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The First US Presidential Debate - Live

Justin Webb | 01:28 UK time, Saturday, 27 September 2008

First blood to John McCain -- see the ad on this page which was apparently placed early by mistake!

The best thing about this debate is its open format. I expect McCain to win in the sense of connecting with America. He needs to use humour to leap artfully over the nonsense of the last few days...

2007: Barack Obama moves quickly onto the attack - the suggestion that McCain backed the kind of deregulation that led to the crisis.

2010: When McCain said "I havent been feeling too good recently" it certainly got my attention - but he meant about the country.

2012: Neither answers the question of whether they will vote for the plan - (McCain gets closer with I hope so). I wish the moderator could interrupt them (but that would be un-American).

2014: Mr McCain's line on holding people accountable was sharp - Mr Obama agreed but then got academic and windy.

2016: McCain has a fundamental belief in America - gosh. This would be laughed at in any other western nation as a gambit in a serious debate.

2018: Mr McCain looks highly prepared - the attack on Mr Obama on earmarks had a nice line or two but I am sure I have heard some of it before.

2021: Mr McCain is not looking at Mr Obama - he looks oddly aggressive.

2027: They are talking past each other - McCain on earmarks, Obama on health.

2029: This is a huge disappointment - set piece memorised stuff from both candidates. Nothing revealed about either of them: Obama wants college for everyone in the US - gosh again.

2032: McCain is talking now about the money he saved the taxpayer - people went to federal prison he says. Spenders will be scruubbed - eliminated!

2034: The questioning is limp, pathetic even. How America misses a John Humphrys or a David Dimbleby - someone who stips out this time consuming nonsense!

2042: Now Mr Obama is on the attack with the idea that Mr McCain is a Bush clone and must take responsibility for the Bush years. Mr McCain parries successfully with the fact - and it is a fact - that he and the president have not seen eye to eye on some pretty important questions. Stale. Boring.

2049: On Iraq, Mr Obama makes the case against the war with elegance, but it's an old case against a decision that is gone and finished. Mr McCain equally elegantly suggests that the issue is how to get out now. On that they neither of them sound so convincing. Mr Obama is listing the points on which Mr McCain was wrong. Does this damage him? I suspect not - you can be wrong but of good character. You can be wrong in the past but right on the future. Mr Obama is making a mistake by getting into petty fights about Senate votes: "I voted for this but against that" etc.

2053: Victories: Mr McCain has only said "my friends" once (I think) and Mr Obama has not ummed and arred as much as he sometimes does.

2057: Mr Obama hits a good one suggesting that he won't take lectures on saying unwise things from someone who has sung songs about bombing Iran.

2059: Mr McCain has a slightly patronising tone - I don't think Senator Obama understands etc. Could this work for an older man?

2104: Mr Obama has brought up the old throwaway line by Mr McCain that "we can muddle through" and Mr McCain is angry - again he says Mr Obama "does not seem to understand".

2107: Iran now. To bomb or not to bomb. Mr McCain is talking about his League of Democracies - taking on the world. Would it involve Venezuela? Singapore? Georgia? Russia? (only kidding). Of course, the moderator doesn't ask - that would be rude...

2109: Oops - Mr Obama is defending some senate measure again - it sounds silly and defensive.

2110: Mr Obama on Iran: we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. He makes a subtle point about engaging non-democracies... Mr McCain is having trouble with Ahmadinejad pronunciation (and I am with spelling!).

2113: On talking to enemies it's a tie - Mr McCain doesn't rule it out and Obama doesn't rule it in.

2116: Here is another thing that Senator Obama "does not seem to understand", according to Mr McCain: something to do with talking to ones enemies. Mr Obama hit him with the suggestion that he has refused to speak to the prime minister of Spain - making Mr McCain look angry and silly is a good tactic, though he has failed to use it to much effect.

2118: Great McCain line: "So we sit down with Iran and they say they'll wipe Israel off the face of the map and we say "no you won't" The first time in the debate that Mr Obama looks discomfited and annoyed.

2119: Mr Obama calls Ukraine "the Ukraine" - even the mayor of Wasilla probably knows it hasn't been that for some time...

2223: Mr McCain is good on how nasty the Russians are, but what do to about it? We want to work with the Russians but we expect them to behave. And if they don't? Oh, silly me, nobody asks - this is a presidential debate...

2132: Mr McCain on the likelihood of an attack on the US: we are safer but a long way from safe. Mr Obama says the biggest threat is terrorists getting nuclear weapons. He also talks about restoring respect and gives credit to McCain on torture. With Mr McCain we are back to Senator Obama "not understanding" something. I think he has used that phrase, my friends, too many times...

2136: Mr Obama seems to suggest that America is weaker everywhere - everywhere - because of Iraq. It's a telling point - he is much more successful when talking about the mistakes of the past than about the policies of the future. Mr McCain makes a direct attack on Mr Obama - he does not have the knowledge and experience. In a neat twist, he suggests Mr Obama is as stubborn as President Bush! This is a good line - I have met people who see Obama as another Bush - inexperienced and charming.

Conclusion: All in all a waste of time. I take it back - Mr McCain was quite right to consider ditching it. Flabby and insipid - too long and too unfocused to tell us anything. Obama is cool and McCain is tough. Big deal.


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