BlogHer's live-blog of tonight's VP Debate: Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. Joe Biden and Moderator Gwen Ifill

BlogHer Original Post

UPDATE: See the bottom of this post for a live-blog of the debate, starting soon...

Here we go! In song and in art, the BlogHer-sphere is roiling over tonight's televised debate by the candidates for vice president, Democratic Senator Joe Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Join us here at 9 p.m. Eastern on as we live-blog the debate, moderated by PBS' Gwen Ifill. And there's plenty to discuss in advance: After a week of watching CBS' Katie Couric interview Gov. Palin, many bloggers are focused on Sen. John McCain's running mate -- as well as her tactics, techniques and who will win. I'm not finding too much about Sen. Biden.

I opened up the Christian Science Monitor site yesterday to find a piece by Andrew Halcro, who ran for governor of Alaska (as an independent) and lost to Palin. Halcro wrote, "When he faces off against Sarah Palin Thursday night, Joe Biden will have his hands full...Her ability to fill the debate halls with her presence and her gift of the glittering generality made it possible for her to rely on populism instead of policy."

I found Halcro's piece and many more citations of the lack of specifics in Gov. Palin's responses to reporters in a wrap-up by Julie Pippert on "Palin seems to have a great difficulty specifically and knowledgeably answering foreign policy questions, and also misunderstands the essential boundaries for security," Pippert blogs. "Then she cries foul when she goofs and quickly blames journalists or others around her, for her gaffe."

The American Princess disagrees, saying that the biggest challenge for the Democrats is the news that Moderator Gwen Ifill has written a book, "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." The result, AP blogs, given that the McCain camp is expressing surprise at this news, is that:

"Gwen is now toast. She has no choice but to be as careful as possible about how she treats Biden and Palin or risk having the entire debate discredited as a partisan show. No matter what she does, even one slip will result in her being painted with a broad brush as nothing more than an Obama sympathizer who tried to tee one up for the campaign. She’s being watched and she will be excoriated. I’m sure she’s not unfamiliar with the concept. If she doesn’t, then the very first thing out of the mouth of the McCain campaign tomorrow is: the debate was nothing more than a farce and Gwen Ifill is nothing more than a partisan hack. Lets try this thing again."

IMHO? Having watched Gwen Ifill moderate debates for years, I have seen no indication whatsoever that she will do anything but an impartial, professional job -- she's been much better on holding candidates to their allotted time than most moderators. My understanding is that her book is about black politicians who are using techniques like the Obama campaign -- not a book advocating Obama as president. That said, I haven't read it. But I think she's a journalist of the highest caliber, and that's why she's on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour.

Which leads me to terrific questions, both for the candidates AND for you, the viewers. Nanette Fondas hits policy hard with "Mothers’ Five Questions for Palin/Biden Debate. And Politics4Moms wants to know what you think -- and I do too -- about these questions, which I have paraphrased:

* Is it a conflict of interest for Gwen Ifill to moderate tonight's vice presidential debate?
* What matters more to the McCain/Palin ticket: Palin's showing tonight or her interviews with Journalists Couric and Charles Gibson (ABC)? Editor's note: While Politics4Moms think Palin did not perform well in the interviews, other bloggers, such as RightWingSparkle, think Palin did a terrific job with Couric. More here.
* How will Biden do? Does he need to be concerned about insulting Palin and how would that affect your opinion of him and the Obama/Biden ticket?
* Will the outcome of this debate have any real bearing on the election?

So... what do you think?

=======LIVE BLOG=======

Ifill: Welcome to the first and the only vice-presidential debate...Tonight's debate will be divided into domestic and foreign policy issues...(She explains the coin-toss and rules, no applause or outbursts)

APPLAUSE (Biden: Blue tie, lapel pin, Palin in black suit.)

Ifill: The first question will ggo to Biden. The house of Representatives didn't pass it. Was this the worst of the Washington or the best of Washington?

Biden: ...It's evidence that the economic policies of the past eight years are the worst we've ever had....excessve drregulation, seeing Wall STreet run wild, this is the evidence. The Barack Obama laid out four criteria for a rescue plan
- Oversight of Sec of Treasury
- Focus on homeowners, Main Street
- Have to treat the taxpayers like investors
- Make sure CEOs don't get rich
Here's the fundamental difference (between the tickets).

Palin: Has this been a good time or a bad time, go to a kid's soccer game and ask them, how are they feeling about the economy, arand I betcha you're going to hear some fear. Fear about are we going to be able to send kids to college, Fear about their investments. Our economy is hurting and our federal government has not rovided the sound oversight that we need to that end. John McCain sounded the warning bell two years about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mc. Others (gestures to Biden) didn't. He

Biden: Two weeks ago John McCain said the economy was strong. Later he said there was a crisis. That doesn't make John McCain a bad guy. But (that's not the case)...

Palin: John McCain was talking about the American workforce. That's a positive that's encouragement and (winks at the camera!), that's a fundamental.. Barack Obama of course has voted primarily along party lines. That's why I think we need to send the Maverick from the Senate to the White House and I'm happy to join them there.

Ifill: Gov., Sen. Neither of you really answered that question I raised, so we'll come back to that.


Ifill: Who's at fault with the sub-prime mortgage debacle?

======(Sorry fell behind on this one, here's a summary)

Palin: It's time to say never again. It's time for every soccer mom and Joe Six Pack to say never again and get back to how we were taught

Biden: John McCain

Darn right we need tax relief for the taxpayers. Barack had 94 times to side on the people's side and 94 times he voted to raise taxes. We do need the private sector to be able to save more of what we earn and produce. Barack Obama even supported raising taxes for families that earn 42,000 taxes a year.

Biden: That charge is not true. John McCain voted exactly the same way. It was a ...John McCain voted 477 times to raise taxes. The governor did not answer the question of deregulation.

Palin: I may not answer the questions the way that you or the moderator want to hear but I'm going to speak directly to the American people want to hear. As to John McCain's pushing for harder and tougher regulation, I want to talk about what I did to (lost the rest)

Ifill: Gov. are you interested in defending

Palin: He's recommending a $5,000 tax credit for families. That's tax neutral and it doesn't cost anything. Unlike Barack's plan, which involves the government taking over health care, which I don't think we want the Feds running anything.

Biden: 95% of the small businesses in America, their owners make less than $250,000 a year, they would not be charged one penny more in taxes. John McCain charges every one of you through your employer to give you the $5,000 plan, which his Web site points out will go straight to your insurance company. You're going to have to replace a $12k plan with the $5k you got and 20 MM are going to be dropped. I call that the ultimate bridge to nowhere.

And for those of us who prefer an old-fashioned IRC chat, Obama supporter Dave Winer has one up. If anyone knows of a McCain-backed IRC chat, I welcome the link.

Biden: We are going to have to slow dow the double foreign assistance. We are not going to support the $300 BB tax cut they have for the very wealthy, and the tax cut for Exxon Mobil. We cannot slow up on education, that's the engine that's going to give us the growth and competitiveness we need. We're not going to slow up on health care. We're going to eliminate the wasteful spending the...The $100 BB tax dodge that allows people to take their post office box offshore. I call that unpatriotic.

Palin: The one thing I can assure you abou John McCain is that he doesn't say one thing to one group and one thing to another group. I had to take on those oil companies and said no, any of the greed there that has been Conoco Excon Mobil and Phillips. I had to break up a monopoly up there and say we have to make sure that we have to get value going to the people. It was Barack Obama who voted for the energy plan that I had to turn around as a governor

Ifill: So there's nothing you would take off the table, Governor?

Palin: No. How long have I been at this five weeks? ...There's nothing that John McCain has promised that he would take away, and nothing that I would either.

Ifill: Let's talk about climate change. What is true and what is false about he causes of climate change?

Palin: As the nation's only Arctic state, Alaska feels the change. I am not one to attribute every activity of man to the changes in the climate, there are some cyclical changes. There are changes in our climate. We've got to work with other countries. We've got to become energy independent for that reason also. Conserving our petroleum products and clean up this planet and deal with climate change.

Biden: I think it is man-made. If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution....John McCain has voted 20x in the last decade and a half to ... Barack Obama believes in investing in the solution. We should export the technology by investing in clean solutions. John McCain has voted 20x against clean solution.

Ifill: Clear something up for me:

Barack Obama and Sen. Biden, you've said no to every attempt. You've even called the shelf as "raping"

Ifill: Do you support capping carbon emissions?

Palin: I do, I do.

Biden: My record is clean, (Rope line comment is taken out of context). McCain

IFill: Do you support granting same sex benefits to couples?

Biden: Absolutely. No difference between same sex couples and heterosexual couples. It's what the Constitution calls for, as relates to their property rights, visitation...

Palin: Not if goes closer and closer to redefining marriage as differnt from one-man to one-woman. Choosing their partners, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends, and even in that circle you would see some very close friends. No one would ever do something to oppose visitation in a hospital. I don't support defining marriage as anything other than between one-man and one-woman.

Biden: No. We do not support redefining marriage. She supports no

Ifill. Wonderful, you agree. Let's move on to foreign policy. Governor you'd like to see a real clear plan for an exit. What does that mean?

Palin: I know that the other ticket opposed this surge and even opposed funding for our troops in Afghanistan. (Says Obama voted against those troops.) We cannot afford to lose against Al Qaeda. It would be a travesty if we quit in Iraq now.

Biden. Ma'am, with all due respect I didn't see a plan. Shift strategies, move . John McCain voted against funding the troops because the amendment had a timeline in it. And John said I'm not going to fund the troops if there's a timeline. We've got to shift funding to the Iraqis. We will end this war but for John McCain there is no end in sight. Fundamental difference.

Palin: Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq. That is not what our troops need right now. We'll know when we're done in Iraq when the Iraqis can govern their people and our generals will tell us when that time comes. Barack Obama though, any one who can cut off the troops, is something different.

Joe Biden: John McCain voted against the troops. John McCain voted ... against the funding because he said the amendment had a timeline in it and he didn't liek that. John McCain and Dick Cheney said we would be greeted as liberators. John McCain said there would be enough oil. . John McCain has been dead wrong on the fundamentals related to the war.

Ifill: A nuclear Iran or an unstable Pakistan, which is more dangerous and be specific why?

Biden: They are both dangerous, they would both be game-changers. John continues to tell us that the central front is the war in Iraq. If a threat comes, it'll come from the hills. Right now that is in Pakistan. We need to support them...we need to compete for those hearts and minds. And by the way, that's where Osama Bin Ladin is and we will find him.

Palin: both are extremely dangerous. ...Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons...referred to Israel as a stinking corpse. Achmadinejad, the Castro brothers, Kim Jung Il are leaders a statement like that is downright dangerous.

Ifill: All secretaries of state have offered some level of engagement with

Palin: No, Dr. Henry Kissinger and I had a good conversation about this and he should. Those who try to limit our freedoms, Diplomacy is very important. Diplomacy is hard work by serious people.

Biden: That is just not true about Barack Obama. He did not say that he would sit down with Achmadinejad. Five secretaries of state have said we should sit down. Our friends and allies have said sit down and talk. Look what President Bush did. He finally sent a high-ranking diplomat to Europe to meet with high-randing diplomats.

John McCain said a few weeks ago that he wouldn't even sit down with the government of spain. A Nato ally. I find that incredible.

Ifill: What have they done wrong with Arab-Israeli conflict?

Palin: A two-state solution is the solution. SEc. Rice tried to forge that peace. Israel is our strongest and best ally in the peace. We've got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust. They succeeded with Jordan, they succeeded with Egypt. In a McCain Palin administration.

Biden: No one has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. This administration's policy has been an abject failure. The president insisted on elections in the West bank. Big mistake. he legitimized them. Now Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government immediately north of Israel. Speaking of freedom on the march, the only thing on the march is Iran. We will change this policy with . You must back Israel and stand with them not insist on these failed policies.

Palin: No I do not believe this policy has been an abject f Political change is coming.

Biden: The issue is, how different is John McCain's policy going to be different from George Bush's? Israel? Iran? Afghanistan? Pakistan? It may be, but thus far it is George Bush's? We are going to

Palin: The surge principles that have worked in Iraq would work in Afghanistan.

Biden: With Afghanistan facts matter. Our commanding general said today the surge principle won't work in Afghanistan. Not Joe Biden. Our commanding general said that. We spend more money in three weeks on Iraq than we have in seven years in Afghanistan. With regard to arms control and weapons, John McCain voted against the nuclear test ban treaty.

Palin: Oh Man, it's so obvious that I'm a Washington outsider. You're one of the one's who said if you voted for it tell us why you voted for it. America is so hungry for those plain answers. You had supported John McCain's military strategy pretty closely.

Biden: The line that should e drawn is
a. Do we have the capacity to do anything about it?
b. When a country works against us
I never supported John McCain's strategy.

Palin: I beg to differ with you again. John McCain, who knows how to win a war, he's been there. He'll know how to win a war.

Ifill: The most common thing said about a VP is that they are a heartbeat away from the presidency. How would a Biden administration differ from an Obama administration? How would a Palin administration differ from a McCain administration?

Biden: God forbid...I would carry out the Obamaa administration policies for the working class, health care, get and capture/kill Bin Laden, engage our allies in making sure we were working on the same page and pre-empt the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most important election we have had. I agree with every major initiative he has proposed.

Palin: God forbid. What do you expect a team of Mavericks? Of course we're not going to agree on everything. (Winks again) I would continue to put govenment on the right road... I think we need a little reality from Wasilla Main Street so that people can understand how the average everyday working class family is feeling about government.

Biden: All you have to do is go down the street with me and ask anyone if they're better off... the people in my neighborhood get it. They know that they have been getting the short-end of the stick. The middle class has gotten the short end. The wealthy have gotten richer.

Plain: So Joe there you go again, pointing backwards. (Describes support for education as a national imperative.) Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president in the history of the United States. The only authority the Vice President has is to cast a tie-breaking voice.

IFill: Gov. Palin, it's said that you lack experience. Sen. Biden, it's said that you lack discipline. What are your responses to this?

Palin: My experience as a mayor and oil and gas regulator and an executive of a huge energy producing state. Even more important is that world view that says that we are a national of exceptionalism, that we are that shining city on a hill like Ronald Reagan said. It's a good team, it's a good ticket.

Biden: You're very kind, suggesting my only Achilles heel is discipline. I'll put my experience and Barack Obama's against John McCain's and anyone else's. The notion that somehow because I am a man, I don't understand taking care of children, I don't understand not knowing whether your child (chokes) is going to make it. They're looking for help. They're not looking for more of the same.

Palin: They're not looking for more of the same. That's why a maverick like John McCain is what this nation needs. Look at all his supporters -- we have got to win the war, we have got to get our economy back on track...change is coming and John McCain (is going to bring it).

Biden: He has been no maverick on the things that matter to people. He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He voted against the existing health care plan. He is not been a mvaerick on the war. He has not been a mverick that genuinely help people who sit around the kitchen table. So maverick he is not on the important issues that affect people.

Ifill: Can you think of a single policy issue in which you were force to change a long-held view?

Biden: Took me about five years but I learned that a judge's ideology made all the difference. That's why I led the fight against Robert Bork.

Palin: There were times I wanted to zero-base budget and cut taxes even more, but I couldn't because I didn't have the support. No, there hasn't been something that I've had to change.

Ifill: How do you change the tone, as VP, as #2?

Biden: I believe, John McCain, were he here, he would acknowledge what I'm about to say. I've worked across the aisle. Mike Mansfield said to me, don't question their motive. I've questioned their judgement. That's why I've been able to work in the United State Senate. Not questioning other peoples' motives.

Palin: You do what I did, appointing people of all parties.

Ifill: Closing statements

Palin: I like being able to answer thse tough questions without the filer of the mainstream media. I want to assure you that John McCain and I are going to fight for America. I've been there. I know what the hurts are and the joys are. I've always been proud to be an American too. We have to fight for our freedoms ... or we're going to spend all our time telling our children who is . There is only one man in this race who has ever fought for you and that man is John McCain.

Biden: Look folks, this is the most important election in your life. There's a need for fundamental change, on foreign policy and the economy. ...we measure progress in American based on whether someone can pay their mortgage or send their kid to college. ...In the neighborhood I grew up in, it was all about diginity and respect. That's why Barack Obama and I are running. It's time for American to get up together. You're ready, I'm ready. May God bless all of you and sefishly for all of us, may God protect our troops.

Ifill: Thank you Gov. Palin. Thank you Sen. Biden. And goodnight.


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