The end of the election (we hope) is four weeks off, and the debates are in the home stretch now. With expectations high for John McCain's performance in his preferred format, everyone's wondering if the old white guy is going to be cleaning house tonight. But are expectations too high for McCain's performance? It has, after all, been a while since one of his town halls was filled with anyone other than ass-kissers and sycophantic Republicans. After this week of being crabby and attacking Barack Obama, does McCain even want to rein it in and act like something other than an embittered jerk who knows he's losing? Only time will tell. While I'm off securing dinner and the appropriate quantity of alcohol to get me through the rest of the night, talk (and drink) amongst yourselves. I'll be back just before they are.
UPDATE: Alcohol and dinner secured, I'm blogging with a bottle of red and a box of off-brand Mac & Cheese. I'm an elitist with no money.By the way, we got this little goodie from Gawker's Richard Blakeley, from when John McCain proposed former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as a potential Treasury Secretary. 10:33 ET: The block Brokaw's access to his teleprompter and Tom makes them move. They start working the crowd. Cindy comes out in a royal blue or deep purple suit that is just a tetch too tight across the breasts. Michelle is in a red dress with sparkly bits around the collar. Amusingly, McCain and Cindy and shaking hands and Obama seems to be having conversations with people. McCain interrupts them. Then its punditry time! And I can finally take a drink! I'll see you all on Crappy Hour in the morning! 10:31 ET: McCain says that he doesn't know anything that everyone doesn't know — the future. Duh. But he's spent his whole life serving his country/sucking on the government teat. Like Cindy, his mom was basically a single parent while his dad pursued his career. He also believe in this country, its future and its greatness. And, you know, for someone that accuses the other guy of using fancy rhetoric, he does it a lot. He also repeats the line about "a steady hand at the tiller." 10:29 ET: Peggy in New Hampshire wants to know: what don't you know and how will you learn it. Obama says Michelle could give you a long list and the audience laughs. He says the challenges will be immense and there will be unexpected challenges. He knows that there are so many opportunities in this country, and the question is whether we will pass on the American dream to the next generation or not: health care, college affordability, etc, and if we don't change from the last 8 years we won't get any of that. 10:25 ET: Obama won't wait for the Security Council. He also thinks we need to work more effectively with others, reduce energy consumption, impose smart sanctions on Iran (like on importing gasoline) to put the squeeze on them. He says we should have direct talks with Iran to get them to have better outcomes and he points out that the Bush plan of not talking to the Axis of Evil hasn't actually done any good. 10:24 ET: Terry wants to know if they'll commit troops to defending Israel if Iran attacks or wait for the UN Security Council. McCain says he won't wait for the Security Council and that China and Russia wouldn't let us anyway. He's going after Ahmadenijad and the whole preconditions thing and says "a matter of record" like Obama would pretend he didn't say it. Then he starts talking about the League of Democracies making Iran give up on getting nukes. And then he mentions "a Second Holocaust" again. What's the McCain-Palin obsession with "a second Holocaust"? Technically, if nuking something is a second Holocaust, anyone nuking Israel will be a fourth one, since we nuked Japan twice. 10:23 ET: Brokaw: Is Russia evil? Obama says that they've done evil things. McCain says maybe: if he says yes, he'll reignite the Cold War, and if he says no, he's ignoring their behavior. So, like with Pakistan, he's just not going to say anything. 10:20 ET: Obama says moral support isn't enough — we need to provide them with concrete assistance. He also thinks that maybe it would be good to be paying enough attention so that it doesn't get to that point again. He brings it back to not catching Osama bin Laden. Also, he mentions that getting our energy consumption under control so they can't use petrodollars to make mischief. 10:17 ET: It's a question on Russia! McCain doesn't like Russia. Randy Scheunemann is obviously better at debate prep than anyone else on McCain's staff. Also, it's all about getting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and giving them "moral support," whatever that means. 10:16 ET: Brokaw asks them how they would reorganize our strategy over there. Obama says he'd withdraw responsibly from Iraq to put some more troops in Afghanistan. And the government in Afghanistan needs to be more responsive to its people not less. McCain says that Obama is correct on some things about strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he wants Obama to admit he was wrong about the Surge in Iraq, and if you make Iraqis feel secure they'll lead normal lives except when insurgents are blowing shit up but at least it will feel normal. 10:12 ET: Obama wants a follow up, McCain dickishly agrees but doesn't sit down, Brokaw concedes. Obama points out he didn't threaten to invade Pakistan but we're going to take al Qaeda out. McCian tries to interrupt, but Obama points out the bomb bomb Iran thing and eliminating North Korea and was all about going into Iraq from the moment the Taliban was deposed in Afghanistan. McCain disagrees with Obama, but he didn't say on what. But he knows how to handles these crises. He says "my friends" again and he totes is going to go after Osama IN PAKISTAN he's just not going to say that he's going to go take out Osama IN PAKISTAN which is where he is. Don't you see how it's different? 10:10 ET: McCain wants to attack Pakistan without telling them. Also, diplomacy is, like, totally important as long as it's not with Iran, North Korea, Cuba or Venezuela. He just keeps basically repeating this. 10:07 ET: Katie wants to know if we should pursue al Qaeda into Pakistan (like we did in Cambodia in Vietnam) or not? Obama says the situation is bad in Afghanistan and Pakistan because we got distracted by Iraq. They're now raiding our troops in Afghanistan, and it's important to reverse course because that's the real front of the war on terror. We can't coddle a dictator, give him billions of dollars and let him make peace treaties and shit. So we're going to expand aid to Pakistan as long as they go after insurgents and if we have Osama in our sights, we're going to fucking kill him if the Pakistanis won't. 10:03 ET: Brokaw says, let's establish the Obama and the McCain Doctrines about using force when we don't have national security issues at stake (Darfur). Obama says we might not always have national security issues at stake, but sometimes a moral issue — if we could've stopped the Holocaust or Rwanda, wouldn't we have. Things like that are in our national interest. But we can't be everywhere all the time, so we need to work with our allies to be places. McCain says, my friend, that if we set up a withdrawal date in Iraq and, Jesus, his panting is really getting to me. Also, he'll bring our troops back with victory and honor, my friends. Our willingness to go into places has to be tempered with an ability to be effective — look at Somalia where we didn't do anything. Also, Lebanon was a clusterfuck. And he knows what to do. 10:00 ET: Obama says that he doesn't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 when Osama and al Qaeda were setting up base camps. Oh, snap. Also, Iraq has put an enormous strain on our heroic and honorable troops — and on our budget, through which we've already spent $700 billion and we're spending $10 billion a month when the Iraqis have a $79 billion surplus. Also, McCain hasn't said how he'll pay to keep troops there until 2013. Also, by the way, McCain can talk about going into Darfur all he wants but we can't and stay in Iraq. 9:58 ET: Phil wants to know how our recent economic stress will allow us to act as a peacemaker in a world. McCain says a strong economy begets a strong military. Then he says "my friends" again. And now he's talking about the decisions of when we go in and when we don't, and you need to have the judgment to know when to go in and prevent genocide and when to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. And Obama was wrong about the Surge and about Russia. And he says "my friend" again. 9:54 ET: Brokaw says is health care a privilege, right or responsibility? McCain says it's a responsibility in some respects but that mandates are bad. Obama says he thinks it should be a right, since people can't get treated and that his mom shouldn't have had to spend the last months of her life arguing with her health insurance company to get treated for cancer. People were sort of nodding. He acknowledges that he would mandate (cheap) health care and mentions that John McCain voted against SCHIP expansion. He thinks that we also need to crack down on health insurance companies cheating their customers. And he makes a good argument about why it's bad to go state-by-state — insurance companies will just move to the state with the fewest consumer protection regulations. 9:52 ET: John McCain knows it's a problem, and he repeats the same talking points Obama opened with. He also goes after health care IT, and community health centers. He says this is a fundamental difference between him and Obama, that Obama wants to get government involved and mandate that you get or or you'll get fined — you know, like Mitt Romney does in Massachusetts. And he thinks people in Tennessee should be able to get health insurance in Arizona, like, if it's so expensive that it's cheaper to fly to Arizona there are bigger problems. 9:49 ET: Lindsey wants to know if Obama thinks health care should be for-profit. Obama says he hears about health care all the time because it's breaking family budgets and there are ton of people without it. Premiums, copays and deductibles are all going up. He says that if you have health care, you can keep your plan and he's going to work with your employers to lower premiums by investing in IT and working on preventative care and, if you don't have it, you'll be able to buy into the federal system. McCain will just give you a $5K tax credit after he taxes your employer based health care and eliminate state regulation on mandated coverage. Actually, I looked it up, if you're single, you'll only get a $2,500 tax credit. 9:45 ET: Brokaw asks if we should have a new Manhattan Project for energy or the private sector. McCain says both and then says my friends again and talks about how Obama voted for the Bush energy bill and he votes against bills with earmarks. He also called Obama "that one." Also, drill! And nuclear power. Click to view 9:44 ET: Obama says a "new energy economy" can bring tons and tons of jobs, but it requires that we make an investment the same that that the government basically invented the computer. He likes nuclear power in addition to solar, geothermal and other alternative fuels. Then he mentions that McCain voted against alternative fuels 23 times. Also, we can't drill, baby, drill our way out of the problem because we have minimal capacity and maximum appetite. 9:42 ET: Ingrid wants to know how he'll make sure that Congress moves quickly on climate change. McCain says we're in the midst of tough economic times, and mentions that he disagrees with Bush on climate change. He worked with Lieberman, who probably most people don't really think is a Democrat since he's not. Then he's all about muclear power being safe and clean since he was on a ship with nuclear power and just look at him. I mean, don't, because he looks freaky, but you know. Also, he wants hydrogen and battery-powered cars. And he's totally doing this crazy talking points thing that Palin did. Click to view 9:40 ET: McCain decides he'll answer the question this time. It's not that tough to fix it, and then he says "my friends" again. He keeps saying how unpopular with Republicans. But Medicare is tougher, so he wants to have a commission like the BRAC on closing bases so Congress can't reform it and he also says "my friends" again. And then it's back to taxes. Then he's back to talking about how Obama voted for budgets which didn't go through which meant taxes and listen to his vision for the future. 9:37 ET: There's a question from Langdon in Ballston Spa, NY, shout out! Also, then Brokaw decides its about entitlement reform. Obama says you can't deal with entitlement reform without understanding taxes. He says he's going to give a tax cut to 95% of Americans. If you make more than $250,000 he will raise your taxes, and most small businesses make less than that, pluis he'll give a tax credit for health care. Then he talks about McCain's tax cuts for big businesses and rich people. If we fix tax policy, we'll be in a position to deal with Social Security and Medicare. Click to view 9:34 ET: McCain says Obama wants to raise taxes, makes a joke about Jello (old people food) and says "my friends" again. He doesn't care what Obama's tax plans actually say, he just knows they will raise taxes and small businesses will all go under and McCain is practically panting. And then he says "my friends" again and swears he won't cut rich people's taxes but he will give you a credit for having more kids and a tax credit so you get something when he takes away the one your employer gets. 9:32 ET: Brokaw wants to know about breaking the cycle of too much credit and debt. Obama says it should start in Washington with running up debt. It means looking at both spending and revenue. He mentions that earmarks at $18 billion of our budget and McCain's tax cuts that would let the average CEO get $700,000 in tax cuts, that's not asking them to share the burden. You can't ask a teacher to tighten her belt if you can't ask the CEO to do the same. He also says an across-the-board freeze is unfair burden sharing. Click to view 9:30 ET: The first mention of 9/11 goes to Obama... But it was all about coming together, and Bush asked everyone to go out and shop which wasn't exactly a call to service. Americans are "hungry for the kind of leadership which is going to attack these problems in and out of government." He brings up energy and says that we're all going to have to think about how we use power. So he talks about exploration and clean coal and whatever, but he wants to provide incentives for Americans to buy American hybrids and become more energy efficiency. Plus he wants to develop a volunteer corps and expand the Peace Corps. 9:27 ET: First internet question is from an 80 year old lady who wants to know what sacrifices they'll ask of Americans. John McCain wants to ask people to eliminate programs. He, too, wants to eliminate programs once he's gone through the budget like Obama just said he would. And he wants to scrutinize earmarks but he wouldn't let the planetarium in Chicago. Also, he wants a spending freeze... on everything but defense spending and veterans programs and other things he won't name. He also wants to go after energy and health care at the same time unlike Barack Obama, since McCain has totes proved his multitasking skills. Click to view 9:25 ET: Brokaw yells at McCain for not shutting up. Obama thinks energy should be dealt with today and mentions that gas is $3.80 in Nashville and that our enemies benefit from high oil prices. And he's called for $15 billion in investment in energy independence to end our dependency on foreign oil in 10 years, likens it to the race of the moon. Then he calls for health care reform, and says that education should be his 3rd priority. He wants to go line-by-line through the federal budget to eliminate stuff that doesn't work. He also wants to prioritize tax policy. 9:22 ET: Brokaw cuts him off again. Then he asks about health policy, energy policy and entitlement reform: which will be their priorities. McCain thinks you can work on all 3 at once, he just can't campaign and make phone calls about the bailout at once. Then he says "my friends" again. Also, energy policy will save the American economy. And then he says that part of the $700 billion will end up in the hands of terrorists, and starts randomly talking about health care and then he's back on energy again. Click to view 9:20 ET: McCain can see why she's cynical and distrustful because Washington is broken. But he's taken on the system! He worked with Feingold on campaign finance and Lieberman on climate change. But Obama hasn't taken on party leaders. And he thinks that Theresa should go to several conservative organizations like Citizens for Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union and learn about how they view Obama's record. Also, for the record, he's say "my friends" twice. And Obama is spend spend spend don'tcha know. And by the way, energy independence and drilling offshore will fix the American economy. Really, that's it. 9:17 ET: Theresa wants to know how she can trust either of them when both parties got us into the crisis. Obama understands that she's frustrated because they've kept to their budgets but nobody in Washington has. He reminds her that when Bush came into office we had surpluses and a $5 trillion debt, and now we have $500 billion shortfalls and a $10 trillion national debt. And McCain voted for 4 out of 5 of Bush's budgets. Obama is going to spend money on things like health care, which will impact your budget. We're going to go after a new energy plan and college affordability. Plus he's going to cut spending. Click to view 9:15 ET: Brokaw askes Obama if he thinks the economy will get worse before it gets better. Obama says he thinks the economy isn't that bad but there's lots of reform to be done. McCain doesn't really answer. Click to view 9:13 ET: Obama tells Oliver what's in it for him, like he asked. He says that getting businesses credit will help them make payroll and stave off closing. Then he says "I've got to correct some of McCain's history, not surprisingly." Ha! Also, then he's like, McCain all used to be about regulation, and about 2 years he wrote to Paulson about subprime loans and went to Wall Street a year ago. Also, brings up McCain's Fannie and Freddie ties through his lobbyists on staff. Obama says it's not the end of the process, it's the beginning. 9:10 ET: Oliver wants to know what is in the bailout that will help out real people. McCain says that it's all about greed on Wall Street and he went back to Washington and suspended his campaign! Then he talks about how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and how they are cronies of Obama and mentions that Oliver probably hadn't heard of them before they were giving bad loans to people. I wonder if Oliver has read any of the Republicans say that it's because Fannie and Freddie gave those loans to minorities (Oliver is African-American). Also, McCain hasn't mentioned anything that's in the bailout plan. Click to view 9:10 ET: Tom Brokaw reminds them to keep it short. 9:09 ET: Obama says that Warren Buffet would be a pretty good choice. But that the new person needs to understand that it's not just about helping the guys on top and hoping it trickles down. And then he brings up McCain's "the fundamentals of the economy are sound" thingie. Man, that is never going to fucking die. 9:07 ET: Tom Brokaw asks who McCain's Treasury Secretary will be. McCain says it won't be Tom Brokaw. McCain says it has to be someone that Americans will identify with, and then mentions Obama's supporter Warren Buffet. And, um. Meg Whitman because she knows how to create jobs (note: probably more a Commerce Department role, but whatevs). 9:05 ET: John McCain says that Americans are angry, upset and fearful. Man, talk about projection. Then he says energy independence is how to fix the economy. Then keep taxes low, and stop spending and, um, peace in the world. Other than Iraq or Iran. And McCain is now talking about fixing home values? McCain wants the Treasury to buy up all the mortgages people are about to default on and then renegotiate them based on the new home values. What?? 9:03 ET: Alan wants to know what the fastest solution is to bail out Main Street, only he's not a politician so he doesn't call it that. Obama says that the financial crisis sucks and he knows why y'all are worried. He also thinks this is a failure of Bush's economic policies including deregulation. Step 1 was the rescue package and making sure it works properly and that there's oversight and cracking down on CEOs getting golden parachutes. He then calls out AIG's $400,000 junket. He then says middle class tax cuts, helping state and local governments fund infrastructure projects and helping people stay in their homes. Then health care. Click to view 9:02 ET: They walk out. McCain heads for his seat first. 9:01 ET: It's Tom Brokaw. It's the only town hall of the debates, as if you didn't know. 9:00 ET: It has started! And, if you watched the last 5 minutes of Countdown, Olbermann and Chris Matthews went there, with Matthews saying the crazy talk brings the crazies out like did with Kennedy. Yipes.