The McCain-Obama debate – Nashville


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.”

Twitterer says:

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.

Your thoughts?


  • Lily

    Mc Cain keeps looking at his notes and turning his back on the TV audience!

  • Heather

    Did McCain just say that “some of that $700Billion will go into the hands of terrorists”?

  • sm

    Darn right, Meg Whitman would be a good choice for Sec. Treasury. Heck, she’s got some brains and ran eBay during tremendous growth. But shucks, she doesn’t talk in Palinisms so McCain may not pick her if he, gods help us, wins.

  • Tracy

    While they’re waiting for their turn: Obama sits easily on his chair like Miles Davis, McCain either stands stiffly holding the back or perches like the seat is just a little too high for him

  • Lily

    It’s too little too late, Mc Cain– we don’t have jobs or retirement accounts anymore!

  • Lily

    I could swear I saw Sarah Palin in the audience

  • Jack Dempsey

    Yeah, Palin’s the one holding up the sign that says: America–greatest force for good!

  • sparky

    Geez! I so wish Obama would just get a little ghetto on his booty! … least call him an old man and get the “grumpy old man to come out! hehehe

  • Adam

    I have now heard John McCain refer and compare himself to Teddy Roosevelt many times.

    Do you think he also believes in the idea of manifest destiny?

    Sarah Palin – “solders were sent doing a task from god”

  • Amy

    Thanks for the clarification on Bomb Iran, Bob. I knew he was wrong when he made that statement, but I couldn’t point to the specifics.

  • Minn whaler
  • Lily

    I believe that Teddy Roosevelt was an individual with untreated bipolar disorder.

  • sm

    What a bust. A complete waste of time. Both of them are idiots. You’re right, Jesse at least answered questions.

  • steve

    I hear McCain talk about never again another holocaust and I know that he isn’t exactly tech savvy but last time I checked Google Earth, I still see a large number of villages scorched and villages burned in the Darfur region.

  • There were a lot of missed opportunities in that debate… Same old talk and a waste of time.

  • sparky

    Yeah, folks once again we got regurgitation of the same political rhetoric. High school students know how to debate better than these politicians. Still a mcCain/Palin whitehouse scares the hell out of me! We need someone who at least seems to care about us.

  • Heather

    Steve, do you think he only thinks it’s a holocaust if it happens in Europe? (i.e., to White people?)

  • Amy

    I thought the last question was the best one and I so wish that BOTH of them had actually answered it. Tell me what you don’t know and tell me how you are going to learn it. You can’t know everything. Admit your weak points and prove to me that you can manage to strengthen them by surrounding yourself with good, smart people.

  • Jodi

    To briefly touch on the topic of body language, how telling was Cindy McCain’s versus Michelle Obama’s? That she held her hands behind her back (and as a result away from the Town Hall audience), seems a really good indicator that she is not comfortable dealing with people of all walks. Part of the role of the First Lady is various forms of diplomacy. If she can’t shake a few hands now, how would she do in reception lines? Michelle Obama, on the other hand, made every effort to shake the hands of those who were in front of her. It seems she is far more comfortable in her present role.

  • Toni Taylor

    McCain did a good job, considering he was talking with ACTOR of the year. Obama would make more money making movies or maybe on a CSI show. he is a good actor and a good liar. Yes, he looks more comfortable talking on the stage, but McCain himself said he is not good with public speaking. As far as I am conderned, whether he speaks publicly or not, does depend on the job he can do. I know several people who don’t speak well in front of people, but they are intelligent and can handle the situations. Also should we forget about the Congress (it is there fault, not the fault of the president completely. They came up with the wrong answers and threw us into this turmoil. Now lets shine the cameras on Obama – He just loves the limelight and his smirks and such annoyed me while he was listening to what McCain had to say.

    Wake up people, you who are voting Obama don’t really understand what HE stands for.

  • tracy

    20 min after the debate it looks like everybody in the hall is jostling to get a photo op with Obama — can’t see if McCain is even still on the floor

  • tille

    McCain mentioned that he doesn’t want a second holocaust. He doesn’t know that the ethnic Hmong people that helped the US during the Vitnam War are now still being rounded up and murdered on a dialy basis, and buried in mass graves. He doesn’t know that ethnic minorities in Darfur are being eradicated and villages are wiped off of maps. Holacausts are taken place all over the world. But it only matters if such thing happens to the Jews or to people of white skin. Nothing against the Jews, but if they get a country, all people who had suffered the same should get a country too.

  • Heidi

    I’m shocked that McCain didn’t say that healthcare is a right.

  • sm

    I feel insulted they won’t talk to voters as competent adults and insist on make-believe nonsense for answers. We deserve better than this. They keep talking about the emperor’s clothes. It’s embarrassing for the country and frustrating for voters. No wonder the U.S. is sinking as a world power.

  • Kathryn

    It seems to me that folks could afford their mortgages before the interest rates went up, and the ARM interest is what has caused the problem, not the value of the real estate. The greatest source of personal financial worth of most Americans is their home, and devaluing them is a huge long term blow that simply increases the trend towards concentration of wealth in the 5% of Americans who are already well off, and will affect long term ability to obtain credit as well. I’d much rather see some other way to help owners than devaluing their homes–let the market work on devaluation of future sales, apply the lessons we’ve learned about adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), and work on another solution that addresses interest rates, tax credits for interest paid on primary home mortgates, etc. for those who are currently in trouble. Foreclosures are arising from not being able to make monthly payments, the vast majority of which in new mortgages goes to interest, not the principle. The foreclosures are reflecting the month to month ability to pay, not the future tax credit. Are the financial corporations receiving the bail out having an enforced reduction of assets or are we just going to let the market decide that? If the latter, shouldn’t we be doing the same for the individual homeowners, too? What, if anything, is being talked about addressing interest, i.e., return on investment, for the corporations who are being bailed out. Understanding that return on investment is what attracts investors, it still seems worthy of discussion instead of just assuming that it’s off limits. They’ve certainly made a lot of money to date, while the homeowners were struggling. Anybody have any thoughts about that?

  • Bob Collins

    sm, I think in a week of depressing news, this debate was the most depressing. We are not incapable of having an intelligent, honest dialogue about the problems facing us.

    How did we sink to htis level?

  • Lisa

    Like many others, I was disappointed in both men. They stuck too closely to their stump speeches and didn’t answer the questions directly. The question about health care as a commodity was a wonderful question that neither man answered. The question about health care as a right vs. priviledge vs. responsibility needed more than a two minute time slot.

    The last question seemed like it was handed to Obama on a silver platter….the chance for him to wax philosophically on the idea of learning and adapting, etc. He can be so eloquent, but I can’t even remember the last time I heard him speak in the way that made him such an attractive candidate.

  • sm

    Regarding the post-game analysis, enough with pundits discussing “who won”. I don’t care about who won, that’s irrelevant. Debates should reveal candidate positions on various issues. I just want to determine which of these two options I can stomach better. If anything, this year the voters lose.

  • Joel

    I chose “poor” because really, all either candidate did was rehash the same old talking points. I’m tempted to not even bother watching the final debate; they’re just going to give the same responses again. McCain will attack Obama on the same tiresome and previously debunked accusations; Obama will parry (again) and then offer up his own talking points.

  • Joel

    On a positive note, I’m glad I didn’t hear McCain say, “I’ll make them famous and you’ll know their names.” God I hate that one.

    I also appreciated Obama’s come back of reminding voters about McCain’s “joke” about bombing Iran (though this too is now a talking point for Obama). Thanks, Bob for pointing out that McCain did not say it as a private joke to some other former soldier (or whatever his actual excuse was).

  • AimeeNashville

    Why is everyone not saying the truth the REAL bailout is to GET OUT of Iraq. Why pour 10 billion dollars a month into this war and lose more American lives- George Bush made a mistake. I am not saying the soldiers died in vain God Bless their families.

    But, enough is enough this war is what is leading us down the nightmare in the economy we are facing. We need to leave Iraq, they have a quarter of the worlds oil so why are they not putting diamonds on Mercedes like the Prince’s in Saudi Arabia.

    Why can’t they use their own money to rebuild their country, why can’t the truth be spoken. George Bush made a shockingly stupid call invading a country and killing God knows how many innocent people, along with our soldiers. Nobody even knows what the hell we are doing over there. Bin Laden is not even in that country. George Bush and Dick owe the world an apology, especially the parents of the soldiers. Just getting out of there for 10 months would be 100 billion dollars. McCain talks about winning the war. You can’t WIN a WAR anymore than you can win a hurricane. Bush got us in this mess, gas prices are higher than ever, the whole country is scared to death about their money and taking care of their family. My brother in law was in the town hall meeting tonight. He is a registered Republican, he said after meeting the both Obama and McCain- He is voting Obama. He also said Michelle Obama was one of the most engaging and warm women he has ever met: funny, down-to-earth and real. Cindy McCain did not approach anyone in the room he said she was like a cold robot. And, that McCain looked unbelievably old in person. This is a scary mess. How in the world is Sarah Palin gonna run a country with soon to be 6 kids, one with special needs. I think she is of average intelligence but in way over her head. And, having 3 sons I am terrified of McCain, he is known to have a temper, he does not want to talk to leaders anywhere. We are in trouble if he is elected. Everyone thinks America is invincible but McCain could very well finish out what Bush started and destroy our country once and for all. Please think of the children in this world when you vote. We are in debt to China for this war, education we are so behind. We have got to get off oil and create jobs here in this country I love so much!!!!!

  • Susan C

    I, too, noted McCain’s discomfort, his pacing in the background or taking notes as Obama spoke. Obama was able to speak without referring to notes, but McCain referred to notes frequently. I did want to comment on the avoidance of good solid answers by both candidates by referring to Senator Paul Wellstone. I wish our current candidates would learn the lesson I learned from Wellstone: Wellstone told it like it was and he always spoke his mind, not what he felt he needed to say to be elected. If Minnesotans did not want him, they wouldn’t vote for him. And guess what? I have heard so many people say that they did not always agree with Paul, but had the utmost respect for him because he followed his heart and did what he felt was right.

  • bsimon

    “I think in a week of depressing news, this debate was the most depressing. We are not incapable of having an intelligent, honest dialogue about the problems facing us.

    How did we sink to htis level?”

    I think its a breakdown in the value of education. Look at how ‘intellectual’ has become a pejorative. Obama’s so called ‘elitism’ – which apparently stems from having attended top-notch schools – is an aspersion. If we don’t value education in our leaders, is it really a surprise that the leader selection process focuses on one-liners and ‘gotcha’ moments rather than a real discussion of the issues?

    If there’s a positive that comes out of the economic tribulations we face, perhaps it is that we will return to a time when we value working together to achieve common goals, rather than focusing on us vs them, soundbite politics.

  • boB Sinclair

    I started watching the “debate” last night thinking, hoping that it would be better than the last. after 15 minutes I switched to a NCIS rerun, ‘cos at least it was entertaining! I agree that both men are not answering the questions, which is extremely frustrating. Which leads to this question: are either of the candidates REALLY qualified to lead this country?

  • Andy M

    I agree with others that Tom Brokaw should have been more insistant that they actually answer the questions.

    Both candidates seemed to treat it like an opportunity to give their standard speeches to ‘undecided voters’.

    We’re undecided because you wont directly answer the questions.

  • Patrick kasper

    Obama didn’t even answer the “Israel” question! Am I the only one who noticed that??? Read the transcript again. Where did he ever say he would or would not help them if they were attacked? There he goes again… let’s just “sit down and talk” about it.

  • bsimon

    “Where did he ever say he would or would not help them if they were attacked? There he goes again… ”

    Perhaps he was taking a page from the McCain doctrine & not telegraphing his next move.

    While the answer doesn’t appeal to the hawkish types that are looking for an excuse to bomb Iran into a piece of corningware, it is a good response that neither lets Iran off the hook nor rattles a saber at them.

  • slam13

    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.

    I jut rolled in tears, when I wa litening these two morons yesterday.

    ‘America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world . ‘

    That was just priceless. IMO America is the greatest force for evil and greatest parasite in the history of the world.