Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thoughts on the first presidential debate

I've been a little busy over the last four days to do blogging. I had a friend come down for the weekend photographing Villa Montalvo. It is a beautiful park and cultural arts center with a number of hiking trails, located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. So I didn't get a chance to watch the first presidential debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.

So I am watching the debate now. And I've seen some interesting details to comment on. Here is the debate through C-Span:

First, I've noticed that John McCain will never look at Barack Obama. McCain will look at the podium, McCain will look at the audience, McCain will look at moderator Jim Lehrer. But John McCain would never look at Barack Obama. I found that interesting. What emotions were swirling around McCain's mind during that debate? Was McCain ashamed to look at Obama because of the dishonesty of McCain's campaign? Or did John McCain feel anger, disgust, and contempt against Obama, perhaps for destroying what should have been McCain's divine right of succession to the Oval Office? Or perhaps McCain was suppressing too much of his famous temper, and that one look at Obama would cause McCain's head to turn red, steam hissing out of his ears, before exploding into tiny, vaporized fragments onstage? And if Candidate McCain could not look at Obama during the debate, then how could a President McCain look at a foreign leader of an adversarial country during a negotiation--say, a Hugo Chavez of Venezuala? Or a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran? Or is a President McCain even willing to talk to such leaders of adversarial nations against the United States?

The first question Lehrer posed to both McCain and Obama on the financial bailout reveals a lot about both candidates, and their policy issues. On that first question, Obama presented four points on cleaning up the financial sector--increasing government oversight in the financial markets, making sure the American taxpayer will receive a return on their dollars invested into this bailout, curbing CEO golden parachutes, and finally helping American homeowners in renegotiating their home loans from foreclosures. McCain's answer was that Democrats and Republicans are negotiating in a bipartisan manner, and that John McCain was responsible for bringing the bipartisan negotiations to this financial bailout plan. McCain never presented any plan, or whatever he believes, in resolving the financial crisis on Wall Street.

And that is interesting, because going through the YouTube video, and the transcript, John McCain doesn't present any plan, or legislative agenda, for the economy and the financial crisis. McCain simply attacked Obama on every policy issue--financial bailout, energy, education, earmarks, everything. According to John McCain, Barack Obama is wrong about every issue, and John McCain will ride in, as a knight on a white horse, to save the country. Of course, McCain doesn't present any plan on how a President McCain will save the country--except that President McCain will bring "change" to the country. However Candidate John McCain refuses to tell the American people what President McCain's legislative agenda will be for bringing such change to the country. All we hear from Candidate McCain is to vote for President McCain because Barack Obama is just wrong.

And yet, John McCain refuses to look Barack Obama in the eye and tell Obama that he is wrong.

On foreign policy, the big question still revolves around the U.S. war in Iraq. And again, we have the huge difference of opinion between John McCain and Barack Obama. McCain insists that the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq, and I get the impression that John McCain will continue this war for another four to eight years, if McCain is elected. And again, McCain refuses to explain his Iraq strategy, except that the U.S. is winning in Iraq, and that Barack Obama will lose the war in Iraq, since Obama will withdrawal U.S. troops from Iraq.

Of course, Obama shows just how wrong McCain has been on Iraq:

Obama: Senator McCain is absolutely right that the violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops and our military families.

They have done a brilliant job, and General Petraeus has done a brilliant job. But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war.

And so John likes -- John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong.

You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shiite and Sunni. And you were wrong. And so my question is...

LEHRER: Senator Obama...

OBAMA: ... of judgment, of whether or not -- of whether or not -- if the question is who is best-equipped as the next president to make good decisions about how we use our military, how we make sure that we are prepared and ready for the next conflict, then I think we can take a look at our judgment.

This is an especially powerful attack against McCain in questioning McCain's judgment on the war in Iraq. John McCain's "new strategy" has always been to continue the U.S. war in Iraq, even when an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the war. It is almost like McCain is running on a warmongering platform, while at the same time McCain is avoiding to say that he is pro-war. Obama slams McCain on that.

So who won the debate? I am almost tempted to say that it was a tie, with a slight nod going to Obama. Obama supporters will say that Obama won the debate. McCain supporters will say that McCain won the debate. Both candidates didn't make any serious flubs. McCain appeared more dishonest in the debate because McCain refused to look at Obama during the entire time. Obama had an annoying habit of first agreeing with McCain on this point or that point, before trying to explain why McCain was then wrong on the policy point. McCain never bothered to present his policy agenda, instead consistently attacking Obama on everything, and then claiming that McCain held the mantle of change (even though McCain refused to tell the American people the details of his own policy agenda for change really is). Obama presented his own vision of where to lead the country on the financial crisis, the U.S. war in Iraq, and the future of US-foreign relations. McCain simply used the debate as a 90-minute attack ad against Obama. McCain's vision was "vote for me, because Barack Obama is wrong for the country--Barack Obama would raise taxes, have government intrude on you, surrender to Iraq and the terrorists. In other words, Barack Obama is the bogyman.

So in conclusion, the debate was really about a vision of change, that Barack Obama presented to the American people, verses a vision of fear, that John McCain presented to the American people. Looking at how the McCain campaign has imploded after the Republican convention, at how the McCain campaign has relentlessly attacked Obama with constant lies and negativity, and how the McCain campaign has lied to the American people about everything, I would say that the greater fear and bogyman for this country is John McCain. John McCain claims that he is a candidate of change, but refuses to provide policy details of how he will change the direction of the country. McCain claims that he will clean up Washington, while an army of lobbyists work on his campaign. McCain is a warmonger, who will continue the disastrous U.S. war in Iraq with no resolution. John McCain's legislative agenda is a continuation of a Bush third term, with more tax cuts to the rich, more government deregulation, more domestic drilling for Big Oil, more goodies given away to big corporations. I don't see any change in the country's direction with a President McCain. So I will vote for Barack Obama, not because I believe in Obama's policies over McCain's. I will vote for Barack Obama because I believe that a President McCain will be far worst than George W. Bush. It will not be because a McCain administration will just be another third Bush term, but also because of an issue that was never raised in this debate--an inexperienced Vice President Sarah Palin to succeed McCain in the Oval Office, if McCain does die in his first term in office. A McCain / Palin administration is a scary continuation of this GOP disaster of an executive government that is sending this country down a sheer cliff.

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