Debate liveblogging

9:12 Having recently suffered a water pipe leak, I am second to none in my appreciation of the many contributions that plumbers make to Our American Way of Life.  Nonetheless, I am slightly concerned that we are spending so much time focusing on the effect of our national policy on Plumbing-Americans

9:13  Obama looks surprisingly hesitant.  I suppose he can afford to be--at this point, barring some shocking development, he is going to be the next occupant of the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, John McCain stands up for eliminating the corporate income tax.  I could hug him.  I still won't vote for him, but goddammit, someone had to say it.

9:18  The moderator, like every other moderator, tries to get the candidates to say what they will actually cut in order to deal with our sudden financial reversal.  Obama:  taking money away from Medicare insurers, which appears to be the entire budget problem facing These United States.  McCain:  I don't know, but I'm in favor of higher home prices, energy independance, and telling foreigners to go to hell.  Also, he will cut wasteful spending. Everyone's going to cut wasteful spending.  Then they get elected and realize that in Washingtonese, "Wasteful spending" means "money going to some voter who will get very angry if you take it away".

9:20  Barack Obama implicitly promises that if we elect a Democrat, we will have the economy of 1999.  I say we elect John McCain, who can bring back the Frug, and then we'll have the economy of 1962!

9:22  John McCain actually just claimed that he can balance the budget in four years.  Also, he invented cute puppies.

9:24  HDTV is not kind to John McCain.  In normal resolution, he looks vigorous.  On CNN HD, he looks like that guy in the science fiction movie who has had half his body replaced by bionics--which are slowly failing.

9:29  CSPAN has a pretty cool live site for the debate.  And don't forget AI favorite livebloggers Alex Massie and Culture11.

9:30  I cannot believe that John McCain's extended whining about how mean Obama has been to him in his ads is proving so popular with CNN's uncommitted voters.

9:32  That said, Obama's defense of Lewis' over-the-top remarks is pretty weak.

9:39  Markets dropped 8% today, and John McCain wants to spend 20 minutes of the debate discussing the critical question of just how nice Obama was to Bill Ayers, and who has the meaner co-ideologists.

9:40  The people with whom I am watching the debate have given up listening to the blather and are now focusing on the analyst ratings which CNN displays on either side of the screen.  Mostly, they are wondering whether David Gergen, who has barely updated for thirty minutes, has fallen asleep, or is simply refusing to analyze in protest of the utter banality of this discussion.

9:47  McCain tries to draw a distinction between good foreign oil from Canada, and bad foreign oil from Venezuela.  Can someone sit down with him and explain, using small words and charts, the meaning of the words "global market" and "fungible commodity"?

9:48  Not to be outdone, Barack Obama claims that he, too, thinks we can get off that nasty Venezuelan oil in 8-10 years.  All right, let's get down to brass tacks:  which one of these two candidates has more pull with the Fairy King?  Because that's where you get the really cool sustainable technology.  You never see fairies using fossil fuels, do you?  No you don't.

10:12 A friend who has a young special needs child emails:  "I like that McCain and Obama are using the VP question to talk about who will be better for families with autistic children and other special needs, but only McCain could take a great point about Palin's willingness to raise a special-needs kid and make a hash of it: he just said that Palin "understands (special needs families) better than almost every American I know." Let's be blunt here: she has NO [expletive deleted] IDEA what it is like to raise a special-needs kid -not because of any personal failing, but because her kid is only six months old and she hasn't had to deal with most of the issues that come up with raising a Down's kid yet. And yes, we have NO [censored] IDEA either, because we haven't experienced so much of what is undoubtedly in store for us over the next several years and decades. I am sure that if you check in with us then, we will look back at us now and say that we had no idea what we were doing."

10:13  Okay, I wasn't voting for him anyway, but I find McCain's focus on attacking Obama, rather than his own policy, unbelievably grating.  His strongest performance of the night has been talking about the benefits of his own health plan, drawing a reasonable distinction between his philosophy and Obama's, and coherently explaining that difference, without resorting to either whining or calumny.

10:16  I don't know why it's so hard for these two candidates to admit that each election is, in part, a war over Roe and who gets to cram the court with justices who support their position.  The kabuki ritual in which both claim there is no litmus test, while attempting to clearly indicate that they will not nominate any justice who disagrees with them, is both ridiculous and tiresome.  I believe we may have actual issues that could be discussed during this useless time.