Mofo — so there I was on Dupont Circle in the John Hoban bar, yukking it up with a bunch of bright young DC things, waiting on the debate watch party being hosted by Elizabeth, who bills herself as DC’s only Wasilla resident! (it’s an Obama fundraiser) rolling the golden free Chivas slowly in my mouth, thinking that before I get down to start filming I better check the camera and…

Mofo. The damn thing isn’t working. Damn. I checked it yesterday, it worked when I was shooting a Swedish tourist in a “Vote for Pedro” t-shirt which he had clearly been given to him by someone who hates him, and it damn worked then, and now … there’s just a white flash in the screen. Narrggghhhhh.

Following a dash to the Radio Shack and back and reloaded with a forty dollar special which may or may not work. It’s strange, sailing through the heart of DC because the feel of the core of the city is so … well, European. It’s the centre of a great behemoth but it feels like a French frou frou, with the race relations of Alabama.

Over on the hill, Congress is hammering out the House version of the bailout bill which has now grown to 400 pages under the Senate process of loading the thing with thousands of earmarks for everything under the sun, as blatant sugar for stray House members to go back to their districts and pose as heroes. It’s a pretty insane and decadent way to run a damn railroad, much less a financial crisis.

Back at Dupont Circle, the joint was heaving with about three different watch parties, two Democrat, one Republican — but everyone had a Sarah Palin drinking game card. Much hubbub before the thing started about the issues discussed during the day, ie frantic attempts to spin Palin up by the Dems and then spin her down by the GOP. Mostly people said the prospect of the thing was almost excruciating off the back of her disastrous interviews with Katie Couric, capped by the question “What newspapers do you read?” and the answer “Oh you know, all of them”. So hello Sarah.

Given the pusillanimous nature of the press, the GOP were allowed to get away with the idea that asking someone what they read is “gotcha” journalism, instead of being laughed out of the studio. Then cuts were taken from Palin’s 2006 Alaska governor debate in which she was alleged to have been a sharp debater, for answering two questions competently. Lowering the bar? They were burying it.

So when it finally began about a half hour ago, it wasn’t surprising that Palin — having been drilled for days by most of McCain’s staff came out sounding surprisingly competent, laying out the McCain position on tax cuts etc etc pretty well, if without killer flair.

Fighting almost immediately began to break out between the various parties as to how much noise there should be “stop SHUSSING ME!” someone yelled. “We’re all TIVOing it anyway.”

He was a Republican.

One early answer of Palin’s had the drinking gamers smashed pretty early — a bravado hit of hockey moms. Oh golly, yadayada, and betcha. Four more pints please. And shooters. Hockey mom is a shooter.

Biden got Palin onto rough territory by talking about McCain’s whacky health plan, and Palin countered by talking about energy. Biden went back on to tax breaks for big corporations and Palin went back onto … energy … 8 tcfvvvvgvfhvuughg

That bit occurred while I was moving location and I missed Palin answering on Iraq — will probably find it was the classic of the evening. And then we were onto Iran and Pakistan — Biden got the first bite on that and rolled out the whole of Middle East policy. And then the headlamps went on to Palin.

Palin pretty much the threw the question back about meeting with foreign bad-guy leaders such as well-known vaudeville act, the Castro Brothers. Palin trots out the line about meetings giving people PR victories, and Biden gets tangled a bit on defending Obama on the nature of the meetings. Will Israel, the next question, tangle her up? Does she know what a two-state solution is? She gets back onto the Iran baddies thing. Then a good bit about Israel’s heat-seeking, sorry peace seeking … Biden then comes out even more hawkish, portraying the Republicans as wimps.

We got our first Palinode on the question “What situations would nuclear weapons be usable?” “Well gosh nucular weapons would be the be all and end all of too many people and too many parts of the planet”. But Biden fumbled in the response, his prolixity getting the better of them.

And there we’ll have to sign off and send. Palin has held up well so far, and she even seems to be drawing a lot of energy out of Biden. If it continues like this, you can call it a draw, which would be a personal victory for Palin. But there’s still half an hour to go … I’ll post a later report on the liveblog.

In every bar, every restaurant, everyone is packed in crowded round the TV. Man, you gotta love the only city in the world which can outjunkie one on matter political… 

Peter Fray

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