Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sounds like they debated. I was working late and recorded it on the DVR...

Mr. Obama sought to undercut his opponents’ extra decades on the world stage by painting him as dangerously hawkish, while Mr. McCain questioned the Democrat’s basic understanding of how and when to wield troops and diplomacy.

“The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not,” Mr. McCain said. “The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind.”
Mr. Obama lauded the strides U.S. troops have made in Iraq since the surge Mr. McCain pushed for but said, “that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war. John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. …When the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy.”
Mr. McCain retorted with condescension, saying, “I’m afraid that Sen. Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy.”
Foreign policy was the planned focus of the 90-minute debate at the University of Mississippi. But with Wall Street on the brink of meltdown, talk of nuclear proliferation, Russian aggression in Georgia, China’s growing clout, and threats from Iran and North Korea consumed only about half the time.
Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS made sure of that, moving straight to the financial crisis that almost kept Mr. McCain from coming. He probed for specifics on how the candidates would bail out the markets, and prodded the senators to engage each other directly on that and other topics — yielding one of the livelier debates in years.
Mr. McCain shrugged off speculation that he might not vote for whatever bailout plan emerges from Congress, to prove his bona fides as a maverick and distance himself from President Bush.
“Sure,” he said, when asked if he’ll support the eventual plan.
Televised debates have been a fixture of presidential campaigns since John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon met in 1960.
Viewership for this debate could hit a record 100 million. But it almost didn’t happen. Mr. McCain dropped a bombshell Wednesday afternoon by threatening a boycott until Congress and White House hammered out a bailout for Wall Street. He didn’t relent until late Friday morning, after an extraordinary White House summit Thursday with Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama and congressional leaders ended without a deal.
Democrats accused him of injecting presidential politics into the talks and setting back progress. But after the debate, the campaign said Mr. McCain was returning to Washington to keep pushing for a breakthrough.
Mr. Obama tried to paint the Republican not as an agent of change but as a champion of policies that led to the crisis — “a theory that basically says that we can shred regulations and consumer protections and give more and more to the most, and somehow prosperity will trickle down. It hasn’t worked.”
Mr. McCain refused to take the blame. “A lot of us saw this train wreck coming,” he said.
Both agreed that the massive bailout will put a huge crimp on their budget priorities as president.
Mr. McCain proposed to freeze spending on everything other than defense, veterans and entitlement programs.
Mr. Obama derided that as simplistic. “The problem with a spending freeze is you’re using a hatchet where you need a scalpel,” he said.
As the relative newcomer, Mr. Obama’s challenge was to present himself as a plausible commander-in-chief. Mr. McCain missed few openings to undercut that effort, ticking off names of world leaders he’s met with and hotspots he’s visited.
He attacked Mr. Obama’s willingness to meet with Iran’s leaders, noting that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called Israel “stinking corpse.” Such a meeting, he said, “isn’t just naive; it’s dangerous.”
He also accused Mr. Obama of “naïveté” when Russia invaded Georgia, by calling on restraint from both sides when Russia was clearly the aggressor — loaded language clearly meant to cast doubt on the Democrat’s readiness to lead.
Mr. Obama responded with derision of his own, noting that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — a longtime McCain friend and sometime adviser — has agreed on the advisability of meeting with adversaries like Iran.
And he poked Mr. McCain for refusing recently to commit to a meeting with Spain’s new president — though Mr. Obama slipped and referred to the prime minister.
“I mean, Spain? Spain is a NATO ally,” Mr. Obama said. “If we can’t meet with our friends, I don’t know how we’re going to lead the world in terms of dealing with critical issues like terrorism.”
Mr. McCain slipped a few times himself, rushing through some of his stock lines so fast he mangled them.
His oft-told joke about $3 million spent studying the DNA of bears in Montana fell flat with a punch line about whether that was a criminal or “paternal” case (he meant paternity). His tough talk on pork-barrel spending came out as a threat to block every federal outlay. “I’ve got a pen,” he said, gesturing with his Sharpie, “and I’m going to veto every single spending bill that crosses my desk.”
The debate came as Mr. Obama has pulled into a slight lead in polls this week.
In one testy exchange, Mr. McCain called out his opponent as someone who can’t figure out how to act in a bipartisan way because “it’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left.”
“John mentioned me being wildly liberal,” Mr. Obama shot back. “Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrong headed policies since I’ve been in Congress.”

Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., a former United Nations ambassador, predicted that the debate would leave more voters than ever comfortable with the idea of Mr. Obama as commander-in-chief.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a key McCain confidant, asserted that the Republican’s decades of experience provided an “ace in the hole”– and said the market turmoil made the stakes unusually high Friday.

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