7:58: In the comments, we're setting the terms for the drinking game: I said:
Take a sip if McCain says "my friends" or if Obama says "uh."Palladian said:
Dear God, woman, are you trying to kill people? Alcohol is poisonous in large quantities!8:03: May the best man win. Jim Lehrer sounds stern! First question: take a position on the finance crisis.
8:04: Obama: "Move swiftly... and wisely... have oversight...." Don't pad the bank accounts of the rich. The whole problem is the fault of the other party. McCain: He begins with "thoughts and prayers" for "the lion of the Senate," Ted Kennedy, who's in the hospital now. He emphasizes that Republicans and Democrats are working together in dealing with the crisis.
8:08: Lehrer pushes them to take a position on the plan. Obama says he hasn't seen it. Ooh, I just saw Jon Stewart savage McCain last night for saying he hadn't read it. Obama's not taking a position. Come on! Take a position! He doesn't. McCain says "sure," he'll vote for it but immediately veers into an anecdote about Eisenhower and railing against greed. "Greed is rewarded." Both candidates look fresh and sharply outlined on the HDTV.
8:13: Lehrer wants them to talk to each other, but they don't much seem to want to. Next question: Are there fundamental differences between what McCain and Obama would do about the economy? McCain says we need to get spending under control... "earmarking as a gateway drug." Obama's a big spender. Obama said earmarks are abused, but earmarks are only $18 billion of the budget and McCain wants $300 billion in tax cuts. So the difference (in what they promise) is clear: McCain would cut spending and Obama would collect more taxes. McCain says those earmarks corrupt people, and Obama is proposing $800 million in new spending. Obama looks annoyed. He doesn't know where that number comes from. McCain looks a little pleased, I think, because he knows he's gotten to Obama.
8:20: McCain says pork-barrel spending is "rife," it's appalling. We see Obama raising a finger. He wants to be called on. Lots of arguing back and forth about who supported what.
8:26: Lehrer asks what sacrifices will be required. Obama mainly talks about things he wants to spend on. McCain says we've let government get out of control. He'd cut ethanol subsidies. (Good!) He'd eliminate cost-plus contracts. He speaks of saving $6 billion on one deal. Lehrer presses them, and Obama starts talking about spending again. (By the way, he is not saying "uh.") Lehrer gets excited about doing something different to deal with the current crises. McCain mentions a spending freeze. Obama objects and mentions another thing he'd like to spend on (early childhood education). Lehrer reasks the question: What difference will the crisis make? Obama talks about values. McCain talks about spending cuts. Obama questions McCain's record. McCain says, for a second time, that he wasn't elected Miss Congeniality in the Senate. (Should have put that in the drinking game.)
8:39: What have they learned from Iraq? McCain says we've learned how to fight the right way and to avoid defeat. Obama thinks we've learned we shouldn't have started the war in the first place.
Whoops. I've been calling Lehrer MacNeil... corrected.
8:44: McCain excoriates Obama for failing to support victory and for not acknowledging victory. Obama says the difference in opinion was only about whether there was a timetable or not. There's a hot dispute here. McCain gesticulates and smiles. Obama looks a little pissed off and interrupts a few times with the muttered phrase "That's not true."
8:51: Obama calls Pakistan "Pah-ki-stahn." Repeatedly.
8:52: McCain is not prepared to threaten Pakistan. You don't aim a gun if you aren't prepared to pull the trigger.
8:54: Obama denies that he talked about attacking Pahkistahn. He's just ready to "take out" al Qaeda if we know they are in there. He teases McCain about singing "bomb bomb Iran."
9:00: McCain stresses his empathy for soldiers. He's got a bracelet. Obama's got a bracelet too. He cares too. Jac writes (he's live-blogging too):
"I've got a bracelet." "I've got a bracelet too!" Are these serious adults running for president, or is this summer camp?9:04: McCain gets fired up talking about Obama's willingness to talk without precondition with Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is talking about exterminating Israel, he exclaims. McCain stumbles over the name Ahmadinejad a bit, and I'm not sure if he's expressing genuine hatred for the man or is just getting fired up about a strong line of attack against Obama. Obama doesn't seem that irritated. He laughs a little. When he gets his turn, Obama needles him about, among other things, Spain. McCain inserts what must be a prepared barb: "I don't even have a seal yet."
9:15: We get a "my friend" out of McCain as he says Obama is "parsing words" about "preconditions, and he emphasizes how long he's been friends with Henry Kissinger. (Obama had cited Kissinger for the proposition that we ought to speak to everyone.)
9:18: The subject is Russia. McCain accuses Obama of naivete. He says: "I looked into Putin's eyes and I saw three letters, a K, a G, and a B." McCain is reeling off names of people and places in Georgia and Ukraine. He's got a strategy of displaying experience and making Obama seem green. Obama's given a chance and he mainly says he agrees.
9:25: Much crossfire over nuclear waste.
9:26: The last question is about terrorism. The main distinction here is that Obama views Iraq as a distraction and McCain thinks it's central.
9:31: Both men have been sharp and clear, and I haven't noticed mistakes. As expected, McCain is more passionate, but he never crossed the line into irascibility. Obama is cooler, but he never fell into that professorial mode that he uses sometimes. He certainly didn't stumble and babble incoherently, which is what his opponents say he does.
9:48: They didn't much go for that idea of talking directly to each other, did they? I mean, other than Obama's frequent assertion that McCain was getting something wrong.
9:54: In the end, I'd say, McCain made more good points and got in more punches, but Obama stood his ground and maintained his stature on stage next to McCain, even as McCain repeatedly tried to portray him as a lightweight. I should add that McCain never seemed too old, short, or lacking in vigor, even on HDTV. Obama looked fine too, and I never saw that upturned face, with the eyes gazing downward, that made him seem supercilious in those old debates with Hillary Clinton.