Live-blogging the debate

Just about to start.

Haven’t done this in a while. We’ll see how long I hold out.

In the meantime: $32 million?

Just a 4-point spread in the Gallup tracking poll? (Closer than that for last night alone.)

This could go into extra innings.

Okay, here we go:

90-second openings. Obama first.

Says nice things about Edwards. Points to the milestone to be established this year.

Then says nice things about Hillary, giving his best impression of sincerity. I was friends with Hillary Clinton before this race, and we will be friends when it’s over. We’re running a competitive race, but that’s because we care deeply about the issues and the country. Past v. future.

HRC seems to be reciting a text. Doesn’t respond to Obama’s olive branch.

Goes straight into “ready on Day One.” Laundry list of problems.

Mentions Edwards: 37 million below the poverty line, and more hanging on just above.

Problem-solver. Roll up our sleeves. (Did she really say that? And will the Cliche Police tolerate it?)

Q: what are the policy differences?

HRC: Tiny compared to those we have with Republicans. Universal health care. Foreclosure moratorium and interest rate freeze. No “meetings without preconditions with five of the worst dictators in the world.”

Obama: Let’s talk about health care. We agree: government plan, no exclusion for pre-existing conditions. What we disagree about whether the basic problem is making health care affordable or whether we need to force people to buy health care. Enforcing a mandate would mean punishing people for not having insurance. Yes, we need to help people with bad mortgages. But an interest-rate freeze would make it harder and more expensive for people who want to get mortgages now to get them. We didn’t have the right policies to deal with this, partly because the lobbyists got in the way. We need to deal with their power. I was right on Iraq from the first. I want to elevate diplomacy as part of our arsenal to keep us safe. We ought to meet with Iran, offering them both carrots and sticks.

(HRC started a sentence with “For Barack and I,” which means the Language Police are coming in right behind the Cliche Police.)

Q to Obama: why leave 15 million people out. A: There aren’t 15 million people who don’t want care. I mandate for kids, and allow those up to 25 to sign on to their parent’s plans.

HRC: Affordable for all. But some people are ducking the responsibility to get coverage. Obama isn’t against mandates, since he mandates for children. “If you don’t start out to achieve universal health care, you will be nibbled to death.”

Q to Obama: what about people who don’t get coverage and then go to the ER and stick the rest of us with the bill? A: Charge them the back preimiums. And Hillary’s subsidies aren’t enough to make insurance affordable. Some people have such big deductibles; they don’t have health insurance, they have house insurance. Ted Kennedy says we can get universal health coverage with me as President, and he’s been at this longer than anyone. Negotiations in public, broadcast on C-SPAN, to overcome the special interests and the lobbyists. If a drug company, or a Congressman carrying water for a drug company, want to argue against negotiated prices, I can bring the experts to explain why that’s wrong.

I’m absolutely committed to making sure that anyone who needs health care can get health care.

Q to HRC: your 1994 plan was worked out in secret. A: mumblemumblemumble. C-SPAN would be “a little bit heavier lift.” Coalition of employers, labor, and docs and nurses

Q: Tax and spend. Obama: I don’t think the Republicans will be in a real strong position to argue fiscal responsibility. I’m happy to have that argument. McCain said he was against tax cuts in wartime. “Somewhere along the way the Straight Talk Express lost some wheels.”

We’ll cut costs to pay for universal coverage, plus rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1%.

“The question is who are the tax cuts for, who are the tax hikes imposed on?” Cut taxes on people under $75k with payroll tax offsets, breaks for seniors. Those of us who have been doing well in this economy can afford to dig a little deeper.I’m absolutely committed to making sure that anyone who needs health care can get health care.

Q to HRC. Your plan would cost $110 b. Are you going to raise taxes on the rich to pay for it?

HRC: 55 billion in rolling back tax cuts; balance in cost savings. We spend the most money, but don’t get the best results. Rein in giveaways under Medicare Part B. Electronic medical records; RAND says that would save $77B.

Q: Won’t that be a tax increase for millions of Americans?

Obama: Yes, people who can afford it. They don’t mind. This crowd looks pretty well dressed.

And we can’t save money (via EMRs, for example) without spending money. We have to make people healthier, or we won’t be able to afford health care.

Clinton: We’d just be back to the tax rates we had in the 1990s, and we did pretty well back then.

Q: How about the impact of immigration on African-American wages?

Obama: I reject that scapegoating. Crack down on employers who take advantage. We can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. We need to pull the country together to get the economy back on track.

Q to HRC. Obama said he is in favor of drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. You oppose it. Why?

HRC: Back to previous question. Yes, illegals cost black people jobs. Comprehensive immigration reform solution. Crazy to say we can deport 12 million people. Regularizing people means that they won’t undermine the labor market. Only once people have been regularized should we give them “privileges like drivers’ licenses.”

[[So far, I don’t hear the advantage HRC is supposed to have on issue expertise. But Obama is certainly staking out territory to her left]].

Obama says we have to be willing to stand up for the right thing on immigration. He sponsored the DREAM Act in Illinois. Rejects Blitzer’s invitation to fight with Hillary, but says that some people weren’t in the front lines and others flipped. Says that the driver’s license problem will solve itself once we have comprehensive reform. [I.e., retreats to the same ducking position HRC occupied earlier.] “People don’t come here to drive; they come here to work.”

HRC says she sponsored immigration reform before Obama was in the Senate. Opposes mean-spiritedness. Why not driver’s license? Wafflewafflewaffle. “Not appropriate.”

Obama: HRC has had many positions on this issue. I don’t want to create incentives for hit-and-run driving. [So he’s back to being clear on this; that’s a relief.]

Both are in favor of practical common-sense solutions. HRC hits back, says Obama refused to answer the question the week after she flipped on it.

[Starting a new thread now.]

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: