The main event is here! Check back at other liveblogs dedicated to the opening act and pre-gaming on the Steps.

8:01 PM: The screen is back. And Judy Woodruff is here. 

8:03 PM: Oh, here is Rick Stengel. Is it just our TV or is his face bright yellow?

8:04 PM: It’s McCain! Hello, McCain!

8:05 PM: He just pointed in the audience, maybe at Meghan!

8:04 PM: It’s time to talk about 9/11. Are we forgetting about it? How will McCain make us remember, because clearly this is his responsibility.

8:05 PM: He replies that serving our country is what this forum is all about.

8:07 PM: If McCain were President in 2001, he would have expanded the military. We needed a “concrete plan of action” about the need for us all to service the nation.

8:08 PM: Everyone in the country is frustrated with the Republican government. McCain, who is a Republican but also a Maverick, agrees.

8:10 PM: Oh McCain made a sassy face when Stengel asked him to explain his earlier remark about everyone hating Republicans.

8:12 PM: McCain made a mumbly joke about having a terrible temper. He’s talking about his Experience as a Maverick.

8:13 PM: It’s a break again now don’t everyone freak out when the TV goes blank.

8:13 PM: The TV didn’t go blank. McCain and Woodruff and Stengel are still in their respective chairs. So it’s time for a Lawn Report! Bwogger Downie reports “polite applause” when McCain took the stage. Low Plaza and Steps are apparently standing room only, if that.

8:16 PM: And we’re back. And talking about Katrina, because that too relates to Service. McCain is talking about “faith-based organizations.”

8:17 PM: He just insulted Target! Target is a sponsor.

8:18 PM: Judy Woodruff talks about how service “is left to those who can afford to take time off from work.” McCain thinks it is people of average wealth that do that most, “in all due respect to rich people.”

8:19 PM: “The busiest people are the busiest. And the busier they get, the busier they get.” – John McCain. Also, Operative Downie notes McCain pronounced New Orleans two different ways in about a sentence.

8:21 PM: McCain says he’s not a hero, he had the “honor of serving in the company of heroes.”

8:22 PM: Woodruff brings up Iraq, uh oh. This could get partisan.

8:24 PM: Yeah, of course it did. He brought Columbia’s ban on ROTC and Bwog could hear the roar from the Steps from inside Low.

8:28 PM: Clapping, followed by a camera zoom. We’re back.

8:28 PM: Stengel just used the term “interesting” in a really undermining way.  “Why would we have compulsary military service in America that has a civilian component?”

8:28 PM: Lawn Report! Security estimates there are about 5,000ish of you on the Lawn. Also, the 9/11 Truth protestors have arrived.

8:30 PM: McCain doesn’t agree with Obama, but thinks his proposals for compulsary service are okay. “It doesn’t have to always be run by the government.” He mentions faith-based organizations.

8:31 PM: Would McCain make Obama a member of his Cabinet? He says yes and everyone applauds.

8:33 PM: According to McCain: McCain:Goldwater::Obama:JFK

8:34 PM: Bwogger DePillis reports: The 9/11 Truth people are arguing with the Communist, calling them searing insults like “you fucking Communists.”

8:34 PM: Bwogger Downie reports that the Steps crowd boos Palin’s name. 

8:36 PM: “I understand that Ted Kennedy is coming back in January. I greet that with mixed emotions.”

8:40 PM: Joe, in the media room, is literally going around and asking if he’s helpful or distracting. Someone answered him that all his talking is “a way to pass the time.”

8:41 PM: He pretends to fall asleep, because he’s talking about the elderly.

8:41 PM: Ooh, online questions. It’s Gisele from Brooklyn. Oh my god, Gisele is in the press room, next to Bwog. She’s giggling. It’s a trap, John McCain! Gisele is a reporter.

8:42 PM: Stengel wants to talk about McCain said we shouldn’t send money to countries that don’t like us. Should we send people? McCain says yes.

8:44 PM: He’s talking about immigration, and how we’d love to have “so many of these highly trained people stay in our country.”

8:44 PM: Are Americans better than everyone else? “We’re the only nation that is deeply concerned about adhering to the principle that all of us are created equal.”

8:46 PM: Again, it’s probably going to get Partisan. Thanks Rick Stengel.

8:48 PM: McCain wanted himself and Obama to stand on stage together and talk. Why isn’t this happening again?

8:48 PM: 2042, the US will no longer have a white majority. There is only one minute left and Rick Stengel couldn’t finish the question but McCain will answer it anyway. Again, that word, “exceptional.”

8:50 PM: Bwogger Downie notes it’s interesting he keeps brining up the Town Hall thing. He hasn’t brought that up in awhile.

8:51 PM: Woodruff thanks McCain. Photographers trip over eachother trying to get to the stage. They are rushing the stage. 

8:51 PM: It’s Obama! Bwog can hear the cheers from outside.

8:52 PM: Commercial time. Joe just asked the media room if anyone is blogging for MySpace. No hands went up.

8:52 PM: Gisele from Brooklyn, the reporter who submitted the question, tells another reporter that she was doing that to see if the system worked and she submitted a million questions.

8:55 PM: Lawn Report! A CU staffer claps and chants “Yes We Can!” He later admits, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

8:55 PM: There! See! He said it. He admitted he went here. The neighborhood has changed. Our apartments are nicer, for one thing.

8:56 PM: Stengel reminds Obama of today’s date.

8:57 PM: “How do we honor those who died everyday?” Obama asks himself. “My sense is that the country years for it. It’s hungry for it. What has been missing is a President in the White House who taps into that.” Partisan alert!

8:59 PM: “We have been tested, and yet we have survived,” is what Obama would say if he had been President during 9/11. Some girl just cheered really loudly when he mentioned alternative energy.

9:00 PM: Rick Stengel is yellow. It’s not just the TV.

9:00 PM: “Part of what makes America works is that we believe in individual responsibility but we also believe in mutual responsbility.” He says we are committed to something larger than ourselves, and this has built our country.

9:02 PM: Oooh, Woodruff calls him on his vagueness. She asks for specifics about this “mutual responsibilty.” Obama calls Kennedy his “dear friend.” Kennedy has supported Obama’s service plan.

9:03 PM: The specifics include making college affordable and giving high schoolers service opportunities. It is a cliffhanger, because there are even more service opportunities after the break.

9:08 PM: He’s talking about retirees providing help to young people and how these young people will welcome it. Obama believes we are in a “special moment’ where American recognizes we are not on the right track. Lawn correspondent Downie reports that the lines about student aid get applause.


9:09 PM: “Income does not determine whether or not people serve.” Also, he mentioned Columbia again and the crowd goes wild, or so Bwog hears. He talks about choosing service over Wall Street.

9:11 PM: Stengel makes a jokes about Newt Gingrich. It gets polite applause.

9:11 PM: Barack Obama interrputs Stengel’s dumb question and says “Let’s look to the future.” And says “We have to have a FEMA that works.” We do this by encouraging young people to get involved in civil service. 

9:13 PM: Wants to define a “government of assist” vs. a “government of bureaucracy.” Woodruff reminds Obama now is not a time to get all partisan, but encourages him to get a little partisan.

9:14 PM: Increased service means the government providing these avenues and opportunities.

9:16 PM: Gisele from Brooklyn happily reports that all her friends are texting her.

9:17 PM: The media room wants to know the same question as you, Bwog commenter. Who is the heavy-set man in a tan jacket wandering around aimlessly on stage?

9:18 PM: In the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is facing challenges. “It’s important for us to increase the size of our army so we can reduce the pace of the tours that our young men and women are on.” He also mentions increasing pay.

9:19 PM: Stengel was asking Obama questions off-camera, about service. Is this allowed? Why does Rick Stengel think the rules don’t apply to him?

9:23 PM: Obama considered signing up for the military. “If there are wars going on and some are being asked to sacrifice their lives, I think you have to ask yourself, why them instead of you?”

9:24 PM: The burden of military service has been shouldered by such a narrow group and this is a problem. Same goes for how we treat these people when they return home, says Obama.

9:25 PM: Online question from Gina in Bloomfield. It’s probably just Gisele again, using a pseudonym. Obama thinks that we have a “special obligation for those who have put their lives at risk on behalf of the security of America. That does not mean we cannot provide other opportunities of service.”

9:26 PM: He says we need teachers, and says that this is something we should be willing to pay for.

9:27 PM: One more segment to go.

9:28 PM: Lawn Report! The fencing is being moved along College Walk. Jim Downie thinks that the convoys might be driving along there, after this thing ends.

9:30 PM: National service elevated to a cabinet level position? Obama wants to make McCain a deal, and McCain can serve in Obama’s cabinet. People laugh. Obama talks about McCain “inspiring a whole generation of young people.”

9:31 PM: Obama is talking about Matt, a soldier in Montana, who is now a lawyer. Matt quit his job and decided to create an advocacy group about post-trauatic stress disorder. “I never asked Matt whether he was liberal or conservative. What I knew was that he had seen a wrong and had been inspired to take action.”

9:32 PM: Uh, oh. Palin question. Was Palin being unfair when she said those things about community organizers? Obama is talking about small time mayors. Obama was “surprised” by several remarks around “community organizing and belittling it.”

9:34 PM: Working as a community organizer was the best education Obama ever had. No offense to Lee Bollinger, he hedges.

9:34 PM: Security is clearing traffic away from Lerner. In anticipation of people lining up along the fences on campus, there are lots of police around Butler and Lerner.

9:35 PM: “If it weren’t for government, we would not have the Civil Rights Act or the Interstate Highway System.” Obama wants to “make government cool again.”

9:37 PM: Stengel is trying to impress Obama by talking about de Tocqueville.

9:38 PM: Obama says people have the freedom to determine the direction of their communities while recognizing that we are part of a common project. He says this has been lost.

9:39 PM: According to Scott Helfrich, candidates could “possibly” be going along College Walk.

9:39 PM: Obama said that Kennedy knew where America to go, and it wasn’t just the moon. Teddy Roosevelt was also an activist President, like Clinton and Kennedy.

9:41 PM: “Change happens from the bottom up.”

9:41 PM: It’s over. There’s a stampede to the fences!

9:41 PM: CONFIRMED WITH SECURITY: Obama heading to College Walk now!