Gabe’s Final Presidential Debate Cheat Sheet of 2008

Tonight’s debate was definitely an improvement over last week’s. We finally got to hear the candidates talk about abortion and the courts. Unfortunately, except for two glancing mentions by McCain, immigration, guns, and voter fraud were still missing.

The following table is in the order in which the questions were asked. The typical format was for Bob Schieffer to introduce the topic with a question and to then give the candidates some leeway to go at each other in turn. Schieffer didn’t spend much time chastising the candidates for going over their allotted time; in fact, he seemed happy to encourage the candidates to continue addressing each other. If the table seems longer and a bit more cluttered this week, that’s because it is. The candidates covered quite a bit more ground in this format and without Brokaw squawking every two minutes about the timer.

I have tried to be fair in cutting each candidate’s responses down to a manageable size (not always successfully). I used the candidates’ own language as much as possible, but have paraphrased occasionally. A ‡ symbol at the start of an issue marks the candidate who spoke first; a ‡ symbol at the end denotes the candidate who spoke last on that issue.

A rush transcript of the debate is at CNN; watch out, at the time of this posting it isn’t entirely accurate.

Issue Question Obama McCain
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Both of you have proposed plans. Why is your plan better than his? Number one, let’s focus on jobs. I want to end the tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas and provide a tax credit for every company that’s creating a job right here in America. Number two, let’s help families right away by providing them a tax cut — a middle-class tax cut for people making less than $200,000, and let’s allow them to access their IRA accounts without penalty if they’re experiencing a crisis.‡ ‡There are short- and long-term fixes. One short term fix is to reverse the continued decline in home ownership. Now, we have allocated $750 billion. Let’s take 300 of that billion and go in and buy those home loan mortgages and negotiate with those people in their homes, 11 million homes or more, so that they can afford to pay the mortgage, stay in their home.
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[To McCain:] Would you like to ask him a question? I want to provide a tax cut for 95 percent of working Americans, 95 percent. If you make more — if you make less than a quarter million dollars a year, then you will not see your income tax go up, your capital gains tax go up, your payroll tax. Not one dime. The last point I’ll make about small businesses. Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks, because they are the drivers of the economy. They produce the most jobs.Warren Buffett and Exxon Mobil, for example, they can afford to pay a little more in order to give additional tax cuts to Joe the plumber before he was at the point where he could make $250,000. Ultimately, we’ve got to pay for the core investments that make this economy strong and somebody’s got to do it. I don’t mind paying a little more ‡A couple days ago Sen. Obama was out in Ohio and he had an encounter with a guy who’s a plumber, his name is Joe Wurzelbacher. Joe wants to buy the small business he’s been working for for a decade, but under Obama’s plan he’ll be in a higher tax bracket. He won’t be able to employ people. I will not stand for a tax increase on small business income.When Sen. Obama ended his conversation with Joe the plumber he said we need to spread the wealth around. In other words, we’re going to take Joe’s money, give it to Sen. Obama, and let him spread the wealth around.

Businesses in America today are paying the second highest tax rate of anywhere in the world; We need to cut people’s taxes. We need to encourage business, create jobs, not spread the wealth around.‡

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Won’t some of the programs you are proposing have to be trimmed, postponed, even eliminated? Give us some specifics on what you’re going to cut back. ‡ I have been a strong proponent of pay-as- you-go. We need to eliminate a whole host of programs that don’t work. And I want to go through the federal budget line by line, page by page, programs that don’t work, we should cut. We’re going to have to embrace a culture and an ethic of responsibility, all of us, corporations, the federal government, and individuals out there who may be living beyond their means.[Responding:] An across-the-board spending freeze is a hatchet; we need a scalpel. Earmarks include a lot of screwy things that we end up spending money on, and they need to be eliminated. But it’s not going to solve the problem. President Bush doubled the national debt. McCain voted for four out of five of those Bush budgets. Senator Clinton suggested a return to the Depression-era program which made money: buying up mortgages. What would I cut? I would have, first of all, across-the-board spending freeze. And, for example, I would cut the marketing assistance program and subsidies for ethanol. I would fight for a line-item veto, and I would certainly veto every earmark pork-barrel bill.[Responding:] I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. He voted for the last two budgets that had that $24 billion more in spending than the budget that the Bush Administration proposed. He voted for the energy bill that was full of goodies for the oil companies that I opposed.‡
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[McCain brought this up.] The first major bill that I voted on in the Senate was in support of tort reform, which wasn’t very popular with trial lawyers, a major constituency in the Democratic Party. I support charter schools and pay for performance for teachers. Doesn’t make me popular with the teachers union. I support clean coal technology. Doesn’t make me popular with environmentalists. So I’ve got a history of reaching across the aisle. On core economic issues, you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush. ‡You have to tell me one time when you have stood up to the leaders of your party on one single major issue.[Responding:] I have disagreed with leaders of my own party. I’ve got the scars to prove it. Examples: climate change, earmarks, torture, the conduct of the war in Iraq, fighting the pharmaceutical companies on Medicare prescription drug importation,an HMO patient’s bill of rights, and the 9/11 Commission.‡
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Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other’s face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other? 100 percent of your ads, John, 100 percent of them have been negative. It absolutely is true. I don’t mind being attacked for the next three weeks. I would love to see the next three weeks devoted to talking about the economy, health care, energy, and figuring out how the American people can send their kids to college.‡ ‡I asked Obama to do town hall meetings; he said “any place, any time.” I regret the negative aspects of both campaigns. For example, Congressman John Lewis made allegations linking me and Sarah to racism. Obama, you didn’t repudiate those remarks, like I have done every time someone makes an out-of-bounds statement. Obama said he’d take public financing, but now he has the highest spending campaign since Watergate.
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Congressman Lewis, who is an American hero, unprompted by my campaign, without my campaign’s awareness, made a statement that he was troubled with what he was hearing at some of the rallies that your running mate was holding. His point was that we have to be careful about how we deal with our supporters. We immediately put out a statement saying that we don’t think that the comparison he made to racism during the civil rights movement is appropriate.

[Responding:] What is important is making sure that we disagree without being disagreeable. And it means that we can have tough, vigorous debates around issues.‡

‡Every other ad was an attack ad on my health care plan. And any objective observer has said it’s not true. You’re running ads right now that say that I oppose federal funding for stem cell research. I don’t. You’re running ads that misportray completely my position on immigration. I did not hear a repudiation of Congressman Lewis…

[Responding:] I’m proud of the people that come to our rallies, but you’re always going to have some fringe peoples.

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[McCain brought this up.] Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of Sen. McCain’s campaign over the last two or three weeks. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan’s former ambassadors. Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign. ACORN is a community organization. It had nothing to do with us. We were not involved. The only involvement I’ve had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs.

[Interrupting:] That’s absolutely not true. And that’s not the facts.

‡As Sen. Clinton said in her debates, we need to know the full extent of Obama’s relationship with Mr. Ayers. We need to know the full extent of Obama’s relationship with ACORN, which is now on the verge of perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country. The same front outfit organization that your campaign gave $832,000 for “lighting and site selection.”

[Responding:] While you were on the board of the Woods Foundation, you and Mr. Ayers, together, sent $230,000 to ACORN. You launched your political career in Mr. Ayers’ living room.

[Continuing:] The facts are facts. In 2001 he said he wish he’d bombed more, and you have a long association with him.‡

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Why would the country be better off if your running mate became president rather than his running mate? ‡Joe Biden is one of the finest public servants that has served in this country He has some of the best foreign policy credentials of anybody. His entire life he has never forgotten where he came from, Scranton. On the key issues that are of importance to American families, Joe Biden’s always been on the right side.

[Responding:] Palin is a capable politician who has excited the Republican Party. It’s very commendable the work she’s done on behalf of special needs. I do want to just point out that autism and other special needs programs will require some additional funding, which a spending freeze would stop.

Sarah Palin is a role model to women and to reformers all over America. She’s given money back to the taxpayers. She’s cut the size of government. She negotiated with the oil companies and faced them down. She understands reform. And, by the way, she also understands special-needs families.

[Responding:] I think that Joe Biden is qualified in many respects. But I do point out that he’s been wrong on many foreign policy and national security issues, including the Gulf War and the cockamamie idea to split Iraq into three countries.‡

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Let’s talk about energy and climate control. Would each of you give us a number, a specific number, of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term? First, we need to expand domestic production. That means telling to use the 68 million currently leased acres or lose them. We should look at offshore drilling, but we can’t drill our way out of this problem. I’ve focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. It is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car‡ ‡I think we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil. Canadian oil is fine. When Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadians said, “Yes, and we’ll sell our oil to China.” We can build 45 new nuclear plants, which are safe. With wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, we can easily eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security.
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[Obama wanted to talk about this more.] ‡I believe in free trade. But NAFTA did not have enforceable labor agreements and environmental agreements. We should include those and make them enforceable. When it comes to South Korea, we’ve got a trade agreement, they are sending hundreds of thousands of South Korean cars into the United States. We can only get 4,000 to 5,000 into South Korea. That is not free trade.

[Responding:] We have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn’t being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights, which is why, for example, I supported the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement which was a well-structured agreement.

I am a free trader. Sen. Obama, who has never traveled south of our border, opposes the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which would save our economy from the billion dollars and more that we’ve already paid to export our agricultural products. Free trade with Colombia is something that’s a no-brainer.

[Responding:] I just recited to you the benefits of concluding the Columbian agreement, a billion dollars of American dollars that could have gone to creating jobs and businesses in the United States. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Sen. Obama wants to restrict trade and he wants to raise taxes.‡

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Given the current economic situation, would either of you now favor controlling health care costs over expanding health care coverage? ‡We’ve got to do both, and that’s exactly what my plan does. Under my plan, if you have health insurance, then you don’t have to do anything. If you’ve got health insurance through your employer, you can keep your health insurance. We estimate that we can cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year. If you don’t have insurance, we’re going to give the option to buy into a federal pool which will give you high-quality care, choice of doctors, at lower costs. We’re going to make sure that insurance companies can’t discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions. We’ve got to put more money into preventive care.

[Responding:] Joe, if you’re out there, here’s your fine: zero. You won’t pay a fine because my plan exempts small businesses from having to pay into a kitty. In fact, Joe, if you want to do the right thing with your employees and you want to provide them health insurance, we’ll give you a 50 percent credit so that you will actually be able to afford it.‡

We need to put health care records online. That will reduce costs. We need to have more community health centers. We need to have walk-in clinics. I want to give every American family a $5,000 refundable tax credit. Take it and get anywhere in America the health care that you wish. Joe the plumber, if you’re a small business and you’ve got employees and you’ve got kids, if you don’t get the health care plan that Obama mandates, he’s going to fine you. I’d still like to know what that fine is going to be.
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[Obama wanted to talk about this.] ‡He says he’s going to give you all a $5,000 tax credit. And you can go out and buy your own insurance. For about 20 million people, you may find yourselves no longer having employer-based health insurance. Older folks are going to be the only ones left in the employer-based system, and employers won’t be able to afford it. And once you’re out on your own with this $5,000 credit, McCain is going to be taxing the health care benefits that you have from your employer. The average policy costs about $12,000. Under McCain’s plan, a lot more insurance companies will be cherry-picking and excluding people from coverage.

[Responding:] You all just heard my plan. If you’ve got an employer-based health care plan, you keep it. Now, under Sen. McCain’s plan there is a strong risk that people would lose their employer-based health care.‡

95% of the people in America will receive more money under my plan because they will receive not only their present benefits, which will be taxed, but then you add $5,000 onto it, except for those people who have the gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies which cover plastic surgery, etc. The average cost of a health care insurance plan in America today is $5,800. I’m going to give them $5,000 to take with them wherever they want to go, and this will give them affordability. I want to leave money in your pocket. I want you to be able to choose the health care for you and your family. That’s what I’m all about.
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Could either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on abortion? I think it’s true that we shouldn’t apply a strict litmus test and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide fairness and justice to the American people. I believe that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided. I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on. I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through.

[Response:] If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that’s because it’s not true. The fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment, which is why not only myself but pro-choice Republicans and Democrats voted against it. With respect to partial-birth abortion, I am completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health and life.

‡I would never and have never imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the court. That’s not appropriate to do. I thought Roe v. Wade was a bad decision. I think there were a lot of decisions that were bad. I think that decisions should rest in the hands of the states. And I believe strongly that we should have nominees to the United States Supreme Court based on their qualifications rather than any litmus test. I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that elections have consequences.

[Response:] Obama, as a member of the Illinois State Senate, voted against a law that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born of a failed abortion. He voted against a late-term, partial-birth abortion ban in committee, then he voted “present” on the floor of the Illinois Senate.

[Schieffer prods him:] “Health of the mother” has been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything.‡

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The U.S. spends more per capita than any other country on education. Yet, by every international measurement, we trail most of the countries of the world. What do you intend to do about it? ‡We are going to have to invest. Early childhood education, for every dollar we invest in that we end up getting huge benefits with improved reading scores, reduced dropout rates, reduced delinquency rates. It’s going to be critically important for us to recruit an army of new teachers and give them higher pay. And it’s important for us to make college affordable. I’ve proposed a $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year, in exchange for some form of community service. What is the advantage in a low income area of sending a child to a failed school and that being your only choice? Choice and competition amongst schools is one of the key elements. We need to take good teachers and we reward them and promote them. Find bad teachers another line of work. Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. You will find that some of the worst school systems in America get the most money per student. As far as college education is concerned, we need to make those student loans available.‡
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Do you think the federal government should play a larger role in the schools? And I mean, more federal money? ‡We have a tradition of local control of the schools and that’s a tradition that has served us well. But I do think that it is important for the federal government to step up and help local school districts do some of the things they need to do. What I want to do is focus on early childhood education, providing teachers higher salaries in exchange for more support. I think it’s important to foster competition inside the public schools; I doubled charter schools in Illinois. Where we disagree is on the idea that we can somehow give out vouchers — give vouchers as a way of securing the problems in our education system. Vouchers worked in Washington, D.C. As far as the No Child Left Behind is concerned, it was a great first beginning in my view. We need to fix a lot of the problems, then sit down and reauthorize it. Spending more money isn’t always the answer. For example, Head Start is not doing what it should be doing. By the third grade many times children who were in the Head Start program aren’t any better off than the others. Let’s reform it and fund it. That was out-of-bounds because of the Democrats. We need to reform these programs. We need to have transparency. We need to have rewards.‡

Whew! That took a long time. If you’ve read down this far, I hope you’ve found the debate cheat sheets helpful.

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~ by Gabriel Malor on October 15, 2008.

One Response to “Gabe’s Final Presidential Debate Cheat Sheet of 2008”

  1. the fact that anyone is praising McCain for his performance in the third debate proves that he and Palin have lowered people’s expectations down to nothing (don’t forget, the VP debates were a tie!)

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