McCain had a huge opportunity on this issue and in my opinion he blew it. Obama endorsed, in principle, the Bush bailout. He implicitly agreed that this bailout should go forward. He qualified it with transparency, accountability, and all those other buzz words. Yet, on the fundamental issue of whether or not there should be a bailout, he agreed with Bush.
McCain had an opportunity to draw a distinction and point out that he isn't for the bailout at all. In fact, that is the problem that most of the Republican leaders have with this plan. They don't believe that there should be a bailout. Eric Cantor, for instance, believes that the federal government should provide insurance for these bonds, but that the Wall Street firms should be forced to hold their own paper. This was an opportunity for McCain to draw a distinction and to paint Obama as the Bush clone (on an issue the public hates). Instead, McCain said that he hoped there would be a bi partisan agreement. He had an opportunity to crush Obama and in my opinion he blew it.
As for the rest of the economic portion of the debate, McCain focused on spending an earmarks. Those are good issues and important issues, but the public at large doesn't really understand how those two affects them. On the other hand, Obama continued to focus on the "fact" that 95% of the folks in this country will get a tax cuts. Of course, 40% of the folks don't pay taxes at all. McCain never brought this up so this distortion was left unchallenged. Certainly, Obama's inability to name one program that he would cut even in light of a $700 billion bailout perpetuates the perception that he is a tax spend liberal, but that was his only major mistake on the economic portion of the debate.
Here it was reversed. The line I remember of the evening was in response to Obama saying that the idea that we would merely allow Ahmadinejad to spout off and say nothing, Senator McCain correctly pointed in mocking and condescension that we would say no. McCain's point is that sitting across the table from Ahmadinejad gives more credibility to such statements, in and of itself.
I also think that Obama did himself a huge disservice by attempting to quote, and frankly misquote, Henry Kissinger. Watch for Kissinger to write an op ed explaining exactly how he views negotiations with rogue nations. Watch for that op ed to be diametrically different than the way that Obama attempted to paint him.
Obama was weakest in trying to defend his position that despite the surge's success he was still right in opposing it. That is an untennable position and that's why he sounds so silly in defending it. He did a good job of hammering home that Afghanistan is the central front in the GWOT. Again, I believe that McCain missed an opportunity. The central front is in Pakistan and there is no military solution there. Obama makes it seem as though we "took our eye off the ball" and that's why we haven't caught UBL. Of course, he hasn't been caught because he has safe haven in Pakistan. No matter what we do in Afghanistan, he will continue to have safe haven in Pakistan. Of course, I can't make that point, but rather, John McCain needed to make that point.
Finally, it ought to be noted that Obama said that he agreed with John McCain no less than seven times in the course of the debate and McCain already has an ad up pointing this out.
That was a minor point. Ultimately, if this election is about foreign policy then John McCain wins. If it is about the economy, then as it stands, Barack Obama wins. That's how it is right now. McCain had an opportunity to tie Obama to the Bush bailout, which would have been the economic game changer, but he missed that opportunity.
To no one's surprise, Henry Kiissinger countered what Obama said about him immediately.
Henry Kissinger believes Barack Obama misstated his views on diplomacy with US adversaries and is not happy about being mischaracterized. He says: “Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.”
Watch for an oped very soon to fully explain his position and how it is different from the manner in which it is different from the way Obama described it.