Presidential Debate - Round 2

Tonight's Presidential debate in Nashville will be different from the previous debate as it will be a Town Hall format rather than the usually more controlled style. This is a format McCain owns, as he does much better than Obama with this style of debate. It could be why Obama refused to participate in a series of Town Hall debates as McCain had suggested.

Questions will come from the audience as well as the Internet, meaning the candidates will have to answer off the cuff. Other than making sure they are well versed in the issues of the campaign, they cannot really prepare for this kind of debate. It always makes for an interesting show. It's been a format that has made and broken candidates.

I will endeavor to quote the questions as asked. I'm not even gping to try to do the same with the answers, but will most likely just paraphrase. You know how wordy politicians can be, particularly when they're saying nothing.


Tom Brokaw moderated the debate. Obama got the first question:

What's the fast route to bailing out the retirees and working families from this financial meltdown?

Obama first blamed President Bush, the GOP, and john McCain for the problem. He wants to crack down on financial institutions, particularly those like AIG, referencing the 'retreat' its executives enjoyed. But he didn't go into any detail, just said “I'll fix it.”

McCain said one way you don't fix the problem is raise taxes taxes. Stop sending hundreds of billions to foreign countries for oil and develop our own energy sources.. Use the bailout dollars to buy up bad loans.

When asked who McCain would choose as Secretary of Treasury, he said Meg Whitman, founder and former CEO of eBay.

Obama said he might consider Warren Buffet, but then went off topic to sell his tax plan.


Another question dealt with the meltdown, and what happened.

McCain talked about the rescue package, how the big trigger was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and how the GOP wanted to tighten up control over both, while Democrats blocked efforts to do so.

Obama talked about how the whole thing is McCain's fault, how he pushed so hard to deregulate. Credit is tight for businesses large and small and if it doesn't loosen up, businesses might have to close their doors without credit.

When asked of the economy get worse before it gets better, both said if timely action was taken, then the answer was probably no.


How can we trust either of you if both parties got us into this financial crisis?

Obama said that when Bush came into office there were surpluses. Since then, we've had deficits. (ed – We have to remember we were at war after 9/11/2001, and wars cost money.)

McCain said the system is broken. Talked about his bipartisan work, slammed Obama's lack of it despite his claims otherwise. Has never asked for earmarks, while Obama has. Obama voted for every spending increase that came across the Senate floor.

Highest priorities after taking office?

McCain: Reform entitlement programs. Strengthen our energy policies. Health care is a problem and has been for some time. All three can be done at the same time, no need to only take on one at a time.

Obama: We have to prioritize, meaning energy should be primary. Get us away from dependence on foreign oil. Second, fix the health care system. Third, make sure our education system is strengthened. Claims McCain will cut taxes for corporations.


Damn, I can't keep up!


What kind of sacrifices do Americans need to get us back on track?

McCain: First, cut spending. Freeze it where it is, review every agency and every program and eliminate those that are not working.

Obama: Everyone remembers 9/11. It brought us together, but President blew chances to bring us together across the board. Need to develop better energy technologies. Create a 'volunteer' group to provide service for America.


What about 'easy credit'?

Obama: It's all George Bush's fault.

McCain: Obama will raise taxes, despite his claims to the contrary. The last President to raise taxes was Herbert Hoover, and we know how that worked out.


What about the unfunded or underfunded entitlements? Aren't they a ticking time bomb?

Obama: Can't deal with it unless we handle tax policy. (ed – he went off topic, ranting about McCain's proposed tax policy. Wants to do away with Bush tax cuts.)

McCain: I'll actually answer the question. Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements need to be fixed, stop borrowing to pay for the entitlements. Cut spending in other areas to make sure they are adequately funded.


At this point my missus made the point that these two are having a tough time staying on topic.


One fundamental difference between the two came up during the discussion about health care.

McCain: Health care is a responsibility.

Obama: Health care is a right.

(ed - Hmm. I don't recall seeing The Right To Health Care anywhere in the Articles or Amendments of the Constitution.)


It appears to me that Obama believes government is the answer to every problem we have. He hasn't exactly explained where all the money to pay for it will come from.

McCain appears to understand there are tradeoffs that will have to be made, understands that sucking money out of the economy is not the way to fix the economy, and that government is more often the problem and not the solution.


Should we cross into Pakistan to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban, or honor their borders?

Obama: If the Pakistanis won't deal with them, then yes, we chase them where ever they go.

McCain: That policy is dangerous. You don't announce that you will do that kind of thing to an ally! It's irresponsible. You do as Teddy Roosevelt said – Talk softly and carry a big stick.


Is Russia the new 'evil empire'?

Obama: Not yet.

McCain: Maybe, depending on their actions.


If Iran attacks Israel would we immediately go to their aid, or would we wait for the UN Security Council?

McCain: We would not wait for the UNSC. Remember Russia and China are members and would likely vote against action. We would go to the aid of our ally.

Obama: We would not take military action off the table. We need to work more effectively with other countries to tighten sanctions. We should have direct talks with Iran. (ed - uh...is that his answer to the question? Such a simple question and such a dissembling answer. If I had to guess, I'd say Obama won't do anything should Iran attack Israel...except talk.)


Remembering that I am anything but non-partisan, I have to give this one to McCain. Obama was a walking, talking campaign ad, speaking in generalities but not providing substance.

Not that McCain was above and beyond Obama, but he seemed to project the idea that while government can help things along, it shouldn't be the end all and be all to all problems.

I wish I could say the Town Hall format worked well, but it appears Obama decided he needed to get around the rules both candidates agreed to abide by, and tried to follow up on statements made by McCain even though he'd already had his allotted time.

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