Point Counterpoint: Presidential debates are viewed in the eye of the beholder and Friday night's first face-to-face scrimmage between Barack Obama and John McCain was just that. Neither won or lost among those both candidates were addressing: The Undecided. The debate's tone was mostly cordial. There were no major gaffes or defining moments. McCain emerged as the cagey bantam rooster scarred but unscathed from years in the political ring. Obama was the young upstart confidently flapping his political feathers. Both candidates were too crafty to be pinned down on whether they supported bailout plans to rescue the financial markets now being negotiated in Congress. Nor would they commit to cutting pet domestic programs they have promoted during this campaign marathon. McCain said he would consider a spending freeze on all programs except national security and entitlements. Obama said he may have to reconsider priorities of his targeted projects. McCain repeatedly described his opponent as naive and inexperienced. Obama argued McCain was an extension of failed domestic and foreign policies he consistently supported the last eight years of the Bush administration. When the debate shifted to its main theme of foreign policy, McCain came out swinging. He was right supporting the surge in Iraq. Obama said he was wrong supporting the Iraq invasion. McCain said political success in Iraq will stabilize relations in the Middle East. Obama said the real fight against terrorism is in Afghanistan and its Pakistan borders. Six times during the debate McCain referred to Obama as too inexperienced to become commander-in-chief. "He just doesn't understand," McCain said four times. On foreign policy questions, Obama said "I agree with John" three times and then added his own nuances. Neither candidate addressed the cost of the two wars in terms of how the next president would pay for it because of the economic strain at home. China now owns $519 billion in U.S. Treasury notes, about 20% of the $2.67 trillion owned by foreign investors.
Post Debate: The three cable networks treated the debate as sportscasters and commentators critiquing the Super Bowl. It was shameful how Fox ballyhooed McCain's performance and MSNBC drooled over Obama's presidential bearing on the commander-in-chief perception. It was left to CNN to provide some clinical insight. During the debate, the bottom of the CNN telecast showed red, blue and green lines how Republicans, Democrats and independents were reacting to the debaters. After the debate, CNN produced a series of polls taken throughout the country. In general, the polls showed Obama even with McCain on foreign policy and dramatically ahead on domestic issues. One poll of 30 undecided voters had six saying they were now committed. The consensus: the debate moved few voters and the race remains as tight as ever although acknowledging events of the past week have given Obama a temporary slight advantage. Here's my take: Obama said nothing that would dissuade me his ability to become a strong, vibrant commander-in-chief; as a Democrat who voted for Obama in the California primary, I subscribe to his basic approach addressing domestic issues. What concerns me is his lack of specifics how to pay for them. I oppose his windfall tax proposal on Big Oil and do not believe more than marginal tax increases would help the economy at this time of economic turmoil. I also oppose Obama's suggestion of taking borrowed money now financing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and spending it on rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. There must be cuts and savings elsewhere that Obama has yet to convince anyone they are forthcoming.
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