Purely in terms of appearances, there was no clear “winner.” Both of them performed reasonably well. I suppose one can make arguments about either of them having “won.”
Neither of them said anything of substance about the financial crisis. As I <a href=“http://agora.rpgclassics.com/showthread.php?t=29906”>explained</a> in the other thread, the issue that matters is the issue of whether the US government will honour the banks’ debts to foreign investors. Neither candidate said anything about this.
Instead, they used the issue as an opportunity to repeat meaningless slogans about “oversight” (neither of them explained what that entails – they could have started with explaining their position on Paulson’s proposal to place the Treasury Secretary’s decisions outside court jurisdiction) and excessive spending. But here too, both of them blamed the excessive spending on irrelevant, meaningless straw men. For example, McCain cited some program that earmarked $3 million to study bears in Montana. He then promised to freeze spending on everything…except defense and entitlements! Considering that you can fund millions of bear-studying programs at the cost of one war or bailout, this is laughable. Obama also said that he would cut some programs, but didn’t say which ones. Neither Obama nor McCain would even take a coherent position on the bailout.
- The only good thing in the entire debate was that Obama stood by his earlier promise to negotiate with Iran, even after McCain attacked him for it. Obama also correctly pointed out that Ahmadinejad is not the absolute ruler of Iran. McCain snickered at this, but did not offer a response, because it’s obviously true. Obama again explained the obvious when he said that you can’t tell people that you’ll only talk to them after they’ll agree to do everything you want.
McCain engaged in the usual dishonest scaremongering, and Obama did not call him on it. For instance, McCain repeatedly asserted that Iran is building nuclear weapons for the sole purpose of destroying Israel, and Obama never mentioned that the government’s own NIE on Iran states that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program five years ago. Still, even McCain didn’t talk about any attack on Iran, instead he discussed sanctions.
Overall, Obama sounded more reasonable on this particular issue. However…
- …when it came to the Russia-Georgia war, there was no difference between them. First, Obama stated that Russia committed “aggression,” which is a lie. But this was not enough for McCain, who accused him of <i>having urged both sides to restraint</i>, because according to McCain, Georgia has never done anything deserving of criticism. Neither of them addressed Saakashvili’s murder of Russian citizens in the disputed territories, they both pretended like it had never occurred.
Then McCain falsely claimed that Russia had planned the war in advance. Not only did he fail to address the conclusive evidence to the contrary (Russia withdrew its military bases from Georgia ahead of schedule, and repeatedly ignored Saakashvili’s provocations for years), but the evidence that he did bring up actually proved the opposite of what he claimed. He said that, when he visited South Osetia in the past, he saw a billboard on the street that showed a portrait of Putin with the caption “Vladimir Putin, our president.” McCain then feigned shock that such a billboard could exist in “a part of Georgia.” However, the fact is that Osetia is a <i>disputed territory</i>, and <i>not</i> “a part of Georgia,” and the existence of this billboard shows that the population of South Osetia had never thought of itself as Georgian, is ethnically different from the Georgians, and always wanted to join Russia, for years before the war. McCain did not mention the ethnic conflict at all. Yet he obviously knows these facts – therefore, his speech was meant to deceive people who are ignorant of them.
However, on a practical level, there was no difference between the candidates. McCain took a hostile, sneering tone, and once again told his nasty little joke about Putin’s KGB past, whereas Obama sounded like a lecturing schoolmarm, but they both said essentially the same thing. Both Obama and McCain called for expanding NATO to include Georgia and Ukraine – despite the fact that the vast majority of Ukrainians opposes such a move, and despite the fact that NATO rules don’t allow countries with outstanding territorial disputes to join. Both Obama and McCain praised Latvia and Estonia for being “democratic,” whereas in reality they are racist ethnocracies that practice apartheid against ethnic Russians.
I find this part of the debate very troubling. In the <a href=“http://agora.rpgclassics.com/showthread.php?t=29906”>other thread</a>, I argued that there is only one way to deal with the financial crisis, namely allowing Chinese and Russian investors to recapitalize the banking system. This would preserve much of America’s ability to attract investments, but it would seriously decrease America’s ability to control the world. However, the government wants to retain America’s global dominance, so they won’t take this way out. They won’t want to raise the money by increasing taxes, either. But then, the only remaining alternative is to find some excuse to write off their debts, to refuse to pay them. The only crisis big enough to provide a cover for such an operation is war, and at present there are two possible scenarios – either a direct invasion of Iran, or a proxy war against Russia, which is one of the US’s largest creditors. Obama took a relatively conciliatory tone on Iran in the debate. <i>But both candidates unconditionally support giving money, weapons, and military guarantees to authoritarian, virulently anti-Russian proxies.</i> Furthermore, one of these proxies has <i>already</i> started one war against Russia just last month. Both candidates support giving him a blank check to start another war with Russia, and they support giving him guarantees that the US will join that war on his side when it happens.
Based on what I’ve seen so far, I will not be voting for either of them. I will watch the other debates in case Obama says something that can change my mind. But, as of right now, I don’t see a substantial difference between Obama and McCain on the issues that matter.