Live-Blogging the Debate

OK, this is an experiment, likely to be abandoned midway, either if it’s not working or if local distractions intervene.

Fortunately, nobody’s paying attention to this site on a Sunday, right? (UPDATE: If you just can’t get enough, Gotham Gazette has a summary here.)

9:03 — Dave Evans kicks it off by asking about Mike’s spending. Today’s response? “I’m trying to get my message out to every community in this city. I don’t have a big democratic machine behind me.”

But really, who does?

9:05 — Freddy’s response is reasonable but not entirely clear: Mike’s spending will “destroy the platform from which you formulate good public policy” and he mentions what Mike’s ads don’t, particularly around poverty.

9:06 — The first thing Freddy would reverse as Mayor is the Atlantic Yards project. It does feel a bit last-minute. And Mike wraps himself in Al Sharpton. Twenty blocks north, you can faintly hear Rudy yelling at his television.

9:10 — Ground Zero: Wait a second. Is making Ground Zero the economic engine Freddy thinks it once was important enough to give handouts to big corporations? Or, re Goldman Sachs, is it that “there isn’t a better indication of the two New Yorks than that deal.” Freddy was also talking about small business. Perhaps there’s a “bring back Radio Row” Ground Zero plan in there somewhere?

9:13 — No new taxes, says Mike. Read his lips. Like last time. “If we focus on trying to do a little more with less, with the expansion of the economy we will get through [next fiscal year].” He’s also pushing to sunset the Personal Income Tax surcharge, one that many people never thought would be allowed to sunset.

9:16 — Land value taxation gets a plug from Freddy. Not a fav of the real estate industry, as it discourages hanging on to vacant land. The Politicker’s policy adviser, present for this debate, is a fan. It’s an interesting issue that Freddy could have pushed harder; Mike doesn’t respond, and the plan hasn’t quite made it on to anybody else’s radar either.

9:20 — Aesthetics break: Mike makes Freddy look tall. But The Politicker can’t remember the last time a pol in a debate like this didn’t wear a red tie as part of the uniform. Freddy’s looks yellow and green on this screen. No lapel pin either.

9:26 — Score one for Freddy, in an argument about the uptick in shootings and the Feds’ lack of interest in gun control:

Mike: “He’s out campaigning with Howard Dean who was eight-times endorsed by the NRA.”

Freddy: “You’ve supported right-wing politicians incuding the chairman of your own campaign. You can’t disclaim responsibility… You could do the people of this city a big favor sometimes by putting your checkbook away.

Mike: “OK, OK.”

The Howard Dean thing was a valiant attempt at a pre-emptive strike, but Mike’s not going to win the argument of who, from New Yorkers’ point of view, has more savory friends in Washington.

9:31 — Supply and demand. Mike makes the obvious point that one of the reason that housing is hard to find is that a lot of people want to live here.

Reminds me of a telling little incident at a parade in Queens a couple of years ago. A man on the sideline complains about the price of gasoline. Mike says something apologetic about supply and demand. Chuck Schumer, nearby, calls the guy over, and explains that “these guys” in Washington, the ones running the company, own oil companies, and that they’re making money off the high gas prices. That’s what’s really going on, he says. The guy walks away confident that Chuck has given him a secret little nugget of truth. It’s a kind of politics Mike will never be good at.

9:35 — Housing and homelessness. It’s striking that there’s no difference of ideology between these two on this set of issues, aside from Mike’s Giuliani-remnant policy of denying food-stamps to ablebodied men. They’re arguing about the size of their promises, and their ability to manage the problems.

9:38 — Education: Freddy has a nice line, that Mike’s not running to be “Mayor of the fourth grade.” He promises to fix the drop-out rate, but doesn’t quite say how. And Mike goes after Freddy’s claim of a 50% drop-out rate, which seems to be sourced to something Joel Klein once said; fair enough, but seems not to exactly be true.

Meanwhile The Politicker’s education adviser approaches the television, points to Freddy, says “Daddy.” If only he could vote.

9:42 — I think Mike won this exchange. Freddy’ repeats a couple of canned lines, apropos of not so much:

Freddy: “That’s a wonderful city. I just wonder mike what city you’re living in. I’m not running to be the mayor of the fourth-grade reading test.”

Any response?

Mike, with audible disgust: “Nothing.”

9:45 — Where did they find this woman? Nancy McDonald (sp?), last of the Bronx Irish: “If they’d left Giuliani where he was, it’d be all up by now.” Expect her to hold a sub-cabinet-level post under President Giuliani.

9:49 — A Diallo question almost as muddied as Freddy’s usual response: “Can you assure us that you can be trusted not to speak so carelessly on matters of such gravity?” What about, “Did you think the shooting was a crime at the time? Do you now?” It opens the door to a typically vague Freddy answer — the whole thing was “a stain” — and allows Mike to continue taking a pass on the whole question.

9:52 — “I’m running for mayor to do battle against a president of my own party or Mike Bloomberg’s party,” says Freddy, and asks the Mayor: “Are you proud of George Bush?”

Mike parries ably, taking care to associate himself with Chuck, Hillary, and Fiorello for good measure. “George Bush is the president of the United States. I agree with him on some things. I agree with him on others.”

9:55 — “When I came into office, smoke was still coming around with the World Trade Center.” Took a while for Mike to get around to that.

9:56 — Freddy’s message: “Mike Bloomberg thinks everything ‘s going just great in this town…[but] there are two in New Yorks…I’ve lived in both.”

Many thanks to the panel, in their bankers suits. Particularly liked Ritter’s and Louis’s pinstripes.

Final score? Eh, I hate that sort of thing. Freddy stood on stage with the Mayor and didn’t seem horribly diminished, but he’s not close enough to be satisfied with that kind of thing, nor is Mike such a diminishing figure.

Without some fearsome spinning, nobody’s going to look back on this debate as a pivot in this race. Though I see my email Inbox is starting to fill up.