Vice Presidential Debate Live-Blogging

11:19: On Fox, Kristol says Palin should challenge Biden to more debates: “She should challenge Biden tomorrow. … They can have six or seven of them. They can just have townhalls together. That would be a good thing.”

11:14: Yglesias points to the CBS instapoll showing that undecided voters watching the debate thought Biden won by 46 percent, compared to 21 percent for Palin. (UPDATE: CNN poll on “Who Did the Best Job In the Debate?” Biden 51% Palin 36%)

Discussing Palin’s seeming confusion on McCain’s record, CNN’s Anderson Cooper said, “On equal rights for gays and lesbians, it came off as if she actually supports the same policies as Obama and Biden do, which is just factually not the case.” Paul Begala agreed: “She seemed to say she supported the Biden-Obama position that we should all treat all Americans equally. That would be a radical step for Republicans.” Another pundit said evangelicals heard Palin’s answer and wondered, “What in the world is she doing?” Read more about Palin’s record on gay rights here.

11:07: On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer praised Palin’s performance, but had to admit: “I wasn’t impressed by the depth of her answers or the breadth of her knowledge.”

11:03: Fox News’ Frank Luntz held his focus group “live from Anheuser Busch headquarters” in St. Louis:


Cindy McCain who “has assets of at least $8.5 million, owned more than $1 million of Anheuser-Busch shares at the end of last year.” Cindy McCain stood to profit immensely from sale of Anheuser-Busch Cos. to Belgian beverage giant InBev NV.

10:59: ABC News’s Charlie Gibson: Biden referenced McCain 62 times. Palin mentioned Obama 18 times.

10:56: When asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews if the Vice President should have more power, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) replied, “good luck on having power. If you think the VP would have more power than one vote. There are enough problem for the fellows who are trying to run the senate now. I don’t see the VP taking a greater role.”

10:55: CNN’s debate coverage is sponsored by American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. (UPDATE: Exxon is too.)

10:51: Harold Ford remarked on Sarah Palin’s lack of responsiveness to Gwen Ifill’s questions: “she had a set of answers to a set of questions, even if the question was not asked she was going to provide the answer.”

10:50: ABC News hosts Torie Clark as an analyst, but only describes her as a Republican strategist, neglecting to mention that she was a former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

10:49: On MSNBC, Chris Matthews observed Palin’s “lack of humility” in asking for more power:

10:48: On Fox News, Hume just said Palin is “physically attractive.” In the past, the McCain campaign has said that Democrats commenting on Palin’s appearance are being sexist. Prominent conservatives have called Palin “hot” and “attractive” previously.

10:45: On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan is quite vehemently insisting that Palin “wiped the floor” with Joe Biden whom he described as “boring.” Rachel Maddow tried to press Buchanan on whether Palin’s various factual errors were relevant, but Buchanan dismissed these concerns as “picayune.”

10:44: On Fox News, Mort Kondracke admitted that Palin is not ready to be president. Regarding Biden, he said, “If he had to move into the presidency on the basis of experience…he’s better qualified than she is by a long shot.”

10:43: CNN analysts discussed Palin’s vagueness. “I think at the beginning of the debate, Sarah Palin’s problem was that she wasn’t answering questions directly,” Campbell Brown said, while another CNN pundit, Hillary Rosen, said of Palin’s discussion of the economy, “I don’t think she really substantively gave answers.”

10:40: On Fox News, Mort Kondracke described Palin as “feisty” and claimed she didn’t make any mistakes or verbal errors – Brit Hume had to correct him.

10:39: CNN’s Campbell Brown said she didn’t see the debate as a “game-changer.” She said of Palin, “The second half on foreign policy, she did seem a little out of her depth. It’s not her area of expertise, and it often felt like she was reciting memorized talking points. I thought Biden showed remarkable self-restraint throughout the evening…for example when she got the name of Gen. McKiernan wrong.”

10:38: On Fox News, Brit Hume asked Bill Kristol what he thought of the debate. He laughed and responded, “Well, I’m so biased…”

10:36: CBS’s Bob Schieffer: “I found it disconcerting, time and again Governor Palin chose not to answer the question.”


10:35: Palin said we’re now at pre-surge troop levels in Iraq. This is wrong. There were 130,000 troops in Iraq before the surge. Today, there are 147,000 troops in Iraq. (UPDATE: McCain made this same error in June.)

10:33: Despite repeatedly criticizing Biden for looking backward tonight, Palin closed the night with a quote from President Reagan.

10:32: Palin bragged that as governor, she has appointed people “regardless of political affiliation.” However, high school affiliation has been very important. As the New York Times noted, “The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government.” Palin has appointed her former junior high band-mate, among others.

10:31: Palin said McCain will boost jobs with policies that “build up infrastructure and reign in government spending.” In fact, to build infrastructure you need to spend money. McCain has proposed an across-the-board spending freeze that would result in real cuts in infrastructure construction and maintenance.

10:30: Palin just praised Alaska politicians ability to “work together,” yet Palin refuses to cooperate with the Alaska legislature’s investigation into her alleged ethics violation known as “Troopergate.”

10:28: Palin said that she can’t think of anything on which she changed her position. And if you believe that, there’s a Bridge to Nowhere we’d like to sell you.

10:21: Asked to describe her weaknesses, Palin seems to be answering a completely different question that only she heard. She delivered a rambling answer describing her strengths and what she would bring to the ticket. Ifill asked no follow-up question.

10:20: Joe Biden calls Dick Cheney “one of the most dangerous vice presidents” in history.

10:19: Palin just spoke quite eloquently about her understanding of what it’s like to worry about lacking health insurance. Unfortunately, the Palin/McCain health care plan would do nothing to cover the uninsured. She has previously credited “good union jobs” for giving them health care.

10:19: Palin said the constitution allowed for flexibility in the office of the Vice President. Previously, aides to Palin refused to answer whether she would be part of the executive branch.

10:17: Palin claimed that Alaska’s “energy” supply (by which she means only oil) is helping America on the path to energy independence. This is nonsense.

10:16: Palin said she was grateful the Constitution granted the authority to the Vice President to preside over the Senate “should they choose to exert it.” Of course, presiding over the Senate is not a choice, it’s a mandated duty of the Constitution. And the VP only casts votes in the event of a tie.

10:14: Watch the video of Palin repeatedly referring to Gen. McKiernan as “McClellan”:

10:13: Palin said education “needs to be ramped up in terms of funding.” But last Friday, McCain’s proposed a spending freeze in all discretionary federal spending would would allow inflation to cut funding for Head Start by over $968 million, cut $1.7 billion from community learning centers, and cut $3.7 billion from career and technical education grants. More on McCain’s education record and plans here.

10:13: Palin’s recent confusion over McCain’s position on education spending isn’t the first time a McCain surrogate has gotten confused and called for more funding even while McCain himself wants to reduce expenditures.

10:12: Palin unleashes a flurry of folksiness: “There you go Joe, there you go again…now doggone it.”

10:11: Gwen Ifill, perhaps cowed by pre-emptive criticism of her alleged biases from the right-wing, is being extraordinarily passive throughout this debate. She’s not asking any followup questions, she’s letting the candidates get away with completely avoiding her questions, and most of all she’s scarcely asking questions at all — she’s just proposing topics and then opening the floor to a recitation of talking points.

10:08: The Washington Post’s Fact Checker says that Palin’s claim that Biden backed McCain’s military policies until this presidential race “is flatly false.” “Biden was an outspoken opponent of President Bush’s troop increases in Iraq as soon as Bush announced them after the 2006 elections. As Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, he led the most heated hearings before the troops were actually deployed.”

10:04: Palin is referring to her notes with increasing frequency as the debate focuses on foreign policy.

10:02: Palin keeps saying that someone named “McClellan” (perhaps the Civil War general?) didn’t say this or that. But the question at issue is statements made by General David McKiernan, the commanding officer in Afghanistan.

10:00: Palin said we need the “surge principles” in Iraq to be used in Afghanistan. Biden makes the point that Gen. McKiernan, the commanding general in Afghanistan, said: “The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ’surge.'”

9:58: Palin accused Biden of “looking backwards” in critiquing the Bush administration. But of course, McCain’s future policies mirror Bush’s. McCain himself declared, “I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I’ve been totally in agreement and support of President Bush.”

9:55: J Street reports, “Not once during this campaign season have we been able to find John McCain committing to supporting, let alone promoting, a two-state solution.”

9:54: Palin said that promoting peace between Israel and Palestine would be “a top of an agenda item” in a McCain administration. But McCain’s neoconservative foreign policy advisers have said McCain intends to put the issue on a back-burner and won’t press for a peace agreement.

9:52: As she talks about foreign policy, Palin has been glancing down at her notes constantly. Sure hope Randy Scheunemann wrote neatly.

9:51: Like McCain, Palin keeps referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the “leader of Iran.” However, as Biden noted, the Ayatollah Khameini is the leader of Iran who sets policy.

9:50: Palin keep pronouncing “nuclear” as “nuculur” — perhaps because she doesn’t have her phonetic notes in front of her.

9:49: Palin says Iran “cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons” but is apparently unwilling to make an effort at direct, high-level diplomacy aimed at preventing them from doing so.

Palin spoke about the importance of the war in Iraq. In March 2007, Palin admitted, “I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.”

9:45: Palin is making repeated references to “victory” and “winning” in Iraq while also praising General Petraeus even though he’s specifically disavowed those two terms.

9:45: Palin says that Obama voted against funding for the troops, but FactCheck.org says “that’s hardly the whole story.” In April 2007, Democrats added a “non-binding call to withdraw” to a troop funding measure. “McCain (who was absent for the vote) urged the president to veto that funding measure, because of the withdrawal language. President Bush did veto it, and McCain applauded Bush’s veto. Based on those facts, it would be literally true to say that ‘McCain urged a veto of funding for our troops.'”

9:44: Palin just said that the plan that Obama, Maliki, and President Bush currently supports is “a white flag of surrender.”

9:42: Palin spoke out against “early withdrawal” from Iraq, but the Iraqi government itself has already endorsed the withdrawal of American combat forces along the schedule Obama has proposed.

9:40: Answering a question about gay rights, Palin said she was tolerant of adults “choosing relationships for themselves.” But all major mainstream medical and mental health professional organizations have concluded that homosexuality is not a choice.

9:39: Although Alaska does grant spousal benefits to same-sex partners of public employees, Palin backed a state constitutional ban to deny these benefits.

9:38: Palin mentioned “clean, green natural gas.” Natural gas, like all other fossil fuels, comes with a huge health and environmental footprint, from drilling to burning. The natural gas industry is responsible for 18.6% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

9:37: Palin said that global warming is, in part, caused by human activity. But in a recently released interview with Newsmax, Palin said, “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.” In Dec. 2007, she reportedly said, “I’m not an Al Gore, doom-and-gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climate on human activity.”

9:36: Palin’s answer on global warming tonight was only slightly more coherent than her last shot at it:

9:35: Palin says, “I don’t want to argue about the causes” of global warming. She admits that the Subcabinet on Climate Change she formed is just meant to deal with adaptation – not reducing the cause of global warming: fossil fuel emissions. McCain said at the Clinton Global Initiative on September 25: “We now know that fossil fuel emissions, by retaining heat within the atmosphere, threaten disastrous changes in climate.”

Palin said that the McCain-Palin ticket supports alternative energy, but she only mentioned nuclear and clean coal. McCain says he is against subsidies for real renewable sources of energy like wind power and solar power.

9:32: Discussing carbon emissions, Palin referred to unnamed “countries” that are polluting “more than the US.” In fact, only one country, China, has a higher level of carbon emissions than the United States and the US has by far the highest per capita carbon emissions of any major country.

9:29: The notion that John McCain’s proposed reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could have prevented the current crisis is a myth. Among other things, “Fannie and Freddie did not guarantee and securitize subprime loans.”

9:28: Palin is touting herself as an energy expert, but she recently claimed that Alaska produces “nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy.” In reality, “Alaska’s share of domestic energy production was 3.5 percent.”

9:26: Palin accused Obama of giving tax breaks to oil companies. In reality, McCain’s tax plan would provide oil companies with $4 billion in tax breaks.

9:26: Palin’s deeply confusing disquisition on taking on oil companies in Alaska was a reference to her implementation of what amounted to an windfall profits tax on oil companies — the kind of tax that Obama has proposed and McCain opposed.

9:25: Despite Palin’s claim, McCain is constantly telling one thing to one group and another thing to another group. Here’s a list of 44 flip flops.

9:24: Palin said McCain’s health care plan would eliminate “artificial boundaries between states” and allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. Unfortunately, this would permit insurance companies to ignore in-state consumer protections and would provide Americans with less-comprehensive policies.

9:23: Palin says, “I had to take on those oil companies.” On behalf of Big Oil, Palin has fought the Department of Interior to claim polar bears in prime drilling territory are not under threat from global warming — using junk science bought and paid for by Exxon Mobil.

9:23: Palin touted McCain’s plan to give families a $5,000 tax credit to pay for health care. Since health care typically costs $12,000, Elizabeth Edwards said McCain’s plan “shows that he is completely out of touch with what is happening in the health care system in America today.”

9:21: Palin called McCain’s health credits “a smart thing to do.” In reality, McCain’s health care plan would undermine employer-based coverage and increase out-of-pocket expenses.

9:20: Palin said that she and her husband have been in the middle class their whole lives, but the AP reported yesterday that if you “add up the couple’s 2007 income and the estimated value of their property and investments and they appear to be worth at least $1.2 million.” (UPDATE: Later in the debate, Palin refers to herself as a “Main Streeter.”)

9:19: This discussion of the two presidential campaigns’ tax plans would benefit from reference to the Tax Policy Center’s definitive study of the impact, showing that most people would pay lower taxes under the Obama plan while a wealthy minority would pay dramatically lower taxes under McCain.

9:18: While Palin claimed that McCain supports strong regulation of the tobacco industry, McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin explained recently that McCain no longer supports “raising taxes on cigarettes”
even though such taxes are proven to deter youth smoking.

9:17: Palin’s discussion of her budget policies as mayor of Wasilia conveniently forgot to mention that her tax cuts and spending plans resulted in a massive increase in the town’s debt load. The tax amounted to $3,000 per resident.

9:15: Palin claimed that Barack Obama had voted to increase taxes 94 times. Factcheck.org called this “count is padded.” “A closer look reveals that he’s voted consistently to restore higher tax rates on upper-income taxpayers but not on middle- or low-income workers,” wrote Factcheck.

9:14: Palin says, “Darn right we we need tax relief.” McCain’s health care plan would increase taxes on middle class Americans.

9:13: Palin rightly slammed the role of predatory lenders in contributing to the root causes of the current financial crisis, but failed to note her running mate’s years of opposition to legislative efforts to curb predatory lending practices.

9:12: Palin accuses Obama of voting along party lines, ignoring the fact that McCain has voted 100 percent of the time with Bush in 2008.

9:11: Palin’s claim that two years ago, McCain was warning about an economic crisis is an exaggeration. In an interview in November 2007, McCain admitted that he was clueless about the economic mess: “So, I’d like to tell you that I did anticipate it, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not.”

9:10: Perhaps in an attempt to make up for the fact that John McCain neglected to wear a flag pin to last Friday’s presidential debate, Sarah Palin is wearing a flag pin about the size of a child’s fist.

9:09: Palin wants John McCain to get credit for having “suspended” his campaign to work on the economic crisis, but as is now well known there was no suspension. Campaign spokespeople continued to attack Obama on cable, ads kept running, and campaign offices stayed open.

9:03: Sarah Palin and Joe Biden enter the stage. Viewers could overhear Palin asking Biden, “Hey, can I call you Joe?”

The ThinkProgress family — TP staff, Wonk Room staff, and Yglesias — will be liveblogging the Biden-Palin debate on this thread. Stay with us as you watch tonight.

In the meantime, while we wait for the debate to get started, here’s a sampling of some pre-debate spin. On MSNBC Hardball, McCain policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin claimed that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are advocating for an “artificial arugula-style middle class.” When pressed by host Chris Matthews to explain what he meant, Holtz-Eakin said an “arugula middle class” is “a not very real middle class.” Watch it:

Jed Lewinson notes that Holtz-Eakin also accused Katie Couric and CBS News of editing their interview of Palin to make her look bad.