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Debate Liveblogging - VP Edition

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 9:59 PM EDT

DEBATE LIVEBLOGGING — VP EDITION....It's Biden vs. Palin. The Kid From Scranton vs. the Hockey Mom From Wasilla. Are you ready?

Wrapup – I'll be honest: I genuinely didn't understand about 50% of what Sarah Palin said. She pretty overtly didn't even pretend to address a lot of Ifill's questions — probably because she couldn't — and a lot of her filibustering ended up sounding like random strings of phrases from the Hockey-Mom-o-Bot 3000. This was especially true as time wore on. If nothing else, this makes it almost impossible to judge the substance of what she believes, and despite the fact that she "connects" with ordinary people, I have a feeling that an awful lot of ordinary people weren't impressed with this.

On grounds of style and affect, Biden seemed fine to me. He had good energy, made his points pretty sharply, and didn't make any mistakes. He was also very good on substance. Palin, conversely, seemed wound up like someone on her tenth cup of coffee, and I just don't know if that seems very presidential (or vice presidential). I think she would have been better off with a lower key style. On the other hand, she had no big gaffes, and we all know that's what we were really waiting for.

As usual, I don't really have a strong idea of how other people will react to tonight's performance, but I think Biden won pretty convincingly. He didn't overdo things, but he did demonstrate a good command of the issues as well as a good command of working class folksiness. He defended himself well without seeming overbearing. For her part, Palin probably seemed friendly enough, but her obvious lack of command of the issues combined with her obvious reliance on stale talking points can't have been very impressive.

UPDATE: CNN snap poll says Biden won 51%-36%. CBS poll of uncommitted voters says Biden won 46%-21%.

UPDATE 2: Dodgers win 10-3. Hooray!

UPDATE 3: Nielsen says 45% of all households watched the debate compared to 31% for the first Obama-McCain debate.

10:26 – Palin says she's never had to change her view on anything. Good to know.

10:25 – Interesting to see Biden take on the "maverick" thing directly. I think Palin has called McCain a maverick about a hundred times so far.

10:21 – In fairness, Biden isn't answering the question either, though at least he knew what it was. But he's not babbling.

10:19 – Now Palin is just babbling. I don't think she even understood what the question was. (It was something about what her real Achilles heel is.) (Via email: "She is being very meta by actually demonstrating her Achilles heel rather than just telling us.")

10:16 – Palin: "Our founding fathers were wise in allowing so much flexibility in the position of the vice president." What the hell?

10:13 – Email from a friend: "Palin is just hyper. It's weird. She's making more sense than not, which I'm sure NRO is high-fiving about. But she is so keyed up, it's frightening. Monotone, snarky, relentless verbiage for her alotted time. Wonder if the perma-smile will wear. No dynamic in her tone. She's cramming."

10:12 – Palin: "There you go again, Joe." Oh please. Palin is desperate to insist that McCain just has nothing at all in common with Bush.

10:08 – Ifill asks how a Biden administration would differ from an Obama administration. Biden uses this as an opportunity to deliver a basic stump speech. The CNN focus group loves it.

10:02 – Palin is grinning like the cat who caught the canary while Biden talks about Iraq. Why? Because she's just waiting for the chance to say that Biden supported the war before he was against it. Childish stuff.

10:00 – McClellan? Who's that? Is Palin talking about General McKiernan? Did I hear her wrong?

9:55 – Palin: "There have been huge blunders with this administration." Glad we can all agree on that. Hopefully we'll get some specifics on that after the debate.

9:52 – I guess the format of the debate is set in stone, but Ifill really isn't pressing either Biden or Palin to actually address her questions. I guess there's a limit to what she can do.

9:48 – Not a strong response from Palin. She's just regurgitating old soundbites about meeting with the Castro brothers et. al. without preconditions.

9:46 – Biden's doing a pretty good job on Afghanistan and Pakistan being the central front in the war on terror.

9:43 – Audience reaction to Biden's "We will end this war" is off the charts. Reaction to Palin's "That's a white flag of surrender" is deep into negative territory. Interesting.

9:41 – Biden isn't always the easiest guy to understand, but Palin's statement on Iraq was just an astonishing string of soundbites and miscellaneous, unconnected phrases. I have almost no idea what she was talking about. (Except that we have to "win in Iraq.")

9:34 – Hmmm. "Drill baby drill" decidedly didn't go over well with the women in CNN's focus group.

9:31 – Wow. Palin's statement on climate change was spectacularly incoherent, even by her standards. And she still doesn't think it matters whether human activity is to blame. But she thinks we need to cut back emissions anyway. Even though we don't know if that's the cause. Sheesh.

9:29 – Biden could have done a better job defending his support for the bankruptcy bill. Or, better yet, he should have said even less and just jumped straight to his statement that we should allow bankruptcy courts to reset mortgages.

9:27 – Palin is really rambling. Biden is doing a little better, but he could stand to be even more pointed, just as a counterpoint.

9:25 – Biden wants a windfall profits tax on oil companies just like they have in Alaska! Possibly a decent attack.

9:23 – Palin: The nice thing about McCain is that he doesn't say one thing to one group and another thing to another group. Huh? What was that all about?

9:15 – Well, that's original. Palin just said outright she's not going to bother answering the questions if she doesn't feel like it.

9:13 – Biden: "The middle class needs tax relief." Palin: "Darn right we need tax relief."

9:10 – Palin: "We need strict oversight of those entities in charge of loaning us our dollars" — or something like that. "Never again will we be taken advantage of." Okey dokey. But it went over great with the CNN focus group!

9:08 – Palin is making lots of eye contact with Biden. No condescension for her!

9:06 – On the financial crisis, Biden starts off very much in Obama style, with a laundry list of policy distinctions (oversight, CEO pay, equity shares, etc.). Palin goes straight for a soccer mom story.

9:04 – According to the audience-o-meter, women really, really want to punish Wall Street CEOs.

9:02 – "Can I call you Joe?" I guess I wasn't expecting that.

8:59 – So what do I expect tonight? Honestly, I have no idea. Basically, I figure that Biden will do OK because he's not an idiot and Palin will do OK because this is a format that allows her to get away with easy soundbites and folksy homilies. Still, it does have sort of a NASCAR quality to it, doesn't it? You just never know if suddenly someone is going to crash and burn.

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Guest Liveblogging the Debate

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 9:35 PM EDT

I come away with a solid impression that as the dust settles, no one is going to be especially impressed simply because Palin held her own. That should be the very least we should expect of a candidate. Biden scored huge points on 1) actually answering questions, 2) calling lies lies, and changing the frame of the conversation, and 3) pure substance. It comes down to who of these two would be (god forbid) a better president, and the reality of that possibility was on display here. When it boils down to that, there really isn't much competition based on the gravitas shown in St. Louis tonight. Biden by two lengths.

7:35 - Biden going in for the after-debate niceties, perhaps trying to catch her off guard, and not let her decompress...

7:30 - I sadly call it far closer than it ought to have been, and I assume polls tomorrow will reflect a chasm between those who say one or the other won it. Biden wins on facts, Sarah on expectations-beating.

7:29 - Palin's argument that the media made her look bad can't possibly play. She actually argued today that she had been "censored." She must wish she HAD been.

7:27 - One Current watcher notes Biden is winning on substance, Palin on style. Not sure that's entirely true - she's still clearly a lightweight who falls back into beauty pageant tics. But does "Joe Sixpack" care?

7:24 - Watching Hack the Debate on Current. Interesting to see the Tweets pouring in.

7:21 - Will the Biden choke-up help or hurt? I bet the former. Women aren't allowed to cry (see Hillary), so he can make himself accessible with a trembling chin.

7:18 - Nice big target - Cheney - bulls-eyed by Biden.

7:13 - Palin is revving up. The folksy is working. The school shout-out was brilliant.

7:10 - Joe Biden is getting mad. Careful.

7:07 - "McCain knows how to win a war." Which wars has he won?

7:02 - Best 2008 coinage: "Bosniacs." Thanks, Joe!

6:57 - Palin flatly denied that the US has bombed civilians in Afghanistan.

6:55 - Look closely at Palin's lapel - Israeli flag just ABOVE her American flag pin.

6:52 - Apparently McCain-Palin believe Israel is our only ally.

6:49 - There's "NUCULAR," from Palin. Oh lordy.

6:44 - Palin - ohh, bad move putting your confidence in the leader of al Qaeda.

6:42 - Biden - be careful not to get too brainy and wonky.

6:40 - After all these years, I really expected GOP candidates to pronounce "Iraq" properly.

6:37 - Palin is doing remarkably well. Far above expectations from this vantage point.

6:34 - "Drill, baby drill" - but Biden just mentioned the fact that drilling solves nothing for at least 10 years!

6:31 - Alaska feels the effects of climate change more than any other state? Wow, tell that to Louisiana and Texas.

6:29 - Palin unabashedly refuses to answer questions.

6:23 - Palin is hitting her stride. Looking into the camera instead of at the moderator is a lovely touch.

6:21- Biden's strategy now clear - point out foreseeable fudges of the truth as they happen. Simple, elegant, effective.

6:19 - Paying taxes is not patriotic? OK then!

6:17 - Question for Palin - since when do Mayors raise or lower taxes?

6:15 - Wow, Palin is being maverick-y, telling Gwen and Joe, I'm doing it my way. Clever.

6:13 - Palin's argument is that saying we have a bad economy is too depressing, so it's better to lie to the American people for their own good. In fairness, Bush proved that repeated lies become truths, so maybe the magic will work in this fairytale administration too.

6:11 - Clearly Biden's mission is to use McCain against McCain.

6:08 - Biden is holding back, leading with gravitas and substance.

6:06 - Palin is definitely going folksy. I'm going to guess this isn't going to be as charming this time around.

6:00 - "Can I call you Joe?" Clever. He can't call her Sarah without looking sexist.

Greetings, MoJo people! I'm honored to be here to liveblog the vice presidential debate. As a former editor and producer of MotherJones.com, I'm happy to be back where I once wrote a proto-blog called The Bush Files in 2000.

So put your political pants on, friends. If you're playing bingo, may I suggest an extra credit space for every time Biden says "literally"? You will not be sorry.

My expectations here are that this will be underwhelming, and that Palin could well score big tonight.

The Debate Looms Ever Closer

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 6:45 PM EDT

THE DEBATE LOOMS EVER CLOSER....Today is the big debate! Exciting, no? Will Sarah Palin burble amusingly? Will Joe Biden be a mean ol' bully? Will conservatives blame Gwen Ifill if Palin claims that that she can see Pakistan from the window of her house? Will the media declare Palin the "winner" if she manages to speak in complete sentences 80% of the time? Will prepackaged small town zingers defeat Amtrak-riding liberal gravitas? Tune in and find out!

I'll be liveblogging, of course, so come on by and join us in comments. And while you're at it, head over to our fundraising page and download our debate drinking game. (You're going to need it.) Then throw a few dollars our way if you can spare it. It keeps both the magazine and the blogs going and helps keep progressive journalism alive. Pretty good deal, eh?

Listen to New Oasis Album for Free at (Sigh) MySpace

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 6:13 PM EDT

mojo-photo-oasis-dig.jpgOh, MySpace, how I hate you, let me count the ways. Your layout is nonsensical and counterintuitive, making even the simplest tasks an exercise in frustration. Your 96kbps streaming mp3s sound crunchy and terrible, and start right up at unexpected volumes when you click over to a profile. Your culture of friend-accumulation feeds a fame-for-being-famous culture that's making our children morons. But you got slightly more tolerable this week, after retooling your music player widget and announcing MySpace Music, which is basically an agreement with major labels to allow streaming of full songs and albums on the MySpace site. This has been mostly Imeem's zone for a while, although as this article in Time comparing the services points out, MySpace will get music directly from labels, while Imeem relies on fans to upload songs. So I guess Imeem will continue to be the quirky place to find old Cure songs, while MySpace will have the inside scoop on brand new music, like, say, the new Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul, which you can listen to in its entirety right now over here.

Next Steps

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 5:44 PM EDT

NEXT STEPS....Clay Risen speculates on what's next if the Paulson plan passes on Friday:

In a way, all the Paulson plan does is get us back to where we were a few weeks ago, when we were focused not on bank closures but housing foreclosures....But there's a silver lining here: Maybe now policymakers will set aside their concerns about moral hazards and recognize the risk that unhealthy mortgages pose to the rest of the economy.

Well, I wouldn't count on that happening anytime soon. Maybe next January, though.

As has often been the case these days, Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard, former chair of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, has been a voice of reason on this dilemma. In today's Wall Street Journal, he co-wrote a piece with his Columbia colleague Chris Mayer proposing that "all residential mortgages on primary residences ... be refinanced into 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 5.25% (matching the lowest mortgage rate in the past 30 years)." They argue that we should then place them with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Such a move would directly help out homeowners, and in turn reassure credit markets worried about the wobbly mortgages underlying all those asset-backed securities we've heard so much about.

....This isn't the final step, of course. If one looks at the economy as a heart-attack patient, the Paulson plan is the CPR. A refinancing plan would be the bypass surgery and recovery. Beyond that, just as a heart-attack survivor needs to make serious changes in diet and exercise, we need a thorough round of regulatory reform — including a restructuring of the regulatory system — to help make sure this doesn't happen again and to prepare ourselves for the unknown tumult that a globalized financial infrastructure will bring.

I'd add some broader macroeconomic reforms to that list too, but obviously that's going to take time and lots of political capital. But we can hope.

Sarah Palin Crossbow

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 4:15 PM EDT

Behold.

Ohio-based Lakota Industries introduces the Sarah-Cuda, a pink camouflage crossbow for "women who face the challenges of adversity and demonstrate the courage and strength to survive in today's world, yet have the caring heart and tenderness of good wives, mothers, sisters and daughters."

Sounds like her, too!

10 percent of Sarah-Cuda proceeds go to the National Association for Down Syndrome.

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Eleven Answers

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 4:15 PM EDT

ELEVEN ANSWERS....Tyler Cowen rounds up some criticism of the Paulson bailout plan:

There is the O'Neill plan....Or the Soros plan. And here is a "SuperBond" plan to recapitalize the banking system. And then there is the Phelps plan....Not to mention the French plan. Or how about the Wright plan.

You remember the old joke, don't you? Ask ten economists a question and you'll get eleven different answers. Has that ever been more true than during our current credit crisis?

Bailout's Handouts

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:45 PM EDT

Wondering why the Senate version of the bailout passed so easily? Why, sweeteners of course! Good government watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense has broken down the package of tax breaks that were tacked onto the bill (which has ballooned to over 450 pages), and it's clear that at least some of them are being used to placate skittish Senators by handing goodies to their constituents. Examples include a $478 million tax break for movie and TV studios, a $33 million economic development tax credit for businesses in American Samoa, a more favorable depreciation timetable for motor sports race track owners, and an excise tax exemption for manufacturers of wooden arrows meant for children.

McCain Reportedly Pulling Out of Michigan

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:36 PM EDT

As the polls pull away from him in Michigan, John McCain is reportedly pulling all TV ads in the state and moving most staff to more competitive battlegrounds. The move means that McCain is not playing offense in any 2004 Kerry states except New Hampshire, which has just four electoral votes.

Obama Up in Florida: Local GOPers Meet Secretly To Worry

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:04 PM EDT

Four recent polls showing Barack Obama moving ahead of John McCain in the all-important state of Florida--and leading McCain there by 3 to 8 points--have sent Sunshine State GOPers into a (secret) panic. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Florida Republican leaders hastily convened a top secret meeting this week to grapple with Sen. John McCain's sagging performance in this must-win state.
Their fears were confirmed Wednesday when four new polls showed Sen. Barack Obama leading, a reversal from just a few weeks ago when McCain was opening up an advantage....
With some grass roots organizers complaining about coordination problems with the campaign, Republican Party chairman Jim Greer gathered top officials at the state headquarters in Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon. He swore the group to secrecy.
When asked about it by the St. Petersburg Times, Greer confirmed the meeting. He largely declined to discuss what was said.

Or what they are planning. Note to Democrats, rent Recount--just in case.