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US presidential election

Debate #2: Obama vs McCain in their own words

Article published on the 2008-10-08 Latest update 2008-10-08 09:00 TU

McCain (left) and Obama (right) at the debate(Photo: Reuters. Montage: RFI)

McCain (left) and Obama (right) at the debate
(Photo: Reuters. Montage: RFI)

Democrat Barrack Obama and Republican John McCain debated a second time on Tuesday evening, answering questions from an audience of 80 undecided voters in Nashville, Tennessee. Here is some of what they said.

The economic crisis

McCain: “One of the real catalysts, really the match that lit this fire was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac… [T]hey're the ones that, with the encouragement of Senator Obama and his cronies and his friends in Washington, that went out and made all these risky loans, gave them to people that could never afford to pay back. And you know, there were some of us that stood up two years ago and said we've got to enact legislation to fix this.”

Obama: “I believe this is a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years, strongly promoted by President Bush and supported by Senator McCain, that essentially said that we should strip away regulations, consumer protections, let the market run wild, and prosperity would rain down on all of us. It hasn't worked out that way. And so now we've got to take some decisive action.”

Economic solutions

McCain: “I have a plan to fix this problem and it has got to do with energy independence. We've got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't want us very - like us very much. We have to keep Americans' taxes low. All Americans' taxes low. Let's not raise taxes on anybody today."

Obama: “Now, step one was a rescue package that was passed last week. We've got to make sure that works properly. And that means strong oversight, making sure that investors, taxpayers are getting their money back and treated as investors. It means that we are cracking down on CEOs and making sure that they're not getting bonuses or golden parachutes as a consequence of this package… But that's only step one. The middle class needs a rescue package. And that means tax cuts for the middle class.”


McCain: I'm going to ask the American people to understand that there are some programmes that we may have to eliminate… I know a lot of them that aren't working. One of them is in defence spending, because I've taken on some of the defence contractors…”
“Look, we can attack health care and energy at the same time. We're not ... we're not rifle shots here. We are Americans…. Frankly, I'm not going to tell that person without health insurance that, ‘I'm sorry, you'll have to wait’.”

Obama: “You know, a lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11 and where you were on that day and, you know, how all of the country was ready to come together and make enormous changes to make us not only safer, but to make us a better country and a more unified country. And President Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that was missed was, when he spoke to the American people, he said, ‘Go out and shop.’ That wasn't the kind of call to service that I think the American people were looking for… I think the American people are hungry for the kind of leadership that is going to tackle these problems not just in government, but outside of government.”

Climate change

McCain: “[W[e have an issue that we may hand our children and our grandchildren a damaged planet, I have disagreed strongly with the Bush administration on this issue… What's the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Senator Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that. Look, I was on navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe, and it's clean, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. And I know that we can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel. The Japanese, the British, the French do it. And we can do it, too.”

Obama: “This is one of the biggest challenges of our times. And it is absolutely critical that we understand this is not just a challenge, it's an opportunity, because if we create a new energy economy, we can create five million new jobs, easily, here in the United States… I've called for investments in solar, wind, geothermal. Contrary to what Senator McCain keeps on saying, I favour nuclear power as one component of our overall energy mix… One last point I want to make on energy. Senator McCain talks a lot about drilling, and that's important, but we have three per cent of the world's oil reserves and we use 25 per cent of the world's oil. So what that means is that we can't simply drill our way out of the problem.”

Health care

McCain: “I think [health care] is a responsibility, in this respect, in that we should have available and affordable health care to every American citizen, to every family member. And with the plan that - that I have, that will do that.”

Obama: “I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills … there's something fundamentally wrong about that.”

Foreign policy/national security

McCain: “The challenge is to know when the United States of American can beneficially affect the outcome of a crisis … And that question can only be answered by someone with the knowledge and experience and the judgment to know when our national security is not only at risk, but where the United States of America can make a difference… Senator Obama… does not understand our national security challenges. We don't have time for on-the-job training, my friends.”

Obama: “It's true. There are some things I don't understand. I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us. That was Senator McCain's judgment and it was the wrong judgment ... [t]he strains that have been placed on our alliances around the world and the respect that's been diminished over the last eight years has constrained us being able to act on something like the genocide in Darfur, because we don't have the resources or the allies to do everything that we should be doing.”

US intervention

McCain: “[W]e must do whatever we can to prevent genocide, whatever we can to prevent these terrible calamities that we have said never again. But it also has to be tempered with our ability to beneficially affect the situation. That requires a cool hand at the tiller. This requires a person who understands what our  ... the limits of our capability are… I've been in them all my life. And I can tell you right now the security of your young men and women who are serving in the military are my first priority right after our nation's security.”

Obama: “I do believe that we have to consider it as part of our interests, our national interests, in intervening where possible. But understand that there's a lot of cruelty around the world. We're not going to be able to be everywhere all the time. That's why it's so important for us to be able to work in concert with our allies. Let's take the example of Darfur… we have African Union troops in Darfur to stop a genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. We could be providing logistical support, setting up a no-fly zone at relatively little cost to us, but we can only do it if we can help mobilise the international community and lead.”