional definition of marriage." Oh, but she'll be "tolerant." Thanks. "I have a very diverse family." Uh-huh. She she may be for equal treatment in terms of benefits, but... her answer is about marriage. Damn. This is where I can't stand Obama and Biden. They say they aren't for same-sex marriage. Come on. Let's get past this.Creature: "She's not answering the questions and Gwen's letting her get away with it. What's up with that? I'll agree with JTD very canned (but it may work)."9:40 pm - Foreign policy. Iraq. Palin's pro-surge talking points are, once again, predictable. "We have got to win in Iraq." Okay... and how? And what is victory? Where's Katie to ask some follow-up questions? "We're getting closer and closer to victory." Really? Evidence?9:41 pm - Biden: Obama's plan is Maliki's plan. It's what the Iraqis want. Palin attacked Obama for voting against funding the troops, but, of course, that was a bill without a timetable. McCain voted against funding the troops on a bill with a timetable. Good for Biden for making that distinction. Biden: "We will end this war." For McCain, "there is no end in sight." Solid. Solid. Solid. And Palin's playing the surrender card. Bullshit. Backed into a corner, all she has left are inartful smears.9:44 pm - Palin thinks she's got Biden and is so smug about it (about Biden once saying nice things about McCain). She makes the "cutting off funding" point again. She's running out of talking points. Good, Joe. Going after McCain for being so utterly wrong in Iraq from the beginning.9:47 pm - Biden certainly knows his foreign policy. His discussion of Pakistan is pretty good. Palin: "central war on terror" is in Iraq? Right, sure. So she doesn't think Iran should be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But it's not like she actually has a plan or anything. It's all hollow rhetoric.9:49 pm - Oh, Palin had a nice conversation with Kissinger. Great. We're back to last Friday's debate. Palin is making the misleading point that Obama wants to meet with America's enemies without pre-conditions. "Simply not true," responds Biden. He's clarifying. Talk, talk, talk -- this is diplomacy. Good point: McCain won't even sit down to talk with foreign leaders.9:52 pm - Seriously, what does Palin know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Let along a two-state solution? "We should never allow a second Holocaust." Obviously. Again, there's no substance to anything she's saying.My friend T-Steel from TMV: "I'm trying to remain impartial but Governor Palin is just to general and sweeping. She is working her notes hard."J. Thomas Duffy: "The longer this is going, the more Palin is going into the Tina Fey/Katie Couric mode, that she's splaying all over the place, almost that we can hear the words in her head being lifted on to the conveyor belt, going into the "Out" tube..."9:54 pm - "The only thing on the march is Iran." -- Biden. Well said. Bush's policies have been abject failures. "We both love Israel." -- Palin. Fantastic.9:55 pm - Jesus. Palin's not even coming close to answering the question. She's all over the place. Reform, McCain the maverick, yadda, yadda, yadda... There are blunders in every administration? Bush's blunders have been rather more significant, no? And Biden makes a good point in response: McCain's policies would be just like Bush's. I'd say: likely even worse.9:57 pm - Wait, did Palin just say there's a safe way to use "nuclear weaponry"? Huh?9:58 pm - Biden's confident. Maybe a bit too strong. But he's right that an Iraq-like surge won't work in Afghanistan. Which was Palin's point. She wanted desperately to talk about Afghanistan, but all she could say was that there should be a surge there.9:59 pm - Biden on nuclear proliferation, one of Obama's strongest issues. Palin's back to the surge, though -- not answering the question. She's reading her notes. Stay in control, Joe. Biden: We've been calling for more money and more troops for Afghanistan, not McCain.10:01 pm - Biden on Bosnia/Kosovo, Iraq, and Darfur. He's a hawk, there's no denying that. But he was right about Bosnia. He's a bit shaky on his support for the Iraq War, though: he was for it, but not really. Hmmm. But he does have a workable plan on Darfur.10:03 pm - And Palin plays the outsider card. "Straight talk." Bullshit. But this is a weak spot for Biden, who has disagreed with Obama on Iraq. She gives a decent answer on Darfur, but without much substance. Divestment, that's it.10:05 pm - Good. Biden's tying McCain to Cheney on Iraq. His own views may be somewhat contradictory, but he can get around that by focusing on McCain. In response, Palin is waffling. McCain know this and that. "He will know how to implement the strategies... He will know how to win a war." That's all she's got, folks. And I'm out of whisky. Damnation.10:08 pm - If necessary, Biden would carry out Obama's policies -- and he does well to provide an overview of them. "There are such stark differences" between the two tickets. Palin: "What do you expect? A team of mavericks." Bullshit. Seriously. Bullshit. "Putting government back on the side of the people." Really? Like Bush's tax cuts? Like the ongoing Iraq War? Like more deregulation anywhere and everywhere. And she's folky again: Wasilla's Main Street. Oy. And, once more, she shows she's a good Republican by smearing Obama and Biden on taxes.10:11 pm - Solid rebuttal from Biden on the middle class. Palin: "Say it ain't so, Joe." Well, I guess you knew that was coming. Oh, good, she winked at her dad. She doesn't know what she's talking about.10:14 pm - What does a vice president do? Hey, everyone, it's civics class with Sarah Palin. Needless to say, Biden's response is much more substantive.10:16 pm - Palin keeps reading her notes. Really weak. She's sounding like she did with Couric. Biden: "Dick Cheney is probably the most dangerous vice president we've had in our history." Something like that. Nice. And he understands the VP only presides over the Senate in case of a tie.10:18 pm - What's Palin's Achilles heal? The CW is lack of experience, says Ifill. Palin, again, is not answering the question. She's talking about how great her experience is. "Beacon of hope." "Shining light." "We represent a perfect ideal..." Wow. So incredibly banal. So incredibly empty.10:20 pm - Biden. The CW is lack of judgement, says Ifill. Biden acknowledges that, and moves on. Well done. And he's talking about his personal story, about being a single father. This may be Biden't best moment of the entire debate. He knows what it's like to sit around the kitchen table, he knows that people need hope. He's a passionate man. He is what he is. He won't change. And what do we get from Palin? More maverick talk, as if she and McCain are all about change. Come on. "Change is coming and McCain is the leader..." Bullshit. Biden: McCain is no maverick. He voted for Bush's tax cuts. He voted against health care for children. He didn't support tax cuts for people who want to send their kids to college. He hasn't been a maverick on the war. Kitchen table stuff again... very strong. "Maverick he is not," said Biden of McCain. Excellent.10:24 pm - Biden's reading his notes. Stop it. And he's talking about judicial appointments. Good to bring up the Supreme Court, given Palin's appalling non-answer to Couric on SCOTUS cases. Palin says she's never had to compromise on anything important. But now she's talking about bringing both sides together. Oy. More bullshit.10:27 pm - Biden needs to look directly in the camera. But he's making a strong, if convoluted, case for reaching out in a bipartisan way. And Palin's talking about her "diverse" family. But she's all over the place, like she's plucking out talking points, patching one-liners together.10:29 pm - Final statements.10:30 pm - Palin attacks "the mainstream media" as a "filter." We'll fight for the middle class, she claims. "We are so blessed... We have to fight for our freedoms... It was Ronald Reagan who said... There is only one man in this race who has fought for you..." Such mindless drivel.10:31 pm - Good. Biden's looking into the camera, talking about paying the mortgage, sending kids to college... the bread-and-butter issues on Main Street. "It's time for America to get up together." Very well done.10:33 pm - Alright, that's it.**********Creature: "This is disappointing. Palin played the agreeable role Barack Obama played Friday night and Joe Biden played the surly old man. She was canned, she was overly folksy for my taste, she spoke in generalities, she didn't answer the questions but she's was prepared and far from the ditsy caricature that she's been portrayed as recently. Unfortunately, a rejuvenated Plain will be the new narrative after tonight."Well, this is what I feared going in, that, with such low expectations, a decent performance by Palin would be spun as a "comeback." And she certainly did... okay. But "rejuvenated"? We'll see. She did much better early on, discussing economic issues. I thought she was rather weak on foreign policy, and it showed. And, towards the end, her answers seemed canned, like talking points stitched together. And so much of what she said involved taxes, the usual Republican attack on Democrats. It doesn't work this year.As for Biden, I think he did fairly well. He was strong on the issues and he avoided a major gaffe, and avoided coming across as arrogant and condescending.10:37 pm: Gergen thinks Biden gave the best debate performance of his life. But the overall assessment seems to be that Palin held her own. Again, she beat expectations. Oh, so Borger does say something mildly perspective, if obvious: Palin didn't answer the questions. No substance, says Hilary Rosen. "On Iraq, she wandered all over the place." No game-changer, says Ed Rollins.All so predictable. There was really nothing Biden could do to win, nothing he could do to stand out. It was all about Palin: Would she flounder and embarrass herself? Would she single-handedly sink the McCain campaign tonight. Obviously, that wasn't going to happen. As so many people were saying going in, myself included, she was bound to give a decent performance. And, well, she did -- in superficial debating terms. But she lagged far behind Biden on the issues, on substance, and I thought Biden had some particularly excellent moments.So who won? Well, let me think about it for a moment...10:44 pm - More Creature, from his post-debate post: "[Palin] was prepared and far from the ditsy caricature that she's been portrayed as recently. I think Biden did fine. He certainly ended very strong and I think he was genuine (and right on the issues, BTW). But, unfortunately, a rejuvenated Plain will be the new narrative after tonight."10:55 pm - Yup, here's the spin. Rollins: "She's back." This is the point Creature and I are making. Palin may have won this debate simply by not embarrassing herself. The expectations for her were that low. Forget that she failed miserably on the issues. All she wanted to talk about was energy and taxes. On pretty much everything else, she was just regurgitating the talking points, often stringing them together incomprehensibly. No, it wasn't nearly as bad as her Couric performance, but that's the point. By doing better, she triumphed.10:57 pm - But let's not look past Biden, even though all the talk is about Palin. He did very well. He did what he had to do. He showed a commend both of himself and of the issues, he didn't fuck up, didn't have to extricate his foot from his mouth, and, again, on substance, won easily. The problem is that media (and many voters) don't judge debates on substance. For them, it's about style and expectations.10:59 pm - So who won? I'll call it a slight "win" for Palin -- and especially for McCain, who should get a boost from this. If nothing else, the media have something else to talk about other than Obama's surge in the polls and McCain's ridiculous behaviour in response to the financial crisis. And it's sad to say that it's a "win" for Palin -- a perceived win, that is. It's sad that this is what American politics, even at the highest level, has been reduced to.11:05 pm - "Sarah Palin had a pretty good night tonight." Republicans will be energized again. See? Gergen agrees, but "it doesn't change the dynamic of the race." Let's hope not. Toobin agrees. This debate won't bring independents over to McCain. Hold on, I need to switch over to MSNBC. (I can't believe I just typed that.)11:08 pm - Howard Fineman on Palin: "a wolverine attaching herself to the pantleg of a passerby." Something like that. Good line. And Olbermann's calling her out for not answering the questions. But, Fineman again: "She was more than ready for prime-time." Sure, if prime-time is pre-packaged excrement. Oh, wait, it is. Come on, talk about the substance... and they are. Fineman: "I don't think she helped at all."11:11 pm - Ah, Rachel Maddow... finally, some intelligence. "She hammed it up" on the folksiness. "Joe Biden was boring." She comments on Palin's suggestion that the veep's powers be expanded: "the legacy of Cheney."11:13 pm - Initial poll, reported by Olbermann: Biden victory on content, but not much moved in terms of the race itself. And we'll have to wait to see what the polls say. Remember that many pundits were calling the first presidential debate a tie or even a slight McCain victory. It wasn't until the polls came out that it was clear that it was a solid victory for Obama.LindaBeth: "My big gasp came at the end, and I just got finished debating it with my b/f's dad: in her closing statement, Palin called herself a 'middle class family'. I was almost certain that wasn't at all true, considering that the Tax Foundation cites that $122,000 is the max family income that can be called 'middle income' (it's the top figure for the middle 60% of American families' incomes). Huff-Po cites her economic resources, including her $250k income, here."11:29 pm - Newshoggers' Fester: "Gov. Palin played to her strength of being a nasty talking point repeated with a kindergarten teacher's voice. She also managed to string words in forms that resembled sentences and the occassional sentence group into paragraphs. Sen. Biden kept his feet firmly on the ground and out of his mouth while his fire was aimed straight at McCain."An update from Creature: "The spin has begun and maybe I was wrong. Bob Schiffer gave huge props to Biden. Rachel Maddow also says Biden was more human. Though, Pat Buchanan -- speaking for the base, of course -- was head over heels for Palin... Early polls, according to CNN, give the debate to Biden. Maybe my first impression, pre-debate, was right after all. Interesting. Maybe the bloom is so off the McCain/Palin ticket that there's no going up for them."12:23 am - Sorry, just took a break to decompress -- with some tea, some dessert, and Jon Stewart.12:24 am - The Politico's Roger Simon, a guest on Hardball, thought Palin was amazing. Breaking news: Roger Simon is an idiot.12:25 am - I thought Keith Olbermann did a fantastic job on Palin's Afghanistan blunder. First, she referred to the U.S. commander in Afghanistan as "McClellan." Actually, the current commander of the International Security Assistance Force is Gen. David McKiernan. Second, McKiernan did say, contrary to Palin's claim, that an Iraq-like surge wouldn't work in Afghanistan.12:30 am - The polls -- CBS and CNN -- have Biden as the winner. Once again, the pundits are wrong.12:32 am - Although, this headline from the AP could be the dominant spin tomorrow: "Palin stands her ground in VP debate with Biden." See, the expectations game. That's what Palin won.12:33 am - For some other live-blogging of the debate, now in the past (so, according to McCain-Palin, it no longer matters), see Think Progress and Andrew Sullivan. Kos has some post-debate thoughts here: "Sarah Palin won! Actually, she survived, since she had no 'deer in headlight' moments... On the merits, Biden won easy. On the things that debates are scored on, it was a draw. And for us Democrats, that's the same as victory." (On another matter, Kos thought Gwen Ifill was "excellent." I thought she was just okay. Sullivan thought she was "intimidated, peripheral, neutered."12:39 am - Sullivan has additional debate reaction here. He also makes some good points here, including: "Palin's inability to answer real questions, her capacity to avoid follow-ups, her slightly manic quality, and her inability to relate to working class voters came across... What we need now is a press conference with Palin. She needs to be forced to answer follow-ups. She needs to be made accessible to the press and thereby the American people." Indeed she does.12:41 am - By the way, CNN has a transcript of the debate here. I'm sure it's a fantastic read.12:42 am - And that's it for me for tonight. It's been long, but fun. Thank you all for stopping by, and especially to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts. (I encourage you all to read the comments. There are quite a few of them, and many of them are excellent.)And thank you to Creature for his fantastic contributions throughout the evening, as well as to JTD and LB. I'll be back tomorrow, along with the co-bloggers, with more reaction. I'm sure there will be a lot more to say. Stop by and read us again.Good night, everyone, and take care.
Labels: 2008 election, Afghanistan, Bailout Bill, Barack Obama, Darfur, debates, energy, financial crisis, Iraq War, Joe Biden, John McCain, Pakistan, same-sex marriage, Sarah Palin, taxes, U.S. economy