Guest Liveblogging the Debate

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 8:35 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, 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.

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The Debate Looms Ever Closer

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 5:45 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 5:13 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 4:44 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 3:15 PM EDT


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.

Eleven Answers

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:15 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?

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Bailout's Handouts

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:45 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 2:36 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 2:04 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.

McCain Wants Afghanistan "Surge;" U.S. Commanders Do Not

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

Let's assume for a minute that the Iraq "surge" was primarily responsible for this year's reduction in violence there. A debatable point, but say it's true. Why shouldn't we just do the same thing in Afghanistan? That's the question on McCain's mind lately. "The same strategy that [Obama] condemned in Iraq," McCain said at last Friday's debate, referring to the Iraq surge, is "going to have to be employed in Afghanistan."

Hey, if it worked in one place, it'll work somewhere else, right? Not quite, say U.S. commanders (here and here). In a comforting departure from the adage that generals are always preparing to fight the last war, new CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus and the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, are warning that things aren't that simple and that lessons learned in Iraq don't necessarily translate.

As Petraeus told the New York Times yesterday, "People often ask, 'What did you learn from Iraq that might be transferable to Afghanistan?' The first lesson, the first caution really, is that every situation like this is truly and absolutely unique, and has its own context and specifics and its own texture."

McKiernan seconded the thought with this explanation to the Washington Independent:

[Afghanistan] has very harsh geography. It's very difficult to move around, getting back to our reliance on helicopters. It's a country with very few natural resources, as opposed to the oil revenues that [Iraq] has. There's very little money to be generated in terms of generated in Afghanistan. The literacy rate - you have a literate society in Iraq, you have a society that has a history of producing civil administrators, technocrats, middle class that are able to run the country in Iraq. You do not have that in Afghanistan. So there are a lot of challenges. What I don't think is needed - the word that I don't use in Afghanistan is the word 'surge.' There needs to be a sustained commitment of a variety of military and non-military resources, I believe.

All this said, McKiernan has also asked for more troops. Surge or not, Afghanistan is heating up and the next president will have to figure out how to best to proceed.