I’ll be liveblogging the debate as soon as it starts.

9:02: And so it begins. I wonder whether Tom Brokaw talks that way all the time, and if so, whether his voice ever gets on his nerves.

9:05: Economy. Obama: this is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, caused by Republican economic philosophy. First step: rescue package. Step two: rescue package for middle class. Help with mortgages, for state and local governments, with infrastructure, health care.

9:08: McCain: Energy independence (?), taxes, stop spending in Washington. (??) We have to “do something about home values”. McCain would order Treas. Sec. to buy up all those bad mortgages and renegotiate them. (???)

9:10: Brokaw: Who for Treas. Sec.? McCain: Maybe Buffett, maybe Meg Whitman, but someone people identify with and trust. Obama: Warren Buffett would be a possibility. Key: Treas. Sec. must know that it’s not enough to help those at the top.

9:14: Question: what in bailout bill will help ordinary people? McCain: Main Street was hurting. I suspended campaign, went back to protect taxpayers. Real catalyst for this was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with encouragement of Sen. Obama and his cronies. (Oddly, doesn’t mention Rick Davis.) Mentions that bill he co-sponsored. Rescue package not enough; we need to buy up bad mortgages, and stand up to Fannie and Freddie.

9:16: Obama explains credit crunch, and effects on ordinary Americans, to questioner. Says McCain is wrong; cause was not Fannie/Freddie; it’s deregulation. Lists various things he did, and various things McCain did to support deregulation. Mentions Rick Davis. But back to how it will impact questioner…

Brokaw: are you saying economy will get much worse before it gets better? Obama: no. But we have a lot of work to do.

9:18: McCain mentions buying up all the mortgages again. I would love to know the details of this.

9:21: Question: How can we trust you with our money when both parties got us into this? Obama: A lot of blame to go around. History: when Bush came into office, there were surpluses; now deficits. Debt: way up. No one is completely innocent here, but we’ve had biggest increases in our history, and Sen. McCain voted for 4 of 5 Bush budgets. I am going to work on crucial issues — energy, etc. — but I also propose spending cuts. But I’ll be working for you.

9:23: McCain: I have a record of bipartisanship. Sen. Obama has never taken on his own party. I have fought earmarks, etc. Obama is proposing lots of new spending. He voted for every increase in spending that I saw come across the Senate floor (??) Look at our records. Then look at our proposals. Not new spending, but things that keep people in their jobs is another. (Plainly, McCain has not read his Keynes.)

9:25: Brokaw: how would you prioritize health care, energy, entitlement reform? (Why are these the only choices?) McCain: I can do all three, because I am bipartisan.

9:27: Obama: we have to prioritize. Must do energy, for the sake of the economy and national security. Education, and something I missed. Will go through spending, but also tax policy. Hits McCain’s corporate tax cuts.

9:30: Qu: What sacrifices will you ask of Americans? McCain: we will have to examine programs and cut some. I have cut defense spending. I will examine earmarks. I will freeze spending, except for vets, defense, “and some other vital programs.” (I wonder which?)

9:33: Obama: after 9/11, the country was willing to come together. But we were never called to service. Energy: we will all need to think about how we use energy. We need more production, but we can also start thinking, as individuals, about our choices. And government can help make sure that you can weatherize your home, etc. Also: young people especially want to serve; we should provide opportunities, so that our troops are not the only ones who do this.

9:36: Obama hits on McCain’s tax cuts for the rich again. Tough to ask a teacher to tighten her belt when people who are making much more than her are living high on the hog. McCain’s spending freeze: using a hatchet when you need a scalpel.

9:38: McCain: “Nailing down Sen. Obama’s tax proposals is like nailing jello to the wall. There have been 5 or 6 of them; I’m sure there will be another.” He’s going to raise taxes.

9:39: Question: Brokaw: will you give Congress at date certain to reform Social Security? Obama: We must reform entitlements. Back to taxes: “the straight talk express lost a wheel on that one.” I want to provide a tax cut for 95% of Americans. If you make $250K a year, your taxes will not go up by one dime. Sen. McCain wants to give $300billion in tax cuts, 2/3 to the rich. That’s not right.

9:42: McCain: we know how to solve Social Security: bipartisanship. I can do that; Obama never has. Medicare: we need a commission. Back to taxes: it’s about rhetoric vs. record. Obama has voted 94 times for higher taxes. Look at records.

9:45: Environment? McCain: I care about climate change. We need nuclear power. I was on Navy ships that had nuclear power plants! We can reprocess spent nuclear fuel. Etc. Hydrogen! Battery powered cars! Millions of jobs! We are the best innovators! We can do this!

9:47: Obama: this is a big challenge, but also an opportunity. We can do it but we need to invest.

9:49: Brokaw: do we need a Manhattan Project, or a million little garages doing research? McCain doesn’t get question; says we need federal research. Goes on about energy bill. He’s rambling.

9:51: Qu: should health care be treated as a marketable commodity? Obama: huge burden on families, small businesses. We have a moral imperative, and an economic one, to deal with health care. Explains his plan.

9:52: Then Obama criticizes McCain.

9:54: McCain: we need efficiency. Obama talks about government will do this, government will do that. He’ll impose mandates. If you are a parent and you don’t get health care for your kids, Sen. Obama will fine you. My $5k plan will cover everyone who doesn’t want a gold-plated, Cadillac policy, like covering hair transplants. (He actually said this.) Small businesses want to cover employees, we should help. (By removing the tax exemption for health insurance? Huh?)

9:59: Health care: right or responsibility? Obama: right. Then: he corrects McCain on his plan. Notes that McCain voted against expansion of SCHIP.

10:01: How will economy affect our ability to act as a peacemaker? (I space out briefly.) McCain: You need good judgment. I have it. Obama does not. We don’t have time for on the job training.

10:04: Obama goes after McCain’s judgment on Iraq. Iraq has strained us: our troops, and also our economy. It prevents us from doing things we could otherwise do, like Darfur. That will change.

10:06: Brokaw: what is Obama doctrine on humanitarian intervention? Obama: when we see genocide occurring, we should consider acting. But we need allies. Consider Darfur. African Union forces are there; we could help with logistics, but only if we can mobilize int’l community and lead.

10:08: McCain: Obama had bad judgment on Iraq. We should consider humanitarian intervention. But we need to have a “cool hand” (why McCain thinks this an argument for him eludes me.) I know those situations. The security of our men and women are my top priority, after national security, and I will take it seriously.

10:10: Pakistan: should we attack across borders? Obama: tough situation, due in part to invading Iraq. AQ attacks across the borders. We must change Pak. policy. No coddling leaders who make deals with the Taliban. We should expand support for democracy, non-military aid. But if we have bin Laden in our sites, we should act.

10:12: McCain criticizes Obama’s talking about this stuff. History: big mistake: we washed our hands of Afghanistan after Russians were defeated. Now things are bad in Afghanistan. We should use Petraeus’ strategy in Afghanistan. Talk softly, carry big stick.

10:14: Obama: “Bomb Bomb Iran” not an example of speaking softly. Neither is calling for annihilation of North Korea. I agree that we should speak responsibly; that ain’t it.

McCain: “Not true.” I understand what it means to send young men and women into harm’s way. Blah blah. I’ll get Osama bin Laden. I know how to do it. I’m going to act responsibly, as I’ve acted responsibly throughout my career.

10:18: Afghanistan? Obama: we need more troops. We need to work with Karzai government; it will have to do better by its people. McCain: Petraeus has just taken over; he’ll be responsible for strategy. We need better command structure, plus we need surge. Obama will still not admit that he was wrong about the surge.

10:21: Russia? McCain: We won’t have another Cold War. But I looked into Putin’s eyes and saw KGB. But Russia is not living up to our expectations. We should bring pressures to bear. Leverage, with allies.

10:22: Sorry, I spaced a bit. — We have to be strategic, see around the corners, not be reactive.

10:27: Israel: If Iran attacks Israel, would you be willing to commit troops to support Israel, or would you wait on UN approval? McCain: we would not wait for approval. Challenge: Iran continues on path of acquiring nuclear weapons. Not just a problem for Israel. Obama wants to negotiate without preconditions. League of democracies. (It’s like McCain’s greatest hits.)

10:29: Obama: unacceptable for Iran to have nukes. We will not give UN a veto. However, we have to use all available diplomatic options, conserve energy so Iran has less money, that changes their cost-benefit analysis. It’s true that I think we should have direct talks not just with friends but with enemies.

10:30: What don’t you know, and how will you learn it? Obama: Michelle could tell you. — Challenges immense. It’s never the challenges that you expect, it’s the ones you don’t expect that consume your time. America gave me opportunities. Are we going to pass that dream on to the next generation? (Plainly, he has decided to give a closing statement rather than answering the question.)

10:33: McCain: What I don’t know is what will happen in the future. Americans are hurting. I know what it’s like in dark times. I know what it’s like to rely on others for hope in tough times. I believe in this country, its future, its greatness, I’m asking for another opportunity to serve. The great honor of my life was to put my country first. (Apparently, McCain made the same decision.)


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