8:48PM - Does Bill (CNN's Republican Talking Head #1) really think that Obama would name Bill Ayers as the Secretary of Education? Seriously? On some level it's been fascinating watching the right become more and more obsessed with Ayers over the past few weeks as they grasp at something, anything, they can throw at Obama and have it stick. You're forced to wonder whether they're just saying anything they can to get McCain elected, or whether they actually believe this stuff.
aaaannndddd..... why did RTH#1 just grab his neighbor's hand and hold on tight as he was talking?
8:50PM - Anderson Cooper: "We have so many people we now have the best political hoarde on television!" I was just thinking that, actually.
8:50PM - Soledad O'Brien exlains the "squiggly lines that people will be watching with great fascination ... via our perception analyzer device." Yikes.
9:01PM - Here we go! Bob Schieffer moderates, with a format that's supposed to allow a bit more back and forth with followup.
9:02PM - Debate tie watching: Obama's got the red Alpha Male tie. McCain's got blue & black. I'm actually not very fond of McCain's tie.
9:04PM - McCain says Fannie and Freddie were the cause of the housing crisis. Nope. By 2006, almost 70% of all "sub-prime" mortgages were outside of Fannie/Freddie, mostly because Fannie/Freddie thought those loans were too risky, but other, non-federally regulated institutions, saw easy money, and went after it.
9:07PM - Joe the Plumber? Seriously? Ok, seriously, McCain is rambling. He took a follow-up to the bailout and turned it into some kind of general tax rant, with almost no structure other than "Joe the Plumber good! Tax bad! I good!"
9:11PM - Theme for tonight: Joe the Plumber!
9:13PM - Hmm, good question about the need to raise taxes in the future. Look, there's just no way to balance the budget without raising taxes. You can take a good chunk out of the deficit with reduced spending, but you can't just waive away a half a trillion dollars of spending with a magic wand. Taxes are going to have to go up, it's just an unfortunate reality.
9:17PM - Is McCain just throwing out random talking points? He's asked about his budget and whether he can pay for it. He immediately goes back to something about home ownership, randomly hits up energy independence from the Middle East (?), and then finally gets to the question.
9:18PM - McCain: "I oppose subsidies on ethanol." Credit where it's due.
9:19PM - Obama hits back on earmarks, and how little they actually contribute to the budget.
9:20PM - *sigh, McCain rolls out the taxes on people making $42,000 thing again. It's a clerical error that they fixed when they realized the error, and never actually made it into law. This has been pretty thoroughly debunked by just about everybody.
9:23PM - Hmm... didn't know Obama supports pay-for-performance for teachers. He says it didn't make him popular with the teacher's union. No, I don't doubt that it didn't.
9:25PM - Schieffer asks if they can say to each others' faces what they're campaigns have been saying. McCain goes after Obama on his previous statements on campaign financing, town halls, etc. Obama hits back on negative ads and says we should be talking about issues.
9:29PM - It occurs to me that people keep saying they want to hear about actual issues in the debates, and that there's some kind of consensus that if the debate goes negative, it's the candidates' faults. Questions like this from Schieffer don't exactly make it easy to talk about the issues.
9:31PM - Oh geez, now we're down to talking about t-shirts at rallies and what some of them say. Can we please just move on from this ridiculous tit-for-tat?
9:35PM - McCain brings up ACORN and how it's "perpetrating one of the greatest acts of voter fraud in American history" and "destroying the fabric of American democracy". Oh please. ACORN is paying people to go register voters. Some of the registrars brought back names like Mickey Mouse, and got paid for that. Apparently this is destroying the fabric of American democracy. It's worth pointing out that 7 years ago Ashcroft Justice Department made voter fraud a top priority. In those 7 years, they couldn't find a single instance, not one, of actual voter fraud.
9:40PM - Finally, we're moving on.
9:43PM - Spoke too soon. Sheiffer asks each candidate why their VP nominee is better than the other. You couldn't have asked for a question better suited for a scripted response. Which is exactly what we got. So far this debate is worthless.
9:47PM - McCain: "We can achieve energy independence with 85 new nuclear power pants!" He then corrects himself. Heh.
9:48PM - To his credit, Obama says we can't drill ourselves out of the energy crisis, but to his detriment, calls for more domestic production, which doesn't make any sense at all.
9:51PM - McCain keeps doing some kind of weird pidgeon-like puff up with a weird look on his face. Does he have gas or something?
9:52PM - For better or worse, the squiggly lines seem to be perpetually stuck at slightly positive, plus or minus an inkling or two.
9:55PM - McCain: "I don't think there's any doubt that Senator Obama wants to restrict trade and raise taxes." I guess the plan is to just repeat that line over and over again, and hope it sticks.
9:58PM - Candidates talk about health care, mention discrimination against pre-existing conditions, but don't really discuss it. It's actually kind of complicated, but in a wonkish kind of way*.
9:59PM - McCain speaks directly to Joe the Plumber. Twice. Who's next, Kelly the Hairdresser?
10:03PM - McCain just sounds confused. He's randomly stringing together talking points and throwing in a shout-out for Joe the Plumber.
10:15PM - They've turned to abortion. McCain says Obama hates babies, or something like that. Personally, I've stopped paying attention.
10:20PM - Um, there's a reason you need to be certified in order to teach in most states. It's because we'd prefer you actually know something about teaching before you get up in front of a bunch of kids.
10:23PM - Hmm, school vouchers. Still worthless.
That was a waste of 90 minutes. Utterly uninformative, and steeped almost entirely in a he-said-she-said mindset that wasn't helped one bit by Scheiffer's questions.
Neither candidate scored a knockout. McCain tried, desperately at times, and came off as petty and childish. Obama tried a bit of himself, though not to the extent of McCain, and did try several times to bring it back to issues.
Ultimately, neither candidate did themselves any favors. My prediction: both candidates will go down in the polls slightly as voters register some distaste with the atmosphere. They'll go back up in a few days, but nothing will change.
Health insurance companies exist for a reason: they believe they can pool risk, pay for individual health care needs, and make a profit in the process. Pursuant to that, any kind of competent insurer assesses risk, and charges appropriately. It's the definition of being an insurer. There are very few risk indicators better than pre-existing conditions. Looked at that way, it makes perfect sense for insurers to "discriminate" against people with pre-existing conditions. You wouldn't ask an auto insurance company to turn a blind eye to a customer who promised that, 2 years in the future, they'd ram a couple other vehicles and ring up tens of thousands of dollars in costs.
If you don't like that pre-existing conditions make it harder to get health care, then your problem isn't with the insurance companies themselves, it's with this whacked-out, jury-rigged, Frankenstein-like system that we've come up with in the United States, and that we continue to blindly insist is the best possible solution in the world, even in the face of massive evidence to the contrary.