The first of three scheduled television debates between presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain ended in a draw. Thats why campaign strategists are puttering around with their spin machines after the 90-minute head-to-head. Spin is the art of turning your opponents weaknesses into a victory for your side.
Originally, the first debate on Friday was supposed to have been on the subject of foreign policy. But well-known moderator Jim Lehrer, who served as questioner and straight man for the debate, began by noting that for the past two weeks the overriding subject in the nation had been the financial crisis and the planned government purchase of bank debts at a cost of 700 billion dollars to taxpayers. The candidates were stuck for any definite answers, however. Obama said that the middle class on Main Street was entitled to help along with the bankers on Wall Street. To do that, he called for more regulation of run-away financial and banking systems. McCain insisted those responsible for the crisis had to be held to account and that the most important lesson learned from the crisis was that government expenditures had to be reined in.
Obama rebutted McCains position saying that McCain had supported 300 billion dollars in tax cuts for business and the wealthiest Americans while pushing the old Republican scare tactic that Democrats would increase taxes. McCain completely ignored Obamas assertion that he would lower taxes for 95 percent of the population while increasing them only for those earning above $250,000 a year. He claimed Obama was too far to the left, something he said made it difficult to arrive at a bi-partisan solution to the financial crisis.
Obama admitted that the bank bailout package would severely impact the next national budget but said he wouldnt make existing holes in the social safety net larger nor would he abandon further investment in alternative energy. McCain said he would veto all expenditures excluding defense, entitlements, and aid to war veterans. Obama countered by saying that in making budget cuts a scalpel rather than an axe was necessary.
In the second half of the debate the subject turned to foreign policy where both candidates repeated their usual positions. McCain distanced himself from the Bush administrations handling of Iraq by saying it pursued the wrong strategy and criticized Obama for being reluctant to admit that were winning in Iraq, saying the situation had changed dramatically since the troop surge. Obama criticized the decision by both Bush and McCain to attack Iraq in the first place, noting that the war started in 2003 and not last year. He went on to say that al-Qaeda had become stronger in recent years and that we had to get out of Iraq and turn our attention to Afghanistan.
Snap polls after the debate showed a slim majority of viewers thought Obama was more convincing than McCain. Commentators on various media outlets had agreed that there was no clear winner, but both campaigns, contrary to the facts, cranked up their spin machines and declared victory for their respective candidates. An overview of surveys posted by the website, realclearpolitics.com showed Obama leading over McCain by 47.9 to 43.6 percent.
Obama released new television spots over the weekend in which he accused McCain of not ever using the term middle class during the debate. As Obama continued making campaign appearances before thousands of people, McCain returned to Washington, ostensibly to assist in behind-closed-door bi-partisan negotiations designed to support the bailout package.
His spin is expected to be made public early next week.