With Sen. John McCain perceived as having an advantage over Sen. Barack Obama in voter confidence on foreign policy issues, Obama showed confident poise in his positions during the first presidential debate last Friday.
The first 40 minutes focused on the candidates’ approaches to fixing the American economy due to the ongoing market crisis. Obama focused on closing corporate tax loopholes, combating greed and corruption on Wall Street, and implementing tax cuts for the middle class. McCain chastised earmark spending increases as the source of America’s economic woes.
As the debate switched to foreign policy, McCain repeatedly asserted that Obama “does not understand” the challenges the United States faces in Iraq and Afghanistan. McCain claimed that Obama’s support for direct talks with rogue nations would legitimize those regimes that want to cause the United States harm. Obama was quick to respond, highlighting that treating those we disagree with contemptuously only emboldens their motives. He used Iran and North Korea as examples.
On the issue of Iraq, Obama was quick to point out that he was correct in his judgment that Iraq was an unnecessary war and that the real central front in the war on terror is in Afghanistan, a conflict McCain has treated dismissively. McCain countered by stating that “The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not.” The squabbling between the two candidates on this issue highlighted the ‘judgment vs. experience’ debate that has been a theme of the race for months.
One of the highlights of the first debate was when Obama expressed his dedication and desire for urgent action to secure loose nuclear weapons and strengthen other non-proliferation measures. As he previously outlined in response to questions from Council for a Livable World, Obama said that the issue of non-proliferation is important because “The biggest threat to the United States is a terrorist getting their hands on nuclear weapons.” Obama has pledged to work extensively with other nations – including Russia, despite its recent aggressive actions in Georgia – to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials.
The next presidential debate, in a town-hall format, is on Oct. 7th at Belmont University in Nashville. Prior to this debate will be the highly anticipated vice-presidential debate this Thursday, Oct. 2, at Washington University in St. Louis. Many are looking to see if Gov. Sarah Palin can perform in an unscripted national debate against the unpredictable, knowledgeable, and always charismatic Sen. Joe Biden.