Presidential Debate Live-Blogging

10:59: McCain made zero mentions of “middle class” tonight — the same number he offered in the first debate. (UPDATE: McCain mentioned “middle-income” Americans three times.)

10:42: On Fox, Nina Easton notes that we observed the “sinking ship of free-market Republicans” go to the “bottom of the sea,” with McCain’s proposal of a $300 billion “nationalization” of the U.S. mortgage market.


10:41: CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin: “When he referred to Barack Obama as ‘that one,’ I thought that was something people will remember.”

10:40: Kristol says Brokaw did a “disservice” to the McCain campaign by asking “conventional, inside the Beltway” questions. (UPDATE: Fred Barnes says it “was not a real town hall” meeting.)

10:37: Chris Matthews notes the most “bizarre moment of the night” was when McCain “took a shot” at moderator Tom Brokaw, saying “not you Tom” in response to who he would pick as Treasury Secretary.

10:35: CBS’ Katie Couric noted that McCain referred to Obama as “that one.” (UPDATE: NBC’s Brian Williams notes it too.)


DEBATE ENDS… POST-DEBATE COMMENTARY BEGINS10:29: It’s worth noting that if Iran attacked Israel, there would be no need to wait for a UN Security Council resolution even according to the UN Charter before responding. Article 51 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter enshrines the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”

10:25: McCain said Russia has to understand that “they are facing a strong and determined America.” Fortunately, from her well-positioned perch in Alaska, Sarah Palin has been keeping a close eye on Putin for any time he might “rear his head.”

10:23: McCain said that when he looks into Putin’s eyes, he sees the letters K-G-B. But in 2001, after President Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul, McCain gave him “an A” for how he did in his meeting with Putin.

10:21: McCain argued that the U.S. needs to execute the “same” surge strategy in Afghanistan as we’ve had in Iraq, but Gen. David D. McKiernan, the new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, “stated emphatically that no Iraq-style ‘surge’ of forces will end the conflict there.”

10:17: Earlier in tonight’s debate, McCain referred to Obama as “that one.”

10:14: McCain chastised Obama for saying that he would strike Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan without Pakistan’s permission if need be. Just recently, McCain defended Sarah Palin when she said essentially the same thing. (UPDATE: McCain “announced” on multiple occasions his desire to attack Iraq.)


10:13: McCain misquoted his “hero” Teddy Roosevelt tonight, quoting him as saying, “Walk — Talk softly and carry a big stick. The exact quote is: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

10:11: McCain suggested that he opposed Ronald Reagan’s deployment of US forces to Lebanon. In fact, he initially favored deploying the troops and only later argued for their withdrawal making arguments, one should note, that sound an awful lot like the arguments for redeploying from Iraq that he now deplores.

10:08: McCain doesn’t seem to understand that General David Petraeus currently heads up U.S. Central Command and is not at all the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

10:06: McCain just said that if we’d withdrawn from Iraq, Iranian influence would have increased and Al Qaeda would have set up a base. Both of these things happened because we invaded Iraq.

10:03: Discussing when to intervene militarily, McCain mentioned Kosovo. Back in 2000, McCain referred to the conduct of the Kosovo intervention as “the most obscene chapter in recent American history.


10:02: McCain criticized Obama’s foreign policy background, saying the country can’t afford a president who will engage in “on-the-job training.” However, Laura Bush has said that Palin doesn’t have any foreign policy experience, but “she’s a very quick study.” 9:59: McCain said Americans should be able to go across state lines to purchase health insurance. But this approach would erode important consumer protections and allow companies to exclude from coverage pre-existing conditions, deny claims, and increase premiums.

9:57: While McCain said health care should be a “responsibility,” Obama said, “I think it should be a right, for every American.”

9:55: McCain is disparaging the idea of government involvement in the health care system, but he’s enjoyed government-provided health care all his life and appears to trust it fine to deal with his own health problems.

9:54: McCain said he would give every family a $5,000 tax credit to buy health insurance. But McCain’s credit would not cover the average price of a family health care plan. According to the latest Kaiser Foundation Benefits Survey, “premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $12,680 annually for family coverage” in 2008.

9:49: Obama just warned of the threat of the “climate crisis,” Al Gore’s preferred terminology for global warming. McCain referred to it as “climate change” earlier.

9:45: McCain said that Obama voted 94 times for tax increases or against tax cuts. Using the same methods that the McCain campaign used to calculate that number, McCain has voted for 477 tax increases.

9:44: McCain claims that the best way of “fixing” global warming is nuclear power, which he also praised as a job creator. McCain’s nuke here, nuke now plan is estimated at “$315 billion, with taxpayers bearing much of the financial risk” and would tie our energy future to a toxic, deadly fuel that is mined in nations like Kazakhstan, Russia, Niger, and Uzbekistan — and would only generate 10,000 jobs a year.

9:44: For the second time tonight, McCain just repeated the attack that Obama has “never taken on” members of his own party, whereas he has. However, McCain has voted with Bush 95 percent of the time and once said, “I don’t have to show I’m different from Bush.”

9:43: McCain’s plan for Medicare is to . . . appoint a commission. What happened to leadership? Doesn’t he have any substantive thoughts on this issue?

9:42: McCain said, “I’m not in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy.” A recent analysis from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that McCain’s plan “would primarily benefit those with very high incomes, almost all of whom would receive large tax cuts that would, on average, raise their after-tax incomes by more than twice the average for all households.”

9:41: Tonight, McCain is wearing a red striped tie that appears wavy and distorted on television. He apparently hasn’t learned his lesson. During the last debate, McCain wore a similarly dizzying red and white striped tie.

9:40: Brokaw editorialized that we can all agree in a “bipartisan way” that entitlement programs are “a big ticking time bomb.” In fact, in 2005 — as President Bush tried to “reform” Social Security with a privatization scheme — “barely one in four Americans believe[d] that a crisis exists.” (UPDATE: As Paul Krugman explains, “No matter how many times you try to kill the mythical Social Security crisis, it just keeps coming back.”)

9:39: McCain said that the last president to raise taxes amidst a downturn was Herbert Hoover. But of course Bill Clinton was elected amidst a weak economic situation, passed an Obama-esque tax increase on wealthy people, and ushered in an era of broadly shared prosperity.

9:37: Obama said that McCain’s tax cut proposals would give corporate CEOs a $700,000 tax cut. McCain’s tax proposals would also give his own family a $300,000 tax cut.

9:35: While discussing health care, McCain said, “I’m not going to tell that person without health insurance, I’m sorry you’ll have to wait.” Ironically, under McCain’s Guaranteed Access health plan, individuals with pre-exisiting conditions would have to wait months for coverage of their illness.

9:33: Obama just mentioned the need for “volunteer corps all across this country.” McCain has no national service plan.

9:32: In addition to reducing many vital services, John McCain’s proposed spending freeze — a cut in inflation-adjusted terms — would serve as an anti-stimulus to the economy at a time of recession.

9:31: McCain said that he wants to eliminate some government programs. In the 1990s, he said that he would support “doing away” with both the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.

9:30: Discussing earmarks, McCain said he wanted to eliminate not just bad programs, but also some “really good projects” as well. But if the programs are really good, why eliminate them?

9:29: By mocking the Chicago planetarium earmark, McCain has twice mocked federal spending on science education, despite saying he recognizes the need for more scientists and engineers in America. Upon becoming the Republican nominee, he has advocated offshore drilling and selected global warming denier Sarah Palin to be his running mate — despite saying he recognizes the threat of global warming. As Lawrence Krauss said, “McCain risks becoming the anti-science candidate.”

9:27: Speaking about entitlements, John McCain said “we are not going to be able to provide the same benefit for future retirees that we have today.” In other words, he wants to cut entitlements. And yet, it was just earlier today that Sarah Palin said: “John McCain and I will protect the entitlement programs that Americans depend on — and above all, Social Security.” (UPDATE: McCain’s top adviser admitted on Sunday that McCain would slash $1.3 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years.)

9:26: McCain praised investments in solar and wind energy. A few minutes before, he challenged the audience to look at his record as well as his rhetoric. Despite his words in favor of renewable energy in recent months, McCain has a clear record of opposition to clean energy.

9:25: McCain highlighted his support for campaign finance reform as an example of his “clear record of bipartisanship.” However, he has called Justices Roberts and Alito “model justices,” even though both oppose campaign finance reform.

9:23: McCain said that he worked across the aisle with Joe Lieberman on climate change, but he refused to endorse Lieberman’s climate change bill when it came up for a vote in the Senate last year.

9:21: McCain claims he warned about the coming economic crisis. However, in 2007, he admitted he was “surprised” by the crisis. “So, I’d like to tell you that I did anticipate it, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not,” he said.

9:20: McCain spoke of the need to end “cronyism” that corrupts Washington. Perhaps he had in mind things like when Freddie Mac decided to hire a close McCain associate specifically in order to influence McCain’s actions and then, after he succeeded, McCain tapped him to serve as his Senate Chief of Staff.

9:19: McCain said he wanted to “get rid of” the “special interests” in Washington to solve the economic crisis. Roughly 164 former lobbyists, however, run his campaign, raise money for him, and set his policy agenda.

9:16: When asked who he would potentially name as his Treasury Secretary, McCain did not mention his previous leading candidate — Phil Gramm, who called America a “nation of whiners” in a “mental recession.”

9:15: McCain is saying that two years ago, he stood up and warned against the excesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. NPR has fact-checked this claim as an exaggeration, saying that it was Sen. Chuck Hagel who actually took the lead to tighten regulation in 2005.

9:14: McCain repeated the conservative myth that problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are at the root of the financial crisis. In fact, Fannie and Freddie were late to the subprime party and had been losing market share to other firms who plunged ahead more recklessly. It’s true that better regulation would have been a good idea, but regulators — members of the Bush administration — declined to use the authority they already had.

9:13: McCain once again claimed to have suspended his campaign to deal with the crisis, but in fact his surrogates continued to appear on television attacking Obama.

9:12: McCain decries sending billions of dollars “to countries that don’t like us very much,” by which we assume he means, among others, Iran and Russia. But because of the rise in oil prices resulting from the Iraq war, Iran and Russia are raking in billions of dollars in oil revenues. It’s a simple equation: War John McCain supports waging indefinitely = regional destabilization = increased oil prices = higher revenues for regimes John McCain wants to contain.

9:11: McCain said he supported helping homeowners renegotiate the terms of their mortgages. However, he opposed a proposition to allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgage payment terms on first homes.

9:09: McCain asserted that he doesn’t want to raise taxes on “anybody.” But last month, he admitted his health care plan may raise taxes.

9:08: McCain says we’ve got to “stop the spending spree” here in Washington to deal with the economic crisis. But reducing spending during a recession — especially at a time when the Fed is maintaining low interest rates — is a pro-cyclical measure likely to deepen a recession.

9:05: McCain smiled and made prolonged eye contact when he greeted Obama — already making more eye contact than the last debate.

9:03: Like the first presidential debate, McCain isn’t donning a flag pin on his lapel. Barack Obama is.

We’re about to get started with our live-blog of tonight’s presidential debate. Like our previous two live-blogging extravaganzas, the entire ThinkProgress family — TP, Wonk Room, and Yglesias — will join forces to provide you research, insight, and analysis.

Tonight’s debate is in a townhall format. We’ve been told repeatedly by the media that townhalls are McCain’s strength. In June, ThinkProgress noted the following comments from political pundits:

— MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “One of the points there is to take advantage of McCain’s presumed strength in the town hall format and in loose conversations.”

— MSNBC’s Monica Novotny: “So it seems that these town halls would work to his strength.”

— Fox News’s Juan Williams: “That’s his strength. That format, when you get John McCain doing town hall meetings, he’s at his best.”

Over the last 24 hours, political analysts have repeated the assertion:

CNN’s Ed Henry: “This format — the good news for McCain is this format suits him well. It sort of plays to his strengths.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper: “John McCain has done very well in these townhalls that he has. And the critics say even Barack Obama has less experience doing that.”

MSNBC’s Savannah Guthrie: “McCain has always been very good in these townhall formats. This is one of his strengths.

We look forward to the show.