OXFORD, Miss.–After much deliberation, the first debate of the presidential elections took place Friday evening, Sept. 26, 2008 at the University of Mississippi.
The intended topic was foreign policy, however the threat of a $700 billion government bailout earlier in the day refocused the candidates’ thoughts on the economy. While early predictions called for Sen. McCain to lead Sen. Obama on the issues of national security and foreign policy, the debate produced no clear winner.
Much of the first half of the debate was dedicated to the looming financial crisis facing the nation. The crisis, which almost postponed the debate due to the temporary suspension of McCain’s campaign, produced similar views from both candidates. Each agreed to cuts in government spending to balance the national deficit. McCain promoted his qualifications by criticizing Obama’s inexperience and inconsistent voting records. Obama appealed to “Main Street America” by stressing the ideas of his tax reforms and tying McCain to President Bush’s big business economic policies.
Before the conversation progressed to foreign policy, moderator Jim Lehrer posed the question, “Are you willing to acknowledge, both of you, that this financial crisis is going to affect the way you rule the country as president of the United States?” They both agreed that budget allocation and spending would be affected. Any agreement between the candidates disappeared when the subject changed to foreign policy. Unlike McCain, Obama opposed the War in Iraq from its inception, pointing out that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while Americans are spending $10 billion a month there, as our economy continues to suffer. McCain, however, was able to cast his continued support for the Iraq war, and his early advocacy for the troop surge. He emphasized this point as a sign of his willingness to put what’s right ahead of what’s political, a notion that has become a staple of the McCain campaign.
After touching upon the threat of Iran to the U.S. and our relationship with Russia, the final question was posed: “What do you think the likelihood is that there would be another 9/11-type attack on the continental United States?” Lehrer asked. Obama and McCain responded similarly, saying our country is “safer in some ways,” and “we have a long way to go.”
It is clear that the 2008 presidential election is one of change. Change in the economy, foreign relations and global energy is on the minds of both the candidates and the American people. While no knockout remarks were established in the first debate, with 39 days and three more debates to go, voters will have the opportunity to hear more from each candidate.
Vice presidential nominees Sarah Palin and Joe Biden will square off Thursday night at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.