So tonight is the third (and last?) presidential debate, held at Hofstra University, in Some State Not Near Vaguely Near Me. Those In The Know say that McCain needs to unequivocally hit this one out of the park to have a snowball’s chance in Hell of a comeback. Those who are also In The Know say that such a resounding victory is unlikely, as expectations are high on both sides. McCain has said multiple times that he will “call Obama out” on the whole Ayers thingamajig, so if he doesn’t he will be viewed as weak and more talk-talking than walk-walking. However, if (when?) he does bring the matter up, he is almost positive to get trounced, as Obama will undoubtedly call McCain out on his racist and hate-filled speeches and movement within the Republican party, and also counter with the evidence that just surfaced about William Timmons, current member of his campaign team, having helped out Saddam Hussein. A valid criticism? Perhaps, perhaps not. But excellent for the whole “taste of his own medicine” idea.
Other things McCain is going to have to struggle to make look good: his new tax plan (released yesterday) giving 2/3 of its breaks to millionaires (coupled with his preexisting tax plan, it really takes some gumption to continue down that already unsuccessful path); Palin having been, despite her baldfaced denials, found guilty of ethics violations by the Alaska Legislature; and the aforementioned and previously-blogged-about hate-mongering. Should be an interesting night; as this debate is supposed to be about domestic issues, it might be nice if we actual get to see the candidates’ shtick on social issues for once. I want McCain to look me in the eye and tell me a possibly-fertilized egg is more important than my physical and mental health, and I want Obama to look me in the eye and tell me that because his God says it’s icky, gay people can’t get married.
On a somewhat lighter note, we have the standard round-up of links:
- Jezebel liveblog
- Feministe liveblog
- Feministing liveblog
- Think Progress liveblog
- Feministe drinking game
- Funny video (from Pam’s House Blend) of McCain’s debate prep
- Another funny video (from Shakesville) of a preview of tonight’s debate
9:00 WHAT TIME IS IT?!?! I believe it is go time. Camera is focused on an empty stage (except for Bob Schieffer, the moderator). Where are the candidates? Bob has got some serious eye bags going on. But good for him. We will divide the next 90 minutes into 9-minute segments, so…10 topics? Who wants to bet at least 3 of them are about the economy?
9:02 On they come. Tonight McCain’s tie is blue and Obama is red. Does this count as working across the aisle? Bob says to tell us some things we haven’t heard before, as we’ve heard all the talking points. First question: economy (SURPRISE!). Bob summarizes the economic plans from both candidates, and asks why each opponent’s plan is better than the other.
9:03 McCain tells us that Nancy Reagan is in the hospital, and tells us that we’re hurting and angry (I guess he’s seen the footage from his rallies). We want this country to go in a new direction – duh. He wants to delineate the difference between short- and long-term fixes. McCain is convinced that unless we address the decline in home ownership, we can’t solve the problem, so he’s going to buy people’s mortgages with $300 of the $750 billion from the bailout (when did we add $50 billion to that?)
9:05 Obama again tells us that this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He points out that one thing we haven’t seen from McCain is a rescue package for the middle class, and the economy wasn’t doing too hot before this crisis (specifically for those in the aforementioned middle class), so he talks about the cuts and benefits he’s making for that group. They both agree that we need to help homeowners, but disagree in the method (if we pay banks full-price for now crappy mortgages, it’s a waste of taxpayer money).
9:07 McCain would like to mention that Obama has talked to a plumber in Ohio (as you do). According to McCain, Obama has a plan to keep Joe out of business because he wants to put Joe in a higher tax bracket, because Obama hates Joe the plumber. McCain tells Joe that he would never treat him that way. Come on baby, why you gotta be like that?
9:09 Obama says McCain has been watching his own ads, and concedes that their tax plans are very different. The centerpiece of McCain’s economic proposal is to provide additional tax breaks to the wealthiest sector of the country, whereas Obama wants to provide a tax cut for 95% of working Americans. He also brings up independent studies that show he provides 3 times the tax relief for middle class families than McCain. As for Joe, other people need more of a tax break, so sucks to be you. But small businesses in general will get some breaks around.
9:11 McCain says Obama wants to take Joe the plumber’s money himself and then “spread it around” himself, dog-whistling “you dirty Communist” and then asking why on Earth Obama would want to raise Joe the plumber’s taxes (or anyone’s, for that matter). McCain interrupts and talks over him, and Obama awesomely ignores him, and says that ordinarily families are suffering, so the rich bigwigs can handle paying a bit more. Obama says that nobody likes paying taxes, but we have to to help the economy. McCain says petulantly that if nobody likes taxes, why tax people? Exactly! You know, babies cry when we give them shots. Why give them shots? And kids complain about homework. Why give homework? And then he grins and goes on about other countries and our tax rates and whatever…
9:13 We have an astounding deficit that could go to $1 trillion; both say they want to reduce the deficit but each of their proposals will add $200 billion to the deficit – explain. Obama says that the bailout is structured in such a way that taxpayers get their money back, if it’s structured properly. Obama says we’ve been living beyond our means; he would cut subsidies to insurance companies (which don’t improve healthcare), and cut programs that don’t work. He says he and McCain have a difference in beliefs about the need to invest in America; Obama says if we invest in healthcare, that will reduce the money spent on Medicaid and Medicare; similar benefits come from investing in energy and education. He also says we’re going to have to embrace a culture and ethic of responsibility.
9:16 McCain would like to get back to the homeownership, and increase home values. When Bob calls him out on ignoring the question, he says we need to become energy-independent and save money that way; as for what he would cut, he brings up his spending freeze again. he says it may be a hatchet, but he would use the hatchet and THEN the scalpel. Please tell me McCain does not have aspirations of becoming a surgeon (seriously, on what level does that metaphor work? If it were a hatchet and then a cauterizing tool, maybe…). He wants to eliminate ethanol subsidies, and says he knows how to save millions and billions and tries to cherry-pick instances from his record where he did just that. He also brings up pork (save me Jeebus).
9:19 Obama says an across-the-board spending freeze sounds nice but is crap; some programs are underfunded whereas some need to be cut, and a spending freeze wouldn’t help that. Neither would eliminating earmarks, as they’re not good but are a small fraction of the problem. He also brings up that Bush has sent us very deeply into the red (financially as well as state color), and pursuing the same policies that Bush did is not going to help anything.
9:20 McCain says he’s not President Bush, and that if Obama wanted to run against him, he should have run four years ago (BURN!). He says a spending freeze isn’t all bad, and he can absotively posilutely balance the budget in four years (like, why couldn’t he?). He says to look at their records, and Obama hasn’t one time stood up to the leaders of his party.
9:22 Obama says he has stood up to his party and names some times (tort reform, clean coal, etc.). He says even FOX News disputes McCain’s claim (the room goes wild and McCain totally makes a face; he knows that FOX is more biased than his daughter’s blog). Obama says that when it comes to economic policies, McCain has absolutely toed the line with Bushie (even if it were not with other issues). McCain continues to try to differentiate himself from Bush, and doesn’t at all address the whole staying-with-him-on-economics thing.
9:24 Campaign leadership! YES! HIGH ROAD MENTIONS! Are they willing to say it to each other’s face? I’M ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT. McCain brings up the fucking town-hall meetings that Obama didn’t do, and says this has been a hard campaign. I’m sorry, but just because he didn’t do debates with you doesn’t mean you can be an asshole. McCain brings up John Lewis and misstates that Congressman’s main point, and McCain looks very sad and contrite as he pretends that he is the victim here. McCain says Obama has spent more money on negative ads than any other candidate in history, which sounds like crap but let’s see.
9:28 Obama says we expect campaigns to be tough, and brings up the NYT poll, and says that the American people is less interested in the candidates’ hurt feelings than in the actual issues. And he totally heard me about the lack of town-hall meetings not justifying some of the ads, like NO SHIT. Obama also says he doesn’t mind being attacked for the next 3 weeks, differentiating himself from the whiny McCain. Obama totally calls McCain on his campaign having said that we’re not going to talk about economics because they would lose, and says he thinks it’s important that they do.
9:30 McCain brings up sports to pander to his home state, and Obama pseudo-heartily congratulates the Arizona team on a win (hilariously). He says Senator Obama is spending unprecedented amounts of money on negative ads, and brings up Joe the Fucking Plumber again. And he says that OF COURSE he’s been talking about the economy, duh? He also brings up John Lewis, so Obama goes there. Obama says that Lewis was unprompted by the Obama campaign, and brings up the “Kill him!” lines – McCain tries to speak over him, and Obama calmly continues speaking. Obama also said that they immediately put out a statement repudiating it, and that Lewis also issued a retraction already. Obama says “tit” and McCain grins, and tries to interrupt him. Repeatedly. He looks desperate and CONTINUES to try to interrupt him. He then says he’s PROUD of the people that come to his rallies, and brings up a random motley crew of people that come to his rallies who are supposedly patriotic and never bad. Um, John, nobody said anything different; he also brings up T-shirts that anti-GOP people have made.
9:34 Obama says they can argue about the merits of each other’s campaigns, but there are many more important things (two wars, economy, etc.), and we need to disagree without being disagreeable. Tough, vigorous debate is called for, but trying to call people names is not. McCain brings up Ayers and ACORN which is supposedly destroying the fabric of our democracy. Yeah, it really sucks that people are trying to stop voter suppression and make suffrage available to the masses. That’s not what America is about! Obama says he’ll respond to these allegations, and that Ayers has been the focus of his campaign for the past 2 or 3 weeks. He says when Obama was 8, Obama did bad things, which he has condemned. 10 years ago, they served on a board together, complete with other “upstanding” members of our community and the Republican party, and then says that Ayers has nothing to do with his campaign or his upcoming presidency. ACORN had nothing to do with Obama and were not affiliated with them, and only has a loose association with them through a stint in the Illinois legislature. He then names some people he does associate with: Warren Buffett, Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, more people who are both Democrats and Republicans. He says the fact that this has become such a central part of McCain’s campaign says more about McCain than it does about him. Sweet.
9:39 McCain tells some lies and says it’s important that all of the facts are known; goes on a little bit about that, and then brings up the economy again and says he won’t raise taxes. Obama grins at McCain’s idiocy.
9:40 Bob brings up the running mates. AWESOME. Why would the country be better off with his running mate as president than McCain’s? Biden has tons of experience and expertise, works across the aisle, comes from hardscrabble Scranton, fights for the little guy (what about the bankruptcy bill?), crime bill, VAWA, Joe has always made sure to fight for working families and shares Obama’s core values; they will readjust after the last 8 years and try to get the country back on the right track.
9:42 McCain says we’ve gotten to know Sarah Palin and is a role model to us and women (THE ROOM BOOS SO LOUDLY!). Yeah, we know her all right. He names some things she did, which may or may not be true, and says she’s a reformer, and brings up special-needs families. Oh, no. Pandering and politicizing autism. Great.
9:44 Obama says it’s up to the American people as to whether or not she’s good; I guess he can’t attack her and still look regal. He also says to address autism, we’re going to have to give money to it, and a spending freeze would preclude that. Score! McCain also says Biden has made mistakes with foreign policy, and brings up a “cockamamie idea” to divide Iraq into 3 countries which was obviously unnecessary, as everything there is great now. He then says that Obama only wants to spend money instead of doing anything else.
9:46 McCain interrupts Bob to let us know this new topic is about climate change. Bob asks for a specific number on how much we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil; McCain says we can completely do so with Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil in the next four years. McCain says that worrying about nuclear power is ridiculous, because how could it not be safe? If it’s good enough for a submarine, it’s good enough for John McCain! By the way, did you know he was in the military?
9:48 Obama says that in 10 years, we can reduce dependence on Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil (10 is more realistic than 4). He also says nothing is more important than us not borrowing huge amounts of money from China and sending it to Saudi Arabia. He says we also need to expand domestic production, including offshore drilling, but that’s not going to do anything near solving the problem, as we only have 3-4% of the world’s oil but use 25% of it. He says we need to use alternative fuel sources made in America. He believes in free trade, but does not believe that any trade agreement is a good agreement, as NAFTA is imperfect. He says we need a president who can advocate for American businesses. McCain dogwhisltes “smooth-talking black man” at Obama and says his eloquence disguises lies and obfuscation. McCain apparently also loves free trade, but says Obama does not. He says Obama opposes the Columbia free trade agreement, which is not nice because Columbia is helping us out and just freed 3 Americans. Um, non sequitur much? He also says that because Obama has never traveled down there, he couldn’t possibly understand.
9:53 Obama says he understands it pretty well already, thanks. There’s a problem with heads of labor unions, and we have to stand for human rights and against violence (McCain rolls his eyes), and that’s why he supported the Peruvian free trade agreement. Obama says the automakers are getting hammered right now, because of gas prices and the economy, but we still need to put pressure on them to start producing more efficient cars. If we can address the 30% of our energy consumption by transportation, we can fix that and create more jobs.
9:55 McCain stutters and brings up sitting across the table without preconditions YET AGAIN. I’ve heard this song already, John. Obama grins. He says there’s no doubt who wants to restrict trade and raise taxes, and compares Obama to Hoover. Ridonculous.
9:56 Healthcare! Obama says we need to both expand coverage and reduce costs, and brings up some pathos-inducing stories about people without it. He then goes over his healthcare: he will let people keep their current insurance, and he’ll reduce their costs. If you don’t have it, he’ll give you some good stuff; also make sure they can’t judge on pre-existing conditions, manage chronic illnesses, and so on. It costs some money up front, but will save money in the long run (in addition to, you know, actually helping people).
9:58 McCain agrees that it is painful for Americans today. He brings up some things to reduce costs: records online, address obesity, community health centers, and wants to give them a $5000 tax credit for healthcare. He brings up Joe the Motherfucking Plumber again and tells him that Obama doesn’t care about him and will fine his ass for not giving his employees insurance. He says Obama wants to set up healthcare bureaucracies and calls him a Socialist.
10:00 Obama says Joe’s fine is $0, as he exempts small businesses from the fine. McCain is shell-shocked (for serious, he croaks out ‘ZERO DOLLARS?!’ and sits there like a deer in the headlights for a bit). Large businesses that can afford it can do it, though, because otherwise everybody pays the price. He says if small business owners want to provide insurance to his employees, he’ll get a credit. McCain’s plan, though, is not good because $5000 is not enough for insurance for older or unhealthy people, and then their employers will dump them. McCain will also tax healthcare benefits for the first time in history, and since the average plan is $12,000, it’s still a loss.
10:03 McCain brings up fucking Joe again. He says if he gets rich, he’ll have to pay the fine if he doesn’t want to give his employees motherfucking health insurance (in short, hypothetical Joe wants to become The Man without having any of the responsibilities. I’m sobbing here). McCain brings up transplants and cosmetic surgery, because he is an idiot. He also calls Obama “Senator Government”, which makes me laugh. McCain says we have too much government and big government, and it’s grown 40% in the past 8 years.
10:05 Obama reiterates that under his plan, if you have healthcare, you keep it, whereas with McCain you might lose it.
10:06 Roe v. Wade, bitches! Could either of them nominate a justice to the Supreme Court that disagreed with them on that issue? McCain thinks it should be left to the states, but that he would never impose a litmus test on a potential candidate. McCain says he doesn’t vote based on ideological differences, but then says he wouldn’t support a pro-choice candidate because they wouldn’t meet his qualifications. So…litmus test.
10:08 Obama says a litmus test isn’t appropriate. Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance; he says abortion is a difficult and moral issue, but that good people on both sides can disagree. He says women can make their own damn health decisions, and the Constitution has a right to privacy, and that it shouldn’t be a right subjected to popular vote. He says he would look for people with a good judicial record, have good history of that kind of thing, etc. He then brings up the Ledbetter case, awesomely (about equal pay for women). McCain voted against the Ledbetter act, because he’s a misogynist. McCain says he’s proudly pro-life, and claims to have compassion. McCain says Obama voted against a bill that would give medical rights to aborted fetusen and voted against the partial-birth abortion bill. Good. He says he doesn’t know how Obama can align himself with the radical pro-abortion people in the country. I flip the finger at the screen.
10:13 Obama says he wouldn’t withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant. There was already a law on the books that required lifesaving treatment, so he voted against it and an Illinois group of doctors did the same thing. Obama is completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions as long as there is an exception for the mother’s health or life; it was not present. Obama says this is an issue that divides us. He says there surely is some common ground between the sides – we should try to prevent unintended pregnancies, help single mothers, help adoption, etc. McCain says that caring about the “health” of the mother is ridiculous. Yes, he actually made air quotes around women’s “health” and snickered at the mere idea of caring about the physical and mental well-being of more than 50% of the country (and world). And he says adoption is wonderful, as he is an adoptive parent (then that must be why he’s for gay adoption, right? Zoinks!). He says of course we have to prevent abortion, not telling us why he’s against comprehensive sex-ed.
10:16 We spend more per capita than any other country on education, but trail on international tests. What should we do? Obama says this is a national security and economic issue. He says there’s been a debate between more money and reform, and we need both. He says in some places we need to invest, because we get our money back multiple-fold later in life. Help teachers, early childhood education, make college affordable (and HOW). He says if we do those things, we can help, but parents have to take responsibility too.
10:18 McCain says it’s the civil rights issue for the 21st century (WTF?! Excuse me Senator, your straight white wealthy cisgendered able-bodied privilege is showing. Also, your stupid). He says that choice and competition between schools is the answer (isn’t that NCLB? Didn’t that not work?). He says charter schools are good. He says throwing money at the problem is not the answer, but instead need to reward good teachers and schools. Operant conditioning doesn’t work if the subjects aren’t on an even playing field – does he think that teachers and school districts are not very good out of spite, and can thus be coerced into doing better by offering them gold stars or cake?
10:20 Obama says we have a tradition of local schools being in control, but the federal government needs to step it up. With NCLB, the money was left behind. He also says that two of the things McCain mentioned he also supports: charter schools, and better teachers. Where they disagree is on the idea that vouchers would secure the problems in our education system. He also says McCain’s record on college accessibility is nonexistent, and McCain’s advisor said that college students are an interest group that we can’t pander to. Ha! That’s gonna burn.
10:23 McCain says that vouchers for private schools are good. McCain says NCLB was flawed, but was a great beginning – wonderful. He also says spending money isn’t always the answer. He talks about reform, which Obama specifically said he was a proponent of. He name-checks autism and town-hall meetings and brings up Palin again. HER SON IS NOT AUTISTIC. Fucking A.
10:25 McCain interrupts Obama again. He is coming off like a completely lost, desperate, defensive, nervous, asshat. So there. Obama disagrees with the vouchers in DC because they leave the rest of the country high and dry; we need a president who will address the problem head-on.
10:26 Closing statements! McCain goes first and calls us “my friends”. You are not my friend. He says we need a new direction from the last 8 years. Preach it, McSame…wait, what? Oh, you silly boy. He has been a careful steward of our tax dollars, and cares about things like healthcare, and cares about everybody and not just “a privileged few” (WHAT ABOUT YOUR TAX PLAN?!). Oy gevalt. Stop talking about reform and earmarks and your record. Hey, he hasn’t said “maverick” yet! He says he’s a member of a “long line of McCains”. Who gives a rat’s?
10:29 Obama thanks McCain and the moderator. He says the biggest risk would be to adopt the same failed policies and politics of the past 8 years, and we need a fundamental change of direction. He says on his campaign stops he’s become convinced again of the fundamental decency of the American people; he then talks about healthcare, energy, college, lifting wages, growing middle class – all things he has fought for his entire career. It won’t be easy or quick, and will require everybody to come together and renew a spirit of sacrifice and responsibility. He says it would be an extraordinary honor to be our President, and thanks us for our time.
10:31 Bob has the last line, from his mother: “Vote now; it’ll make you feel big and strong”. Awesome. He was a pretty good moderator. Over and out!