9:26: Ifil asks a question on mortgages. Palin: “We need to look back and be appreciative of John McCain’s call for reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” She refers to “a toxic mess on Main Street affecting Wall Street” – she should have have that the other way around. First gaffe. Biden completely misses this (or is leaving it to Tina Fey), continues with quotes from Obama and McCain. Palin stresses the need to US to be energy-independent. Points out that $700 billion “circulating to countries that don’t like us” should be rerouted to US energy development.
9:30: Ifil asks about climate change. Palin: “Alaska feels the impact of climate change more than any other state.” She doesn’t want to argue about the cause, but how to “affect the impacts.” Stresses need for “all of the above approach.” Biden: “The cause is clearly man-made.” He says the big difference between Obama and McCain is “that if you don’t understand the cause you can’t come up with a solution.” Says “McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative, clean energy sources.” Mentions Obama’s support of “clean coal,” atoning for the gaffe last week. “Drill we must, but it will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out.” Ifil: Has Biden always supported clean coal technology? Biden: “I have always supported it.” Palin notes the enormous “clean green” natural-gas resources in Alaska. Biden insists his comment last week “was taken out of context.”
9:36: Ifil asks if the candidates support granting same-sex benefits to couples. Biden says he supports such benefits unconditionally: “It’s what the Constitution calls for.” Palin: “Not if it grows closer to redefining the traditional definition of marriage” but says she is tolerant of couples “choosing their own relationships between themselves.” Biden states he and Obama do not support gay marriage. The candidates note their positions on these issues don’t differ.
9:39: Ifil asks about the war. Palin points out “the other ticket” opposed the surge. She says “it would be a travesty if we quit now in Iraq.” Biden, looking uncomfortable, discusses Obama’s plan for withdrawal. Biden insists “you’ve got to have a timeline to draw down the troops.” Palin’s response: “Your plan is a white flag of surrender.” She’s on stronger ground here, pointing out decisions about how the war is going should heed what the “commanders on the ground” say. She notes Biden’s remark in the primaries that Obama wasn’t ready to be commander-in-chief: zing! Biden refers to McCain’s refusal to approve an Iraq funding bill that had a timeline. He insists that McCain “has been dead wrong on the fundamental issues of the war.”
9:45: Ifil asks about the nuclear threat from Iran. Biden notes the problem of unstable Pakistan being a nuclear power. Biden: “John continues to tell us the central front in the war on terror is in Iraq.” Biden insists the problem is centered in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Which may be so, but only a stable government in Iraq can fight Iranian influence.) Palin notes that McCain’s opinion is the same as that of Gen. Petraeus’s. She observes that “Israel is in jeopardy” in the face of Iranian president’s recent statements. She brings up Obama’s “no preconditions” quote. “Spunky” could describe her demeanor. Ifil’s followup question refers to Palin’s meeting with Dr. Henry A. Kissinger. Palin expresses her admiration for him. Biden insists that Obama never said he would sit down with Iran’s prez. Palin emphasizes support for two-state solution for Israel and Palestine “and building our embassy in Jerusalem.” Biden insists Bush administration’s Mideast policy has been “absolute failure.” He emphasizes Iran’s growing influence in Mideast. (But does not point out the contradiction involved in his Iraq position.) Palin stresses that McCain administration “will learn from the past mistakes.” She says: “Change is coming?” Biden asks how McCain’s policies will be different from Bush’s. He uses “I haven’t heard how his policy will be different from George Bush’s” three or four times – too often.
9:56: Ifil asks about nuclear weapons proliferation. Palin says “nuc’leer” in her Big Sky accent. She emphasizes need for another surge in Afghanistan. Biden replies: “In Afghanistan, our commanding general said today surge principles will not work.” He says that US has spent as much money in 3 weeks in Iraq as in 7 years in Afghanistan. (True, the two countries have different landscapes, requiring different combat approaches.) Palin argues the general didn’t “categorically” say that surge principles wouldn’t work. She outlines aspects of Iraq surge principles that would be effective in Afghanistan. Biden in his reply seems on the defensive.