Yes, it seems like all I do these days is watch debates. I got tired of them about August but am back with my pen and notebook taking notes. And, yes, my sons look at me like I am nuts as I head to a television that won’t disturb them with a mug of hot tea or coffee, the notebook and pen.
Being a sports fan, I wondered at the opening statements. Obama won “the toss” and elected to open second. Was that a strategic move? Did he have some clue who Clinton was going to mention in her opening? It seems as if he did as he had a quote from Barbara Jordan to use in his opening after she was mentioned by Clinton. That really points to his skills as an orator but does nothing to impress me on his skills as a leader.
Clinton opened with accomplishments and mention of important female Texans – Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards. She talked of living in Texas 35 years ago. She talked of her health care accomplishments (children’s health insurance plan) and her health care wants (no discrimination against the sick). She closed her opening with a line I paraphrase as she has a “lifetime of experience and proven results” to bring to the White House.
Obama opened with the conditions in the country. We are at war. Our economy is in shambles. He told, without the names that John Edwards would have used, stories of individuals that the things wrong in our country are hurting. He again pointed out that the war should never have been authorized and never should have been waged. He closed with the thought that Washington is not lacking good ideas but is the place they go to die. He, then, quoted or paraphrased Barbara Jordan in that he wants to help make “America as good as its promise.”
I seriously think the most substantive, new information came when Jorge Ramos of Univision started the debate with a question on Cuba. He wanted to know, as I am sure a lot of Cuban-Americans do, if, as president, the candidate would meet with Raul Castro or whomever the new Cuban leader would be to “get a measure of the man.”
Clinton’s answer seemed the most direct and honest in my mind. She stated clearly that she would need to see signs of change – the release of political prisoners, opening of the economy, lessening of oppression of the press and the Cuban people. She would be open to diplomatic discussions once she saw these changes in Cuba. She would need evidence of the changes and, she pointed out clearly, that diplomatic discussions would not involve the president at first.
Obama, I felt, hedged a bit on his answer. He immediately said he, as president, would personally meet with the new Cuban leader. He did say that this change in leadership is the starting point of liberty for the Cuban people and should be something the US encourages. Then, he said his meeting would be without preconditions but would be with preparations such as the new Cuban leader’s stance on human rights and on a more open press. These preparations will take time. To me, this is symantics. Preparations, preconditions. The only real difference in this portion of the Cuba discussion is who would meet with the Cuban leader – diplomats or the president.
Obama was questioned by Campbell Brown, the CNN moderator, as to why the change in his opinion as he said in 2003 that he would normalize relations with Cuba. Obama reiterated that the loosening of restrictions on family remittances and family travel to Cuba would be the start of normalization. Obama quoted or paraphrased John F Kennedy in this exchange – which I find ironic due to the problems Kennedy had with Cuba – in that we should “never negotiate out of fear but should never fear to negotiate.”
In follow up on this issue, Clinton presented a plan for diplomatic relations with Cuba and other countries that would be bipartisan. Obama stated he would, as the president, take a more active role in diplomacy so as to help undo the damage of the last seven years.
The next area of discussion was the economy. Both candidates discussed no tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas. Both candidates said that the Bush tax cuts would have to end for the higher level incomes. Clinton did mention the income level of $200,000. Obama did not mention a level. Both quickly discussed ending loopholes.
Obama mentioned tax credits for senior citizens making less than $50,000 and other citizens making less than $75,000. He also said that the United states needed to set and keep high labor and environmental standards. To get it done, he said there is the need for a working coalition for change.
Clinton, of course, said she was ready to help fix the US economy on Day One. She made a well-accepted comment about the “wealthy and well-connected have had their president for the last seven years” and the rest of American needs a president now. She says she would institute a “trade timeout” so that trade agreements could be reviewed and evaluated as to wehter they are working or not. She pointed out that she has been calling for a foreclosure moratorium for 90 days and an interest rate freeze for five years. While these issues are good vote getters, I am still waiting for someone to tell people that if you make $100,000 a year, you should understand that you cannot afford a $750,000 house. Clinton also said three prong attact to get the economy back on track – clean, green jobs which she tried to get put into the Bush economic stimulus package; investment in our infrastructure; and end the George W Bush war on science.
Although I thought the debate took too many breaks, I am going to take one now and continue the remainder of my thoughts on the debate later.