Here we go!
Bob Scheifer is moderating at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY.
Nice summary by Mr. S. of the basic tax plans that both candidates have proposed, with a followup up to each of 'Why is your plan better than his?" A decent lead-off question.
Sen. McCain is FINALLY addressing Fannie and Freddie head-on. I really wanted him to do this on the very first debate, and it might be too late to drive this point home. Hmmm, $300 B of the $700 B bailout to renegotiate. A much clearer explanation this time of why he proposes this - declining home values across the board when foreclosures occur in a neighborhood.
Sen. Obama persists in calling most of his tax credits, tax cuts. Still not explaining how his expenditures are offset by a tax increase in 10% of the economy, although he sounds much crisper and clearer about his plan tonight.
Sen. McCain brings up the Joe the Plumber who would pay more taxes - spread the wealth! Sen. Obama dismisses Joe the Plumber as paying too much attention to McCain's ads, and then reiterates that he will cut 95% of taxes, despite the fact that half those people don't pay taxes. Also iterates that 98% of small businesses pay less than $200K - not true according to the tax codes, but even if true, I really buy McCain's call for no new taxes while we're in a deep recession.
I do like that both men are speaking to each other rather than at or across each other.
Obama pulls out the Adlai Stevenson line of no one likes taxes, but we have to.
The deficit! Thank you Mr. S! And the great point that both Senators proposals will add horribly to the debt, and a return to the question all the moderators have asked and no one has answered: what will you have to cut.
Sen. Obama's response: We will have to make adjustments - now that's vague. Net spending cut? What net spending cut? There's not net spending cut in this plan! What a crock. Line by line my patootie! Now he claims that a net spending cut exists by long-term savings through current expenditures. Fuzzy math!
Sen. McCain's response: Increasing home values is off the topic. Energy independence is ON the topic and is one of my favorite parts of the Republican plan. Across the board spending freeze may be a hatchet, but as a deficit-hawk, one I thoroughly appreciate. Please, please stop saying you 'know how.' Say what you will do. Tarrif on imported sugar-based ethanol is interesting. We need a long list of these kind of proposals. And people may be tired of earmarks, but I am happy to hear it over and over since I HATE corruption in politics, and that's what earmarks are.
Sen. Obama brings up the loss of the surplus and the accumulation of the deficit, but fails to explain what he would do about that. Sen. McCain reject the Pres. Bush comparison directly - finally! Sen. Obama comes back making the same claim and compares his own support of tort reform. No, it's not eight more years of the same thing, and no you haven't rejected your own party on KEY issues, Sen. Obama.
Leadership and nasty campaign:
Sen. McCain, I love you, but don't blame the campaign tone on lack of Townhall meetings. Now, rejecting accusations of racism is fair, and asking for a repudiation of Congressman Lewis' remarks is also fair. Hmm, Sen. Obama has spent more money on neg. ads - not sure that's relevant (# of ads vs. $ on ads - probably a wash). Glad he bought up the reneging on the public financing. He didn't exactly offer an apology, but did say he 'regretted some things.'
Sen. Obama: 2/3 think he running a neg. campaign, maybe, but 100% of McCain's ads are not negative. That's just ludicrous. I just watched 3 positive McCain ads today alone, only one of which was internet based. No apology or anything from the Obama side, just accusing McCain of being afraid of the issues. Good sharp comeback from McCain. Obama admits Lewis' comments were inappropriate, but basically said it was Palin's fault. I do agree Palin was over the line, but 'she said it first' is for four-year olds. Excellent last point by Sen. McCain that he does openly repudiate comments by supporters.
Wow. I didn't really think McCain was going to pull up Ayers and Acorn. Both made good points, but McCain did get a little of the track on his final comment.
Running mates: Interesting topic and question set.
Sen. Obama: Joe Biden has 'always been on the right side ... and will make an outstanding President.' Can't agree with it, but it's a normal and expected statement.
Sen. McCain: Also a pure vanilla response. Palin is a 'reformer through and through ... and ... a breath of fresh air.' Interesting side comment on the rise of autism. Wonder what he means by that?
Sen. Obama carefully side-steps the qualification question for Palin. Probably better off than attacking her. Ahh, he finds a way to work in hatchet vs. scalpel analogies regarding spending on autism. Had to work that one in.
Sen. McCain finds a graceful way to criticize Biden without being cruel, and comes back to the 'why do we always have to spend more and raise taxes' arguement.
Energy and climate change:
Sen. McCain: All options on the table, and get rid of Mid-East and Venezeulan oil. Nuc, clean coil, drilling, wind, tide, solar are all up.
Sen. Obama: 10 oils to reducing dependence. Acknowledging expansion of domestic expansion especially by offshore drilling. Back to disparity between use and reserves of oil - a legitimate point, but I disagree with the emphasis on electric cars only. Vehicles are not the primary users of oil in this country - energy production is. Cars are great, but that won't stop our dependence on foreign (or any oil).
This migrated into a discussion on trade, NAFTA, etc. I really like McCain's emphasis that we must retrain and retool workers in industries that are just never going to come back, and on the Columbia Free Trade and NAFTA agreements.
Not sure how Obama is going to both help the auto industry, and spank them for not moving fast enough. Either let them fail or help them, but you can't do both.
Sen. McCain brings up the Herbert Hoover comparison again. A good one, but I doubt 1 in 20 Americans even know who he was.
Obama: Expand access AND control costs. He really believes you can have your cake and eat it to. We can't have both easily. Access will be at least to some degree limited if costs are limited and vs/vs. Fuzzy math again 2.0. Negotiate with the drug companies is going to have to be dictate to them if you really want to control drug costs. No 2 ways about it. Money on the front end doesn't work well with increasing costs in other areas and an deep recession and deficit. You're going to have to make choices Obama, and you're still not willing to say which ones.
McCain: Taking the preventive health road, and school programs. Hmm, some conservatives aren't going to like that, but I actually agree. If gov't. is going to foot some of the bill, they can say how that part is spent, and control costs. Fines if you don't obey (an accusation thrown at Obama), and join the single-payer system. Obama says, "it is not" and the fine is 0 (he says he exempts small businesses). McCain says yes it is. They go back and forth like that.
Abortion and Supreme Court nominations:
I didn't think this would come up.
McCain: I wouldn't propose a litmus test, but think Roe was a bad decision. Nominations should be based on qualifications, not ideology. I didn't know he voted for Ginsburg and Breyer.
Obama: Agrees on no strict litmus tests. He thinks that any judge should 'apply fairness and justice on the American people.' I don't like that phrasing. It sounds like legislating from the bench. He confirms that feeling by saying that a judge should stand up for someone when no one else will. This means that regardless of the what the law says, the judge should impose what they feel justice is. That's no the role of judges. It's the role of the legislature. The Congress should have and could have provided direct relief to Ledbetter since the court could not under current law, and then could have changed the law, rather than slamming the court.
Now Obama is lying. He did vote against the born-alive amendment, and was almost alone in that. I took the trouble the other week of looking up the amendment (the prior law he referenced did NOT prohibit babies born despite abortion from being left to die, which was the practice in IL) and the votes (he was almost alone in opposing it).
Education and America's trailing the rest of the developed world:
Obama: Yet another tax credit. I'm all for tuition credits in exchange for service BUT how on earth are we going to afford all of these things. Yes, parents need to take responsibility, but what are you going to do about it. Legislate against video games and t.v.?
McCain: School choice and competition as a proven key. I agree with these, but would like to see more state (not fed.) oversight over charter school performance and offerings. Rewards to teachers are a great idea, and of course, I like the 'Troops to Teachers' program (a number of my troops moved into this upon completion of their contracts).
Sheiffer: Should the fed. gov't. play a larger role?
Obama: Slams the unfunded mandates aspect of No Child Left Behind. I have to agree with that, but wonder what he thinks of the basic concept of it. What? They agree on something? Both like teacher rewards and charter schools. Obama doesn't like vouchers or McCain's programs on college-accessibility and affordability. Obama says "someone has to pay for it," and you have to provide more detail. Right back atcha Obama!
McCain: vouchers so the D.C. kids can have the same education you bought for your daughters, Obama. No Child Left Behind is a great first beginning, but flawed. I think everyone agrees. "Again, spending more money isn't always the right answer." He calls for reforming Head Start, and mentions that he proposed this in a bill that was shot down by Dems.
McCain: "I have a record of reform, and taking on my party and the other party." He then cited some careful examples, and gave the money lines: "I have been a careful steward of your tax dollars." "All the promises and commitments that Sen. Obama and I have made you tonight will be based on how you trust us ..." Indeed I do.
Obama: I think he pretty much gave the same close he gave last week. I'd have to check the video again (it's on the blog site under links if you missed it), but I think it's pretty much the same.
My final thoughts: I think McCain did his best yet, but didn't knock anything out of the park. I'm hoping the American people are going to actually wake up in the next three weeks, rather than just blindly voting for change.