It’s past midnight on the East coast and those in the “media” are working hard to make sure that when you sit at your desk Wednesday morning you’ll be able to visit a website, scroll through some ads and find out what you thought of Tuesday night’s second Presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. The headlines will probably say something about McCain not being “aggressive enough” with personal attacks, linking Obama to William Ayers and Rev. Wright; or they’ll call the event lackluster because each candidate stuck to the principles of his platform and didn’t “debate” with his opponent. Some might even declare the American people the winner for getting to watch an exchange of ideas solely about issues and free from unsubstantiated attacks.
What matters in the end, though, isn’t who “won” or “lost.” What matters is that the whole affair wasn’t a massively awkward shat show like last Thursday that made us grind our teeth and curl our shoulders in crippling anxiety. Obama, you were fine. McCain, you were fine too. Y’all threw out some talking points, ducked and dodged where you had to and even managed to tackle some extremely interesting questions where your nuances were so refined that law students lit a cigarette after Brokaw’s sign off to bask in the euphoria of parsing through your rhetoric. What follows isn’t “spin” or even a “take” on the debate. We obviously won’t know how grossly inaccurate and out of touch the media coverage of the event will be until we read it like you in the morning. If you want to make up your own mind, though, browse through our “Things to Check Up On” list we kept in real time with the debates after the jump.
1. McCain acuses Obama of earmarking $3,000,000 for a projector for a Chicago Planetarium
- The Next Right has an article, “Change You Can Earmark” that documents in detail the evolution of the appropriation Obama sought for Adler Planetarium. Opponents say Obama increased the amount of funding he sought for the planetarium projector from $3,000 to $3,000,000 after members of the Planetarium’s board donated to his campaign. Supporters of Obama point out that the planetarium is a not-for-profit landmark of Chicago that generates tourism revenue and relies on public funding for operation.
- Politifact points out Obama did indeed request the money, but because the bill never made it out of the Senate Appropriations committee he never voted for it. This article does not explore like the above one why Obama increased the amount of the request between 2007 and 2008.
- A list from Obama’s Senate website listing all earmarks he requested for only fiscal year 2008. You may make your own assumptions, draw your own conclusions and fashion your own ad-hominem attacks.
2. Obama wants to double the size of the Peace Corps and increase the size of Americorps
- These proposals are layed out in Obama’s “Call to Service” initative.
3. McCain suggests, and Obama does not necessarily refute, that small businesses will be fined under Obama’s health-care plan for not providing insurance to their employees
- Dispatch Politics says the Obama plan will provide a tax credit to employers to help cover health-care insurance cost for employees but does not address McCain’s fundamental question of how much a fine on employers who do not comply would be.
- McCain’s attacks against Obama for mandates in his health-care plan are very similar to Obama’s attacks of Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan in the Democratic primary. During the primary the big difference between their plans was Hillary’s penalization of those who chose to remain uninsured and Obama’s argument that the uninsured would seek out insurance if only it became affordable, according to Paul Krugman. That Obama would adopt the elements of Hillary’s platform that he attacked seem counter-intuitive considering he won the primary. We’ll have to get back to you on this one.
4. Obama is very clear that he intends to give tax breaks to 95% of Americans, specifically those he categorizes as “middle class.” Obama is less clear by how much taxes (income, payroll, etc.) will increase for those families and individuals who make more than $250,000. Obama has been intentionally vague about his intentions since he plans to hammer out the details with a bipartisan Congress once elected, presumably. Until then do the math at CNN Money.
5. Brokaw asks the two how they will save Social Security within the next two years.
- Obama uses the question to go back and respond to claims made by McCain about the Illinois Senator’s tax plan. He couches his rebuttal by saying he will work to ensure Social Security’s solvency by the end of his first term by increasing taxes on those who make more than $250,000. There are many interesting arguments over this issue and whether it moves the system closer toward Welfare than Social Security by deducting a disproportionate percentage of pay roll tax from those making more than $250,000. Further research and potential remedial course in tax policy and accounting needed.
- McCain answers that he will “easily” solve Social Security’s insolvent budget within the next two years by sitting down across the table with bipartisan colleagues. He then accuses Obama for never taking a stand against his party. It is unclear how this will solve Social Security. McCain said:
Social Security is not that tough. We know what the problems are, my friends, and we know what the fixes are. We’ve got to sit down together across the table. It’s been done before.
I saw it done with our — our wonderful Ronald Reagan, a conservative from California, and the liberal Democrat Tip O’Neill from Massachusetts. That’s what we need more of, and that’s what I’ve done in Washington.
Sen. Obama has never taken on his party leaders on a single major issue. I’ve taken them on. I’m not too popular sometimes with my own party, much less his.
- To fix Medicare McCain says he will get the smartest people together in a room to draft a proposal and then force members of Congress to vote up and down on it. This seems vague and fascist. Not to mention particularly dubious considering McCain’s previous failure of corralling votes for the most recent up and down vote Congress was forced to take regarding the Bail Out package. McCain said:
My friends, what we have to do with Medicare is have a commission, have the smartest people in America come together, come up with recommendations, and then, like the base-closing commission idea we had, then we should have Congress vote up or down.
Let’s not let them fool with it anymore. There’s too much special interests and too many lobbyists working there. So let’s have — and let’s have the American people say, “Fix it for us.”
6. Obama accuses McCain of voting against alternative fuel measures 23 times in the Senate.
- We’ll wait till Factcheck.org tackles that one. We don’t have any interns to go through the archives yet.
7. Obama accuses McCain of voting against a children’s health insurance plan.
- The bill to which Obama is referring is H.R. 976 the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007
- McCain voted against it. His reasons are basically that the program insured too many children above the poverty line and that it grew beyond the scope of Congress’ first intention.
- McCain voted against the Cloture motion on the bill and abstained from a Yay or Nay vote on the bill, as did Senators Obama and Biden.
8. The two were intentionally the same on violating Pakistan’s sovereignty to attack Al Queada operatives. Obama openly says he would, though his language of “If Pakistan cannot or will not hunt down Bin Laden…” is slippery. McCain on the other hand, accuses Obama of “telegraphing” his punches, implying he would violate Pakistani sovereignty in pursuit of Bin Laden but just wouldn’t be transparent about it.
9. Both are in agreement with U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan, that more troops are needed in the southern theater of Afghanistan.
- Brokaw cites a statement made by British ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who said the U.S. cannot win in Afghanistan and must settle for “an acceptable dictator.”
- Dose, a Canadian publication we know nothing about, attributes the quote to “the French weekly, Le Canard Enchaine, [which] published what it said were direct quotes from a cable sent to Paris by the French deputy ambassador, Francois Fitou, reporting on his conversation with the British ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles.” According to Dose.ca:
Fitou quoted Cowper-Coles as saying: “The current situation is bad. The security situation is getting worse. So is corruption and the government has lost all trust. Our public statements should not delude us over the fact that the insurrection, while incapable of winning a military victory, nevertheless has the capacity to make life increasingly difficult, including in the capital. The presence – especially the military presence – of the coalition is part of the problem, not the solution.”
According to Fitou, Cowper-Coles said an increased military commitment, supported by both presidential candidates in the United States, would be “counter-productive.”
“It would identify us even more clearly as an occupying force and it would multiply the number of targets (for the insurgents),” he was quoted as saying.
The only realistic solution for Afghanistan, according to the Cowper-Coles assessment, was for the country to ruled by “an acceptable dictator.”
- McCain does not respond to the Cowper-Coles portion of the question. Obama says in passing, “I don’t think he has to be a dictator. And we want a democracy in Afghanistan”
UPDATE: So there you have it. While most members of the media spent the day parsing the intent behind McCain’s “That one” statement, you could learn more than 720 degrees spent with Anderson Cooper by just Googling key phrases. By no means is our list exhaustive but looking up the few terms we managed to scrawl down saved us the time, energy and frustration of listening to talking heads lecture us on things they know nothing about. Debate 3 is on the horizon; fire up your Fox and browse on through the bullshit.