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Liveblogging the vice presidential debate

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 2, 2008 | 9:45 pm

5:48 p.m.—I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for the VP debate for some time now. Joe Biden has pretty much disappeared from the campaign trail and Sarah Palin has been gobbling up lots of negative attention. In 10 minutes we get to see them square off. (@god is predicting “Tonight might set the record for OMGs!” on Twitter.) Stay tuned ...

6:02 p.m.—Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden take the stage. “Can I call you Joe,” she asks when she shakes his hand. As in Joe Six-pack?

6:03 p.m.—Biden receives the kickoff, fielding a question about our untoward economy and what should be done. “We are going to fundamentally change the focus of the economic policy. We are going to focus on the middle-class,” Biden says.

6:05 p.m.—Palin’s response begins with a hypothetical, howya doing? on a soccer field sideline. She punches back at Barack Obama and says John McCain has put “obsessive politics aside and the country first.” Biden deeply sighs.

6:08 p.m.—Palin seems very well prepped, very capable. Like an entirely different person—actually, her hair is different too—from the woman who appeared on CBS Evening News.

6:09 p.m.—Moderator: “Governor, senator neither of you really answered that last question about what you would do as vice president.”

6:10 p.m.—What??? Palin is blaming predatory lenders and not greedy homebuyers. What ever happened to personal responsibility. And now she just mentioned Joe Six Pack and then three phrases later invoked the Holocaust with “Never again.”

6:12 p.m.—Biden: Yada, yada, yada. “We let Wall Street run wild.” This has become the popular, though untrue, simple answer to what went wrong in the housing market. A major part of the problem, definitely, but this jalopy had a lot of moving parts.

6:14 p.m.—Arguing about taxes. I hate how the candidates appeal to the moderator in these debates instead of directing their comments at each other. It’s childish, like when two parents are fighting with each other by addressing all their comments to their kid.

6:15 p.m.—Dodgers game two against the Cubs starts in about 20 minutes ...

6:18 p.m.—Palin says increasing taxes on the middle class is not patriotic. She’s the only one of the four who can even claim to be somewhat upper-middle class. How many houses does McCain have again?

6:20 p.m.—Uh oh. Biden mentions that McCain supports tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil.

6:22 p.m.—Moderator just asked an awesome question: What promises of your campaign are you not going to be able to keep? Biden’s list is long. Palin responds that McCain “doesn’t tell one thing to one group and then turns around and tells something else to another group” and says that Obama voted for the bill that gave oil companies tax breaks.

6:24 p.m.—Palin’s last comment is significant because it is indicative of the hypocrisy of Washington. Candidates rail against policies that they themselves supported in one form or another. Which brings me to the bailout bill and the gall that the Senate had to stuff it with pork.

6:28 p.m.—We’re less than a half hour in and, I have to admit, Palin is dominating. Regardless of the substance of her statements, she is winning this debate big time.

6:31 p.m.—Moderator: “Governor, what is true and what is false about what we have heard about climate change?”

Palin: “We know that it is real. I’m not one to attribute every activity of man to changes in the climate ... but there are real changes going on in our climate. I don’t want to argue about the causes. I want to argue about how we are going to get their to positively effect the impact.”

Hmmm ... call me crazy, but I think we need to know the causes if we are going to effect the impact.

Biden responds that causes are clearly man-made. “If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution.”

Hey, I just said that.

6:35 p.m.—Palin just said “raping” in a vice presidential debate. Kudos.

6:37 p.m.—Same-sex benefits time.

6:38 p.m.— Palin: “I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and friends, and some might not agree with me on this issue.” In other words, Some of my best friends have gay friends.

Both Biden and Palin say they oppose sanctioning gay marriage at the federal level.

6:40 p.m.—On to Iraq. Same story we’ve heard for the past six months. Regardless of the rhetoric, at least Iraq is getting better.

Interjection: A friend just informed me that Palin told Katie Couric that her best friend was gay.

6:43 p.m.—Did she just say “Tal-a-ban-ee”? As in Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq. I think it’s pronounced differently than the radical Islamist nuts.

6:45 p.m.—Moderator: Which is worse, Iran getting nukes or an unstable Pakistan?

Biden mentions the safety of Israel and hedges: “They’d both be game changers.” But focuses on the need to prioritize Pakistan and the radicalized region along the Afghan border.

Palin also says both are very important but says the central place in the war on terror is Iraq. Iran can’t obtain nuclear weapons. “Period,” Palin says. “Now a leader like Ahmadinejad, who is not sane or stable ...” Agreed.

6:50 p.m.—Biden: Obama “did not say sit down with Ahmadinejad.” Heard this before. Biden notes that “our friends and allies have been sit down, talk, talk.” Though not, he insists with Iran’s president, who is more a puppet leader.

6:51 p.m.—Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palin: “A two state solution is the solution. ... We have got to assure them we would never allow a second Holocaust .. We will support Israel, a two-state solution, building our embassy in Jerusalem.”

Biden: “Nobody in the United States senate has been a better friend of Israel than Joe Biden.” He has been a major, major supporter. But referring to himself in the third person. Brad doesn’t like it. Brad doesn’t like it one bit. Brad’s not sure he can trust somebody who thinks so highly of himself.

6:54 p.m.—Palin: “I am so encouraged to know we both love Israel.” Another big sigh from Biden as Palin defends the peacetalk efforts of the Bush administration. “Positive change is coming, though,” Palin says. “We’ll learn from the past mistakes of other administrations.”

6:56: p.m.—Biden: Reels foreign flashpoints in American policy and says that John McCain’s policies look just like President Bush’s. “So far, it is the same as George Bush’s, and you know where that policy has taken us. We will make positive change.”

6:58 p.m.—Palin says they need to bring the surge to Afghanistan, too. Biden retorts that the commanding general in Afghanistan said today that the surge principles will not work there, and also refers to himself in the third person again.

6:58 p.m.—Dodgers got runners on the corners with no outs in the top of the second. No score.

7:01 p.m.—Moderator: Asks Biden if the public has stomach for putting American troops in Darfur? I say yes.

Biden: “I don’t have the stomach for genocide when it comes to Darfur ... We should rally the world to act.”

Palin responds by returning to Iraq and Biden’s earlier support for it and current opposition. Then says we need to act by divesting from companies doing business there, which a lot of states already have done. Doubt that is enough.

7:07 p.m.—Palin says that John McCain “knows what evil is.” The implication, of course, is that Obama can’t tell the difference.

7:07 p.m.—Moderator asks what would your administration be if the president died? No elephant left in that room.

7:10 p.m.—Dodgers up 5 to 0. This debate’s been good for the boys in blue.

7:11 p.m.—Palin: “Ah, say it ain’t so Joe” and “doggoneit” and “God bless ‘er.” Could Palin sound more backwoods? You could hear muffled guffaws in the audience.

7:13 p.m.—Education talk ... boring.

7:17 p.m.—Biden breaking down Article I of the Constitution and tearing up Cheney, who he says is the most dangerous VP we’ve had. For some reason, Palin blanches at criticizing Tricky Dick.

7:22 p.m.—Palin: “Change is coming and John McCain is the leader of that reform

Biden snaps: “Let’s talk about the maverick John McCain is. I love him and he’s been a maverick on some issues. But he has been no maverick on the issues that change people’s lives.”

This is true. McCain still gets a lot of mileage out of McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform, which has been weak anyway, but he’s generally a company man. Biden points to the Iraq war, healthcare reform, tax cuts, etc.

7:28 p.m.—Closing comments coming in moments ...

7:29 p.m.—Palin gets the first closing statement. “John McCain and I, we are going to fight for America, we are going to fight for the middle class ... We have to fight for our freedoms also, economic and our national security freedoms. It was Ronald Reagan who said, ‘Freedom is always one generation from extinction.’ ... We will fight for it and there is only one man in this race who has ever really fought for you, and that is John McCain.”

7:31 p.m.—Biden begins with a bit of condescension. “Look folks”—better improve on that—“this is the most important election you are ever going to face in your life. No one can deny that the last eight years we have been dug into a very deep whole, here at home in our economy and abroad in our credibility.” OK. “It’s time for America to get up together. America is ready, I’m ready, you’re ready, and Barack Obama is ready to be the next president of the United States of America. May God bless all of you, and most of all, for both of us”—he pointed to Palin—“selfishly, may God protect all our troops.”

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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