Thursday, October 16, 2008

The third debate

My immediate thought following the debate is that the campaign is essentially over. McCain, while offering an improved performance, did not do enough to alter the dynamics of the campaign. While he got a number of answers right, there were others in which he seemed to lurch towards the right response but ultimately fumbled. Say hello to President Barack Obama.

Let's take a look at excerpts from the transcript, and perhaps some things McCain should have said:

Schieffer: All right. Would you like to ask [Obama] a question [about his economic plan]?

What McCain should have said: Actually Bob, I've got a bunch of questions I'd like to ask Senator Obama. Senator Obama, how is it possible that you are going to cut taxes for 95% of people making less than $200,000 when roughly one-third of those people already don't pay any income tax? Is this anything more than just pandering for votes?

Senator Obama, the top 1% of taxpayers in this country already pay more in income taxes than the bottom 95%, yet you openly talk about how they should pay more and more people should pay less. Do you think that this is healthy for a democracy, when a tiny minority pays more and more while the majority pay less and are handed more benefits?

Senator Obama, you speak often about how our jobs are being sent overseas, yet you support policies that help foster this process. For example, why do you support card check legislation in which workers can sign a card to demand the formation of a union, thus allowing workers to know exactly who is in favor and who is against, thus eliminating the secret ballot? Do you think that placing a weight around the collective necks of this country's industry is the path to prosperity?

Senator Obama, you have advocated for higher taxes on the successful and "spreading the wealth around." Do you think that "from those according to their ability, to those according to their need" is a good guiding principle to ensuring this country's economic future?

These are all good starting points.

Obama (speaking about free trade in response to an energy question): Let me respond. Actually, I understand it pretty well. The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions.

And the last point I'll make, because we started on energy. When I talked about the automakers, they are obviously getting hammered right now. They were already having a tough time because of high gas prices. And now with the financial crisis, car dealerships are closing and people can't get car loans.

That's why I think it's important for us to get loan guarantees to the automakers, but we do have to hold them responsible as well to start producing the highly fuel-efficient cars of the future.

And Detroit had dragged its feet too long in terms of getting that done. It's going to be one of my highest priorities because transportation accounts for about 30 percent of our total energy consumption.

If we can get that right, then we can move in a direction not only of energy independence, but we can create 5 million new jobs all across America, including in the heartland where we can retool some of these plants to make these highly fuel-efficient cars and also to make wind turbines and solar panels, the kinds of clean energy approaches that should be the driver of our economy for the next century.

What McCain should have said: Sen. Obama this is an interesting insight into you how intend to conduct both foreign and economic policy. The fact is, the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, has done a phenomenal job of reducing violence in that country, which is a key reason why he enjoys such high approval ratings. Now, despite the vast improvement you think that more needs to be done, and you intend you pressure Colombia on this by...shooting American workers in the foot? Look, Colombia already gets free trade benefits with the U.S via the Andean Trade Preference Act. The main beneficiary of the proposed new agreement is the U.S., which would be granted expanded access to the Colombian market, while Colombia would have its current status of free access to the U.S. made permanent. If this is how you intend to conduct our trade and foreign policy, by pointing a gun at our own foot and threatening to shoot unless the other country does exactly as we say, well that's not exactly a recipe for advancing our nation's interests.

In addition, you talked about how we need to do more to aid American auto manufacturers. This doesn't surprise me, in your recently announced economic agenda you called for aid to the tune of $50 billion for Detroit and criticized the $25 billion already allocated as insufficient. What's amazing about this is that you criticize me time and time again for cutting the taxes of America's businesses, including oil companies, while here you are proposing that we just go ahead and hand a check to auto manufacturers, courtesy of the taxpayers. It seems to me Sen. Obama that your economic agenda consists in large part of punishing successfull companies through higher taxes while rewarding failing companies with government checks -- that's a recipe for less success and more failure, which I don't think is what we need right now.

Lastly, I think you may be running for the wrong job. Given that you seem to believe that you know better what cars Detroit ought to be making than they do, perhaps you should ought to be CEO of General Motors or Ford. This is really stunning that you -- a lawyer by training and politician by profession -- believe that you ought to decide what kind of vehicles our nation's auto manufacturers should be producing. In fact, your agenda seems to centered taking money from our nation's industries and then telling them what they should be producing. Perhaps Joe the Plumber has more to be worried about than just how much of his hard earned money you are going to be taking.

Obama (when asked about Supreme Court judges): Well, I think it's true that we shouldn't apply a strict litmus test and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide fairness and justice to the American people.

What McCain should have said: That's interesting. So why did you vote against Justices Alito and Roberts? Do you believe that they are unqualified? Or is your opposition ideological, and stem from the fact that they believe the Constitution actually means what it says as opposed to the philosophy of the "living Constitution?"

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