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Second presidential debate
McCain vs. Obama on October 7, 2008

Added on October 8, 2008 at 12:41 Riga time
Contrary to my impression of McCain as the winner by points, in post-debate polls, a majority of viewers saw Obama as the winner. Will voters consider the current financial and economic crisis the final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years” and, more importantly, as Obama put it during the debate looking to McCain when he said it, linking the Republican presidential candidate to President Bush? Maybe McCain was still too aggressive in the second debate, which alienated some voters. On TV, the style is often more important than the message.

Article added on October 8, 2008 at 05:20 Riga time
The second presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama was in the town hall format. The one before between Biden and Palin, in which both candidates made plenty of errors, attracted a huge cr. Biden hit the jackpot with the lie that Obama had never said that he would meet with Ahmedinejad and, above all, with the assertion that the U.S., with the help of France, had kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Not many took note of Biden's terrible gaffe. Sarah Palin's low point came some days earlier in her interview with Katie Couric.

The October 7, 2008 debate between McCain and Obama is promising. John McCain has to come back from behind in the polls and may be ready to get personal, and Obama may be ready to hit back hard, although in the town hall format, this would probably fire back.

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Both presidential candidates made gaffes in the past. McCain hit a low when, the day of the meltdown, he said that the fundamentals of the American economy were sound.

In addition to his many “Messiah moments” of grandstanding, Obama once spoke about the states he had visited in the past 15 months: “I have now been in 57 states, I think one left to go. One left to go. Alaska and Hawaii I was not allowed to go to even tough I really wanted to visit but my staff would not justify it.”

Obama listed Iran among “tiny countries” that don't pose a threat like Russia and, the climax, visibly  unaware of the fact that Russia has a veto, called for the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution to end the war between Georgia and Russia.

Palin was crucified for much less. We all know that she has zero foreign and security experience. But she has avoided a gaffe of the Hezbollah or Security Council magnitude so far. The “experts” Biden and Obama apparently can get away with anything and look “presidential”.

In the second presidential debate, the first in a town hall format, both candidates' main task was to connect with people, show that they understand the concerns of “ordinary citizens”, be likable and competent, show empathy, be presidential, but not too presidential. Although McCain normally performs better in those circumstances, his problem was that he could not be aggressive. But when you are behind in the polls, that is what you should do, be aggressive in substance, but not in form, not an easy task.

Still, before the debate, the race was far from over. Although for the wrong reasons, the
mortgage and financial crisis seems to play in Obama's hands. If McCain has not lost all his senses, he can turn this around, because Obama is the subsidizer and protectionist. As James Carville famously said during Bill Clinton's campaign, it's the economy, stupid!



The second presidential debate between McCain and Obama on October 7, 2008
Added on October 8, 2008 at 05:20 Riga time and last updated at 07:10 Riga time

My first impressions


NBC's Tom Brokaw moderated the second presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville. Obama had a bad start and did not answer the first question, whereas McCain addressed it at the end directly by suggesting that the fastest solution to bail Americans out of the economic ruin was to stabilize housing prices. McCain said that he would order the secretary of treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes to make people be able to make those payments and stay in their homes. McCain said that it would be expensive but until we stabilize home values in America, we're never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy. And we've got to give some trust and confidence back to America.

The third question was about what the bailout offered ordinary Americans. McCain called it a rescue and not a bailout and attacked Obama on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. McCain said that he stood up against it two years ago, which is partly true, whereas Obama took a hike. Obama hit back and said that he wrote to the Fed chairman as well as to Secretary Paulson but nobody took action, and that he was for more regulation. Obama pointed out that not he, Obama, but McCain's campaign chairman's firm was a lobbyist on behalf of Fannie Mae.

McCain said that the American workers are the best in the world. They need a chance to get back.

Obama hits McCain by saying that he, McCain, has been in Washington for 26 years and voted 23 times against alternative fuels. McCain hits back by saying that Obama was in favor of a Bush-Cheney bill of $5 billion for the oil industry, which he, McCain, opposed.

McCain had a bad moment when saying “That one”, pointing to Obama, voted against the 2005 energy bill. It was the only moment where he became too aggressive.

On healthcare, Obama fought back. He went on the offensive: McCain gives you a $5000 tax credit and than takes it away with the other hand. McCain hits back by stressing that he will not impose mandates like Obama who stresses in his eyes that the government will do this and that. Give people choices, not mandates, is McCain's message.

Obama attacks McCain who is - or was - for deregulation. Deregulation caused the economic problems, he claims (and is partially right; Democrats affordable housing was another reason). Obama opposes McCain's deregulation in health care. Overall, on health care, McCain was more evasive, whereas Obama said that health care is a right and won on this, because it was more to the point and more caring about people.

McCain stressed his record as a bipartisan reformer.

McCain repeated in the debate Palin's claim that Obama had voted to raise taxes 94 times. Independent researches would cut that claim down to maybe 50 times in which Obama would have had the chance to oppose taxes. Why does McCain cite an obviously wrong number? Why not say that Obama stands for tax increases and missed occasions for tax cuts, without giving a number? McCain had a good line by saying that nailing down Obama's various tax proposals was like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

How will the recent economic turmoil affect the United States ability to act as peacemaker in the world? McCain underlines that a militarily strong country needs a strong economy.

Obama attacks McCain on Iraq. Attacking a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 was a mistake. And it has already cost the U.S. some $700 billion. Obama ties McCain to George W. Bush.


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Asked about the Obama and McCain doctrine, Obama says that the U.S. will intervene where it is possible, but not everywhere. The U.S. cannot stand idly by when genocide is happening. In Darfur, we could be setting up a no-fly zone at little cost. McCain attacks Obama on Iraq, where Obama's plan would have led to bring U.S. troops home in defeat. You need a cool hand, retorts McCain, you have to measure your means to your capabilities.

McCain had a good line by highlighting that Obama's plan for military strikes in Pakistan was remarkable. McCain said that his hero was Teddy Roosevelt who used to say: “talk softly, but carry a big stick. Obama likes to talk loudly.”

Overall, McCain was more attacking and aggressive, but not too much to look too bully. He did a fine job and was wise enough not to go into the “Ayers-debate”. McCain had the upper hand. A winner on points. Was it clear enough to come back in the race? Obama limited the fallout of the only town hall debate, a format which favors McCain.




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