Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama, McCain inconclusive debate


OXFORD, Miss. -- The economy is going to hell, we may be on the brink of a depression and John McCain and Barack Obama, during their first presidential debate Friday at Ole Miss, found it impossible to simply say what Congress should do -- right now for real people who are worried sick they may be losing their homes.

I've been on such a long journey covering Obama's presidential bid -- for two years now, counting the run-up -- that it's something to realize that he may well be elected president in a few weeks. He went into the debate in good shape and came out fine.

Obama defended well his position about talking to foreign leaders we do not trust, when McCain went on the offensive. "And you know, the Bush administration has come to recognize that it hasn't worked, this notion that we are simply silent when it comes to our enemies," Obama said.

But Obama could have squeezed out more from the encounter, ably moderated by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer.

Given the dire financial crisis, with Congress rushing to fashion a bailout plan, Lehrer devoted the first third of the 90-minute debate to the rescue package, even though the plan had been to devote the entire time to national security and international affairs.

Despite Lehrer's coaxing, Obama and McCain refused to engage in a conversation about a package Congress could pass. Obama was noncommittal about his vote, and McCain said he hoped he could support the measure, currently priced at $700 billion. That sum is so staggering that it made the discussion Obama and McCain had over who is more against wasteful government earmarks seem like chump change.

McCain dinged Obama after Obama bragged about how he suspended asking for earmarks for Illinois projects. "Sen. Obama suspended those requests for pork-barrel projects after he was running for president of the United States. He didn't happen to see that light there in the first three years as a member of the United States Senate," McCain said.

Showboating, McCain threatened not to come to the debate if Congress had not approved legislation by Friday. He finally relented, finding some lower threshold that justified his flying from Washington to Mississippi, presumably having gotten what he wanted with his "suspension" of his campaign.

Each man got some of what he wanted and needed from the debate, the first of three. McCain's team wanted to show that the Arizona senator, 72, is the "grown-up" while Obama, 47, pressed his argument that the Iraq war has diverted resources from Afghanistan.


Because people are now focusing on the general election campaign when they may not have been paying much attention before, Obama continued Friday to make his October 2002 opposition to the Iraq war more politically heroic than it was.

"I stood up and opposed this war, at a time when it was politically risky to do so," Obama said. At the time, Obama was considering a U.S. Senate run. His opposition to the Iraq war was hardly a local lonely stand. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) voted against the authorization, along with eight of the 10 Democrats in Illinois' House delegation.


Bush, McCain can run. But they cant hide anymore.

What ever congress does to try and fix our stunning economic catastrophe needs to be done very carefully. Congress needs to take their time, and be sure of what they are doing. Whatever is done needs to be sharply focused at helping, and protecting the best interest of the ordinary Americans. In particular the vast American middle class. 700 billion dollars is a lot of the peoples money to spend to bail out a bunch of corrupt Bush loan sharks.

My fellow human beings, just as I warned you ahead of this catastrophic economic meltdown, I must now warn you that what is ahead has the potential to be even more catastrophic than what we are going through now. The worlds geopolitical landscape has been booby trapped by the Bush McCain administration and their republican allies in congress. These booby traps are poised to spring at any time.

Fortunately the Worlds Nations have been blessed with many excellent leaders (except the US) who have been careful, wise, strong, and self-restrained in dealing with the provocations, and antagonism's of the Bush, McCain administration.

Barack Obama and the democrats are your best hope now. Tell your family, friends, and everyone you know to support them as best you can, and vote for them like your life, and the lives of your loved ones depends on it. Because it does. You will not survive 4 more years of Bush McCain.


Just a note about Sen. McCain "showboating" when he suspended his campaign to go to Washington. Both George Stephanopoulos and Bob Schieffer reported (Stephanopoulos on Wed., 9/24, and Schieffer on Thurs. a.m., 9/25)that Secretary Paulsen had called Sen. Lindsey Graham and urged him to convince Sen. McCain to become involved in the bailout negotiations. Apparently, the House Republicans had brought up their plan with Sec. Paulsen and the Senate leadership on Wednesday and Paulsen realized that a consensus did not exist yet. He thought that McCain, as the current leader of the Republican party, might be able to pull the congressmen into line with their Senate counterparts and help pass the Paulsen/Senate plan.

Senator McCain was not showboating when he went to Washington; he was acting responsibly and correctly.

Why McCain could not make eye contact with Obama????

If we go thru another 4 to 8 years of McClain/Bush administration the entire country will go thru another Great Depression, only this time only the Rich will suvive. United States will be like a foriegn country where as people cooking and eating grass from the ground.



It would have been silly to engage in more of a conversation about the bailout plan. I know that's what many people would have liked to hear, but it's a bad idea to inject Presidential politics into something like that. That's why McCain's grandstanding was so ill-conceived. The last thing America needs is for the two of them to stand there and try to hash out a plan when, in fact, they each only have one vote apiece.

John McCain has not in my opinion communicated his economic positions well. Below is my attempt to clarify them.

McCain believes in Jeffersonian Democracy. What does that mean? Thomas Jefferson argued against Federalism, as he felt that it posed a risk and infringement to the liberty of Americans. The Federal government is a necessary evil, which should operate on the common benefit, security, and protection of Citizens, and should be watched closely and its powers should be minimized.
Science recently has determined that there is a scientific reason why this is the best possible configuration. Networks of all types, financial, government, electrical, communicative, all behave under certain laws. These laws have been described well in layman’s terms by Lazlo Barabasi in his book “Linked.” These laws argue against centralized networks as they are prone to cascade failures and that distributed adaptable networks are much more robust and capable of sustaining damage to one part of the network and reconfiguring themselves and continue to function. What this tells you is that democracy and capitalism, is inherently more stable than other types of systems of economic distribution and governance.

Capitalism has been moving towards big business, since the industrial revolution, and this has led to a centralization of Wealth which has placed our economy in the current economic crisis we face today. It is not accurate to place the blame on Wall Street, or on homeowners, for the current financial crisis. The crisis was driven by the centralized wealth and dynamics of the networked global economy.
The solution to the problem is to move toward decentralization of all critical networks such as Government and Financial.
McCain holds that we need to move from Big Business to many competing companies run on Main Street, and incentivize investment in small business over big business.
McCain also holds that regulation much like Big government needs to be circumscribed in its powers, but that it’s a necessary evil. The idea is that centralized standards, and regulation, reduce the cost of compliance and lead to greater efficiency.
McCain understands we need regulation and standards, but regulation and standards must be able to evolve and adapt, while cost of compliance must be the same for individuals as for big business on a basis that places the individual or small business with an equal footing to gig government or big business.
(In my opinion, this needs to be slanted towards small business and individuals. That it’s better to err on the side of smaller concerns.)
McCain is against Obama’s tax plan, because increasing capital gains tax on business, and investment, because it acts as a barrier to deploying monies to generate wealth formation. A simple way to understand this is as friction to the speed at which capital flows through the system. This matters to every American, not just the wealthy, as McCain critics say. This matters to every American because if assets are not deployed, and or leveraged, then entrepreneurial activities are curtailed, and with this comes a reduction in jobs, and a decrease in wealth distribution, and most importantly to wealth concentration which makes the average American a indentured servant to the concentrated wealth.
McCain understands that we need alter wealth distribution in this country such that it benefits the middle class and grows it. He also understands that in a free society you do not accomplish this by confiscating another’s wealth and redistribute it to others on the government’s whim. This was the approach of the old Soviet Union. What we need to do is provide incentives for people to place their wealth into the system so that others can become wealthy in their own right.
For those that think but I just want a job, and this does not matter to you, more business creation, leads to more jobs, and in today’s world with equity participation, greater wealth.

This is a great 1-page summary of Obama's 55-page plan for America called THE BLUEPRINT FOR CHANGE:


Maybe the candidates did not discuss their bailout or "workout" positions or details because the issue is so explosive it could blow up in either one or both of their faces if they made the "wrong suggestion." A more noble interpretation is that neither one of them wished to jeopardize the eleventh hour efforts in congress by their comments. The whole business was political enough as it is already in congress which may jeopardize a deal as it is, without the "help" of either candidate.

Both Obama and McCain are puppets of the very same multi-national corporations that control both major political parties. Obama lied about his legislative record and financial backers several times during the debate, but McCain was too stupid to call him on his lies.

We need Ralph Nader to be included in the debates. If he were, Americans would realize that both Obama and McCain are simply two sides of the same oligarchic coin. They are both puppets of the kleptocracy that is currently in the final stages of planning the biggest plunder of wealth in American history.

For God's sakes, people, demand that Ralph Nader be included in the future debates!

Saturday Night Live tonight (September 28) did a better job of reporting the debate than Lynn Sweet has done in her article. SNL caught the flow of it pretty well. Sally, not so much.

Inconclusive? Rather inconclusive reporter, I think, perhaps a little burnt out from covering the long campaign?

This was a debate, not a boxing match. No bells went off, no winner had his glove raised in victory. This might appear inconclusive. True, neither candidate was able to fix the American economy in 50 words or less, no surprise.

The better question is, was the debate itself successful. Did it serve a purpose? Were the questions and the moderator fair? Did the debate serve the voters, and in a larger sense, the democratic process?

It certainly did. Both candidates faced a trial, not necessarily against each other, but before the judgment of tens of millions of voters, many of whom (sorry to say) may still be uninformed or unsure. Each candidate had equal portion to answer specific questions, well designed.

Was either debaters effective? They were, but since their styles and objectives are almost completely opposite, it is almost like judging canines -- one could say McCain won the "Best McCain" type, and Obama won the "Best Obama" type. It remains for correspondents and ultimately scholars to faithfully analyze those types. The "Best of Show" prize only comes from the voters, November 4.

Obama people think their guy won the debate, McCain people think their guy did. Unsure voters got more information to work with, but who can say how many minds were changed.

Polls showed both candidates almost equal in popularity week after week. The polls and the debate results coincide with stable, equally matched, mutually exclusive preferences in this election. Therefore?

America is facing serious national choices, but wish as we may, these are not clear choices. Thank God we have two good candidates, but these are two very different futures for out country. Sally Sweet and other writers, need to be careful about distorting how people understand each candidate and what he intends to communicate.

Why, for example, characterize Obama as trying to appear "heroic" about his stand on the war, when the point he makes, time and again is about using better judgment. As to him taking a lonely stand, no number of Illinois delegates could make it less lonely! Millions of Americans felt that loneliness, remember?

The nation circa March 2003 was in war fever. Still is. This war fever is mild compared to World War I, which was a shameful and almost deliberate madness on all sides. Chicago's Jane Addams, the Nobel Prize honored community organizer, faced that public fury and still wrote against it. The lines English warrior poet Rudyard Kipling (at the other end of the political spectrum) wrote about keeping your head "when all about you are losing their's and blaming it on you" applies equally to belligerents and peacemakers.

If the Obama and McCain debate was inconclusive, it was none the less successful. Many "conclusive" debates we've had in this country have been conclusive for petty reasons. That kind of outcome is a somewhat random, a coin toss.

Remembering debates, do we trouble ourselves to follow the logic? Do we cite specific rhetorical usages, fair and unfair? Have we reached the twilight decades of American intellectual culture when by conclusive debate we mean only that Nixon needed a shave, that Reagan said, "There you go again", and that Bush Sr. checked his watch?

Reporters love that stuff -- as does advertising and the propaganda sciences -- and the public buys it, but accidents and imagery are only random predictors of the kind and quality of government that will follow.

My conclusion on the debate in Oxford, Mississippi is this: tens of millions of Americans, and the entire world, got to see both candidates present themselves, thinking and reacting in the way of their own choosing, as vividly as we have yet seen.

If you have not seen the debate in full, be wary of giving much weight to specifics that may or may not be reported to you accurately and in context.

If you can, spend time to watch the debate again. A lot is made about "fact checking", which is important, but equally important is HOW each candidate uses fact. Does he seem to respect the facts even if he makes a mistake or does he use facts as tools to be modified if needed to "get the job done"? It's not always a clear choice.

Analyzing our American political debates, consider whether you prefer an appeal to reason or an appeal to your emotions, and how good was each candidate at each technique. Again, it is not clear which technique is best. Different leadership arises from each approach -- both have had good and bad results, both have a place.

Observe the debates for the valuable opportunity they are. Your vote will not only elect one type of man or other, one philosophy against another, but history may look at this election to decide what type of people we are. Who knows what praise or guilt may follow in the world they may have, tomorrow's people?

Spoil what? Waste what? Steal what?

Barack Obama we do not doubt your intelligence. To be an effective leader one must display honesty, compassion, & guts. Stand with Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, & Cynthia McKinney. NOT John McCain. Your choice - your move.

Sen. Obama doesn't just make his opposition to the war, from his very safe seat in the Illinois senate, sound more politically heroic than it really was. He makes ALL of his rather limited accomplishments since arriving in Washington sound much more important than they really are.

He is pretty much an empty suit, spouting pretty words, HOPING that the American public doesn't notice how much he has CHANGED his positions since the primary battle with Hillary Clinton. After watching him very closely for more than a year, I can honestly says that I don't know what his core beliefs are. After his tour of Europe, gathering votes that cannot be counted in our election here, he alluded that people saw in him what they wanted to see, rather than what really is. I have to give him points for perception, because he truly is a cipher.

McCain looked Presidential. Obama looked like the College Professor that is trying to make you believe that Marxism can work if only given a chance. There’s less than 40 days to go and Obama is still lying about his record, and things that he said in the primary, but I know that American's are smarter than that.

Here’s a clip from youtube that shows how we got into the mess that we are in and how Obama & Friends were part of it.

Help us show Obama the door, join us at!


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 27, 2008 11:17 AM.

Live blog: The presidential debate was the previous entry in this blog.

Barack Obama John McCain debate. Sept. 26, 2008 transcript. is the next entry in this blog.

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