I am going to be honest. By about 10 pm, I was done. Neither of these two were answering questions with any detail that had not been a sound bite for a week or more. I could not believe they could look at the 80 undecided voters on that stage with them and think they were influencing anyone. I am not even sure I can watch another debate where these two are both afraid to do anything.
John McCain tried to land some body blows – if I am to use a sports analogy which it seems is the “in” thing these days – to Barack Obama. He did then half-heartedly and in such a manner that, even watching on television and not HDTV, I could tell he was uncomfortable with what he was saying.
I thought the format would lead to much more differences being pointed out between the two candidates. Maybe, had moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News actually required that the participants stick with the predetermined and pre-“agreed to” rules, the debate would have generated some campaign changing moments but it did not.
Were there moments or statements that caught my attention? You betcha – sorry, couldn’t resist. Obama lead with a statement that this is “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.” While we may be headed to that area, I do not believe, nor do most economists, that we are there yet. McCain countered with Americans being angry, yet his tone – he is American, right? – didn’t sound angry. McCain might have changed the entire feel of the debate right then if, first, he had sounded angry and, second, if when he introduced his new plan to have the federal government buy mortgages to help homeowners stay in their homes, he had actually put some teeth and details into this discussion.
When asked, in a follow up by Brokaw, who he would name as Treasury Secretary, McCain had two names to float – Warren Buffet, who is a natural nod to bipartisanship, and Meg Whitman, former CEO and founder of eBay. Obama, while saying Buffet would be a good choice, did not truly answer the question.
Obama – along the lines of his running mate in last week’s vice presidential debate – stated his 95% of Americans would get a tax cut but the first time he mentioned this statement, he added the word working – 95% of working Americans. The qualifiers keep coming for this tax cut statement and are different every time one of the ticket speaks. We, as voters, need to know what is the truth about this issue.
When faced with the question about what in the recent bailout package helps the average American, McCain began his not answering of questions. He did take the opportunity to blast Obama as the second highest recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in history. Considering Obama has only been in the Senate since 2004, I find this a deeply disturbing comment. Obama talked about how the frozen credit markets could trickle down – something he normally dislikes – to individuals, which I am sure it will.
In the follow up to this question, Brokaw asked if the economy was going to get much worse. Neither candidate would admit to this one. McCain knows better as he has been paying for some time for telling the truth to Michigan residents when, during the primaries, he said jobs that had left will not be coming back. I find truth, even when bad news, a refreshing thing coming from a politician.
When Brokaw broached the subject of prioritizing what will be worked on, he asked in regards to energy independence, health care and entitlements. McCain insisted that all three can be worked on together as there is some interdependence. Obama ignored entitlements totally and prioritized this way: energy, health care and education.
The real game changer was a soft pitch question from a woman who lived through the Great Depression and came via the internet. The voter wanted to know what sacrifice the next president would ask of the American people. Either candidate could have really made a big impression here and I don’t think either did. Neither really talked about any sacrifice that would be asked of us.
When a specific question was asked about reforming entitlements – specifically, Medicare and Social Security – with a time frame of within the first two years of his term, Obama wouldn’t guarantee anything. He gave the question a glancing answer and then went back to follow up on tax credits for small businesses which was a previous question. McCain indicated, at the beginning of his answer, that he would answer the question. He did say it was not hard to fix Social Security. It has been done before with Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill creating a fix in 1983. The problem is it is tough decisions. McCain was there for the first fix so may actually have a basis for being able to fix it again. Medicare is a tougher issue. McCain favors appointing a commission to get recommendations from and making Congress vote up or down on these.
When given the opportunity to outline how the next administration would encourage bipartisanship within Congress and how it would move Congress to move quickly on issues of great importance, neither candidate answered the question.
With about 30 minutes or so left in the debate timeframe, the format fell to pieces and Brokaw allowed it when Obama insisted he had to respond to something McCain had said. The role of moderator is to enforce the rules which were pre-determined and that was not done. You could have had me sitting there for all the good Brokaw did. The debate went downhill quickly from this point on. Candidates insisted they be given addition time for answers and to basically reiterate stump speech pieces as rebuttal to the opposition. This portion of the debate was all about foreign policy and should have been more moderated. It was not and the candidates might as well have been at individual campaign rallies for their time.
As I said at the beginning, I am not even sure I can watch a third debate. I still have not made a decision regarding who to vote for and I don’t know that another “debate” will help. Off to research.