The Third Presidential Debate: A W&W Live Chat

I’ll be commenting here, but also will be over at KCRW.com, which has gathered a host of media types for a live chat. Their embedded player is below.

5:58 p.m.: Bob Schieffer is already at the specially designed desk, awaiting the start in just a few minutes of the debate. Given the scrutiny paid to the past three debate moderators, he undoubtedly will feel some pressure to ask followups. That’s why his experience on “Face the Nation” should serve him better than the PBS newshour did Jim Lehrer.

6:00 p.m.: Schieffer says there is a vow of silence, but that certainly doesn’t apply to candidates interrupting the others.

6:04 p.m.: Schieffer offers a historic footnote. This is the 50th anniversary of President John Kennedy informing the public of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

6:09 p.m.: Romney: “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.” Obama seizes on this by saying his strategy is “all over the map.” Interesting how Romney is trying to differentiate himself from Bush’s foreign policy, even though his advisers include many from the Bush White House.

6:13 p.m.: Obama is leaning toward Romney. Interesting body language. “Every time you have offered an opinion, you have been wrong.”

6:15 p.m.: Obama has like a laser focus on Romney when he talks. Romney has a slight smile or smirk.

6:17 p.m.: It is almost 15 minutes in, and so far Schieffer is not Martha Raddatz or Candy Crowley when it comes to followups. Rather, he seems to be letting the candidates do at it.

6:18 p.m.: Interesting how Romney’s arguments for foreign aid and human rights — at least in this debate — closely mirror Obama initiatives. This debate is about him being credible as commander in chief, not necessarily to outline differences, although he is doing that where he can.

6:25 p.m.: Obama says he does not regret not supporting Mubarak, and Romney says he also supported urging him to go. The bar is low for Romney to come off as credible, not necessarily to show how he would do things differently than Obama. But it’s interesting how different Romney’s rhetoric is compared to the “No Apology” theme in many previous foreign policy speeches. In fact, there has been no mention yet of No Apology, just the idea that Romney would be a steady hand, even as Obama is trying to convey that.

6:34 p.m.: This debate is being hijacked by domestic issues. In fact, this is descending to a recitation of stump speeches. Romney goes through his five point plan.

6:36 p.m.: Now on to education. Will Candy Crowley come back?

6:40 p.m.: Bob Schieffer is having a tough time keeping this to a foreign policy debate — and getting cranky.

6:41 p.m. Schieffer finally interrupts, but Romney just keeps going.

6:42 p.m.: Obama: “He should have answered the first question.” He’s trying to help out Schieffer.

6:44 p.m.: Romney seems to be trying to pin sequestration — the fiscal cliff — on Obama’s shoulders.

6:46 p.m.: The audience laughs at two of Obama’s comments,one belittling Romney’s comment about the country having fewer capabilities than in 1916; the other at the Romney campaign’s economic plan posted on its web site. “We looked at the website. It still doesn’t work.”

6:48 p.m.: Obama: “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.” The Israel-Iran situation is one of the biggest security threats, but it is halfway through the debate.

 6:51 p.m.: Romney’s statements on Iranian sanctions are similar to what is happening now, but the rhetoric is toned down from campaign speeches. The military option, he said, is the “last resort.” He goes after Ahmidenjad and says he should be prosecuted for genocide.Exactly how this would work, who knows?

6:56 p.m.: Romney mentions “apology tour.”

6:58 p.m.: “That is how I have used my travels.” Obama talks about his visit to the troops and Israel while he was a candidate, and talks about how he didn’t take donors or hold fundraisers. Romney was criticized for holding a fundraiser in Israel and for meeting with Sheldon Adelson there.

7:01 p.m.: Romney talks about the chaos in the Middle East, and that Iran is “four years closer” to getting a nuclear weapon. But he also appears to agree with the current Obama policy of sanctions on Iran.

7:06 p.m.: Romney: “You can’t let the President lay out a whole series of items without letting me respond.” There are rules?

7:01 p.m.: Romney now says that troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Obama has cited this as a policy shift on Romney’s part, and it is the same as the current administration policy.

7:10 p.m.: Romney endorses Obama’s drone strikes. I sense that the next day story, if not the “Saturday Night Live” skit, will be all about the the agreement between the candidates. The Obama campaign, however, will point out the differences as much more Bush-esque.

7:15 p.m.: A slip up: Schieffer says “Obama bin Laden.”

7:17 p.m.: Obama is defending the policy on China, citing the recent tire case and Romney’s criticism as being too “protectionist.”

7:21 p.m.: Romney mentions China stealing “intellectual property,’ as he did in the previous debate. He also says that he would name China a “currency manipulator” on day one. Schieffer follows up by asking him whether this would just start a trade war. “This just can’t keep going,” Romney says. I wonder how much counterfeiting and intellectual property is to the average American people, as much as it is important to creative industries.

7:25 p.m.: Now a debate over Detroit, and back to domestic issues with the tenuous connection to the China topic. This has allowed both candidates, once again, to recite talking points.

7:31 p.m.: Bob Schiffer wraps it up: “I think we all love teachers.”

7:33 p.m.: Obama is (somewhat) spelling out what he will do in a second term. There has been a lot of second guessing of whether the campaign has spent too much time attacking Romney and not enough saying what he would do, and giving Romney a chance to be a sunnier figure. A case in point: Romney’s first line in his wrap up is, “I’m optimistic about the future.”

7:36 p.m.: “I will leave you with the words of my mom, go vote and that will make you feel strong.” Obama says “that’s great, Bob.” Romney compliments him.

7:38 p.m.: Schieffer was generally passive as a moderator, although he picked up during the evening, and certainly was not Jim Lehrer. He was gentlemanly and even irreverent. (Best moment: “I think we all love teachers.”) But this was an unwieldy foreign policy debate that continually drifted to domestic policy.

7:46 p.m.: Twitter says that the peak moment was at 6:45 p.m., when Obama referred to “fewer horses and bayonets.” 105,767 tweets per minute.

8:08 p.m.: Romney’s body language was more flinching and even a bit more nervous (he may have been sweating) than Obama’s, who stared, even glared at him at points and tried to come across as unflappable. Romney made no outright gaffes, but I wonder whether his agreement with Obama while also criticizing the president’s foreign policy may be more confusing than anything to voters. The instant polls are showing that Obama won, but a better indication of whether this will impact the race may come tomorrow when the ratings numbers are released. In an election that is about the economy, the mere labelling of it as a foreighn polocy debate may mean that more simply tuned out.

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