Lots of other live-blogging going on tonight. Larison:
Obama is doing quite well, especially as compared to some of his clumsy primary performances. McCain is starting to let his contempt for Obama show. He keeps laughing like some sort of disturbed gremlin. Obama has avoided his old habit of disjointed, professorial answers.
A sharp contrast in their approach to the crisis: Obama seeks, twice, to pin blame on McCain and on the Republicans; McCain looks forward and tries to cast his efforts in Washington, and the House Republican stance, as a triumph of bipartisanship.
Obama would do well not to say things like "al Qaeda are attacking our troops in a brazen fashion, they feel emboldened." It's academic language to describe something he should be passionate and visceral about. It reminds me of John Kerry.
Obama projects understanding, intelligence, and confidence.
He’s a politician, yes, and thus speaking with the requisite platitudes and bromides, but he’s someone who projects comfort with his own presence, with the issues at hand, with politics in America as they stand and with his ability to deal with the current situation effectively and competently.
McCain, on the other hand, already seems dejected and down slow, morose, unhappy with his lot. He’s falling back on easy populist talking points, and he seems almost entirely unprepared which is why, when answering questions about the financial crisis, he’s rambling on about essentially tangential issues like drilling for oil and earmarks.
Obama seems to be keeping his cool, and McCain is testy.
Headline of debate so far: McCain Calls For Federal Spending Freeze.
NBC, at least, is gerrymandering their split screen views of the two candidates in such a way as to obscure the fact that Barack Obama is considerably taller than John McCain.
So far I think this is basically a draw, a lot of jousting, not a lot of hits. But Obama seems to have come into the debate with a much clearer strategy.
I don't understand why the moderator is letting McCain and Obama talk about their budget proposal as if there is a snowball's chance in hell that they will be enacting any of these plans. They won't. The current crisis has blown any chance of big spending plans or tax cuts. Even without the bailout package, America's tax revenues are going to look pretty anemic next year. As goes Wall Street, so go income taxes.
I think Obama is being basically clear; if he has a weakness, it's moving through too many points. It's as though he's reading a very crisp outline, very quickly. McCain, by contrast, is rambling, but in an aggrieved sort of way.
Twenty-five minutes in, McCain started a little sleepy and now seems to have his Irish up. (And I'm not just saying that because he compared the American corporate tax rate to Ireland's.) Obama isn't terrible, but he really is a different guy when he's debating than when he's giving a speech - much less polished, almost halting. Also, he seems determined to go after McCain, and I don't think that is precisely what he needs to do tonight. All he's got to do is convince people, "I can handle this job."
McCain has already used the joke that he wasn’t “elected Miss Congeniality in the Senate” twice during this debate. Ironically, Sarah Palin was Miss Congeniality.
I'll round up more considered reactions to the debate later tonight.
(Photo: People watch the first televised presidential debate between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama at a bar called Top of The Hill on September 26, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington, By Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images.)
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