Friday, September 26, 2008

The Debates

Yeah, I watched the debates tonight. Honestly, I thought it was dull... but let me put some positive spin on that remark. It's good that they stuck to the economy and foreign policy because these are the problems threatening us. But neither candidate surprised me -- it's hard to surprise me when I know their positions already.

What's important is how the undecided voters react. CBS has some early results of an opinion poll of 500 uncommitted voters:

Forty percent of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. Twenty-two percent thought John McCain won. Thirty-eight percent saw it as a draw.
I was a little worried that Obama came across as too congenial and the public would see that as a weakness, but maybe I'm wrong...

Speaking of being wrong, Obama was at his strongest when he pointed out when McCain has been dead wrong especially about the war with Iraq:

OBAMA: Look, I'm very proud of my vice presidential selection, Joe Biden, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and as he explains, and as John well knows, the issues of Afghanistan, the issues of Iraq, critical issues like that, don't go through my subcommittee because they're done as a committee as a whole.

But that's Senate inside baseball. But let's get back to the core issue here. Senator McCain is absolutely right that the violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops and our military families.

They have done a brilliant job, and General Petraeus has done a brilliant job. But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war.

And so John likes -- John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong.

You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shiite and Sunni. And you were wrong. And so my question is...

LEHRER: Senator Obama...

OBAMA: ... of judgment, of whether or not -- of whether or not -- if the question is who is best-equipped as the next president to make good decisions about how we use our military, how we make sure that we are prepared and ready for the next conflict, then I think we can take a look at our judgment.

And at another point Obama addressed the lessons of Iraq:

OBAMA: Well, this is an area where Senator McCain and I have a fundamental difference because I think the first question is whether we should have gone into the war in the first place.

Now six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically risky to do so because I said that not only did we not know how much it was going to cost, what our exit strategy might be, how it would affect our relationships around the world, and whether our intelligence was sound, but also because we hadn't finished the job in Afghanistan.

We hadn't caught bin Laden. We hadn't put al Qaeda to rest, and as a consequence, I thought that it was going to be a distraction. Now Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment.

And I wish I had been wrong for the sake of the country and they had been right, but that's not the case. We've spent over $600 billion so far, soon to be $1 trillion. We have lost over 4,000 lives. We have seen 30,000 wounded, and most importantly, from a strategic national security perspective, al Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than at any time since 2001.

We took our eye off the ball. And not to mention that we are still spending $10 billion a month, when they have a $79 billion surplus, at a time when we are in great distress here at home, and we just talked about the fact that our budget is way overstretched and we are borrowing money from overseas to try to finance just some of the basic functions of our government.

So I think the lesson to be drawn is that we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely. And we did not use our military wisely in Iraq.

McCain bit back with:
MCCAIN: The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not. The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind. That's the decision of the next president of the United States.
Is McCain not understanding this major criticism on his judgment? If he was wrong about going into Iraq, is he going to be wrong about going into Iran, Pakistan, or Russia or whoever the hell he wants to bomb next? I think McCain is doomed to make the same bad judgments again.

One question I wish the moderator had asked was how we define "winning" in Iraq. We can't have a meaningful discussion without this definition.

By the way, check out the fact checking on the debates. I suspected Obama was right about Kissinger's position on negotiations without preconditions.

1 comment:

People in the Sun said...

I'm with you. I thought Democrats would be happy with Obama and Republicans would be happy with McCain, and I thought independents would see McCain's rudeness as a sign of strength, especially in a debate about foreign policy. I'm glad to see most independents saw him instead as the grouchy fart that he is.