lessons from America

Liveblogging the 2nd presidential debate

[0452] Okay, that’s me done for the night.  My housemate will soon be getting up for work, and I have to do the same in only 4 hours or so.  There’s one more debate to come, next week.  Here’s hoping that is more successful and enlightening … but with the same good Obama result.  And in the meantime, have a look at these photos capturing the flavour of debate watching, the election season, the diversity of America and Americans and the amazing roadtrip that the 538 site has been going on as part of their coverage. 

[0439] The instapolls are out and they say that Obama generally had a good night, and “won”; whilst McCain didn’t improve his own standings and seems to have “lost” or at best “drawn” proceedings.  As significant as the numbers are, there’s something even more powerful about these instapolls.  As Kos says – and its very much the theme of his book ‘crashing the gate’ and his new one which i am just reading ‘taking on the system’ – “we no longer need to suffer the conventional wisdom-setting power of the Right Wing Noise Machine pretending to speak for the American people. Today, the American people can speak for themselves.”

[0434] It’s worth having a look at Justin Webb’s liveblogging of tonight; less for his own comments and more because it nicely brings together a range of views and contributions from bloggers, analysts and audience.  I had also hadn’t seen its updated, cute look with all the symbols.  Makes it more eye-catching than my efforts, that’s for sure.

[0416] People want answers not attacks.  They are less interested in body language than content.  That’s what is being said in polls and in interviews, according to a CNN analyst.  Whether that’s actually true or not, or the respondents are simply trying to sound intelligent and highbrow, the people didn’t get their wish tonight.  There were more attacks than the last debate, and fewer concrete policy conversations.

[0414] Time for some humour to stay awake for a bit longer.  Just seen this on Twitter, which is credited to Jay Leno: “Mccain and Palin are a good ticket and go well together.  Palin is pro-life and McCain is clinging to life”.  I paraphrased it; it probably was better in its original form.

[0410] Running out of energy. Much like the coverage.  Georgia10 on Daily Kos sums up where we are after the debate: “in being ordinary when the circumstances called for the extraordinary, McCain ensured the status quo – which now heavily favours Obama – remains in place.”

[0402] A facial analyst on CNN actually comes up with a good observation.  Brokaw was the one who hit hardest about corporate greed and irresponsibility, channeling Main Street’s anger with Wall Street.  Neither of the candidates quite tapped into the same sentiment or went as far. 

[0359] The all important – well, just interesting – Kos debate response.  Null points to the debate format and to Tom Brokaw’s moderation.  Obama did fine. McCain’s attacks didn’t work not because of the content but because (according to polling) McCain isn’t “trusted.  And when the guy who isn’t liked attacks, he is liked even less.”

[0349] The blogs and the youtube moment seems to be McCain’s calling of Obama “that one”. Reminds me of that West Wing episode (Season 2, episode 1) when Bartlet is angry at the suggestion that he shouldn’t refer to his opponent by name, and Bartlet responds by saying “won’t it make me look addled, or dotty. And even if doesn’t, it’s just a stupid idea”.  Point proved tonight. Bartlett 1, McCain 0. 

[0345] And there was  criticism  of Brokaw from one of his own.  They seemed to suggest that he was frustrated as an aloof journalist trying to stand above the partisan fray, and misjudged what what actually wanted / need from this debate.   Daily Kos also picks this up.

[0341] “There’s not enough town in this townhall” – Candy Crowley / Hilary Rosen both made this great comment on CNN.  They noticed what I did – the flat atmosphere and the missed opportunity for a more back-and-forth debate, or for connections with people in the audience or wider. 

[0339] There was lots of backchat on twitter about McCain moving around so much on stage and how he looked a bit uneasy or weird.

[0335] That’s the debate over. Muted applause from a muted audience.  But the fun really starts backstage and in the spin rooms, chat rooms, and living rooms of the nation.

[0334] McCain is more “I believe”, “my service”, “my record”, “my country”; while Obama was more about what the country has given him.

[0332] A “zen-like question” on “what don’t you know”; and fittingly a zen-like answer from Obama to start with; which he then turns into a quick personal history, explanation of why he is running for President; and an optimistic note to end on. 

[0330] Oh, no. The last question. Already. Damn.

[0328] Time for the obligatory genefluction to the Israel / Zionist lobby.  And I saw Zionist not in conspiracy theory way but as it refers to that section of the evangelical Christian community who are more zealous and hawkish on Israel than many American Jews.

[0324] McCain’s answer on Russia is the stronger.  And then he actually for almost the first time comes across well when he expresses his genuine emotion when he thanks a questioner (who is a former military man) for his service. 

[0322] It’s weird not having any reaction allowed from the audience.  Very unnatural and eerie, especially as the questions are mainly coming from the audience.  We do things much better on BBCs Question Time.  The applause, the occasional boos and just the subconscious human reactions of the live audience make better watching; and certainly so compared to these wavy lines across my screen.

[0316] A back and forth bitter exchange on Afghanistan and attitudes to war and diplomacy.  Brokaw finally has to give in and ‘allow’ follow ups.  Wasn’t really allow, the candidates were at each other and too keen to get in another blow for Brokaw to hold them back.  Not sure Obama was right though to use the phrase “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” in his comeback on McCain – he sounded a bit lame.  Better to lack the yoof and the satirists (and us bloggers) do this dirty work. 

[0313] An exchange about soft words and big sticks.  Sexual inneundo time.  Next up perhaps, 1996 Republican candidate Bob Dole and his viagra advertising?

[0311] A few minutes ago McCain said his hero was “Ronald Reagan”. Just now he said his hero was “Teddy Roosevelt”.  Which is it?  Has he forgotten what he said a few minutes ago?  In which case, uh oh! 

[0307] The Obama doctrine is one of building up our international partners and our resources again.  And a focus on humaniterian, life-saving missions and small steps rather than grand designs.  The McCain doctrine seems to echo the Bush one on ‘staying the course’ and winning in Iraq, and on pushing ‘freedom’ and Americaan power.

[0306]  I think McCain just said “my friends again”, but I was munching on a square of chocolate. Thankfully those good folk on twitter are on the ball and confirm it, with hoots of derision aimed at the person who spoke those words. 

[0303] Foreign policy time. Obama responds to a line from McCain about “this is not the time to learn on the job”.  Obama says: “You are right, there are some things I don’t understand ….. like how we got into Iraq in the first place, a country which had nothing to do with 9/11.”  Touche!

[0259] “Did we hear the size of the fine?”  McCain asked before about whether Obama would answer this part of his health plan, and when no number was given he came back – in a snidey aside but one which may gain traction and get coverage in the hours ahead – to ask Obama again.  Except he didn’t ask Obama, he pointed out in a whiney way to the moderator this. So point not as effectively made as it could have been. 

[0255] Watching CNN’s coverage with the live tracking, it is instructive to see that the 3 lines (Republican, Democrat and Independent supporters) diverge much more when McCain is speaking compared to when Obama is.  McCain is geting the passionate, partisian reactions whilst Obama seems better at bridging the partisan divide – exactly the strength McCain says he has, not his opponent.

[0253] McCain again framing his answers with “the fundamental difference between myself and Obama”.  I guess he has to put up all these dividing lines (even where they aren’t so big) and going on the attack, to try and put fear and doubt and negatives about Obama in the minds of voters.  But it is not attractive; especially the way he is doing it and the tone he is adopting. 

[0250] “Nuclear power and drilling” are McCain’s solutions to energy crisis.  Obama supports both, but in moderation and in more of a proper mix with alternates. I get the impression that industry and big money lobbyists are closer to one of these candidates, and it isn’t Obama.  

[0249] All those at debate parties are going be drunk by now if they are playing the game.  McCain just said “my friends” again.

[0248] Brokaw still struggling with this moderation lark.  Its a tough gig admittedly, and he is trying to be scrupulously fair.

[0247] “For 30 years McCain says that politicians haven’t been doing anything [about energy].  But for 26 years he has been there, in the Senate. And he has done nothing.”  Good hit by Obama.

[0244] “I was on boats that were nuclear-plants” says McCain.  I know he means nuclear powered, but I just liked the funny image that he has just conjured up.

[0241] Another occasion when McCain comes across as condescending towards the person who asked the question.  And – I missed this a few minutes ago – another time McCain says “my friends”.  This is getting the Twitterati enraged.  Many are saying “I am not your friend, Mr McCain”.

[0240] I bet Charles Kennedy (Liberal Democrat leader at the last general election) is wishing he could have explained his tax policies as well and clearly as Obama is doing so now.

[0236] Obama has really hit upon a strong narrative – not just for this debate but for the whole campaign. See 0234.  He hit back at McCain’s suggestion of across the board spending freeze as this was not fairly sharing the burden, it would hit the poorest or most needy people hardest.

[0234] Obama: “all of are going to contribute, all of us going to suffer … but we need a fair sharing of the burden” -and by that he meant including the wealthy sharing the burden.

[0232] Brilliant answer on leadership, by Obama (who else?).  He attacked Bush’s response to 9/11 by saying that Bush’s call to shop for the nation was not the type of service that was required. 

[0230] McCain says he wants “a spending freeze, except for defence and veterans affairs” – so he is prioritising wars over the domestic travails of his fellow citizens.

[0228] Tom Brokaw is struggling to keep the candidates to time and to task. He yet again reminds them about the rules of the debate. You get he feeling he’s not quite in control here. McCain and Obama want too much to getttheir talking points and their hits in.

[0226] McCain dodged the prioritisation of issues question. He said he’d do all 3.  Obama’s response is much clearer and punchier.

[0222] McCain doesn’t learn. He just can’t help himself. He is spending all this question dissing Obama and doing him down.  Can’t see it working, except to energise his own base. The CNN real-time rater by a panel of voters seems to agre with me.

[0221] McCain: “the system is Washington is broken.”  Look at me I am a maverick, a bi-partisan; not another Bush he is trying to stress. 

[0220] Obama speaking and there was a cut back shot of McCain looking quite sneering and unsympathetic.

[0216] From twitter (KingNerd): “a vote for Obama is a vote for a recession. A vote for McCain is a vote for a depression.”  Nice. I’m sure that’s a campaign slogan but I hadn’t heard it until now.

[0214] Fannie and Freddie.  I pity anyone called those names in the States, because now they have such negative connotations. McCain just laying into them.

[0212] Nice to know from twitter feeds that i’m not the only who struggles with McCain’s voice. It’s just not that easy to listen to. Though when he gets passionate rather than condescending it’s better.

[0210] Possible Treasury Secretaries: Meg Whitman (Ebay CEO) for McCain; Warren Buffet for Obama. 

[0208] McCain is walking around and a bit more animated.  “I have a plan” he says. Uh oh. Starts off on energy independence as the long-term solution; then quotes some scary big stats which i didn’t quite follow but I guess were there to scare us.  But quite sound generally.

[0206] Obama sounding very sober and sombre, but with a little kick on city execs to show some passion.

[0205] “prosperity hasn’t rained down on all of us and now we need to take strong actions.”  Obama kicks off straight away on the subject of the hour.

[0203] Tom Brokaw of NBC –  a great man – is the moderator.  And this may be more exciting than I thought.  There will be 1 minute follow-ups and the candidates haven’t actually seen the questions. Happy to correct myself on that.  Hooray. 

[0201] How much are we going to her on the economy? Lots I suspect.  Wonder if Alistair Darling will be taking notes ahead of his important speech before the stock market opens in a few hours.

[0159] Okay. I’m back and ready for this debate.  I’m in London. The debate is in Nashville, Tenneesse.  Townhall format for the debate – see my post on this from earlier today.


October 8, 2008 Posted by | debates | , , , | Leave a comment

No Palin, No fireworks?

After the excitement of last week’s v-p debate,  tonight’s debate may be a quieter affair.  And I’m not talking about what happens in Nashville, Tennessee.  I’m talking about what happens in towns, cities, houses and bars across the US.  The debate parties tonight may take on a calmer tone … and not just because the Dow fell another 5% earlier.  Its all down to Sarah Palin and and the passions on both sides that she stirs.

A Californian friend, blogger and Obama volunteer co-ordinator, drew my attention to what happened at these debate parties last time.  She reported that people were literally yelling at the TV whenever Sarah Palin spoke.  Indeed, there’s a piece from her local Pasedena paper – look at the photo gallery. Most people had their head in their hands when Sarah came on screen. 

The conversation I had with her confirms what I’ve been hearing from others as well, that Palin not only infuriates a certain part of the Democratic base, she does so for some Republicans too, particularly women, who really are offended by her whole cutesy act.  I realised that Palin gave Democrats a real fundraising and activist boost straight after her selection, but reports from Obama campaign offices and high anti-Palin merchandise sales suggest that this is still continuing in a big way. 

Palin does provoke huge negative reaction in the UK – even amongst Conservatives who support McCain. But
I have been surprised at the level of visceral hatred of her by quite a lot of women. I’m not sure that was factored in to McCain’s calculations when he picked her.  

Amusingly, I received comments saying how people thought I was being very fair and even to Palin in my liveblogging of the debate.  Perhaps it was just that I was not yet completely out of my diplomatic, holding-my-tongue, non-partisan mode from my few days with the Conservative party earlier that week.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | debates, global perspective, Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment