Live-blogging Midmorning: Policy, the presidential debate, and the bailout

You’ve had a few days to think about it, and this morning I’ll be live-blogging Kerri Miller’s first hour of Midmorning, as she looks back at Friday night’s debate. Guests are: Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota; William Doyle, author of “Inside the Oval Office: the White House Tapes from FDR to Clinton” ; and Christopher Whalen: senior vice president and managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, which focuses on the banking industry.

That’s right! We’re going to talk about issues, which is why we want your comments. Just submit them below and I’ll cull through the best ones to read on the air. We’ll be having a conversation here while listening to Kerri’s conversation.

On Sunday, by the way, both candidates were on Sunday morning talk shows, both gave some support to the $700 bailout. Which reminds me: The best question Friday night was the one both wouldn’t touch : What won’t you be able to do in your administration because of the money necessary to fund the bailout?


9:01 a.m. – We will be talking about the bailout for the first 10 minutes.

9:08 a.m. – Chris Whalen, financial whiz, is on the phone. Says the bailout is “largely irrelevant and ineffective.” We’ve had four banks in Europe nationalized or injected with capital, Wachovia takeover and with each there’s increasing government involvement. “The problem with the bailout is it’s fighting the problem of six months ago,” he said.

9:11 a.m. – Do the holders of the rights to It’s a Wonderful Life get any money whenever a financial analyst invokes a scene from it to explain the financial woes on Wall Street? I’ll hang up and listen.

9:12 a.m. Here’s his Web site.

9:15 a.m. – The next red flag in the “crisis”? “We’ll see more resolutions,” he says. Then he says “people listening to this program should not be concerned. If I only had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that in the last six months…. This is the only crisis in the country I can remember that has reached fever pitch ith pols and analysts telling us not to be concerned.

Let’s turn to the debate!

9:18 a.m. – E.J. Dionne, in the Washington Post, said McCain lost.

9:20 a.m. – While we’re talking about the history of Mississippi, let’s think a bit about this week’s vice presidential debate. Let’s see, how can we best do that?

9:23 a.m. – Houston Chronicle: Neither candidate landed a knockout punch.

9:23 a.m. – Doyle, Campbell, and Kerri are talking about historical mentions of civil rights in debates. Didn’t come up Friday night, of course. Campbell says neither side wants to touch the subject.

9:25 a.m. — Caller Karen from Minneapolis: “Mostly discouraged. Neither candidate has the strengths I’m looking for. I’ve always voted Republican.”

Bobometrics She’s right here in terms of content of the debate. Both, as pols tend to do, looked for ways to go to their stump speeches. One was the question about what candidates won’t be able to do because of the bailout. The other moment was the discussion about Russia, when Obama connected it to oil and then went to the stump speech on energy.

9:27 a.m. – McCain didn’t mess up, but he was “like the demolition derby. He got to where he was going but in such a bizarre kind of way. He says he forgot phrases within his own stump speeches.

9:29 a.m. – Campbell says McCain was trying to project himself as a maverick. The problem is “what he’s proposing is so traditional.”

Commenter says:

In-laws said that McCain was much stronger in debate on foreign policy.

Bobometrics: McCain’s strongest part of the night was his analysis of the Russia-Georgia problem.

9:32 a.m. – Caller listened to the radio instead of TV. Says Obama was a better speaker. McCain knew more.

9:36 a.m. – Sudden realization: neither guest nor host is aware of political debate drinking game concepts. Out of touch with America?

9:40 a.m. – Why didn’t McCain look at Obama. “Because he grew up in a culture where if a black man looked into the eyes of a white man, it was a threat,” analyst “David” contends. OK, that’s a leap. It’s a guess. Presented as fact based on the fact McCain went to Annapolis and “is of that generation.”

“I thought this was a way to reflect that Obama isn’t qualified so he doesn’t have to be treated as an equal,” says Campbell.

9:45 a.m. – The Kissinger flap. Who’s right? The Christian Science Monitor takes a whack at it.

9:50 a.m. – Back to the racist allegations of not looking at each other. I found this:


9:52 a.m. – Back to what would Kissinger do, this quote from the Christian Science Monitor article:

Henry Kissinger believes Barack Obama misstated his views on diplomacy with US adversaries and is not happy about being mischaracterized,” the email reads. “He says, ‘Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next president of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain.”

9:57 a.m. “White lady” calls to say “it gave us the creeps everytime McCain said, “he doesn’t understand.”

“It so spoke to the ‘he’s pretty smart for a Negro,'” she said.

Says Doyle, “A truth is laid on the table that blows up in your face. It’s this revulsion that white people have that there could be an atom of racism in a soul. I bet younger people see it (Bob notes: Why younger people? See my post last week that younger people do NOT have a substantially different view of race than older people),…”

==>> Well, now, the show is over, but we sure have an issue to talk about now, don’t we? So talk. See you in comments. <== 10:10 a.m. - Another picture of McCain looking at a black guy. mccain_looking2.jpg



  • Julia

    The debate was much more interesting as a drinking game.

    Otherwise, it was fairly boring.

  • julia

    I love that “McCain was like a demolition derby.”

  • JD

    In-laws said that McCain was much stronger in debate on foreign policy. Wondered if they were watching the same debate I was… McCain’s unwillingness to talk with foreign leaders he doesn’t agree with sounds a bit familiar (and tired)…

  • Bill

    What was the deal with McCain not once looking at Obama? was that planned?

  • Greg

    Of course the debate came across differently on the radio, that’s been happening since Nixon Kennedy.

  • Deborah

    As the debate progressed, we (my husband and I) thought that we could hear McCain getting short of breath in exasperation. We felt he was about to blow!

  • I was surprised that McCain didn’t go after Obama’s ties to Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac in the first part of the debate related to the financial rescue package. (See McCain’s Green Bay WI speech from last week on this.)

    I think Obama tried to look knowledgeable on foreign policy: he succeeded maybe 50% of the time. “John is absolutely right” and “What Senator Obama doesn’t understand is…” are among the most oft-repeated phrases from the debate.

    McCain’s main task was to avoid looking impetuous or angry, he succeeded 100%, and looking old and out of touch, which he succeeded 80% of the time.

  • Lori

    John McCain is so much a product of his military experience. I don’t think he can make decisions outside of this perspective. It is part of his very fiber.

    The world has changed and I think he will quickly be left behind.

    A view from the next generation:

    My 16 year old son laughed at the idea of winning in Iraq. He said that was lost a long time ago. He said it’s time to just get out.

  • Art Thell

    I see Mr. Obama as a very polished Jesse Ventura. He has done a great job of taking care of numero uno. Politicians with his shallow experience in administration tend to become little dictators by surrounding themselves with their people.

    Mr. McCain did display a very deep knowledge of current and very recent world affairs.

  • Ryan

    I watched this debate with the idea that the candidates were feeling each other out, and in the next debates will really go at each other. At least I hope thats what it is.

  • I was impressed that McCain brought up military spending cuts to help balance the budget. There has been a severe lack of discussion on military spending in this and most other campaigns.

    I’m glad he brought it up but it seems odd that he can back the military spending for the Iraq war and simultaneously talk about wasted military expenditures.

    Barack should have jumped on this contradiction.

  • Allison of Duluth

    On substance I thought Senator McCain did what he needed to do. And if you were listening on the radio you may have come away with the impression that he won the debate. But his body language and inability to make eye contact with Senator Obama belied such a sense of contempt and disrespect that it was not only disquieting but completely distracting. I found myself watching to see if he was ever going to look at Obama. It was not the quality I want to see in my president.

  • Kathleen

    I thought Obama missed an opportunity to state that Patreus has said that the Iraq war is a struggle. It isn’t possible to state that we have a victory. How does McCain define victory?

    McCain’s ending comments were a little strange. He said that he would take care of veterans. What about everyone esle? What about the future?

    McCain continually saying that Obama does not understand was condescending. It appears that he does not listen to opposing viewpoints.

  • Leslie

    Its interesting that McCain came off better on the radio. Having watched on tv and being able to observe body language, etc I would tip the balance to Obama.

    Obama was engaging and gave credit to McCain were due. McCain never returned the favor.

    Most importantly, McCain displayed complete disdain for Obama verbaly and in his body language that would not be acceptable to me in a President who might just find himself sitting across the table from a world leader he doesn’t like. I want a president who can be diplomatic.

    I thought McCain spoke of change but his style was all about old style politics.

  • Jamie

    Kissinger the next morning refuted Senator Obama’s characterization of presidential-level meetings with Iran.

    Here is the text of Kissinger’s refutation:

    Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.

  • Jamie

    Eye contact:

    The best explanation I’ve heard (besides the obvious that you don’t give your rival credence by treating him as your equal).

    is that McCain is almost half a foot (5″) shorter than Obama.

    I’ve heard that short men have a complex about looking UP at other men: it changes the dynamics of the conversation.

  • jane

    I will jump in – I believe McCain was condescending and demeaning and I agree it could be a race based old behavior. He sounded old and rambling, and angry. He is a mean guy. What I was most struck by was his behavior towards his wife afterwards – angry, hands off, almost could hear him yell WHOYA! geesh…..

  • Jen

    Oh Bob, they were required to shake hands. Silly you. Any extracurricular eye contact on the part of McCain was absolutely avoided. It was creepy.

  • Joyce Morgan

    I’m trying to call but this is my comment:

    I’m reading Dr. Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jameson’s book PRESIDENTS CREATING THE PRESIDENCY. As I watched the debate, I thought of Dr Campbell’s book and felt McCain is ready for the Presidency and creating the presidency for himself. By the way Dr Campbell, this is a great teaching book, even though a tough read, just like your lectures were at the University. Joyce Morgan

  • Bob Collins

    I’m not disagreeing with, Jen. I’m saying if it WAS racially motivated, he wit wouldn’t exist at all. If it was a political calculation, it would only show up during the debate itself.

  • Shawni

    Why didn’t McCain look at Obama? Because he is racist? I am a young black democrat and will probably vote for Obama, but I don’t think McCain is racist. Gimme a break.

  • jane

    Bob – your picture only shows Obama’s face, NOT McCain’s…. get real

  • Bob

    McCain was kind of like a Stepford wife, robotically interjecting bits and pieces of his talking points. (“I’m the maverick!” “Obama will raise your taxes!”)

    Obama was semi-somnambulistic. Note to Obama for next debate: Dude, it’s O.K. to show a little intensity; show people you’ve got a little fire in your belly.

  • On the League of Democracies, McCain gave an address on this subject over 15 months ago. Here is a good excerpt:

    The NATO alliance has begun to deal with this gap by promoting global partnerships between current members of the alliance and the other great democracies in Asia and elsewhere. We should go further and start bringing democratic peoples and nations from around the world into one common organization, a worldwide League of Democracies. This would not be like the universal-membership and failed League of Nations’ of Woodrow Wilson but much more like what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace. The new League of Democracies would form the core of an international order of peace based on freedom. It could act where the UN fails to act, to relieve human suffering in places like Darfur. It could join to fight the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and fashion better policies to confront the crisis of our environment. It could provide unimpeded market access to t hose who share the values of economic and political freedom, an advantage no state-based system could attain. It could bring concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe, with or without Moscow’s and Beijing’s approval. It could unite to impose sanctions on Iran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. It could provide support to struggling democracies in Ukraine and Serbia and help countries like Thailand back on the path to democracy.

  • Todd

    The line where Obama said, “I have a bracelet too” was humorous with an important message behind it – lives are not just measured in some still undefined idea of “victory” in Iraq.

  • Ben

    I saw McCain’s lack of eye contact with – even a passing glance at – Obama as a sign of disrespect. He clearly doesn’t respect Obama. Like the caller, I immediately thought it could be race-related, a vestige of McCain’s era.

  • Michelle

    Regarding Obama “doing anything for a buck.” Since McCain has 7 houses and 13 cars, maybe he doesn’t need to do anything else for his bucks. I mean, look at his history. The caller should be embarrassed by such a presumptuous comment.

  • jane

    I don’t see the “not looking at you” as racist, but I do look at it as a power thing, and demeaning – how much more demeaning can a person be than refusing to look at the person you have been asked to look at, to talk to

  • Jane

    I totally agreed with the African American caller who talked about the racial aspect of the debate eye contact issue from Friday night. I was door knocking on Saturday afternoon for Obama (I am white) and heard a lot reference to Obama’s “smirk” “How he was so disrespectful” toward McCain and “thought he was better than everyone.” I think that is pure racism talking.

    The lack of eye contact that white’s give blacks happens every single day in white America. Try sitting in a predominantly black area of a sporting event or other public gathering and try to get even one white person to acknowledge you. It is amazingly maddening. You won’t believe how people you know don’t even recognize your existance. Shocking.

  • Lisa Wolters

    As a woman in politics I have experienced men unable to look me in the eye during discussions of legislation, debates and even while opening bids for projects.

    My husband is a member of a racial minority group and during a particular schoolboard meeting at which I spoke he accompanied me. Following the meeting a local politician stopped me in the hall telling me that I did not understand….(“white? or male?” I’m not sure which he meant)how the system works….

    Isn’t that just what McCain was saying to Obama?

  • kay

    The “dismissive” thing, “refusal to look at” thing from McCain was so obvious…it was racist, as well as age/generation related. I have experienced in corporate America as a young, white female and the fact that some did not see that just FLOORS me – it is one of the oldest “shut down” tactics out there. Your guest even seemed to deploy it (verbally) when faced with counter opinions this morning.

  • Allison of Duluth

    You’re saying McCain wouldn’t look at Obama because he had to look up? He was standing across a stage from him. The only way he’d have to look up at Obama is if he was sitting down. Clearly, something else was at play here. I’m not buying the racist argument…I think it’s more a matter of McCain’s temperament. And it’s worrisome.

  • Ben

    The whole not looking thing. I don’t think McCain knows he’s a racist, it’s how he was raised and it’s how he was trained. But none the less he is.

  • Heather

    Amazing – intelligent people who can’t even acknowledge out loud that McCain seemed 20 years (at least) out of touch and doesn’t even know how to moderate views and behavior to modern conditions. Remember people, he doesn’t even use email.

    We need someone who is not only intelligent but cool, collected with the ability to react to conditions as they happen – not to fall back on the same three sentences: must have victory, doesn’t understand, and I knew Kissenger, Kennedy or XXXX…..

    It would have great if McCain had won 8 or even 4 years ago- maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess Bush has created but McCain’s time has passed and it would be a disaster to have him elected (even without bringing Gov. Palin into the equation – yikes!)

  • Susan WB

    The thing that bothered me wasn’t just that McCain didn’t ever look at Obama, it was what he displayed on his face when Obama was speaking. Everytime there was a profile view of Obama, you could see he was listening, taking notes of things he would respond to, and generally behaving in an appropriate manner for the event. McCain–entirely different. Every profile shot of him showed a sneering smirk plastered across his face. As if he wanted to express his utter disdain of his opponent. He didn’t even listen to his opponent, really, just sneered and smirked and then went back to his talking points. I thought it was shameful, rude, and not at all the kind of behavior I expect from a President. This from the guy who says he’s going to “reach across the aisle”. yeah, right.

  • Steve

    Just say it, people. You think McCain is a racist & therefore unfit for office. Why else keep bringing this up?

    Ms. Miller and her guests were terribly disingenuous when they “wondered” why white supporters of McCain react so viscerally to the suggestion that this was a racial thing. It’s not hard to figure out. The accusation of racism can destroy people in public life. Remember Jimmy the Greek?

    I’m not defending Jimmy’s comments. I’m objecting to those who ostracize anyone who says/does anything remotely controversial about race. It shuts down the discussion & encourages the racial divide.

  • Bob Collins

    //The whole not looking thing. I don’t think McCain knows he’s a racist, it’s how he was raised and it’s how he was trained. But none the less he is.

    This is what bothers me about the discussion from the original caller. The declaration as fact (although from what I understand, everyone is a racist to some degree).

    If Obama were white, what possible reason would there be for a political candidate not acknowledging the other during a debate… or smirking… or being condescending?

  • Kari Urberg Carlson

    Does it bother anyone else that when a black man calls in and talks about the racist undertones of the debate, he was completely dismissed by the guests (one didn’t even address the issue- he talked about Sarah Palin and Joe Biden instead), but when a white woman calls in 10 minutes later to say the same thing, the response is “Oh my goodness! Is THAT what was going on?” It was embarrassing to listen to.

  • bsimon

    I only heard part of the debate during a Sat rebroadcast, but was listening for Senator McCain to explain where he wants to take the country. I’m left with the feeling that Sen McCain, while knowledgable about specific foreign policy hotspots, doesn’t have an overall picture for how foreign policy relates to economic policy which relates to energy policy which relates to average Americans’ lives. My impression of Sen Obama is that he is far more aware of the interconnectedness of these issues than Sen McCain.

  • Vince

    What I saw was a debate between two good candidates. I thought Obama stayed with his strength of maintaining an even disposition and showed that he had a good grasp on foreign policy. While both did not answer many of the questions Obama was considerably less willing to take a position than McCain. McCain showed that he is not as comfortable in this format but he did a good job. The point is that McCain is not “George Bush” and Obama “Does Understand”.

    The big losers in the debate are Obama fans who are so blinded by their desire that they are unwilling to listen and they are searching for any slight that they can.

    Was what john McCain racist? As John Stossel(sp) would say “Give Me a Break”. there is racism here and it isn’t coming from the candidates or McCain supporters.

  • Bob Collins

    Kari, I noticed that too but didn’t connect it to the white woman. The guests did do a 180 in the last 5 minutes.

  • Susan WB


    I don’t necessary agree with the idea that McCain’s attitude towards his opponent is race-based. I think he may well have acted the same way had his opponent been Senator Clinton. My feeling was that it was a sneering disdain of DEMOCRATS and his own sense that his experience is so far superior that no one has anything to tell him; that listening to his opponent is pointless because he already knows what they’re going to say and he’s discounted it before the words leave their lips. It’s a matter of temperament and attitude that (while it may include a dash of racism) is larger and deeper than just one issue.


  • Bob Collins

    Susan, I think that’s probably correct. I think it was a political calculation, i.e. “I will reinforce that he is not my equal by refusing to look at him.”

    And the general disdain is the equal of Al Gore’s sighs.

    I think it was a reflexive situation, though, I think it was a calculated move that went quite badly, something that — after last week — I find entirely believable.

  • Heather

    I think it is pretty typical behavior to not look at your opponent in debates – a tactic similar to never mentioning “your opponent” by name in campaigning. By not doing so, you are just re-enforcing that they have little significance to you or you supporters – which I also think is rediculous, by the way. It is all posturing – policital or power play, whatever the situation.

    I think is much more a demonstration of leadership to be able to interact with whomever you are speaking and to be able to adjust to the situation which is what Obama clearly is able to do. I don’t see why people think he is too reserved – he is professional and in a formal setting and is acting appropriately.

    I do feel that moderator put them in a tough spot – how many places can you look without looking shifty – at the camera, at the moderator, at each other. It is an artificial situation at best. If they wanted them to have a sit down conversation, they should have staged it as such.

  • Mike R

    I think the failure of McCain to look directly at Obama (even when being directly spoken to) was a calculated move to show disrespect and contempt. McCain’s goal was to get Obama to become exasperated, irritated or even (gasp!) angry. Then the Mc Cain campaign and their proxies could protray Obama as a “militant, angry black man,” in the mode of Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, et al. Obama goes out of his way to seem conciliatory and gracious, in order to avoid giving any credence to this type of attack.

  • b2

    No one has ever mentioned Obama’s opening handshake where he grasped McCain’s arm gently as you would an old uncle’s at his wife’s funeral. In the photos above he is patting his arm or shoulder in a friendly fashion in every photo. Not sure if this is his standard greeting – it is a little Bill Clinton-esque. It is saying “look, I’m being nice to the old guy even if we have our differences”? Analyzing everything is fun but does it mean anything?

  • sm

    Excuse me, but am I missing something here? I don’t care about who looks crosseyed at who or not. Any physical mannerisms are rehearsed and focus-grouped by handlers on both sides.

    I’m concerned about trying to get them to talk outside their scripts. Lehrer tried, but no dice.

  • Heather

    Whew! The Heathers are out today!

    Something about McCain’s closing statement made me feel really sad for him. He gave me the impression that he’s still not over the reception vets got after Viet Nam, and thinks that he personally has to make sure that things happen differently this time. So, did he completely miss the part where everybody else has learned to separate support for the troops from support for the policies that drive their deployment? I mean, WHAT year did “Born on the Fourth of July” come out? I thought it made him seem still-wounded and woefully stuck in the past.

  • Anthony Gaudiana

    I feel the VP debate goes way beyond gender.

    I hope the candidates dedicate 80% of the substance on how to lead the country and find appropriate goals to resolve the pressing failure of our economic crisis and perspectives on more focused foreign policy.

    Our government is at the mercy of selected leaders who have significant influence to negotiate with in the powers that put them there.

    There has been a decay in values on the front of capitalism that borders outright greed and power lust and such limited monitoring and accountability that up to now people responsible for the demise of the middle class have actually been rewarded materialistically for their irresponsible action or lack of at the expense of the the people that believe and support the institutions standing betrayed for their courage to continue faithfully for the promise of human values that have been exploited for too long.

    It is a direct assault and betrayal of the constitutional rights by the caretakers of those rights.

    A realistic fear of voters should be the death of the president while holding office. McCain is an elderly man and the pressure of the presidential office seems to age individuals exponentially, it isn’t impossible that he could succumb to health issues. While I dread the following consideration I am reflecting on the Lincoln, Kennedy (John and Robert) as well as Martin Luther King asassinations the most recent as written and still debated in history books. Obama is still the target of undeniably though quite diminished racism that breeds the mentality of assassination and could possibly be manipulated by selfish powers or at least used as a scapegoat if economic power shifts overwhelmingly to the middle and lower classes. The president doesn’t run this country wealth does by seeding represenitives influential in crucial places. A possible remote factor checkmating Obama violence is Black revolution which would have residue following of the failed middle class.

    I think both candidates are good but a move to the oval office is a giant step particularly for Palin who presently seems to be selected more for strategy to swing Hillary supporters than for her track record. While she has incredible potential it is like asking a high school senior to compete in a college graduate competition without preparation.

    So far she has not proven to have the capabilities of Hillary Clinton and is intact more for the popularity factor among feminists.

    This is not a radical observation as much as a factor that good people choose not to acknowledge, I am just a layman but I still feel the pain and hopelessness I was left with as a boy on hearing the news of the JFK tragedy and the loss of faith that this could happen in the greatest country in the world.

    But the fact remains it did.

    Could Palin put tolls on the Bridge to Nowhere because that may be a viable direction to take in a failed confuse state of mass hysteria.

    Should we thank President Bush for leading us back to examine our core values or for another $300-$600

    stimulus bonus that served as a bandaid on open heart surgery.