And that is all she wrote. Well, my first impressions are that McCain stuck to his experience and was strong on details, but Obama held his own on a subject he is widely seen less knowledgeable on. The candidates did not pull any surprises or break the mold. By no means a game changer. The bookies will likely chalk this one up as a draw — or a slight McCain edge.
As for the questions, most of the big issues were covered. Some major gaps: China, South American relations including Venezuela, and Africa — the foremost issues being Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. It’s impossible to cover everything, but these — particularly China — were large omissions.
All in all, pretty standard fare. Now let’s leave it to the commentators and spinners.
Good night all.
The attacks of 9/11 now. McCain says that the U.S. is safer. Obama counters that Al Qa’eda is still the major threat despite the attempts of the Bush Administration, and there has been a major undermining of U.S. popularity.
The usual attacks: Obama would surrender in Iraq; McCain is the same as Bush. McCain talks about the need for flexibility in a president, citing the surge. Obama summarizes with the need to restore the U.S.’s place in the world.
Obama brings up offshore drilling, and McCain says that drilling would lead to energy independence. That ignores the fact that drilling would not have any effect for at least 10 years.
Obama claims Russia’s actions in Georgia were “unacceptable.” Say that U.S. will be in solidarity with Ukraine and have membership action plan. Asserts that there are areas cooperation.
McCain says that there was a “serious aggression” against Georgia, which was fueled by petrodollars. He says Saakashvili is a “great young president.” He also talks about the pipelines, and then talks about the independence of Ukraine.
There is a lot of bluster about this issue. It should be remembered that there is little that the U.S. can directly do to stop the Kremlin from acting. Also, both candidates have talk about Putin, rather than Medvedev, who is the official elected leader of Russia.
Iran now. McCain says a nuclear-armed Tehran is a threat to Israel, and could spark an arms race. He also brings up the widely criticized League of Democracies. He says that these countries have most of the economic and military power of the world. He neglects to say that these countries are also suffering from financial meltdown. China and Russia are the countries who are rising in power.
Obama, says a nuclear Iran would be “a game changer,” and asserts Israel as a “stalwart” ally. He say that he reserves the right to talk to anybody at any time as long as it protects America. That last bit is new, following criticism. Obama strongly defends his intention to negotiate.
McCain continues to paint Obama with the naive brush. And then it decends into bickering.
McCain is really asserting his long history with mentions of the U.S. support for Afghanistan in the ’80s, and his personal relationship with Bush 41’s Secretary of State.
On Afghanistan, McCain talks about collaborating to eliminate the Taliban foothold. He really has a strong grip of this issue. He says that he is not willing to cut of aid to Pakistan either. Obama talks about the present, but again McCain talks his long record. This line is very effective for him.
Obama came into the debate with much higher expectations, yet the public felt that McCain had much stronger foreign policy knowledge. McCain is commanding the Iraq issue, boasting about his support for the surge.
Obama instead is concentrating on Afghanistan.
This is an interesting back-and-forth, because the U.S. public is most concerned about Iraq — even if academics and military strategists are more concerned with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
McCain talks about Iraq, stands behind the surge and General Petraeus. Claims that Iraq “will succeed” now, despite mismanagement following the initial invasion.
Obama talks about his opposition of the Iraq war. And hints at foresight in his concern for Afghanistan, which has taken a decidedly bad turn over the past year.
McCain say that the issue is no longer should we attack Iraq; now it is how should we leave. Strong point. Obama deflects by praising Gen. Petraeus and talking about Joe Biden, his running mate.
First zinger: McCain says Obama doesn’t know the difference between “a tactic and a strategy.”
Obama hits McCain for ties to Bush who has led an “orgy of spending.” McCain mentions Palin as a Maverick.
Obama acknowledges that his projects would have to downsized as a result of the financial crisis.
McCain reasserts the need to cuts spending.
Also the first Iraq mention of the night: Obama say that pulling out of Iraq would save tax payers’ money.
Lehrer asks a great question about pulling back pet projects because of the worsening economy. Both neglect to answer it, but Messr. Moderator holds their feet to the fire.
Obama goes for a hot button topic, declaring McCain’s tax plan would cut oil company taxes by $400 billion. He then goes on to energy, and reels through his usual green energy plans with its vow for energy independence. This is a red herring though. Energy independence in eight years is about as realistic as England winning the World Cup. That is to say, not at all.
The candidates have warmed up now, and they are into spending and tax cuts. McCain is hitting Obama for “pork barrel spending” and earmarks.
And now the ol’ Marevick flips it by asking Obama how he would define rich. McCain was slammed for defining rich as anyone with $5 million. Obama ignores the jab.
Initial impressions are that Obama has started off quickly, linking his opponent to the unpopular George W. Bush. McCain for his part is talking about his experience and wide-ranging service. He has also boasted about his long-held crusade against earmarks.
And we are off …
Mark Partridge, Contributing Editor