The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
The big news to me out of the so-called debate in Nashville Tuesday night was that John McCain might call for an across the board spending freeze if the financial crisis warranted, and that he also announced a sketchy proposal for buying up home loans and renegotiating them at their diminished value. He claimed it was his own personal idea’ with the indication that this would be separate from the just-passed $700 billion bailout bill.
On the other hand, although he vowed to give health care equal priority to other pressing problems, he made it clear he does not believe in government involvement in health care. So, I don’t know what he really means there. Well, actually I do know. He means status quo. If you can afford it, you get it, if not you don’t, unless you have zero dollars and then you might get in on an existing government program (although McCain apparently does not believe in such programs). McCain proposes a tax credit for health care and then wants to tax employer health plans (that is Obama’s version of what McCain offers. McCain does not clearly explain the tax part).
Fact checking aside, it was what I would consider a tie but it is clear that Barack Obama sees government as an agent for people in general, while McCain, well I’m not sure what he thinks government’s obligation is, except perhaps to fight war. He does call for energy independence and other programs, but does not want to raise taxes (taxes seem kind of necessary to fund things) and calls for the mostly unspecified cuts in spending. He did mention that there is waste in the defense budget that he would cut (he has said that before).
The instant polls indicate that Obama won the debate. I saw it more as a tie, but thought most of the time Obama expressed more direct concern for individuals. McCain’s direct mortgage rescue might be an exception.
As far as foreign policy, I felt it was a wash. I just don’t see a major difference, except that McCain is a little more insistent that some sort of victory (something he does not define) be attained in Iraq. Since we occupied the country, I am not sure what more we can do, except keep occupying it and hope that the violence subsides over time or turn it over as soon as possible to the Iraqis. Both want to press on in Afghanistan.
The candidates were asked at least twice what the $700 Billion Wall Street bailout does for the people (as opposed to Wall Street investment bankers). Neither one of them answered. At least I did not catch an answer (the transcript will be available soon on the web, I’m sure).
Tom Brokaw asked each candidate to prioritize their actions on health, energy, and entitlement reform to include Social Security. Obama said he would call for a 10-year program to gain energy independence just as JFK initiated the moon landing program, which was accomplished in less than a decade. He ranked health care as number two and then listed education (not on the questioner’s list, I thought).
McCain said he’d do everything at once. But he also suggested that Social Security would have to be cut (and if I got that incorrect, I’ll admit in after I read the transcript, but that is what he seemed to say. He may have been suggesting that unless something is done, the fund will run out). Later he said that he felt the Social Security funding problem could be resolved via bi-partisan study and negotiation as done during the Reagan administration. He said a special commission would probably be needed to resolve the medicare funding issue, which he called “tougher.”
I was impressed that McCain claimed that he was concerned for the environment and said that he has disagreed with the Bush administration on the issue (and I think he might find he disagrees with his vice presidential candidate too).
McCain supports nuclear power.
I did not hear Obama say he supports nuclear. He does call for increased efforts on alternative energy, using the moon-shot approach, as I already mentioned.
And really what more useful can I say. You have to have watched the debate and/or read the transcript on the web.
McCain as usual tried to portray Obama as too inexperienced in foreign affairs and military matters, but Obama stood his ground and demonstrated that he is up on the issues.
There were no major breakthrough proposals or answers concerning how to solve the nation’s financial crisis.
P.s. In my last blog I rewrote the lead and said that I would not vote for anyone who would not give a specific answer. Well both candidates fudged a little. I may have to go back on that – don’t know.