I see the last moderator was replaced this time around. I wonder if he’ll be back in the third or if the network executives were sick of him as well. He seemed to subtly play favorites with the Republicans every cycle, and it was getting on my last nerve.
This is the debate I specifically remember watching with my dad back in ’08. I just remember afterward, all the TV commentators talking about how “masterful” McCain is supposed to be at town halls while my dad and I both agreeing that was strange for them to say, since we thought he did pretty badly here. And just to put this anecdote in context, my dad’s a moderate. When asked, he told me that Nelson Rockefeller (the centrist opponent to Goldwater from ’64) is the failed candidate he most wish had been elected. He saw through Obama’s “hope and change” pandering at the time, but wasn’t crazy about McCain’s willingness to continue the Iraq fiasco either. He supported Kasich in 2016.
It’s disappointing how Obama solely blames the economic policies which led to the recession on Bush II. I know he doesn’t want to make Democrats seem at fault too, but the fact is they were. Clinton allowing the repeal of Glass-Steagall is the most important part, as is his third way neoliberalist economics in general. And if you wanna go further back, it all began with Reagan’s anti-regulations attitude and supply side trickle down economics of the ’80s. I wish Obama would have said that because it would prove he knows the big picture and isn’t afraid to purge the bad elements of both parties to stop it from accelerating in the future. Instead, he resorts to typical blame game bullshit. Obama talks about making sure the bailout money isn’t used for golden parachutes and whatnot, but in effect it was, and nothing was done about punishing those responsible.
As for McCain’s take, I agree cutting payments to countries that don’t like us anyway and don’t deserve our money is one thing we ought to do. Why we give billions to Israel while Netanyahu spits in our face, as well as billions to other countries I’ll never know. But by proceeding to pivot towards taxes, I think McCain does himself a great disservice. It’s the same annoying talking point the Republicans have used since Reagan, it doesn’t apply here when discussing ways of getting us out of the recession and to many it’s a moot point. What good is low taxes if I don’t have a job? If I can’t send my kid to college? If the economy collapses? I think McCain misjudged what people wanted to hear at this point. That low taxes pandering does okay to the uninformed when the economy is good, but not so much when it’s bad.
Obama does a good job attacking trickle down economics (though he did little in office to end it) and speaking to people’s needs. He comes off like one of us, who understands our struggle, where McCain doesn’t. McCain’s answer about the bailout (“you call it a bailout, I call it a rescue”) is further proof of that. Realistically, letting all those companies go under would have been disastrous, but I think some kind of public ownership (like every tax payer receiving stock in the companies for their contribution to saving them) or firing of the executives would have softened the blow to Americans seeing our hard earned money helping out the billionaires who sunk the economy in the first place. That betrayal has still not subsided and will probably be the rallying cry for movements like Occupy and politicians like Bernie for decades to come. I also think McCain made himself look bad blaming Obama and “his cronies, his friends” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Obama was a young, first term Senator. None but the most partisan idiots would seriously blame him personally for the recession. That was a petty and uncalled for attack. Obama, again, speaks to the people when he replies “you’re [the audience] not interested in seeing politicians point fingers, you’re interested in seeing how this will affect you.”
I liked Obama’s answer to the question “what would you ask Americans to sacrifice?” talking about saving energy at home and stuff like that. I agree with what he said, and I wish more people were serious about this. I think a Carbon tax would be a great way to get some extra money as well as incentivize companies to be smarter about the waste they give off. That’s something we desperately need to do.
Around this time, McCain starts harping on taxes again, and accuses Obama’s plans of ruining small businesses. Watching all these debates one after the other, I’m sick and tired of this talking point as well. It’s misleading deflection focusing on small businesses whenever taxes are discussed. And what McCain fails to do is talk about some way to close loopholes on the rich and corporations while leaving small businesses alone. That’s literally all we want, John, to close the loopholes so the rich pay what they’re supposed to pay. Stop trying to skirt the issue by pretending we’re talking about small businesses. Again, I want to see a Democrat call this bullshit out directly as it happens. They never do, they never call the Republicans out on their word games and deflection. They always let the Republicans dominate the conversation, and that leads me (and others) to believe it’s deliberate. It’s not two different parties so much as Good Cop, Bad Cop in this particular regard.
It’s interesting how McCain seems to be in favor of nuclear energy. You don’t see too many Republicans or even Democrats feel that way. Even Bernie is anti-nuclear, in fact the only person talking it up the 2016 cycle was O’Malley. Realistically, you cannot have a completely oil, coal and gas free energy grid without nuclear at this time. Solar is getting more and more momentum, but it’s not enough. The moderator’s followup question on energy is interesting: should we let the private sector figure it out, or have a big government “Manhattan project” to find a solution to alternate energy? For myself, while a “Manhattan project” to say, discover fusion power sounds fascinating, I think any government money today ought to be spent on infrastructure and social programs, not a potential dead end money sink. We have nuclear, we have geothermal, we have solar…make it work with those by taxing carbon and offering positive incentives to companies for going green. Carrot and stick.
McCain again uses the “WHAT ABOUT SMALL BUSINESSES???!!” attack on Obama when the subject of healthcare comes up. I want to ask him “why does healthcare have to be tied to employment anyway?” That was something that happened under, I believe, FDR as a way employers could incentivize people to work for them without raising wages. It’s an outdated, broken, ridiculous system to tie it to employment. No other country in the world does it that way. And Obama is spot on talking about his mother dying at 53 and spending the last months of her life arguing with health insurance about costs. That’s a truly appalling story that’s sadly all too common in the US. I’ve worked in the healthcare industry and I can verify that I’ve seen some horror stories firsthand even after Obamacare. Obama outright calls healthcare a right where McCain calls it a responsibility. Obama won this section of the debates outright for that soundbite alone. Americans are slowly but surely being pushed to consider healthcare a right, and they’re not wrong to think so.
I also think McCain shoots himself in the foot talking about how America goes to all corners of the world spreading good “fighting for other people’s freedoms—and our own”/”we don’t always do it well…” After Iraq, this is not what people wanted to hear. We were, and have remained since, tired of being the global police force. Obama was smart to hammer him on Iraq in his rebuttal. Americans were and are sick of fighting for other peoples “freedoms” (really defense contractor payouts) as McCain himself phrases it. Obama says it beautifully “we need that 10 billion dollars right here in the United States! […] there has never been a country that continued to fight foreign wars while its economy collapsed at home.” Completely, 100% on point, I just wish he had actually governed with that mentality after getting elected, but that’s another story.
I do agree with McCain that setting an end date in Iraq was stupid, and history has proven him correct. But he should have phrased it as “getting into Iraq was a great mistake, but if we don’t fix that mess properly now its gonna bite us in the ass later.” Instead, his rhetoric made him sound like he’d involve us in MORE overseas wars, that we’d be in Iraq indefinitely and that he’d be happy about it. That’s why it’s important to tailor your message to the people, find a way to make it sound nicer. McCain’s attack on Obama about how he (Obama) said he’d let Pakistan know we’d invade their territory to get Bin Laden if he was there is unwarranted. You don’t just invade a sovereign country without saying so. Countries declare war, they don’t just invade—and those that do are historically vilified for it. We did ultimately keep our operation secret when we killed Bin Laden, but only because we had realized by then that Pakistan would tip off the terrorists every time we announced our intentions to them in the past. And Obama’s counter to McCain (“bomb bomb bomb Iran […] that’s not speaking softly”) was brilliant. It’s not one of those iconic debate moments you see quoted very often, but I think it should be.
The question “do you consider Russia an evil empire under Putin” was completely stupid to ask in my opinion. Even if the candidates did believe that, having them publicly say so would result in nothing good going forward with both countries’ relations. Wisely, both candidates played it off. Obama said “well they’ve certainly engaged in some evil behavior” and McCain said “maybe.” I myself like to believe I would have said something to the effect of “no country is completely evil. Some come a lot closer than others, like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, but I’m sure others say the same about us. Some without warrant, but after the torturing which the previous administration has done, maybe some certainly have valid reasoning to hate us. It’s not for America to pass down judgement, rather to be a positive example in the world ourselves and to try to lead other countries in a mutually beneficial direction.” Of course, I’m saying that with infinite time to craft my response and without dozens of eyes on me.