Liveblogging the Biden-Palin debate

I’m here in the upper theater of the Parkway Speakeasy Theater on Oakland’s Park Boulevard, where the line to get in still snakes around the corner; hundreds were here by 4:45 p.m., waiting to get in, and the line has continued to lengthen. Pitchers of beer are proliferating, so I’m anticipating a lively evening of audience participation… stay tuned and read it all, after the jump…

6:02 — Here they come, greeted here by a mix of cheers and boos…

6:04 — 1st question to Biden, on the bailout package; scattered applause here for his argument that it’s the Bush Administration’s fault… Obama laid out basic criteria, etc…. early mention of the middle class.

6:06 — guffaws for Palin’s fear-at-the-soccer-game reference, laughter when she says John McCain has been a crusader for reform and oversight… catcalls for the “suspended his campaign” line…

6:07 — Biden says until two weeks ago, McCain was saying economic fundamentals were sound… the crowd here applauds; Palin’s “he was talking about the American workforce… best in the world” isn’t carrying water here…

6:08 — Palin says the crisis is the predator lenders’ fault, “there was deception there, there was greed and there is corruption on Wall Street.” Hockey moms (!) must say never again. The hissing here is loud.

6:10 — Biden notes Obama warned of subprime mortgage crisis two years ago, but McCain was surprised… “We let Wall Street run wild.” McCain is a deregulator, a free-market devotee who let it happen… Middle class needs relief now… applause here.

6:13 — Laughter as Biden grins at Palin’s accusation of massive tax increase votes… he’s having trouble keeping it together…

6:13 — Applause for Biden saying McCain had voted the same way and it wasn’t a tax increase, says Palin didn’t address deregulation; Palin insists on talking “straight to the American people” about taxes, not deregulation. “Oh my God,” says the woman sitting behind me.

6:17 — Biden says it’s not class warfare, it’s fairness to offer middle class tax relief while raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more… scattered applause here… Biden’s blasting McCain’s plan to cut taxes for rich and corporations… Palin “takes issue” with idea of redistribution of wealth, says small business will take the hit… higher taxpaying isn’t patriotic, she says…

6:18 — Palin on the McCain health care plan to give families tax creduts to buy insurance… better than a government program… Biden’s smiling like he’s ready to bring some heat… “I don’t know where to start” … 95 percent of small businesses in america, owners make less than $250g a year and won’t see higher taxes… John McCain pays for tax credits by taxing as income everyone who has healthcare through employer… 20 million will be dropped from insurance plans… “I call that the ultimate bridge to nowhere.” APPLAUSE!

6:21 — I think Palin’s still stinging from the bridge-to-nowhere crack as Biden talks about economic growth, eliminating wasteful spending…

6:22 — McCain doesn’t say different things to different constituency blocs, Palin says… “I had to take on those oil companies…” … the oil CEOs really hate me, she says… Obama voted for energy plan that gave tax breaks to big oil, and she had to undo it.

6:24 — Biden says Obama voted for an energy bill which had real support for alternative energy; he’d voted to eliminate tax breaks for big oil, McCain didn’t, and still won’t. Palin imposed windfall profits tax in Alaska, and that’s what Obama/Biden want to do nationwide… maybe Palin can convince McCain to support it.

6:26 p.m. — Palin says we must appreciate McCain’s calls for reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even if nobody listened… we’ve gotta put politics aside to fix this “toxic mess”…

6:27 — The crowd here has settled down for the moment as Biden talks about Obama’s history of warning about the subprime mortgage crisis… Bankruptcy courts should be able to readjust interest rates and principal owed by embattled homeowners; McCain/Palin don’t support that… Palin says “that is not so,” but wants to go back to talking about energy policy. “That’s sad,” said someone two rows back.

6:29 — Energy independence is the key to our future, it’s not about just tax breaks, Palin said.

6:30 — Alaska, the only arctic state, feels the impacts of climate change, though she doesn’t know how much is caused by man, how much by natural cyclical change… Don’t argue about causes, concentrate on effects and what we can do to mitigate, she was the first governor to address climate change… “All of the above” approach of alternative energies, conservation…

6:32 — Loud cheers for Biden’s assertion that you have to understand the causes if you’re gonna solve the problem… McCain consistently has voted against alternative energy… Obama believes in wind, solar, clean coal, safe nuclear… “We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology” … drill now, but you won’t see a drop for at least 10 years…

6:34 — Palin corrects Biden: “It’s ‘drill, baby, drill'” Loud hissing and laughter here as Biden grins… drilling is safe and needed, she says, but she and McCain are on board with alternative energy…

6:35 — Biden claims a 25 year record of supporting clean coal, says his comment on a rope line a few weeks ago was taken out of context. If McCain is for all these alternative energies, why does he vote against them?

6:36 — Biden supports same-sex couples’ benefits and rights, only fair, what the Constitution calls for. (Applause here.) Palin speaks about danger of redefining traditional definition of marriage (hisses), but says she’ll be “tolerant” … have diverse family and friends who don’t agree with her on this…

6:38 — Boos for Biden as he clarifies that neither he nor Obama supports same-sex marriage.

6:40 — The surge worked thanks to Petraeus and McCain, Palin said, and Obama voted against funding for the war… we’re getting closer and closer to victory, it would be a travesty to abandon Iraq now… (catcalls here)

6:41 — Biden said Obama has a plan for orderly withdrawal, and as for funding the troops, McCain refused to vote for it too because it contained a timeline… “We will end this war; for John McCain, there is no end in sight for this war.”

6:42 — “Your plan is a white flag of surrender,” Palin says… she just mentioned the Taliban while talking about Iraq, I think… Palin points out Biden once said Obama wasn’t ready to be commander in chief… she references Biden’s honoring of the troops and his son’s service, but has no respect for Obama’s record…

6:44 — Biden notes McCain opposed safety equipment for troops because it came with a timeline… still has no vision for bring the war to an end… “John McCain has been dead wrong… on the fundamental issues” … (applause here)

6:45 — On nuclear proliferation, Biden says Iran getting the bomb would be very destablizing, but they’re not close. McCain, he says, insists the central war on terror is in Iraq, yet if we’re hit again on U.S. soil, it’ll come from terrorists hiding in Pakistan/Afghanistan… we need to stabilize those governments, erode terrorists’ madrassa power base…

6:47 — Palin: Petraeus and Al Qaeda agree Iraq is central war on terror, Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nukes lest Israel be in danger… Obama says he’ll unconditionally meet with dangerous nations’ leadeers, this goes beyond naivete…

6:48 — Boos and hisses as Palin talks about conferring with Henry Kissinger… these nations hate America, our values, our respect for women’s rights (loud groans here at that one)… Diplomacy is hard work by serious people, she says.

6:49 — Five secretaries of state say we should engage these nations, Biden says… our allies agree… but McCain won’t sit down to talk with adversaries. Even Bush sent high-ranking diplomat to meet with Iranians… McCain said he won’t sit down with Spain, our ally with troops in Afghanistan.

6:51 — Palin wants a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian problem; we’ll never allow a second Holocuast despite Iran’s threat.

6:52 — Biden says he’s Israel’s biggest friend in the Senate, and wouldn’t have gone on this ticket if he didn’t believe Obama felt the same, but the Bush Administration’s policies have been an awful failure. Now Hezbollah is a serious force in Lebanon… “We will change this policy” with live, firm diplomatic negotiation… Palin doesn’t believe the Bush Administration’s policies have failed, but she’s glad everyone loves Israel so much. (Guffaws, boos here.) Let’s not lay blame; we’re going to learn from past mistakes and forge ahead with putting government back on the side of the people, putting “obsessive partisanship” aside, mavericks willing to ruffle feathers.

6:55 — Haven’t heard how any of McCain’s foreign policy will be any different from George Bush’s; Democrats will change it up, restore America’s standing in the world.

6:56 — Palin says our nukes are just a deterrent, but Iran, N. Korea must be kept out of the nuclear club… but let’s talk about Afghanistan: surge principles that worked in Iraq must be applied in Afghanistan, a difference in policy from Bush. We’re fighting terrorists, securing democracy, building schools…

6:58 — Biden says our commanding general in Afghanistan today said a surge won’t work. Palin frowns. Audience here is laughing.

6:59 — McCain voted against comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, Biden said, but Obama reached across aisle to Dick Lugar and put together a bill against proliferation…

7:00 — Palin says we can implement a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan… Biden laughs, the audience here laughs… Biden says he and Obama have wanted more troops in Afghanistan, while McCain at one point claimed we’d already won there.

7:01 — Asked if he’s an interventionist, Biden said America has the stomach to fight and win the right fights… It worked in the Balkans, he said… Palin is smiling like she has a good line coming up… Biden said we can put a no-fly zone over Darfur and lead a NATO force to act to stop genocide. (Applause here.)

7:03 — Palin says she’s a Washington outsider (unfrozen caveman lawyer, anyone?) who doesn’t understand how Biden voted for the war and now opposes it. She’s talking about Darfur divestment bills… Biden says we should go in if we can do something positive, must go after terrorists whereever they’re harbored… never supported McCain’s stance on the war, never thought like McCain we’d be greeted as liberators… “John McCain was lockstep with Dick Cheney at that point about how it was going to be easy”

7:06 — Palin insists Biden and McCain used to agree on the war, and that McCain knows how to win a war. (Boos and hisses here.)

7:07 — Biden would carry out Obama’s policies of reinstating middle class with tax breaks, affordable college and healthcare, etc. if he ended up in the Oval Office, and a foreign policy that ends the war while getting Osama bin Laden and eliminating al Qaeda… doctrine of international cooperation and engagement… “I agree with every major initiative he has suggested.”

7:09 — “A team of mavericks” sometimes disagees, Palin said, but we’ll root out corruption and waste, talk straight to and act directly for the people. Wasilla! Biden says go to Wilmington with him and people will tell them economic and foreign policy of Bush Administration hasn’t helped, and McCain is no different from Bush… “The people in my neighborhood, they get it… They know they’ve been getting the short end of the stick.” Scranton!

7:11 — Palin says stop laying blame about Bush policies, look to the future. Biden’s wife is a teacher, bless her, and “her reward will be in heaven.” (Groans here.) My dad is in the audience. My kids go to public school, and we’ve got to give more attention to that.

7:13 — Comment about not knowing what a vice president does was “a lame attempt at a joke,” Palin said… would preside over Senate, support president’s policies such as government reform, energy independence, working for special-needs kids…

7:15 — Biden says he’ll be in the room for all major Obama Administration decisions, play “a very constructive role.”

7:16 — Nobody here, and I mean nobody, understood what Palin just said about the vice president’s constitutional authority. Biden’s laughing, and so is this audience.

7:17 — Loud applause and cheers as Biden calls Cheney the nation’s most dangerous vice president ever. The Constitution isn’t “flexible” as Palin said, Biden insists — he’s executive branch, nothing else.

7:18 — Palin said she has loads of experience, and a connection to the heartland of America with a son at war and a special-needs baby, went through a time without health insurance. More important is the world view she shares with McCain that America is Reagan’s “shining city on the hill.”

7:20 — Biden says he’s not afraid to speak out, would put his and Obama’s records of accomplishments against McCain/Palin’s any day… Knows what it’s like to be a single parent, chokes up as he talks about raising kids alone, worried.

7:21 — Palin: McCain a “consummate maverick,” not partisan. Said maverick again now, and audience here is laughing. “He is the man we need to leave…” Oops!

7:22 — Biden: McCain is no maverick, but rather voted again and again for Bush’s budgets and other initiatives, voted against health care for kids, didn’t support tax cuts for people sending kids to college… he’s ineffectual for things that ordinary working families truly care about. (Cheers here.)

7:24 — Biden says he’s changed his opinions over time over approving judicial nominees, won’t put people on the bench without a strong review of judicial philosophy. Palin says she approved budgets as mayor and governor even though she wanted to cut taxes even more, but she has never had to compromise on principle, always finds a way to get things done in Alaksa and will do the same in Washington.

7:26 — Biden says even McCain would confirm Biden’s ability to work across the aisle to get things done. He swears he’ll questsion other politicians’ judgment, but not their motives…

UPDATE @ 7:54 A.M. FRIDAY: So, why nothing on their closing statements? Because my laptop battery died just as Palin was starting to speak, and there aren’t any electrical outlets in a movie theater. Tres frustrating for me, of course, as Palin started out with a potshot against the mainstream media…
Anyway, I saw no major gaffes on either side, and I saw some significant truth-stretching on both sides, but if anyone was actively dodging questions, I think it was Palin.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • the VP debate was stunning. Palin did a decent job faking about 20% of the questions and didn’t even bother answering the other 80%.

    i couldn’t help thinking of the end of the movie Billy Madison, when the debate moderator says to Adam Sandler, “Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

  • My2cents

    She amazed me with her mediocrity and her attitude towards Senator Biden (imagine if Obama had done the same to McCain, Mr. Experience himself). Can I call you Joe? Then there were the facial ticks, the winking and eyelash batting. Where did she think she was? Who was she trying to flirt with? The entire male population of America? The icing on the cake was all the verbal ticks in her speech. Somehow ‘folksy’ means saying ‘betcha’ ‘say it ain’t so’ and various other filler garbage that has no place in a DEBATE. In a debate you want to be able to speak properly.

    As to what she said, I could make neither head nor tail of it. All of sounded rehearsed. She actually had the moxy to refuse to answer debate questions (one wonders why you show up to participate in a debate if you don’t plan on answering the questions posed by the debate). The rehearsed nature of her responses didn’t keep them from not making any sense. She seemed to spew out a series of failed circular arguments. Key words tumbled forth with little context and even relation to one another. What is scariest is that some people thought she won and somehow everyone thinks she got through it okay. This is what is considered ‘okay’ in American political discourse today? Candidates running to possibly become the so-called leader of the so-called free world doesn’t even have to string together intelligible sentences in order to try to answer direct questions? What sort of democracy is this? When did the land of opportunity and self improvement turn its back on a base level of intellect and knowledge? How did she ever get elected governor?

  • rewgolfer

    Palin was really terrific. She held her own in a debate with one of the Senate’s greatest orators. I was very skeptical when she was named VP, but she won me over. You can readily see this lady is a remarkable person, despite her skimpy resume. This is a regular citizen – thrust into the attack dog DC- media culture – and she’s holding her own beautifully.

  • rewgolfer

    Harry Truman wasn’t the brightest guy, he hadn’t really been very succesful in his life before going into politics, but he turned out to be a terrific President. He wasn’t part of any DC elite, he was a plain guy thrust into Presidency and he just rose to the occasion. I think Palin is similiar. She’s no policy wonk, she not a lawyer, she doesn’t have a political pedigree, but she seems to be rising to the occasion. Like Truman, she has qualities of leadership, I think.

  • Josh Richman

    Sorry, Rewgolfer, I don’t buy it. Since when is having a firm grasp of a wide array of policy a bad thing in those we elect to represent our interests? I want a policy wonk running this country. Don’t take this as an endorsement of Joe Biden, because that’s not how I mean it – I’m just tired of this endless anti-intellectualism, in this race and others, where the person who actual knows and has worked the issues for years is at an automatic disadvantage to the “outsider” who knows precious little. It’s topsy-turvy insanity, to me. What ever happened to electing the most qualified candidate?

  • Well said Josh! Thank you! I just can’t figure it out. Last night on CNN, some pundit said this: “The question is, do people want to vote for someone who knows more than they do?” ?!?!?!?!? The question is, who WOULDN’T want to vote for someone who knows more than they do?!????!!!!

    Ugh, it just boggles my mind.