Pre-Debate: What? McCain actually showed up, even though the bailout bill hasn't been passed yet? So he just broke his promise, which he stated was such a big deal. I've gotta say, he loses this first point here. Either he didn't show up and people would be disappointed, or he does show up, which makes us wonder whether he lied about the importance of being in Washington, or he's leaving us high and dry to be at this debate. If it gets brought up, I don't think he can get around this. He took a big gamble by "suspending" his campaign, and I think he may have lost.Financial recovery plan
Obama: Obligatory thanking of college and people. Kind of a waste of his speaking time, important though it may be. Two wars, worst financial crisis since Great Depression. Calls for oversight, potential gains distributed among taxpayers, don't "pad CEO bank accounts," and help for homeowners. Takes his first shot at Bush/McCain's failed economic strategy of "trickle-down" politics. Also his first "that's why I'm running for president
McCain: Did he seriously just use his time to announce Ted Kennedy's health? Wow. I don't even know what to think about that. McCain definitely looks better on this first question, praising the bipartisan efforts of Congress while Obama's first answer was already an attack against McCain. Not the best move though, making a joke about your age. Funny, yes, but should you remind us of that? This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. I'm sorry, say that again? What does that even mean?
Lehrer reminds the candidates that they didn't answer his question about the plan and whether they support it. Nice.
Obama: Haven't seen details yet, so dunno. Remember how we got here - abuse of sub-prime mortgages, taking advantage of people. Intervention is important, but so is re-examining our recent deregulation. Gotta have more regulation than the GOP allowed.
McCain: [are you gonna vote for the plan?, asks Lehrer] "I hope so." You hope so? Is somebody else holding your vote hostage? What a strange way to answer. His statement about responsibility brags about calling for SEC chair to resign, despite the criticism that said he was irresponsible for saying that.
Obama Senator McCain is right about more responsibility, but not just when there's a crisis. Good point here, that McCain is just doing this now that we're in trouble, while Obama was the one to call for change in anticipation of the problem. Ten days ago McCain said the economy was strong. Wonder how many times that'll come up.
McCain: Fundamental problems, gotta fix this system. Praises American workers, says "fundamental belief;" I don't think the word fundamental should be used from him too often.
Fundamental differences between your approaches?
McCain: Gotta get spending under control, rein in the huge expansion of government size. Republicans came to change government, but it changed them. Whoah, earmarks are a gateway drug? Better talk to your running mate, who champions them. Says he'll veto every bill with earmarks, but I think that would keep him from passing any bill. Poor promise to make. Attacks Obama for huge earmark requests.
Obama: Yep, earmarks are out of control. But they were $18 billion last year, McCain wants $300 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy. Nice comparison of numbers. Didn't answer the attack, but he did use a good distraction.
McCain: Yes, but earmarks have tripled. Obama, apart from tax cuts, will expand spending significantly. McCain wants to lower taxes AND cut spending.
Obama: Cuts off McCain to clarify, promotes his priorities to cut corporate loopholes, expand health care coverage. Obama says he will reduce wasteful spending, but can't focus on that when we've got people really struggling.
Lehrer is REALLY trying hard to get these two to talk to each other, and they simply won't do it.
McCain: Good point here about the high corporate tax rates in America leading to businesses going overseas. Wants to keep jobs here through low taxes. "My friends" count: 1. Ask Obama about his definition of "rich."
Obama: 95% Americans will get tax cut. "Rich" are people making over $250,000. Says our business tax rate is effectively one of the LOWEST in the world because of loopholes that allow businesses to go overseas. Again, good response. I gotta check these numbers to see who's more accurate. Says McCain wants to tax health care benefits. Really? I've heard that multiple times also, and I'd like to see if it's true. Wonder where I'd find good numbers on that.
McCain: Interrupts Lehrer, who tries to go to a new topic. "Festooned?" Honestly, who knows that word? McCain's in danger of making himself the elitist in this campaign. Promotes his own attacks on wasteful spending, says Obama hasn't, but no examples that I heard (maybe he gave one while I was typing). Accuses Obama of voting to raise taxes on those making $42,000 per year. Wow, that's quite a problem if he actually did.
Obama: Accuses McCain of lying (without using the word), talks about McCain's tax breaks for oil companies.
Lehrer shifts now to the financial rescue plan again (will they ever really talk about it?), asks them what they'll have to give up in spending, if we have to pay for that bill.
Obama: Tough to say, because the economy's slowing and we don't know what the budget will look like. Some things have to be done. That includes energy independence through home production and especially newer, renewable energy sources. Gotta fix the health care system, that can't be cut from his plan. Third thing can't be cut is education spending and research spending. And rebuild infrastructure because it's falling apart. Yes, but you didn't answer the question. What WILL you cut first? I'd like to know that as well. Ah, eliminate programs that don't work. What are examples?
McCain: Gotta cut spending. Obama has most liberal voting record in senate. Okay, that's not accurate. It's the same attack used against Kerry in '04, and it's based only on 2008, when he missed a lot because of the campaign. By 2008, McCain's one of the most conservative, not a moderate, because in 2008 he's voted with Bush 100% of the time. McCain says he knows how to get spending under control, cites negotiation of a Boeing bill as example. Ooh, his brokering put people in federal prison. So we want a President who will put more in prison?
Lehrer calls them out on not answering. So what will you CHANGE??
Obama: Not willing to give up energy plan, but we might not be able to do individual components. Give $15 billion in subsidies to private insurers under Medicare. That's no good and it should not happen. Nice response to McCain's "liberal" accusation, says it's just that he's voted against Bush. Touts his own work with Tom Coburn (strong conservative) to get the federal checkbook online.
I like that Lehrer is really trying to get these guys to stay on target, but
McCain: How about a spending freeze except for defense, veteran's benefits and something else? Wow, that's harsh.
Obama: That's a huge knife (forgot his word) when you need a scalpel. Let's stop spending so much in Iraq.
McCain: Well how about not sending money to "countries who don't like us very much." Strong effort to not use the word "hate?" Doesn't like that Obama is opposed to nuclear energy.
Lehrer asks if this financial crisis will affect the way they operate as President, or if they'll just move on happily, as planned.
Obama: The important thing is to know who we're fighting for. It shouldn't be the rich who are getting lots of tax breaks.
McCain: Says Obama would hand health care over to the federal government, which he doesn't want. Need to cut spending, Obama wants new spending. Second remark about helping veterans - he's really trying hard to get them tonight, knowing they'll tune in to the foreign policy debate.
Obama: Tom? Jim? Steve? Carl? Missed McCain's name again. McCain voted with Busy 90% of the time, including this "orgy of spending." That makes me giggle.
McCain: Calls himself a maverick again, but doesn't deny voting with Bush on the economy.
Lehrer asks if we have any lessons from Iraq.
McCain: Weird first answer that I didn't understand. Initially we did well, but he came back in '05 saying we needed new strategy. Our new strategy (the surge, I assume) is succeeding and we will come home with victory and honor. Benefits of success, vs consequences of defeat. Can Obama respond to yet another charge of advocating defeat in Iraq?
Obama: Another claim of a "fundamental difference." Cites judgment in calling for us to not go into Iraq in the first place. Ooh, first allusion to Afghanistan and chasing the real Al Qaeda enemy. Spending too much in Iraq, hurting us here at home. The lesson we can learn is, never hesitate to use military force, but have to use it wisely, which we didn't do in Iraq.
McCain: Doesn't answer that, just accuses Obama of still opposing surge, never meeting with General Petraeus.
Obama: Proud of Biden who's got great credentials. These decisions don't go through my subcommittee. McCain's right that violent was reduced, our troops are great. Petraeus is also great. But the surge was containing damage of four years of mismanagement. McCain pretends war started in 2007. "You were wrong" when McCain claimed it'd be easy, that we'd be greeted as liberators, etc. Obama says he has better judgment.
McCain: Obama doesn't know the difference between tactic and strategy. Hmm. McCain is now saying that Obama refuses to admit we're winning. For the second time (at least), Obama has to interject "that's not true" to Lehrer. He seems really worried about what McCain's saying. Obama cut off funding for troops.
Obama: McCain opposed funding in bills that included timetables. Obama opposed funding in bills that didn't include a timetable. They both supported funding, but differed on the timetable. The question isn't about the approach once we're there. The question is, should we have gone in the first place, which McCain is avoiding because he was gung ho about us entering Iraq in 2003. We can fix Afghanistan if we don't give Iraq their country back, and we need to reduce Iraq troops in 16 months, also going to Afghanistan to "crush" Al Qaeda and capture/kill Osama bin Laden. This is his first real address of foreign policy, and it was pretty decent. Not great, but decent.
McCain: Uses Petraeus and another general against Obama. Now says Obama's plan means defeat in Iraq.
Lehrer: Alright, let's move on to Afghanistan. More troops, how many, and when?
Obama: Yes, as soon as possible. This was our worst fatality year in Afghanistan since 2002, and Al Qaeda is becoming emboldened and attacking us more. 2-3 brigades to Afghanistan, where even Secretary Gates said we need to deal with Al Qaeda. Press Afghan government to work for their people, deal with Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan. Bush/McCain gave Pakistan money, even though they haven't done anything for us.
McCain: The mistake I regret was leaving the region when the Taliban first formed. Um....but he repeated that when we left Tora Bora and allowed bin Laden to escape. Won't threaten Pakistan like he says Obama's doing. I do wonder what will become of Obama's threats, but what about McCain's threats against Russia? We have increased troops to Afghanistan, we'll do more, and we'll change strategy as well.
Obama: Ooh, McCain looks constipated. Obama didn't say he'd attack Pakistan. If we know Osama's in Pakistan, we'll take him out. C'mon McCain, you said we should wipe out North Korea, and you sang songs about bombing Iran. You seriously chastise me for threatening comments? We lost legitimacy in Pakistan by supporting a dictator simply because he was "our dictator."
McCain: Obama doesn't understand that Pakistan was a failed state when Musharraf came to power. Sorry, but Phil wonders what that really means with respect to Obama's comments. When McCain was young 200 years ago and Reagan was President, "tragically, I was right." Supported going to Bosnia and intervening in Kosovo and Somalia when many GOP opposed it under Clinton. Good call bringing those up. Strong military creds, going against own party to do the right thing. Talks about Vietnam and how hard it is for an army to recover from being defeated, and we need to not be defeated in Iraq. Uses the word "dishonor" again.
Obama: No US soldier EVER dies in vain, because they're carrying out the Commander in Chief's orders. The question is, are we using good judgment? It's a big deal to send troops into battle. Nobody's talking about defeat in Iraq, but McCain said we could "muddle through" Afghanistan. We need to take Afghanistan seriously.
McCain: Talks about defeat again, says Obama's not taking up things that fit under his subcommittee. Condescending to the last. Gotta be honest, I don't care if he's right, McCain's acting like a real prick.
Lehrer asks what the threat is from Iran.
McCain: If Iran acquires nukes, it's a threat to Isreal, and it's a threat because it allows other Muslim nations to get nukes. "We cannot afford another Holocaust." Says he proposed a league of democracies, which could impose sanctions on Iran that would have a beneficial effect. Iran is hurting us by sending weapons into Iraq. Need to act with allies to keep Iran from getting nukes. Obama didn't want to label Iran a state sponsor of terror. Iran has a lousy economy because they have a lousy government. So why is our economy lousy, Senator?
Obama: To clarify, he considers Iran's Republican Guard a terrorist organization, but says the single greatest thing that strengthened Iran was our war in Iraq. Obviously the last eight years didn't work because Iran's getting closer to nukes. Yes, Iran's a great threat, especially to Israel, but it could also start an arms race in the Middle East. We need tougher sanctions, but we need some cooperation from Russia and China, which are not democracies, but trade extensively with Iran. Need tough, direct diplomacy. Not talking to countries has not harmed them, so McCain's wrong in not wanting diplomacy.
Best line of the night from Lehrer to McCain: "Senator, what about talking?"
McCain: Ooh, completely bumbled Ahmadinejad's name. Reminiscent of Bush. Says that Obama wants to sit down with no preconditions, with a guy who espouses the extermination of Israel. Sitting down to talk legitimizes their illegal behavior. He needs to stop using long names, because he can't get 'em right. McCain would sit down, but needs preconditions.
Obama: As President, reserves the right to sit down with anybody, anywhere, any time, if it keeps America safe. McCain mentioned Kissinger, one of his advisors, who recently said we should sit down with Iran without preconditions. Obama has a great zinger - it "doesn't mean you invite them over for tea." In North Korea ("axis of evil," can't deal with them), they tested missiles, expanded their nukes, pulled out of non-proliferation. When we re-engaged, we've at least finally made some progress, though it's on shaky ground due to recent happenings. McCain even said he wouldn't potentially meet with PM Zapatero of Spain, because he didn't know if they were aligned with us. I wondered if Obama would bring up that disastrous interview.
McCain: I encourage meetings with lower level people, but not the President. Obama doesn't seem to understand that "without precondition" you sit down with, and legitimize comments of Ahmadinejad, who verbally attacks Israel and threatens them.
Obama: McCain knows he's being deceptive about Obama's position. How could we say nothing while Ahmadinejad spews this stuff?
McCain: So wait, we're going to sit down, Ahmadinejad says "we're blowing up Israel," and we say, "no you're not?" McCain's really starting to get worked up. It's just a matter of time before Obama says something that makes McCain yell or swear.
Lehrer asks about Russia. Enemy? Threat? Ally?
Obama: They can be dangerous, and they're strong, and what they did in Georgia was unacceptable. They need to leave the separatist regions in Georgia. Explain to Russians you can't be a 21st century power and act like a 20th century dictatorship. Need to affirm and support smaller democracies in Europe. Too many loose nukes, Obama has led in the Senate to deal with proliferation, even worked with GOP to do it. You don't deal with Russia by "staring into his eyes and seeing his soul," an interesting reference to Bush's comments about meeting with Putin.
McCain: Obama's first comments about Russia and Georgia - both sides did something wrong. This shows a misunderstanding of a KGB-run government. "I looked into Mr. Putin's eyes, and I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B." We need to help our allies, and it's about energy, not just Georgia. Ah, of course, it's all about oil. Russia controls these pipelines. Russia wants to regain status of the old Russian empire. We want Georgia and Ukraine in NATO, make it clear that Russia is violating their ceasefire agreement. Russia's gotta behave. Just like Palin, apparently McCain thinks that by using big names of foreign leaders, he'll sound really smart.
Obama: Agrees with McCain a lot on this issue, but he immediately condemned what Russia did in invading Georgia. Was the first to call for rebuilding Georgian economy, and we sent $1 billion into the country. Months ago, asked Bush to replace Russian peacekeepers in Georgia with international peacekeeping troops. It didn't happen, maybe could have prevented what happened. But with Russia controlling oil, we can't drill our way out of the problem. Obama says he's got a plan to make us independent. Over 26 years, McCain voted 23 times against alternative energy like solar and biodiesel.
McCain: No one in Arizona is against solar. Obama's against reprocessing and storing nuclear. We KNOW if we drill offshore and "exploit" these reserves, it'll help us a lot. Supported Nunn-Lugar in the early '90s, which put us on road to eliminating issue of nuclear waste and fuel.
Obama: Never said object to nuclear waste, just said we've gotta store it safely. McCain won't let him talk again.
Lehrer asks about the chances that we'll get another 9/11 type attack on American soil.
McCain: Less of a chance now than we had right after 9/11. Lieberman and McCain worked on exploring how to prevent another 9/11, had difficulty until families came in and pressured government to get the commission passed. Really wants to push the idea that he's been bipartisan and reached across the aisle. Need to know we have trained interrogators so we don't torture prisoners, we need better technology, we need to work with allies. We're safer today than we were on 9/11, but we're not out of the woods yet.
Obama: We're safer in some ways. Lots of airport security, secured some potential targets, still have a long way to go. Haven't done enough in terms of transit or ports. Gotta keep nukes out of terrorists' hands. Terrorism is a big threat, but the biggest part of Afghanistan, not Iraq, so we need to shift our military focus. Also, we need better foreign image, and Obama will restore our standing in the world, which is key to getting help in combating terrorism. High five to McCain for helping us on the torture issue.
McCain: Obama doesn't understand that failure in Iraq encourages Al Qaeda, as evidenced by his "date certain" withdrawal plan, regardless of ground conditions. Can't do what Senator Obama wants to do.
Obama: No doubt that in last eight years, Bush and McCain have been solely focused on Iraq, while bin Laden is still out there evading capture and Al Qaeda resurges. In the meantime we're borrowing billions of dollars from China, and they're active in many regions where we're absent because of our focus on Iraq. We can no longer project power in the world because we're so narrowly focused on a single nation. Never been a country "ON EARTH" that saw economy decline and yet maintained a solid military. This is a national security issue.
McCain: There are advantages to experience and knowledge and judgment. Obama has made wrong judgments, doesn't have the experience. Tries to claim that Obama is similarly stubborn to Bush, talking about the surge. What? That's a pretty specious connection there, and doesn't strengthen McCain's case at all. "Reform, prosperity and peace." Don't need any on-the-job training.
Obama: Name is from Kenya, where father came from. Father admired America as a child, and Obama says that children around the world don't admire us in the same way. We need to "send a message to the world" that we're committed to helping ordinary people in the world.
McCain: "When I came home from prison." WHAT?!?!? This is such a non-sequitor, and had nothing to do with the point he was trying to make. Congratulations, Senator McCain, on completely trivializing a heretofore serious discussion. That was awful.
Holy heck, so that was a lot of typing, sorry. Shoulda found a way to condense it. Maybe I still will. But, long story short, how did the debate end up?
Well, to start with, one of the most important questions is, simply, who came across as more presidential? I have to completely hand it to Obama on this one. He reached across the aisle and offered agreement with some of McCain's views, and was very calm and respectful in this debate, while Senator McCain looked like a grumpy old man. McCain literally didn't look at Obama once, as far as I could tell, and he was scowling half the time, and condescending whenever he spoke of Obama. He looked like mean old Mr. Tinsley down the street, who never gives your baseball back when you hit it over his fence. McCain was tired, and Obama looked very ready and sharp. Don't think the images matters? Ask Gore after his makeup-enhanced debate in 2000 (just like McCain Friday night, he also spent lots of time scoffing at then-Governor Bush), or Nixon from his fabled debate with John Kennedy in 1960. Appearances can be crucial.
Connecting with voters, I'd say again, no contest. Did you notice that John McCain didn't use the phrase "middle class" once? He continues to fail in any potential attempt to comfort me. All I know is he wants to reform government, but while Obama continues to promise making government work for ME, McCain just swears he'll stop making it work for all the politicians. I didn't get the sense that McCain really understands the average voter, but Obama really shined on that one.
As for the specific issues, it was nearly a draw at first glance, but that can be a bit deceiving. I'd say Obama was definitely stronger on the economy and the bailout, he seemed to win the Iraq section, and as I mentioned, he probably came out ahead on general debate appearance. Meanwhile, McCain looked better on Russia, he probably came out ahead on terrorism, and I'd give him the edge on Iran and spending. Afghanistan, well, they both win because nobody talks about Afghanistan so Americans don't know enough to say whether either candidate was "more right" about that. But currently, the economy is by far the biggest factor people are considering as they make their decisions for November 4th. Seeing as how Obama has always been viewed as sharper on the economy, and only helped himself with this debate, I'd say it's pretty tough to argue that McCain won.
It was one of the more boring debates I've ever seen, with only two real memorable lines, both from Obama (one about PM Zapatero of Spain, and his retort about McCain singing the "bomb Iran" song). But for what it's worth, as objectively as I can possibly view this, I'd say Obama came out ahead after this debate. It shouldn't matter much, but this was also supposed to be McCain's strongest debate and he's definitely not showing any kind of uptick in the polls. Post-debate polls support the hypothesis that Obama won (and I've stolen this idea from many other sites, including fivethirtyeight.com), and I would say this is going to be a tough one for McCain to pull out.
Thursday night is the Palin-Biden debate, and I am eagerly anticipating that one. I wonder if McCain will try to get her out of it, given her shockingly disappointing appearances with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric (seriously, can she talk about anything beyond what she's memorized in her tutoring sessions with McCain aides?). If Palin doesn't improve and the debate with Biden goes on, McCain could lose the rest of the bounce he got from Palin's initial excitement. At least, what little additional support still remained.....