Presidential Debate 1 (2008)

Well, the pundits are weighing in on the first Presidential debate between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. But the question that has most of you on the edge of your seats right now is, “What are James Pate’s reactions?” (Just kidding!)

On some level, I’m not really qualified to evaluate their ideas on Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, since there’s a lot I don’t know. For example, I don’t know offhand if John McCain’s proposed alliance of democratic nations to counter Iran would work, since France and Germany were not exactly behind us on the Iraq war. What have they done on Iran over the past few years? Obama said that China and Russia could back us up, since they don’t want a nuclear Iran, even if they trade with the nation. Is this true? I vaguely recall that Russia in the UN Security Council wasn’t for pressuring Iran.

Both candidates did an excellent job in terms of speaking with intelligence and confidence. As I said in my last post, Obama has grown significantly over the past several months. He gave good analyses of several issues without appearing to be heavily coached. In terms of who had the edge, however, I will have to go with John McCain.

McCain conveyed that he had experience. He talked about travelling to many of the regions that we see on the news. He discussed examples in which he displayed good judgment (e.g., Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Iraq). He demonstrated a command of history, as when he said that Pakistan was falling apart before Musharrif came on the scene, emphasizing that he observed all this before Obama even entered national politics. He said that he was tackling Obama’s chief foreign policy issue–nuclear proliferation–in the 1990’s, long before Obama’s time. I’m not sure if McCain is right on all of these issues, but he looks like someone who can enter the Presidency prepared, since he has already interacted with a lot of the decisions a President would have to make.

Obama was weak in certain areas. He wanted to tie John McCain to George W. Bush, and he failed, since McCain has opposed the Bush Administration so many times–on climate change, on torture, on the prescription drug benefit, on the best strategy for Iraq. Even Obama had to praise Senator McCain for his stance against torture. And McCain actually gave an example of Obama voting with President Bush–on that lousy energy bill, which gave lots of goodies to big oil companies.

There was at least one time when Obama could have thrown a punch at Senator McCain but didn’t. In the discussion on spending, Obama mentioned how Medicare gives money to insurance companies. Obama should have pointed out that McCain supports that, notwithstanding all his talk about fiscal responsibility.

Obama did well to hit McCain on regulation, and I wish that McCain had responded to that–by arguing that regulation is not always the answer, by referring to government policies that encouraged risky loans, or by reciting the times when he has supported more oversight. But, as pundits all over the political spectrum are pointing out, McCain pretty much nullified Obama’s attack when he turned the spotlight on Obama’s support for earmarks. And Obama’s answer to that was pretty weak!

McCain said that a President needs to be flexible, unlike Senator Obama, who refuses to say he was wrong about the surge. I wonder if this will come back and bite McCain in the rear-end. Can he now call Obama a flip-flopper, now that he’s portrayed him as overly rigid? Giuliani tried to use this typical GOP line of attack (“flip-flopper”) at the convention. Is that now out the window?

On Iraq, McCain had the edge because he said the surge was working, and Obama did not forcefully disagree with that claim. But I’m wondering how long we will have to be in Iraq. General Petreus said we can’t have a timetable for withdrawal. Why not, if the surge is actually working? We can’t police that country forever, can we? Maybe Iraq needs more time before it can police itself. Also, I wonder how we will have a surge in Afghanistan, while our troops remain in Iraq. Does McCain want us to send more troops?

Obama did well to point out that having so many troops in Iraq leads us to neglect Al-Qaeda in a lot of other countries. I’m not sure what Obama envisions that we do instead, since he mentioned that Al-Qaeda is even in our hemisphere. Does he want America to invade Latin America, where Al-Qaeda may have a base? I also think that Obama failed to answer one of McCain’s central arguments: that losing in Iraq will hurt us in Afghanistan. Having a major haven for terror in Iraq will not help us in that entire region.

There were no major gaffes that I could see, but this is before certain things have been fact-checked. Does Dr. Kissinger support the President of the United States meeting with the President of Iran without preconditions? Did McCain vote for or against alternative energy? What exactly can Obama do on that little sub-committee he heads? Can he investigate Afghanistan, as Senator McCain asserted? These may be retroactive gaffes, and I’m not sure that they’ll wreck either candidate. Both showed that they could spin their way out of a lot of tough charges. But people may make an issue of McCain looking constipated during parts of the debate. Or Obama not even cracking a smile as McCain struggled with Ahmadinejad’s name.

As the analysis continues to come out of our beloved media, I’m bracing myself for the October 2 Vice-Presidential debate. In that, you’ll see the reverse of what you saw today: there, you’ll have an experienced Democrat and an inexperienced Republican. I can picture Biden pulling some of the tactics we saw from McCain just now: “I’ve met with such-and such a leader, after visiting such-and-such a country.” Hopefully, Palin will do at least as well as Obama did in this last debate. I want her to be the Palin of the good Governor Palin interviews, not the Palin of the bad VP candidate Palin interviews.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Candidates, Current Events, Politics, Sarah Palin. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Presidential Debate 1 (2008)

  1. steph says:

    When the Australian P.M., Kevin Rudd, was asked last week on a talk show what he thought of Palin,
    he said after a pause “I like moose”. Live ones.


  2. James Pate says:

    Is Kevin Rudd an environmental preservationist? I’m sure he has to deal with species control in Australia.


  3. steph says:

    Kevin Rudd, James, was saying in a roundabout way that he didn’t think much of Palin. Is that so difficult to understand?


Comments are closed.