Welcome to tonight’s News Cut “debate party.” We’re live-blogging the debate between John McCain and Barack Obama from Nashville. Please take party by posting your (substantive) comments and analysis .
8 pm We’re about to get underway. One of the first things we’ll watch is whether John McCain will look at Barack Obama. Interesting reading: A May 2008 Time article about the 7 ways John McCain can beat Obama.
8:02 p.m. This is the format — the town hall format — that supposedly favors McCain. Originally, McCain proposed several “town hall” forums with Sen. Obama. He got one. Candidates have just been introduced.
Q: Alan Schaeffer asks: What’s the fastest, most positive solution to bail retirees out?
Obama: Acknowledges people are worried about pension and retirement accounts. Says it’s a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the Bush administration. (Yes, I’m waiting for an answer, too). Step 1: Rescue package from last week. Crack down on CEOs to make sure they’re not getting payments. Step 2: Tax cut for middle class and public works projects. Step 3: Fix health care system and energy system. Basically, the answer is his entire stump speech.
McCain: MccCain is working the room the way he does with town forums. Says we have to keep taxes low. “Let’s not raise taxes on anybody.” Says we have to “do something” about home values. He says he’d order Secretary of the Treasury to buy up bad home loans and renegotiate and allow renegotiation with the feds over payments.
Discussion: Brokaw asks who they have in mind to be Treasury Secretary. Warren Buffett, Meg Whitman (former eBay boss), McCain says.
Obama says Warren Buffett. (Does Warren Buffet need the work?) Obama goes into his stump speech.
Twitterer says: “I’m an Obama supporter, but it looks like he’s avoiding the questions now too.”
Q: Oliver Clark: What is it that’s going to help people with bailout bill?
McCain: It’s a rescue bill. Goes back into story of leaving campaign trail to go back to Washington. Recounts Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac problems, and lays them on “Sen. Obama and his cronies.” Here we go. Repeats call for buying up bad loans. “Some of us stood up against it; others took a hike.”
McCain to black man in audience: “I’ve bet you’d never even heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before this crisis.”
Obama: Explains freezing of the credit markets. Says biggest problem was deregulation of financial markets and says McCain bragged as recently as March about deregulation. Says McCain’s campaign manager was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae.
Discussion: Is the economy going to get worse? “No,” Obama says. “But we’re going to have to have some leadership from Washington.” He’s the first guy I’ve heard in recent days say the economy wasn’t going to get worse. What do you think. Comment below.
McCain says the question depends on what we do. “If we stabilize the housing market and get rid of cronyism…..” OK, none of that is going to happen before the layoff notices go out in American tomorrow
Q: Teresa Fitch: How can we trust either of you with our money since both parties got us into this crisis?
Obama: “I understand your frustration and cynicism.” Says “there’s a lot of blame to go around,” and notes there was a surplus when George Bush came into office. (Fact check: Many economists believe the recession was underway in March 2001, just two months after Bush took office)
McCain: The situation calls for bipartisanship and says Obama has never taken on the leaders of his party. McCain plays the maverick card. Says of Obama: “it’s the most liberal spending record in the United States Senate.” Wait, isn’t that what they said about John Kerry, too? The playbook , if not the torch, is passed.
Discussion: What are your priorities. McCain says you can work on all three at once. Obama says “we have to prioritize.” Lists energy first, then health care and education.
8:25 p.m. Quick update from locals on Twitter:
RickM This debate is like a good infomercial gone bad.
petron These guys really think they can fix the economy – what the hell is wrong with these guys? – it’s global issue now!!
MNHeadhunter Great question, how can we trust either guy/party?
sloped I’m really liking this format, forces them to speak to real people.
Tom Brokaw keeps saying “I’m going by the rules you all agreed to” because the candidates are going too long during the “discussion.” It might help if he just says “time’s up.”
Q: From Internet and a Gt. Depression survivor: What sacrifices will you ask America to make? (Wonderful question)
McCain: There are some programs we may have to eliminate. Lists defense spending, earmarks Recommends spending freeze, but then says defense spending would be subject to the freeze. Huh? But he doesn’t say what sacrifices Americans will be asked to make. Cutting a tank program isn’t a sacrifice for Americans.
Obama: Talks about 9/11 and how Americans pulled together. Says Americans are hungry for leadership and he absolutely does not answer the question other than to say there’s a need for us “to think about how we use energy.” That’s our sacrifice? We have to think? You couldn’t even say something like ‘drive 55?’
Discussion:: Brokaw asks how to break American of the habit of spending and easy credit? Obama says it starts with Washington. “All of us are going to have to sacrifice,” he says.
McCain brings up the allegation of Obama’s raising taxes X number of times. Talks again about the importance of small business.
Obama asks to respond. Brokaw says ‘no.’ But you know whatever the next question is, Obama will respond.
Bottom line: Tonight, we’re not going to hear anything about the responsibilities of the American people to pull together, sacrifice, and get things back on track. Too bad, because that would be a great discussion. Oh, and my kingdom for someone, anyone, in this business who’s say ‘you didn’t answer my question.’
Q: Would you give Congress a date certain to reform Social Security, because that’s the big ticking time bomb?
Obama: We’re not going to solve Social Security and Medicare unless we understand tax policy. Responds to previous question, saying he wants to pass a tax cut for 95% of Americans. Let the record show: He didn’t answer the question.
McCain: Social Security isn’t that tough. “We’ve got to sit down across the table.” Says that’s his forte. Recommends something like the base-closing commission format: An ‘up or down’ vote. But let the record show: He didn’t answer the question.
My new definition of ‘maverick': A politician who answers the question people ask him.
Q: Ingrid Jackson: Congress moved fast in wake of economic crisis. What would you do to make Congress move fast on climate change and green jobs?
McCain: We’re in tough economic times. Restates that the environmnt is in endangered. Says the best way to fix it is nuclear power. Let the record show: He didn’t answer the question. It wasn’t “what do you want to do” it was “how will you get Congress to do it on a fast track.”
Obama: We can create 5 million new jobs with green technology. We can do it but we’re going to have to make an investment. We can’t simply drill our way out of the problem. Didn’t answer the question that the woman asked.
Discussion: Brokaw again whining about staying with time. If only he were as concerned about not answering the question. Asks should we create a “Manhattan Project” for new energy or fund “100,000 garages like what led to Silicon Valley.” McCain says R&D funding first, then turn it over to private sector.
Brokaw didn’t give Obama a chance to answer his question.
Do you believe health care should be treated as a commodity?
Obama: Restates problem of paying for health insurance. Talks about McCain’s $5,000 tax credit for health care and says what he doesn’t tell you is he’s going to tax your health care.
McCain says Obama will fine parents who don’t buy health insurance and will fine businesses which don’t provide health insurance.
Obama says health care should be a right. Says small businesses won’t have a mandate but they’ll be a 50-percent tax credit for those who need it. Children are cheap to insure and we don’t want them going to the emergency room for treatment of asthma. Says McCain voted against the expansion of the Children’s Health Program.
Observation: Jesse Ventura would be a good addition to this debate. Dems and GOP made him out to be a goof. And he was at times. But he won his election the moment he was included in the debate in Brainer in 1999. People didn’t even care they disagreed with him, he sounded like he respected the audience enough to give honest answers. If you have RealPlayer, take a trip down memory lane.
8:58 p.m. Twitterer asks: “Does Obama have to refute everything McCain says? I’m not entirely sure.”
Q: Phil McCain: How will economic woes affect our ability to ask as peacemaker in the world?
McCain: America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world . Says the challenge is to know when the U.S. can beneficially affect the outcome. Says that question can be answered by someone with experience. He didn’t answer the question that was asked.
Obama: Says Sen. McCain has shown poor judgment on Iraq. Says Iraq has put an enormous strain on our troops, but it’s also put an enormous strain on his budget. We’ve spent $700 billion and it’s going to go over $1 trillion if we stay on the same path. We need that money here.
Discussion: On the use of combat forces for humanitarian purposes (i.e. Congo, Somalia).
Obama: We may not always have national security at stake but we have moral issues. If we could’ve intervened in the Holocaust, who among us would say we didn’t have a moral obligation to go in? We have to consider as part of our national interests, intervening where possible but we can’t be everywhere all the time. That’s why we have to work with our allies.
McCain: If we had done what Sen. Obama wanted done in Iraq (a date for withdrawal), we would’ve had a wider war and Iranian influence would’ve been increased. We must do whatever we can to prevent genocide. But it has to be tempered with our ability to beneficially influence the outcome.
Q: Should the U.S. not respect Pakistani sovereignty in pursuit of al Qaeda?
Obama: We go distracted, diverted resources and bin Laden escaped (Aside: did you see the 60 Minutes piece on Sunday?)
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. We have to change policies with Pakistan. We can’t coddle dictator. We should encourage democracy, expand non-miltary aid, and insist they go after militants and if “we have bin Laden in our sights, we should take him out.”
McCain: Says we have to get Pakistan’s support and use the same strategy of Iraq. We need to get the support of the people and turn them against the Taliban, not threatening to attack them. I think that’s a “no”
Followup: “I’m just the hired help here,” Brokaw says. Yeah, no kidding. He makes Gwen Ifill looks good.
Obama says we have to take “bin Laden out” because he’s threatening to kill Americans. Acknowledges that McCain says he’s “green behind the ears,” “But this is the guy who sang ‘Bomb Bomb Iran’ and called for the annihilation of North Korea so I don’t think he’s speaking softly.” Obama lands the hardest punch of the night.
McCain says he was joking with an old veteran when he sang the Beach Boys Barbara Ann to “bomb Iran” He says he’ll “get Osama.” This is incorrect. It was at a Town Meeting and he was asked a serious question.
Q: How do you reorganize the strategy in Afghan
Obama: Remove troops from Iraq and send to Afghanistan.
McCain: Double the size of the Afghan army. Work more closely with the Pakistanis. “We have to use the same strategy that Sen. Obama won’t admits worked in Iraq.”
Q: How can we apply pressure to Russia on humanitarian issues without starting another Cold War?
McCain: We’re not going to have another Cold War with Russia. Talks about his warnings about Putin. Says we should “watch Ukraine.” He says we should advocate for the Ukraine’s membership in NATO and “make Putin understand there are penalties for this behavior.”
Obama: We can’t just provide moral support. We rushed into Iraq and that has cost us dearly. We have to be much more strategic. Energy is key in dealing with Russia. If we reduce our energy consumption, that will reduce Russian influence. (Perhaps we should be asked to sacrifice to do that?)
Q: Would you commit troops to support Israel if it’s attacked by Iran? Or would you wait for the U.N. Security Council?
McCain: Would not wait. China and Russia would pose obstacles at the U.N. Says Obama would sit down with Iranian leaders without preconditions (Please don’t mention the name Henry Kissinger.)
Obama: We cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. We will never take military options off the table. It is important to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent the scenario where we have to make these choices. If we can work more effectively to tighten sanctions, reduce our energy consumption (Did I hear “sacrifice?” No.), that starts changing cost-benefit analysis. We need to talk with our enemies that if they don’t change behavior, there will be dire consequences. It may not work, but when we take that approach, we have a better chance at better outcomes.
Q: What don’t you know, and how will you learn it?
( Psst: How to answer a question? How to have a good, honest debate by not pandering to us?)
Obama: it’s never the challenges you expect, it’s the challenges you don’t that end up consuming your time. “I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t that the country gave me opportunity.” Makes the “dream” stump speech.
McCain: What I don’t know is what all of us don’t know: What’s going to happen here at home and abroad. The challenges are unprecedented. Makes his stump speech.
What a terrible debate! I wrote extensively here when Tim Russert died with some concern that he was being overly glorified. My goodness, though, if these last three debates haven’t shown us the value of Tim Russert, nothing ever will. Let’s hope Bob Schieffer comes through for us when he moderates the next debate.
Both candidates clearly are not interested in telling the American people anything they don’t want to hear. And maybe that’s our fault (and Walter Mondale’s). We’re supposed to feel better because neither candidate would acknowledge that the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. But I can’t say I do. I feel bad because either (a) the candidates don’t think we can stand hearing honesty or (b) the candidates have no grasp of the most important issue facing working America today.