By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Live-blogging tonight’s debate

10:37 p.m. Basically a tie. McCain reminds us that he’s no Bush, who could barely make it through any of these things. Obama, as the new guy, ought to get the biggest boost for showing he can go toe-to-toe with McCain. But low expectations probably translate into this being considered a good night for McCain. And good night from Media Nation.

10:23 p.m. McCain’s best stretch of the night — a historical and contemporary disquisition on Russia and its neighbors. More sabre-rattling, but assures us that we’re not returning to the Cold War. Obama agrees with McCain — no doubt too dicey to take on the issue of Georgian aggression in a sound-bite setting.

10:17 p.m. Obama’s telling the truth about Kissinger and Iran. McCain isn’t.

10:12 p.m. Obama’s best stretch of the night. Says he’ll meet with anyone if it will enhance U.S. security. Notes that McCain adviser Henry Kissinger says we should meet with Iran “without preconditions.” And observes that North Korea went wild on nuke buildup after we cut off ties.

10:09 p.m. McCain: Obama wants to sit down with Ahmadinejad and “legitimize” a regime that wants to destroy Israel. Says he’ll sit down with anyone, but not without “preconditions.”

10:08 p.m. Sabre-rattling on Iran. McCain sounds like he’s ready to go to war tomorrow. Obama wants “tough, direct diplomacy.” “This notion that by not talking to people, we’re punishing them has not worked.”

10:02 p.m. McCain is too maudlin and long-winded about his bracelet. Obama barely mentions his, and seems petulant. Don’t either of these guys know how to get the symbolism right?

10 p.m. My bracelet’s better than yours.

9:56 p.m. Globe-trotting one-upmanship. Obama: I’ve talked to President Karzai. McCain: I’ve been to Waziristan.

9:49 p.m. Obama shifts the turf from Iraq to Afghanistan, and seems more comfortable in so doing. Put more troops into Afghanistan to “capture and kill bin Laden and crush Al Qaeda.”

9:44 p.m. The war versus the surge. McCain says Obama was wrong about the surge. Obama says McCain was wrong about the war. McCain says the next president won’t have to decide whether to go to war in Iraq. But the next president could decide to go to war somewhere else, couldn’t he? “Sen. Obama refuses to acknowledge that we’re winning the war in Iraq.” “That’s not true. That’s not true.”

9:36 p.m. Obama’s warming up.

9:34 p.m. Think of it as a job interview. Obama comes across as cool, competent and a little bloodless. McCain? Passionate, experienced but unpredictable. Whom would you hire?

9:29 p.m. Switching from CNN to C-SPAN so I don’t have to look at the stupid audience-reaction meter.

9:27 p.m. McCain’s showing his less attractive side. Accuses Obama of wanting to raise taxes on everyone making more than $42,000 (“Not true,” replies Obama), and then snickers the way he used to snicker at Romney.

9:21 p.m. Does it seem to anyone else that McCain has been talking about three times as much as Obama?

9:18 p.m. McCain is talking about simple, understandable themes. I can barely understand Obama, and I’m addicted to this stuff.

9:12 p.m. Obama is talking ideas. McCain is talking values. Guess which is more effective?

9:10 p.m. Jim Lehrer wants to know if Obama and McCain are going to vote for the bailout plan. But there is no plan yet.

I’m not a huge fan of live-blogging events, but I’m going to give it a try tonight. I’m hoping it will help me organize my thoughts as I get ready to round up media commentary on the debate for the Guardian tomorrow morning.

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  1. Adam Riglian

    Dan,First off, I enjoyed your guest lecture in Prof. Burgard's class this week.Second off, I have to disagree with Obama that there is no bailout plan yet. You can read the text of the plan here –> is not the final plan. It will be amended, fought over and turned on its head in the next few days. But, it is a draft of a plan from the Secretary of the Treasury in regards to the bailout that will resemble whatever the final product is. Right now, they are arguing the finer points, not the bulk.Furthermore, I do not understand how Obama is going to cut taxes for 95% of people, make sure we all have basic health care and pay for a $700 billion bailout. I have no allegiance to either candidate, in fact I dislike both, but that just doesn't make sense (not to say that everything McCain says has).Regards

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Adam: Thank you for checking in. The final package could look very different from the Treasury proposal, so I don’t blame Obama or McCain for not saying they’d vote for it. I enjoyed speaking to Professor Burgard’s class and am glad you got something out of it.

  3. Peter Porcupine

    DK – Very good live blogging – I can’t manage it, myself.You forgot the most used phrase of the night – “Sen. McCain is absolutely right….”Rookie mistake – if that’s so true, then why are YOU running?I like Krauthammer’s take on the debate – the old Crimson headline, “Harvard beats Yale, 29 – 29”.

  4. Bill Baar

    How many of those young Obama supporters know who Dr Kissenger is?

  5. Steve

    PP – I disagree with your appraisal of “McCain is absolutely right”. I think it came off as someone looking for consensus and not partisanship. But, as anyone knows, just like you I’m not a neutral observer in this fight.What struck me was McCain’s usage of “He doesn’t get it”, echoing Obama’s convention acceptance speech line.Personally, I didn’t think Obama was that strong – I think decisiveness (or is that impulsiveness?) comes across better in debate than thoughtfulness, unless the thoughtfulness is VERY VERY well done. And I didn’t think Obama quite met that rhetorical challenge.But – the CBS poll of undecideds (which leaves you and me out) had Obama winning 40-22. That was an absolute surprise to me. We’ll see how it settles out after all the media spin is digested.

  6. Mark

    Kissinger says that McCain is telling the truth. It’s up on Weekly Standard Blog. Steven Hayes has the scoop.

  7. jvwalt

    It’s usually the atmospherics rather than the policy arguments that determine the “winner” of Presidential debates. That’s been true at least since Nixon/Kennedy. On that score, Obama looked steady and in control; McCain was disturbing in his bvious contempt for Obama and his near-refusal to acknowledge that there was even another guy on stage.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Mark: Kissinger accepts McCain’s mischaracterization of Obama’s remarks and says he agrees with McCain that there shouldn’t be a presidential meeting between the U.S. and Iran without preconditions. But that’s not what Obama said last night.From the debate transcript:McCAIN: Look, Dr. Kissinger did not say that he would approve of face-to-face meetings between the president of the United States and the president — and Ahmadinejad. He did not say that.OBAMA: Of course not.McCAIN: He said that there could be secretary-level and lower level meetings. I’ve always encouraged them. The Iranians have met with Ambassador Crocker in Baghdad….And I guarantee you he [Kissinger] would not — he would not say that presidential top level.OBAMA: Nobody’s talking about that.I’ll save the matter of whether Obama ever actually said he would meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions for another time. I’ve got work to do.But last night, Obama characterized Kissinger’s position accurately and in such a way that he and McCain were saying essentially the same thing. Leave it to Kissinger to embrace alterative view of reality.

  9. Dot Lane

    The odd note of the debate for me was when McCain said that South Koreans are three inches taller on average North Koreans. I suppose that’s what McCain is getting at when he talks about the need for growth–John McCain promises to make the world taller and freer! All in all it was a pretty tame debate. Obama said McCain was right numerous times when McCain stated the obvious, but then continued on to amplify and explain the differences between the two.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Dot: You must have missed the previous question. It was about basketball.

  11. Bill Baar

    Dot/Dan..North Korea is a pretty cruel place regularly confronted with starvation. McCain was right on…..I thought the Kisseneger stuff a bit bizarre. Few know who he is anymore… and those who do know…don’t care much. That’s about as inside the beltway as one can get.

  12. Dot Lane

    Yes Bill, I understand fully the situation in North Korea. In a detailed discussion of North Korea’s governance, that statistic would make sense. Hearing it randomly slip out rather than, say, North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons which Obama pointed out was a consequence of Bush administration policies, was a little jarring, like a strange word association test. North Korea? Short people!To quote McCain:”As far as North Korea is concerned, our secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, went to North Korea. By the way, North Korea, most repressive and brutal regime probably on Earth. The average South Korean is three inches taller than the average North Korean, a huge gulag.”

  13. io saturnalia!

    One word, one phrase I wish Obama would drop:”Notion” always reminds me of the notions counter at the late, great Jordan Marsh (which I bet to your blog readers is a more obscure reference than Henry Kissinger).More seriously, I’d like Obama to stop saying “Let’s be clear.” It sound condescending and very Kerry-esque. Though I voted for Kerry (and will vote for Obama, as I did in the Mass. primary), I bet his continual “let’s be clear” refrain will turn off the undecideds (who I’m not certain exist in the numbers the pundits believe). I think McCain’s recent call to Obama to “spare us the lectures,” if repeated (only occasionally) would gain McCain a little traction.That being said, I think this debate (as an Obama partisan) was uncomfortably close to call. Early on, Obama looked a tiny bit rattled (compared with his typical unflappable demeanor). In contrast, McCain was occasionally self-deprecating and generally under control, sounding informed and on top of things, without sacrificing his tough-guy mien, which is key to his appeal (beyond ideology).I find myself in the rare position of Peter Porcupine and, by extension, Charles Krauthammer (who, in name and appearance, reminds me of a Dick Tracy villian) on this one.

  14. io saturnalia!

    Oops,In addition to mis-typing villain, I forgot to salute you on an excellent job with live blogging. If only my man Rob Bradford were as on top of things in his Sox blog.

  15. Ghazala Khan

    Interview RequestHello Dear and Respected,I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion. We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.regards. Ghazala KhanThe Pakistani Spectator

  16. mike_b1

    bill, Yes, North Koreans are poor and underfed. So tell me again what makes the 23 million or so citizens there a greater humanitarian crisis than the 1 billion starving Africans?As an aside, I thought it was ironic McCain kept talking about how we can’t afford to lose the war in Iraq. This, even though we pulled out of Vietnam, ceding it to the Communists, who promptly failed as a government, thus opening the door to (a mild form of) democracy, and today it’s a place American companies are investing heavily in (and McCain holds up as a success). The difference is what, exactly?

  17. An Astute Observer

    Dan said:**10:17 p.m. Obama’s telling the truth about Kissinger and Iran. McCain isn’t.**Sorry Dan, McCain is telling the truth. know you are smart enough to know this is a big bro-ha-ha about nothing….more about semantics than anything else.If you were intellectually honest, you would present this as something people see both sides of.Intellectual honesty….or just a shill for “your side”?

  18. mike_b1

    Not so astute: As Katie Couric pointed out immediately following the debate, McCain had it wrong and Obama had it right. Kissinger is now parsing his words out of duty for his client.

  19. An Astute Observer

    **Not so astute: As Katie Couric pointed out…**Now THERE’S a voice we can trust for unbias reporting! Katie Couric AND CBS News!Everyone knows that’s the source to go to for un-bias reporting.What did Dan Rather have to say about it?Now let’s check in with Keith Olberman!

  20. Dan Kennedy

    Not So Astute: I know I shouldn’t feed the troll, but your inability to follow simple logic compels me to action. For the benefit of those who can follow a logical line, here’s what happened.1. Obama says Kissinger agrees with him that there ought to be talks between Iran and the U.S.2. McCain says Obama is wrong, that Kissinger doesn’t support a meeting between the presidents of Iran and the U.S.3. Obama responds that that’s not what he was saying — he didn’t say the presidents should meet. He simply said the two sides should meet.4. Kissinger says he supports talks between Iran and the U.S., but not a presidential meeting, which is exactly the position held by both McCain and Obama.5. Kissinger then gratuitously adds that McCain is right and Obama is wrong about his [Kissinger’s] position on talks. Simply untrue, and, as Mike noted, he was merely carrying water for McCain.If X = the number of people who read Media Nation, I would suggest that the number of people who can follow that is X-1.

  21. An Astute Observer

    **1. Obama says Kissinger agrees with him that there ought to be talks between Iran and the U.S.**Not at the presidential level, which is what Obama suggested.**2. McCain says Obama is wrong, that Kissinger doesn’t support a meeting between the presidents of Iran and the U.S.**Obama is wrong…Kissinger and others agree that all meetings should have preconditions not to allow nutcake leaders to use them for PR stunts.**3. Obama responds that that’s not what he was saying —**Obama said on the campain trail…I’ll talk to anybody, anywhere.The quote from the campaign trail is:“I’ll talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime with no conditions”**4. Kissinger says he supports talks between Iran and the U.S., but not a presidential meeting,**Not what Obama said originally. He said “I’ll talk to anyone”. He’s backpediualing to get himself out of a misstep he made on the campain trail Even Hillary CLinton made fun of him.**Kissinger then gratuitously adds that McCain is right and Obama is wrong about his [Kissinger’s] position on talks. Simply untrue, and, as Mike noted, he was merely carrying water for McCain.**Or simply clarifying Obama’s mischaracterization of his comments/views.It’s amazing that you can’t see both sides of this. Your first reaction was to post “Obama’s telling the truth. McCain isn’t.”Can you say “knee jerk reaction”.Intellectual honesty.

  22. Ani

    If we can get everyone to agree that talking to officials from other countries is more effective than refusing to, then maybe we’ve made some progress even with this internal bickering about who should be doing the talking. I still think Obama’s original comment was intended to indicate a general openness toward dialogue, not to lay out specifics for how he would conduct negotiations. But as I said, if when all the dust settles from this squabbling, US politicians from both parties are agreeing that we should talk to other countries, I think Obama’s remark has led to real progress.

  23. Dan Kennedy

    Not So Astute: Your retort is a perfect example of your inability to follow a logical line of thought. This has nothing to do with what Obama said, or gave the impression of saying, out on the campaign trail lo these many months ago.The only issue is whether he quoted Kissinger correctly. McCain said he didn’t. In fact, he did.You put it well. Obama’s telling the truth. McCain isn’t.It’s amazing that you think there are two sides to this. There is what Kissinger said. Did Obama characterize it accurately or not? He did.

  24. mike_b1

    Not so astute: Read Mark Bowden’s account of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81. Then consider the obvious parallels in the mistakes that led to that debacle and the current situation. The GOP has proved itself utterly incapable of a coherent foreign policy. Even demigod Reagan, often credited for ratcheting up the pressure and eventually bringing an end to the Cold War, was simply following a strategy laid out by Truman. McCain’s nonsense utterances a few months ago about kicking Russia out of the G8, then his statement during the debate that we should form a group of nations that can jointly put pressure on rogue states like Iran, simply underscores the massive brain damage that poor old man sustained during his captivity, and why putting him in charge of US foreign policy would be a total disaster.

  25. Dot Lane

    But Dan, there is what Kissinger said as reported in the liberal media and what he said as reported by Newsmax. The words are the same, but the meanings are completely different. When it comes from Newsmax or Fox or Rush Limbaugh (or any other major news source which has millions or readers, viewers, or listeners yet somehow isn’t part of the mainstream media in this country), it means John McCain is correct. When it comes from, say, Katie Couric, it means the media is in the tank for Obama.You’ll be sorry when John McCain is elected president of the bizarro world!

  26. An Astute Observer

    **The only issue is whether he quoted Kissinger correctly.*That’s not what this is about, although Obama would like you to think that’s what it’s about.You claim Kissinger is trying to “parse his words”? Of course you can’t see that Obama isn’t trying to weasel out of his silly: “I’ll talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime with no conditions”I won’t imagine that you can see that. You’ve all but ignored that irresponsible remark by your boy Obama.While most of the commenters on your blog are partisan parrots…I expect a higher quality of journalism from Dan.Is this what you teach students? To share false rumors from Andrew Sullivan and post about tanning beds. To go into the tank for the candidate of your choice?

  27. Dot Lane

    What amuses me most about people like astute is that they feel free to call people “partisan parrots” while setting themselves up as arbiters of the truth. They expect a “higher quality of journalism” when their own citations are from places like Newsmax and opinion columns. If astute is going to babble on and on about Obama’s comment from months ago, I’d like to hear him explain away McCain’s plans to bomb Iran. What’s that? McCain *isn’t* planning to bomb Iran? Why, I heard him sing a song about doing just that. How would you characterize that little song astute? Naive? Irresponsible? Frightening? Since McCain is planning to bomb Iran, I find it hard to take him seriously when discussing how America might best approach Iran. Then again, Kissinger would probably agree with McCain’s position on bombing Iran, seeing as how Kissinger helped plan the highly successful bombing of Cambodia which was so successful in winning the war in Vietnam.

  28. An Astute Observer

    Dottie Dear….you are comparing McCains’ bad joke about “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”.To Obama saying:“I’ll talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime with no conditions”???You really see them as equal statements?And you work in education?**hen their own citations are from places like Newsmax and opinion columns.**Hey, I learned from the master himself Dan Kennedy!

  29. Dot Lane

    astute:You seem overly fascinated with what I do for a living which is, quite frankly, disturbing.McCain was joking? I don’t think so. He was pretty clear what would happen if Iran threatened Israel. You may also wish to go back and check what Obama said about meeting leaders without preconditions, and his understanding of what preconditions are. Obama is exactly right: if there is an international crisis and Cuba is involved, does the U.S. wait to speak with Raul Castro until the Castro regime is removed? Of course not. As Obama said: “I reserve the right, as president of the United States to meet with anybody at a time and place of my choosing if I think it’s going to keep America safe.” That’s not naive, that’s keeping one’s options open. Furthermore, Obama has been consistent about what he means by preconditions, which mean, to him, “Until you agree to do exactly what we say, we won’t have direct contacts with you.” I’ve yet to hear what preconditions McCain would want to put in place if he were to decide to meet with the President of Iran.McCain’s position that a President meeting with the head of another country legitimizes the policies of that country is ludicrous. Does George Bush hosting Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia legitimize everything the Saudis do, including funding terrorist organizations?Obama’s position fits in the real world of the 21st century. McCain’s position belongs to the imperial past, where the United States dictates its terms while all others cower in fear when a President sings “Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran”.

  30. mike_b1

    The Stockton, CA, Record last endorsed a Democrat for the White House in 1936. Until now. They call Obama “the clear choice.” will be interesting to see how many other papers break their traditions. I’m looking hard at the Chicago Tribune, whose editor famously said the only way they’d go for a Democrat is if the GOP candidate were a pedophile. (So much for the “liberal media.” Or even balance.)

  31. An Astute Observer

    McCain: “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”(Did anyone NOT get this as a joke?)Obama: “I’ll talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime with no conditions” (Was this a joke? Why is he bbackpedaling as fast as he can?)You’re saying these are comparable statements?Jeesh???You really see them as equal statements?

  32. mike_b1

    No, we don’t. McCain’s is aggressive and provocative. Obama’s is constructive and pragmatic.Big difference.

  33. An Astute Observer

    McCain is making a joke (that apparently you don’t get)…. …and Obama is making irresponsible comments and what’s funny is that he’s NOT trying to make a joke.

  34. Dot Lane

    What’s funny is that a man who says he puts country first wouldn’t do everything he could to protect Americans. John McCain: Country First, If Preconditions Are Met

  35. mike_b1

    McCain’s “joke” shows a lack of judgment and, coupled with his aggressive stance toward any nation that dares to disagree with the US, is probably not a joke at all.What was that he was saying last week about how the president needs to know what to say and what not to?

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