Tonight is an important event in the 2008 Presidential election. The debate on national security between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain will help voters understand their choices. These are very different men. They have very different ideas about National Security. Both are patriotic – both are ambitious.
The Fireside Post will be posting through out the evening on this momentous occasion. We will use this post – adding to it on every break in the debate.
Stay tuned for excitement.
8:00 PM CST: Jim Lehrer is the host for the debate. Lehrer is a respected journalist – He has not participated in the Cable News Talking Head syndrome – rather he has focused on substance in the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer. This should be a respectful and news worthy evening.
“Set pieces” are those brief moments in Presidential debates that we remember, we see them for years on talking points, we remember Kennedy, Reagan, and Lloyd Bensten. Will Obama or McCain come with a set piece tonight?
The first question is: Will both candidates show up? The answer appears to be a yes.
Format: Candidates will be asked questions and they will have about nine minutes to respond and to interact with each other.
Lehrer is on. The candidates are on stage.
Lehrer on Eisenhower: Economic strength is important to National Security.
Obama: … We are at a defining moment, two wars and a crisis on Wall street… We have to move swiftly and wisely… We must protect taxpayers… Oversight, taxpayers have possibility of return, none of the money goes to CEO bank accounts.. we mush help homeowners.. This is a final verdit on eight years of Bush and McCain…. Trickle down has not worked. …
McCain: … I have not felt too great about things… But I am better tonight, we are seeing republicans and democrats working together, we are talking about Wall street and Main Street… The pint is that we have seen bi-partisanship… Emphasize one point – this is not the end, theis is the beginning to the end…
Lehrer: Back to the question, and talk to each other…
Obama: How did we get into this situation in the first place. Two years ago I warned about the sub-prime lending crisis and the lack of regulations and I wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury to express concern… How is it that we have shredded so man regulations – it has to do with a philosophy that says regulations are bad.
McCain: I also warned about the mortgage crisis. You mentioned President Eisenhower, on the night before the Normandy invasion Eisenhower wrote a letter of resignation blah blah blah. I called for the resignation of the Chairman of the SEC. In my administration people will be held accountable..
Obama: We need accountability but not just in a crisis. People have been struggling before this crisis. We have to look at the underlying issues.
Lehrer interrupts: Talk to each other.
Obama: It is about the nurse and teacher and police officer.
McCain: We have to fix the system, mainstream is paying the penalty for excesses on Wall Street. I have a fundamental belief in the goodnes and productivity of the American worker and the U.S. of A.
Lehrer: Are there fundamental differences in what you would do as President?
McCain: We have to get spending under control. We Republicans came to power to change government and government changed us. Former members of congress are in prison. Cites porkbarrel spending in Montana. I will make them famous, you will know their names. Senator Obama has asked for a bazillion dollars in pork barrell spending. Taht is fundamental difference.
Obama: The earmark process has been abused and Lobbyist and special interest have introduced these things. Earmarks have accountanted for 18 ballion in spending this past year. McCain wants 300 ballion in tax relief for rich people… We have to grow the economy from the bottom up. I have proposed tax breaks for the middle class – that is better.
McCain: Senator Obama suspended porkbarrell spending after running for President. You know that has trippled in the past few years – it is a system that has got to be cleaned up. I was called the sheriff. Senator Obama proposes 800 billion in new spending. I want to keep taxes low and stop spending.
Obama jumps in: That is not correct. I want to close loopholes and I want to help people get health care and I apy for every dime of it. When I am President I will go line by line to eliminate wasteful spending. Look at you tax policy that is aimed at thoes who are doing well.
McCain: Let me give an example. the business tax, the U.S. pays the hightest business tax at 35% compared to Ireland at 11%. I want to cut the business tax to keep business in America…
Obama: Ninety five percent of people will get a tax cut. Less that $250,000 and you will not see a tax increase. But there are loopholes that McCain supported that makes our business pay less than other people.
McCain: How about that energy bill that Obama voted for… Obama voted for it… Look at our records. Who has tried to keep spending down?… Senator Obama has shifted on a number of issues.
Obama: Under your plan the Big Oil Companies would get tax breaks… We have an energy bill on the Senate floor that you are opposed to…
Lehrer: As President and as the result of the rescue plan in congress now what are you going to have to give up?
Obama: There are things we will have to give up. We don’t know what the revenues will be. But we have to have energy independence by increassing production and invesinting solar, wind, nuclear. We have to fix our Health Care syste. A Report just came out that deductible just went up 30%. And we have to make sure we are competing in education and science. And we will have to rebuild our infrastructiure, roads and bridges and broadband to small communitites. We have to eliminate programs that don’t work.
McCain: We have got to cut spending. Senator Obama has the most Liberal voting record. We have to look at every agency of Government. I would eliminate ethanol subsidizes. Defense spending is out of control because of bad projects. We have to get the cost overruns under control. … I know how to do this because I have been in Washington a long time.
Lehrer: Neither of you is suggesting major changes because of the bailout.
Obama: I want to make sure we free ourselves from energy dependence. We have to make some cuts. Part of the reason is because Lobbyists are able to shape how bills are written. John says I am Liberal but that is just me opposing George Bush….
McCain: How about a spending freeze on everything but Defense and Veterans.
Obama: You are using a hatchet when you need a scalpel. We are spending 79 billion in Iraq.
McCain: We are sending money to countries that don’t like us much. We have to have nuclear power and off shore drilling. We can create jobs by building Nuclear power plants. It is importatn for climate change.
Lehrer: Are you willing to acknowledge that this financial crisis is going to affect the way you can rule this country
Obama: There is no doubt that this will affect how we rule, even if we get the money back on our investments. In the short term we may not see that money for a while. There is not doubt that there willbe tough decisions but we have to know what our values are and whart our prioities are.
McCain: I want to make sure we are not handing the health care system over to the federal government. Families should make decisions with their doctor and not at the discretion of the Federal Goivernment. (except abortions) Spending restraint has to be a part of it. Our problem is that spending has got out of control… And I got plans to reduce wasteful spending.
Obama: John, It has been your president who has presided over this orgy of spending and you voted for almost all of his budge and to stand here and to say that your are going to control speding is .. kind of hard to swallow.
McCain: Miss congeniality again. I have opposed the PResident on torture and prisoners and the war in Iraq.
Lehrer: Waht are the lesson of Iraq.
McCain: You cannot have a failed strategy that will cause you to lose the war. I went to the war in 2003 and said we have to change the strategy. We came up with a great General and this strategy has succedded… Now that we will succeed we will see a stable ally in the middle east, the consequence of defeat would have been a lot of bad things….
Obama: We have a fundamental difference. We should not have gone into the war in the first place. I opposed the war when it was not p[olitically expedient. We had not finished the job in Afghanistan and as a consequence the Iraq war was a distraction. WE ahve spent over 600,000,000 doll;ars and have seen over 4,000 deaths and Al Quaeda is resurgent and we are still spending 10 billion a mnonth when we are in great distress at home…. The lesson is that we should never have used military force wisely and we did not in Iraq.
McCain: The next president will not decide if we go, he will decide how we leave. Obama has changed his mind on the success of the surge.
Obama: I am proud of my Vice Presidential selection. Critical issues don’t go through my subcommittee. Senator McCAin is right that the violence has been reduced but understand that was a tactic that was designed to cover the damage done the previous three years. The war started in 2002. You said we would be greeted as liberators…. The question is for the next president is how we use good judgement…
McCain: does not understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy. I have been to Iraq and you know what the troops said, Let us win. This strategy is winning.
Obama: lets talk about thiis troop funding issue. McCain opposed troop funding that had a time table. I opposed funding a strategy of no time table… The strategic question is not about the approach – the question is Is this wise. Senator McCain, in his rush to go into Afghanistan said there is not need to go into Afghanistan. The war is in Afghanistan… We should end the Iraq war responsibly.. We can bolster our efforts to capture or kill Bin Laden. But we have too many troops in Iraq.
McCain: Iraq is the central battle ground. Senator Obama’s original plan would have had the troops out last spring. I know the surge was a good strategy.
Lehrer: Afghanistan, do you think more trops in Afghanistan
Obama: I have been saying that for over a year. We are seeing major offenses in Afghanistan because the terrorists are feeling emboldened. I would sent two to three additional brigades to Afghanistan. There was no Al Quaeda in Iraq until we went in ther. Al Quaeda is the greatest threat to the United STate. We have to press the Afghan government and we have to deal with a growing poppy trade and we have to deal with Pakistan where the terrorist have safe haven – where McCain and bush ahve given them 10 billion dollars.
McCain: After we were able to help them we washed our hands of the region the result was the Taliban. On the issue of Pakistan you better be prepared to pull the trigger. I am not prepared to threaten them. Obama would support military strikes into Pakistan. you don’t say that out loud. If you have to do things you have to do things…. That terrain is ruled by a handfull of troops. We have to have the same strategy as in Iraq. We are going to have to gain the allegiance of the Afghan people and the Pakistanies are going to have to understand they cant tolerate the terrorrists. I know how to work with the Pakistanies.
Obama: here is what I said, If the United States has Bin Laden in our sights and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act then we should take them out… You sang songs about bomb bomb Iran… We cannot let our troops take blow after blow and have Pakistan do nothing. You coddled Musharif and we have lost legitimacy. Al Quadea is more powerful than ever.
McCain: There was a failed state in Pakistan before Musharif came to power. Let me tell you my record. Ronald Reagan in 1983 wanted to send troops to Lebanon and I voted against it. Tragically I was right. And then we had the first Gulf War that I supported. I suppored us going into Bosnia. That was the right thing to do. I supported military action in Kosovo. I have a recored of being involved in national security issues…Tells story of soldier killed in Iraq or somewhere… on and on with anecdotes…
Obama: I have a bracelet too. his mother asked me to make sure that no other mother has to go through what she was going through. OUr troops were brilliant. The question is Are we making good judgement because sending our troops into battle is so important? Senator McCain, no one is talking about defeat in Iraq. You have not been consistent in your policy in Afghanistan.
McCain: You might think that Senator Obama would have gone to Afghanistan. I visited Afghanistan and I know what our needs are. We would have sufferred defeat in Iraq if we did what he wanted….
Lehreer: to McCain: What is yoru reading on the threates from Iran?
McCain: If Iran acquries nuclear weapons it is an existential threat to Isreal. WE cannot allow a second holocaust. We need to form a league of democracies. The russians are preventing signigficant ideas in the U. N. We need a group of like thinking people to impose economic sanctions on those countries… The Iranians are putting letah IED’s into Iraq… This is a serious threat.
Obama: I believe that the republican guard of Iran is a terrorist ogranization. Senator McCain wants to broaden the mandate in Iraq. The thing that has strengthened Iran is our war in Iraq. Obviously our policy over the past eight years has not worked. We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran. We need tougher sancitons. I do not agree that we can do this without Russia and China. But we are going to have to engage in tough direct diplomacy with Iran. It has not worked with Iran or North Korea.
McCain: Senator Obaaama said he would sit down with bad guys without preconditions. Ohmydidhesayjihad is now in New York saying that he would eliminate Israel. Obama wants to give propaganda opportnities to Iran, legitimizing theri behavior…. There have to be preconditions…
Obama: Ohmydidhesayjihad is not the most powerful person in Iran. I reserve the right to meet with anyone if I believe it is in the interest of our country. Kissinger said we should meet with Iran without preconditions. This does not mean you invite themover for tea – it means that you are well prepared, that is different than preconditions. President Bush just sent an ambassador to talk with europeans about Iran and to talk with Iran which puts us in a position of strength. We did not talke with North Korea and they developed nuclear weapons, when we reingaged we have seen progress….
McCain: Dr. Kissing did not say he would approve those meetings. Obama does not understand tthat without preconditions with someone who has called Isreal a stinking corpse. That is dangerous. As far as North Korea is concerned, our sec of state went there. They are nasty folks.
Obama: Senator McCain continues to mischaraterize my position. Dr. Kissinger did say we should have talks before every problem is solved. We should not be silent is silly. The notion that we should sit with Ahmydidhesayjihad without saying anything is rediculous.
They are bickering faster than I can type.
Lehrer: How do you see the relationship with Russia?
Obama: Given the pst several weeks and months the resurgent Russia is a threat to the regioooon and the world. Their action in Georgia is not acceptable. They ahve to remove themselves from Georgia provinces. You cannot act like a 20th century dictator. We have to insure those neighbor countries that we are supportive. Other countries are free to join NATO. WE also cannot return to a cold war posture. We cannot have more nuclear proliferations. Some of those nukes could fall into the hands of Al Quaeda. We have to have a president who deals with russia based on national security of U.S.
McCain: Obama said both sides ought to show restraint. A little naivete there. Russia performed aggression. I looked in Putin’s eyes and I saw three letters, K.G.B. That attack on Georgia had to do with a pipeline in Georgia. …The Russians ought to understand that we will suport the inclusion of Georgia and others into NATO, the Russians are in violation of a cease fire agreement.
Obama: I disagree on the notion that we should not be forceful with Russia. I called for a billion dolalrs for help for Georgia. We have to have foresight and anticipate some of these problems, last April I warned the Administration that the Russians had foreces in Georgia. Secondy Russia is in part resurgent because of the energy issue. That means that we have to have an energy strategy including increasing productiion, we can’t sijmply drill our way out of the problem. We have to have a progressive energy policy. I think Senator McCain voted twenty three times against alternative energy sources. This is vital to our economy and national security.
McCain makes ome claiame sna Obama is saying that is not true… Obama, I never said I am opposed to Nuclear waste, I said we have to do it safely.
Lehrer: What do you think of the likely hood of another 911 attack?
McCain: We have a safer nation, but we are not safe. I have a long record. Senator Leiberman and I called for a commission. We have a long way to go in intelligence services… We can not ever torture a prisoner again. We have to work more closely with our allies.
Obama: We are safer in some ways, like billions of dollars in airport security. The biggets threat we face is a nuclear missile in a suitcase. We are spending billions of dollars on missile defens wheich I support but I also believe we are only spending a few hundred millions on safety. We cant be focued on Iraq. Al Quaeda is still out there. The way we are perceived in the works affects our safety. I intend to rebuild those relationshiops. We have a lot of work to do.
McCain: Senator Obamna said missile defens has to be proven but Reagan said no and that brought about the end of the cold war. Senator Obama does not get it. If we fail in Iraq we will loas the fragile sacrifices.
Obama: Over the last eight years, along with Senator McCain have been solely focued on Iraq and Bin Laden has not been caught. In the mean time we have borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars from China. WE have weakened our capacity to project power around the world because of the focus on Iraq. That means we cannot invest in science and technology and health care. There has never been a country on earth that has seen an economy decline and has maintained a sominant military. This is a national security issue. The next President has to have a broader strategic vision.
McCain: I have been involved in every major national security issue. We have seen this stubborneness before in this Administration. We need more flexibility. I know the veteran and I know them well and they know I will take care of them and they know this. I have the ability and knowledge and background to make sound judgements. I don’t need on the job training.
Obama: My father came from Kenya and that is where I got my name. He went to college here in the United Sates because it was the only place to go. Our standing in the world now is not the same. This is part of how we keep the world safe. We are going to invest in America.
McCain: Yeah – but I was a POW.”