Here are my real time observations about the Obama-McCain Town Hall debate tonight. Remember, I am usually wrong about who has won these debates.
First question: Global economic conditions. Kojack reads his question. What is the fastest way to help people in these economic conditions. Obama says it's a final verdict on the failed economic policy of the last eight years supported by Bush and McCain. The middle class needs a rescue package: tax cuts, help for homeowners, fix our health care system. McCain says Americans are angry and upset. Way to fix this problem is with energy independence; keep taxes low -- all Americans keep their taxes low. Don't raise taxes on anyone. Have to do something about home values. McCain gets right up close to Kojack. McCain says he wouldn't appoint Tom Brokaw as his treasury secretary. What's that all about? Generously notes that Warren Buffet supports Obama. Obama says the next treasury secretary has to realize that help can't start at the top. First question winner: A draw.
Second question: Oliver Clark, a young black man. Asks what will actually help people out in the bailout package. McCain: Problem is greed on Wall Street. I suspended my campaign. (Does he really want to mention that fiasco?) Problem is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac supported by Obama and his cronies were making loans to people who couldn't afford them. (This is just ridiculous. This didn't all start with Fannie and Freddie.) Obama: What's in the rescue package for you, Oliver, is that right now credit markets are frozen up. If companies can't get loan, can't meet payroll. Have to correct a little bit of Senator McCain's history. McCain as recently as March said we need more deregulation. I wrote to Paulson and said we need to tighten up these regulations. Hits back at McCain about his campaign manager being a paid lobbyist for Fannie Mae. Second question winner: Obama
Third Question: Blond woman has trouble reading her lines. "How can we trust either of you when both parties got us into this crisis?" Obama: Understand your cynicism. Remember a little history. When Bush came into office, we had a surplus. Now we have a huge deficit. Over last eight years, McCain has voted for four out of five of those George Bush budgets. Proposing a net spending cut. McCain: "I have been a consistent reformer." (What a joke. Don't forget to tell us you're a maverick.) Obama has never taken on the leaders of his party on a single issue. Obama is the most liberal big spending liberal in the U.S. Senate. He proposed $860 billion in new spending. McCain refuses to prioritize between health care, entitlement programs such as social security and energy. Can do all of them at once. Obama: We have to prioritize. Energy have to deal with today. Have called for $15 billion a year over 10 years so we can be free of middle eastern oil in 10 years. Invokes JFK going to the moon. Second priority is health care. Third is education.Have to prioritize tax side as well as spending side. Third question winner: Obama
Fourth Question: What sacrifices will you ask every American to make? McCain: Have to eliminate some programs that aren't working. Defense spending is one. Have to eliminate earmarks. Some are really good projects. Recommend a spending freeze except for defense and veterans programs. "We're not rifle shots here; we're Americans." (What????) Obama: Remember 9/11. Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that were missed is when he said "Go out and shop." American people are hungry for leadership that will tackle these problems not just in government but outside of government. Energy for example. Need to learn to conserve. Need to get young people involved, such as renewing the Peace Corps. Fourth Question winner: Obama
Fifth Question: Would you give Congress a date certain to reform social security and medicare? (Brokaw's question makes a wrong assumption. There is nothing wrong with social security.) Obama: The Straight Talk Express lost a wheel. I want to make a tax cut for everyone making under $250,000. McCain: Not that hard to fix social security. Medicare is a little tougher. Need a commission to give recommendations, and then Congress vote up or down. Fifth Question: Draw
Sixth Question: Young black girl, Ingrid Jackson. What would you do in first two years to make sure Congress moves fast on issues like climate change, green jobs, etc. McCain: Disagreed strongly with Bush Administration on climate change. Obama: One of the biggest challenges of our times. Also an opportunity. Can create 5 million new jobs with an energy economy. Sixth Question winner: McCain
Seventh Question: Middle aged white woman: Should health care be treated as a commodity? Obama: Health care is the single biggest question I get. (McCain strolls into the picture. He's trying to play psychological games.) Obama goes on to explain his health care plan; doesn't really address the question. McCain: Agrees with Obama about putting health records on line. Fundamental difference between myself and Obama. He will impose mandates. Obama will fine you if you're a small business and don't give health insurance to your employees or a parent and don't insure your child. (That's stupid. Obama has never proposed that.) McCain: Health care is a responsibility; not a right or a privilege. Obama: Should be a right for every American. Seventh Question Winner: Obama by a big margin.
Eighth Question: Phil Elliott, middle aged white man: How will recent economic stress affect our ability to act as a peace maker in the world? McCain: America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world. Have gone to all four corners of the world and shed our blood. We are peace makers. Have to have knowledge and experience and judgment to know when to go in. Obama doesn't understand national security challenges. Obama: McCain says I don't understand. There's some things I don't understand. Don't understand why we invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. McCain has had the wrong judgment and it has been costly to us. We're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. We need that $10 billion a month here to put our people back to work. Eighth Question Winner: Draw
Ninth Question: Should U.S. pursue Al Queda in Pakistan? Obama: Have a difficult situation caused by being distracted with Iraq instead going after bin Laden. That's the central front on terrorism. The defense secretary Gates said that's where the war on terror started and where it has to end. Have to change our policies in Pakistan. Can't coddle the dictator and give him billions of dollars while he's making peace treaties with the Taliban. If we have bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to act, then we have to do so. McCain: Hero is Teddy Roosevelt. He used to say, "Talk softly and carry a big stick." Obama wants to talk loudly. Can't announce that you're going to launch an attack on another country. Relations with Pakistan are critical. Have to work with them, not threaten to attack them. Ninth Question Winner; McCain
Tenth Question: How apply pressure on Russia to prevent another Cold War. McCain: Not going to have another cold war with Russia. Long ago warned about Putin. Has shown aggressiveness in Georgia. Watch Ukraine. Have to offer them moral support. Work to get them in NATO. Obama: Resurgence of Russia is one of central issues will have to deal with in next presidency. Can't just offer moral support. Also have to offer economic and concrete assistance. In April, I put out a statement saying the situation in Georgia was unstable,because had Russian peacekeepers. Part of job as commander in chief is to anticipate problems before they happen. Tenth Question: Draw
Eleventh Question: Is Russia under Putin an evil empire? Obama: They've engaged in evil behavior. McCain: Maybe. Eleventh Question: Draw.
Twelfth Question: Retired navy chief: If Iran attacks Israel, would you commit U.S. troops to defend Israel? McCain: Buddies up the questioner. Shakes his hand. "Everything I ever learned was from a chief petty officer." If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, will ratchet up tensions all over Middle East. Obama wants to sit down and negotiate with them without preconditions. I want to modify their behavior with sanctions. Obama: Can't allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. Would be a game changer in the region. Would create possibility of nuclear weapons falling in hands of terrorists. Would never take military action off the table. Important to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent having to make those choices. True that I believe we should have direct talks not only with our friends but also our enemies. It may not work. When we take that approach, we have a better chance at better outcomes. Twelfth Question Winner: Obama
Thirteenth Question: What don't you know and how will you learn it? Obama. My wife Michelle is there, and she would have a long list. Most of the time I would ask her. Talks about his roots, everything he has is due to this great country. McCain: Don't know what all of us don't know. What's going to happen here at home and abroad. Don't know what the unexpected will be. Spent my whole life serving this country. Believe in this country and its future.Great honor of my life was to put my country first. Thirteenth Question Winner: McCain.
Overall impression: I don't think this was a game changer. Mostly it was the same talking points. McCain needed a game changer and didn't get it. Obama wins overall.
Later Update: McCain wouldn't shake Obama's hand. This is going to be the big story tomorrow. People don't like poor sports. See the video.
Latest Update: McCain did shake Obama's hand right after the debate. The video below is a little later when they were getting ready to leave. So, maybe McCain figured he had shaken Obama's hand once and didn't need to do it again. It still looks churlish and small.