Sunday, September 28, 2008

Polls Put Obama Ahead After First Debate

By Reinout van Wagtendonk

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Mr Obama and Mr McCain in Oxford, USA"]Mr McCaim and Mr Obama in Oxford, USA[/caption]

Five weeks before the elections in the United States, presidential rivals John McCain and Barack Obama have held their first TV debate. The debate, staged at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, was to focus on foreign policy but began by addressing the financial crisis.

Republican candidate John McCain decided to participate at the eleventh hour. Earlier in the week he had announced he was suspending his campaign and would not join the debate in order to focus on the financial crisis. He later resumed his campaign saying that the talks in Washington aimed at agreeing a 700 billion dollar rescue package, though slow, were making enough progress.

Several months ago it was decided that the first debate would focus on national security: international issues, the war against terrorism, Iraq. Nonetheless, the debate first addressed the credit crisis, which the moderator, veteran journalist Jim Lehrer, described as an international crisis.

Neither candidate was prepared to say if he would vote for or against a bailout plan in the Senate, though both stressed the urgency of such a plan.

As part of his plans to stabilize the economy Mr McCain called for cutbacks and less government spending. Mr Obama countered as usual by linking his Republican opponent with the unpopular President Bush.

"John, it's been your president, who you said you agreed with 90 percent of the time, who presided over this increase in spending, this orgy in spending and enormous deficit."

Opinion polls show that a majority of voters think Mr Obama is the candidate who best handles the economy and financial issues. During the debate he was also more specific on the economy than his Republican counterpart. Mr Obama stressed that in addition to the 700 billion dollar bailout plan the government should increase its oversight of bank and credit institutions, get a stake in financial institutions whose bad debt it is going to buy, curb CEO salaries on Wall Street and help for ordinary Americans facing mortgage problems.

International issues
Polls also show most Americans think Mr McCain does better on national security. When, after 40 minutes devoted to the financial crisis, the 90-minute debate moved on to international issues, it was Mr McCain who displayed his detailed knowledge, gathered over decades, of international politics.

Repeatedly branding Mr Obama as naïve and lacking "on-the-job training", he upbraided him for past statements calling for attacks on Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan. Mr McCain said Pakistan was a key ally in the fight against terrorism and warned of the consequences of overt attacks on Pakistani territory against the country's express wishes.
"We've got to get the support of the people of Pakistan. He said he would launch military strikes into Pakistan. Now, you don't do that. You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things and you work with the Pakistani government."

Mr Obama parried the attack by reminding his Republican opponent that such subtlety was far from credible from someone who in the past threatened North Korea with annihilation and was filmed singing songs about bombing Iran.
"John, you're absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say. But coming from you, who in the past threatened extinction for North Korea and sung songs about bombing Iran, I don't know how credible that is."

The tense talks about the financial crisis and Mr McCain's wavering whether he would join the debate, gave the event even more suspense, drawing more publicity and viewers, than it would have had anyway. Even though Mr Obama lacks Mr McCain's international experience, he performed well in this area. And on the economy and the financial crisis, the two topics at the forefront of voters' minds, he clearly emerged as the winner.

Source: Unknown

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