Liveblogging the debate

Why not?

C-SPAN has Rep. Foxx of N. Carolina trying to pretend she knows either (1) how to pronounce “epistemological” or (2) what it means.

Here’s what I want Obama to do tonight when the bailout comes up:

I think he should say what’s true: that he, Obama, tried to act modestly in the crisis, recalling that he’s not an expert in economics, that he hasn’t been working on banking legislation, and that right now someone else is President, while McCain acted arrogantly and presumptuously

and wound up scuttling what looked like a deal in progress. And he should then turn to McCain and say,

McCain: Businesses in the US pay very high taxes. What’s your definition of rich? O: I will cut taxes for 95% of people; if you make less than $250k per year, you won’t pay a dime. O: loopholes reduce the effective tax rate. McC wants to tax your health care. This is part of the “market can solve everything” philosophy.

McC: energy. Who fought against the Christmas-tree energy bill? Let everyone choose between the existing tax code and a new tax code. Obama has voted to raise taxes on people who make as little as $42,000 per year. Let’s look at the record. O: you want to add $4 billion in tax breaks for oil companies. You’re opposing the energy bill because yoiu don’t want to lose those tax breaks.

“I’ve laid out my principles on this. The President, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Senate Republicans, and the ranking Republican member of the House Financial Services committee worked out a deal that they say, and my expert advisers such as X and Warren Buffet confirm, will solve the crisis and is consistent with those principles.

“You refused to join me in a joint statement of principles, and as far as I know haven’t announced any. What principles do you think ought to govern our action in this crisis, and do you have a proposal consistent with those principles that any actual expert thinks would avoid a melt-down?”

The fighters come out. Obama looks cheerful and confident. McCain less so.

First Q to Obama, worse luck. Where do you stand on the crisis?

Nods to Main Street. Restates principles: oversight, chance for taxpayers to get their money back, no welfare for CEOs, helping homeowners. This crisis is the final verdict on eight years of wrong policy.

McC nods to EMK.

Then says he’s been feeling bad, now feeling better because Republicans and Democrats are coming together. Transparency, accountability, oversight, options for loans (????). Says House Republicans “weren’t part of the negotiatins.” (Someone tell Spencer Bachus.) Not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. Eliminate dependence on foreign oil.

Moderator to both candidates: Where do you stand on “the proposal.” Obama: haven’t seen the language yet. But we need to figure out how we got here. I warned about it two years ago. Comes from economic philosophy that regulation is always bad.

McCain: lots of people got it right. Eisenhower planned to resign if Normandy didn’t work. Now we don’t have accountability. That’s why I wanted to fire Chris Cox.

Obama: accountability, sure, but this is a result of policies that tended to benefit Wall Street, not Main Street. Says McC said “fundamentals are sound.” System has to work for everybody, the people who have “a little financial crisis at the end of the month.”

McC: greed and lack of accountability on Wall Street and Washington. But workers are wonderful. Our best days are ahead.

Q to McCain. What are the fundamental differences?

Excess spending. Earmarks are a gateway drug. $3 million for DNA of bears. I have a veto pen. Obama has asked for a billion in earmarks.

Obama: I stopped asking for earmarks. Total earmarks are $18B; McC wants to cut taxes for rich people and corporations by $300B, while leaving 100 million Americans out. I want to get money to people who need it to buy a computer for their kid.

McC: earmarks are corrupt. Obama asked for them until he was running. He wants $800B in new spending, and will raise your taxes. Obama interrupts: Don’t know where you’re getting your figures. I want to provide health care. Eliminating earmarks doesn’t make up for bad tax policies, continuation of the last eight years and we can’t afford another four.

[Sorry. Can’t keep up.]

Bottom line: If Obama needed to show that he could hold the stage against John McCain on what is supposed to be McCain’s strong issue, he did the job. McCain’s smirk annoyed me; I’m not sure the audience felt the same way. But insofar as McCain’s erratic behavior this week has raised questions about his judgment, he seemed more like a serious Presidential canididate than, as a blogger said today, a candidate for “President of WTFistan.”

CBS talking heads and undecided voters seem to be giving the win to Obama on points.

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com