Debate #1: Obama in a landslide

The format seemed to work well. Enough actual interaction happened that it wasn’t all just stumping.

Category-by-category it went something like this (my comments in bold):

Financial Recovery Plan

Obama: We need oversight. We need no padding for the executives. We need to help homeowners. This is the final verdict of 8 years of failed policies. Constructive work being done, but how did we get here? By shredded regulations and a belief that regulation is simply bad. $300-bil in tax cuts for the rich. Must grow economy from the bottom up, vs. trickle down. All but those over $250,000 would not see any tax increase. So many corporate loopholes that the actual rate is actually very low. McCain will tax health benefits.

McCain: Promises joint efforts between Republicans and Democrats. Injects fears. Emphasizes our dependence on foreign oil.  Hmmm. Maybe he didn’t hear the question. Get spending under control. Who’s been doing the spending for the past 8 years? We now have a bigger government than ever. The system corrupts people. Who built the current system? 35% corporate tax rate. Very high. Want to double child tax deduction from $3,500 to $7,000. Plus give a $5,000 health credit. Talk about pandering.

Winner: Obama.

What will you give up for the bailout?

This was a tough question for either candidate to answer. There were some contrasts in style though, with McCain beginning his frequent sniping. “Hard to reach across the aisle when you’re that far to the left.” Obama’s response? Not more sniping. But, “John’s right. We need to make some spending cuts. But most of my voting record had to do with opposing George Bush’s wrong-headed policies.” Then the doozy. McCain: SPENDING FREEZE! Wow. Talk about pie in the sky….How are you actually going to do that. You can’t. It was a ridiculous proposition. Obama: the difference is using a hatchet when we need scalpel. Well, yes. That’s a nicer way to put it. He then injected the $10-bil/month cost of the Iraq war, before pointing out in general terms again that it was “your president who [presided over this out of control spending].”

Winner: Obama. For at least not saying anything absurd.

Lessons from Iraq

McCain: Can’t win with bad strategy. We are winning with new strategy. We will come home with victory and honor. Will have a stable ally. And a fledgling democracy. Similar to the spending freeze, this seems more like a happy wish more than anything based in reality. New president will need to decide how to exit. More sniping: “Doesn’t understand the difference between tactics and strategy.” The troops are saying, “Let us win.”   

Obama: Should we have gone in to begin with? I opposed. No cost estimate. No exit strategy. We weren’t done in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda now stronger than ever. General Patreus and our troops have done a great job. To McCain: “YOU WERE WRONG!” (re: how anything prior to the surge ended up going). He then pointed out that McCain’s errors in the regard showed poor judgement. The truth. We didn’t have a difference on whether to fund our troops. We had a difference on whether have a timeline. Then, KILL BIN LADEN. Followed by not enough troops in Afghanistan.

Winner: Obama. McCain’s record speaks for itself. He was part of the problem. Only now has he moved to try to be part of the solution.

Afghanistan

Obama: Need more troops ASAP. Have to press Afghanistan’s government. Deal with the poppy trade. Address Pakistan. Bush and McCain have funded Pakistan. I didn’t threaten Pakistan. I said, if we have Obama in our sights, we take him out. Prudence IS important. Your credibility in this sense might be a little suspect, given statements about exterminating North Korea and bombing Iran. We alienated the Pakistani population by pursuing a 20th century policy of supporting ‘our’ dictator, even though he wasn’t doing anything for us. I have a bracelet too: “Please make sure no more mother’s suffer like I have.” The question is one of judgement. Again. We misjudged when we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. You said, “we could muddle through in Afghanistan.”

McCain: The history lessons begin. Don’t make the same mistakes we did after helping the freedom fighters against the Soviets. Don’t make threats against Pakistan. This region hasn’t been governed since Alexander the Great. Pakistan a very important element. Obama doesn’t understand it was a failed government when Musharraf took over. Then story time, re: the bracelet. “Don’t let him die in vain.” And more sniping. “You think you would have gone to Afghanistan. I did.”

Winner: Obama. He spent his time talking about the current situation.

Iran

McCain: If it acquires nuclear weapons it would be a threat to both Israel and the region. Can’t allow a second holocaust. Russians are preventing significant progress. And then comes: the League of Democracies. Another wishy washy fairytale hope. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons as we speak. They are fighting us in Iraq. Talking directly to Iran gives them legitimacy. Look at how isolation worked for Reagan and Nixon.

Obama: Our presence in Iraq has strengthend Iran. The truth. McCain is absolutely right regarding the need to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. You simply never heard McCain say Obama was right about anything. How bipartisan is he really? But we need involvement from China and Russia and direct engagement with Iran. Isolation has not worked. Steps like these, even if they don’t prove fruitful in dealing with Iran itself, will strengthen our standing with our allies.

Winner: Obama. More McCain wishy-washiness. Even more importantly, however, Obama recognized and articulated the need for us to resume multilateral behavior.

Russia

Except for more sniping by McCain regarding Obama’s naiveity in asking for restraint from both sides re: Georgia, they both seemed to recognize Russia as a resurgent, aggressive power, fueled by petro-dollars that needs to be addressed directly.

Winner: Tie 

Repeat 9/11

McCain: Likelihood much less. Great reforms. Obama doesn’t understand that if we fail in Iraq, all is lost. Compares Obama’s stubborness to W.’s  

Obama: Safer in some ways. Need to harden chemical, transit, and port sites. Nuclear non-proliferation very important. Need to refocus on Al-Qaeda. Need to restore America’s standing. I give McCain great credit for his stance on torture. China has our debt. And at the same time, we have focused so much on everything else that they are as conspicuous in South America, Africa, and the Middle East as we are absent.

Winner: Obama. He gave concrete thoughtful answers, acknowledged the qualities of his opponent, and grasps the reality of the situation.

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