Elizabeth Gunto, staff writer
On October 7, the two presidential candidates, John McCain [R] and Barack Obama [D] debated at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. The debate was mediated by Tom Brokaw. The main subjects of the debate were foreign policy, health care, the economy, energy, and taxes. The questions were sent in by members of the audience and by email.
When asked about health care, Social Security, and Medicare, Senator Obama said there needed to be “moral commitment” to providing health care. He also said he would seek reform during his first presidential term, but in order reform Social Security and Medicare, tax policy issues must be addressed. The senator criticized McCain’s health care plan of giving $5,000 health care credit while taxing health benefits that workers get from their employers, saying it would cause the downfall of employer based health care. He said McCain’s health plan was “fundamentally the wrong way to go.”
McCain responded that Obama’s health care plan would impose government mandates and penalize and tax small businesses if they don’t provide health care; Obama responded that his health care plan excludes small businesses. Senator McCain said his health care plan will allow people to spend tax credit on their choice of health credit.
On the economy, Senator McCain announced a plan to help homeowners. In his plan, the Secretary of the Treasury “would immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America.” The payments would be renegotiated based on the lessened value of the homes to reduce the chance of default so homeowners can keep their houses. However, other than stating that some of the money would come from the $700 billion bank rescue package, McCain did not explain fully how he would fund the $300 billion project. Obama called McCain’s plan “old news,” and said the Department of the Treasury is working on a similar plan that Obama favors. McCain criticized Obama for encouraging Freddie Mac and Fannie May to create “all these risky loans,” and said that Obama’s plan would cost taxpayers $860 billion
Obama said the $700 billion bail-out plan that the Senate voted for this month is a beginning, but his plan would give assistance to the middle class with tax cuts and plans to keep homeowners in their houses. Obama attached McCain’s views to “the failed economic policies of the last eight years,” and said that the economic collapse is due to unregulated markets, which McCain has supported. He also said that he will create a “net spending cut,” while increasing funding to college affordability and energy independence.
When the subject of Iraq and aid to foreign countries came up, McCain said that Obama had been wrong about the surge of American soldiers in Iraq and that if the country had gone by the timeline that Obama wanted, the consequence would have been a catastrophe; Obama accused McCain of not getting facts straight and being too excited to go to war. “We hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, ‘Next up, Baghdad,’” said Obama of McCain.
On energy, McCain stated that he would stop sending $700 billion a year to “countries that don’t like us,” meaning the United States would stop buying oil from countries hostile to it. When Brokaw asked the candidates if the U.S. should give money to research and development projects to find new sources of energy, Obama said that part of his economic plan was to fund alternative energy projects. McCain said America should research alternative energy projects, then he changed the subject to pork-barrel spending and talked about an energy bill that Obama had voted for.
“There was an energy bill on the floor of the Senate loaded down with goodies, billions for the oil companies. And it was sponsored by Bush and Cheney. You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one,” McCain said, gesturing toward his rival. “You know who voted against it? Me.”
Brokaw described the last question that had been emailed, as “Zen.” The question was “What don’t you know, and how will you learn it?”
McCain said that “what I don’t know is what all of us don’t know, and that’s what’s going to happen, both here and abroad.” He referred to his own history as a prisoner of war, saying, “I know what it’s like to keep up hope in difficult times.”
Obama said, “One of the things we know about the presidency is that it’s never the challenges you expect that consume most of your time.” He mentioned his own rise from “modest means” and said the question was “are we going to pass on that same American dream?”