This may have been the debate Obama needed, but was it the debate the United States needed?
“Senator McCain and I agree,” “I think Senator McCain would agree” “Senator McCain is absolutely right” – over and over, a dozen times in 90 minutes, Senator Obama expressed his agreement with Senator McCain.
Why was Obama agreeing with McCain? Was it a tactic to show his bi-partisanship, his ‘nice-guy’ personality and his ability to get along with political adversaries? Is this how Obama would govern?
Sen. McCain did not return the favor. As often as Obama expressed agreement, McCain snarled at Obama, talked down to him and called him naïve, ignorant, uninformed and mistaken. McCain would not even look at Obama. He seemed like someone who felt “I should not have to be debating this guy, this inexperienced new-comer – I’m better than him and should be given the presidency.” McCain talked over Obama whenever he tried to correct the record when McCain repeatedly misstated Obama’s positions.
CNN reported that independent voters did not react well to the negative comments. As a tactic Obama’s nice-guy strategy seemed to work. All the post-election polls showed Obama “winning” the debate by up to 14%. Voters saw Obama as better on Iraq as well as the economy. This is also being reflected in the tracking polls, the Gallup daily presidential tracking poll taken September 25-27 shows Obama leading McCain 50%-42% The Rasmussen Reports automated daily presidential tracking poll for September 28 shows Obama leading McCain 50%-44%. So, the approach served him well but did it serve the United States? Don’t we need a real debate on the critical issues the country is facing at this crossroads moment in U.S. history?
On what issues did they agree – Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, energy, Georgia, nuclear power, clean coal, the bailout – just some of the biggest issues we face. Even on Iraq differences were blurred as Obama made it clear his exit would be slow and cautious, a victory not a defeat. Or, does Obama really believe that it was wrong of Russia to respond to Georgia’s invasion of S. Ossetia? Does he really believe that expanding the war in Afghanistan is the solution to that conflict? Or, that missle defense, that has not been shown to work, is necessary to protect the U.S. from North Korea and Iran?
If you are an American who wants to see a foreign policy based on militarism come to an end then you had to be disappointed with the first debate. If you don’t think the bailout of Wall Street and big banks is the right approach, you did not hear a viewpoint you could support. If you recognize that we live an interdependent world where we should be emphasizing working with other nations in a cooperative way rather than trying to be ‘independent’ on issues like energy, then you had no spokesperson in the debate.
This is a grave time for the United States: two ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, shots exchanged between U.S. and Pakistani troops, ongoing conflict with Iran and escalating conflict with Russia. Not only is all of this draining the U.S. military and their families but it is also draining the U.S. treasury at a time when the treasury is empty. Iraq alone is costing $10 billion a month – money we are borrowing from other countries the U.S. is competing with.
On the foreign policy front the U.S. would have been better served by a broader debate. Candidates who advocate a less militaristic foreign policy, bringing troops home from the more than 700 bases the U.S. has around the world, or shrinking the U.S. defense budget – currently as large as the whole world combined.