Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Debating in Pennsylvania: Losing Patience

I'm watching the Obama-Clinton Pennsylvania debate now, and in the first 30 minutes, we've rehashed the "bitter" comments and re-rehashed the Rev. Wright issue. Thirty minutes on all of this - and nothing on the actual issues. Is anyone else losing patience with all of this? They're taking questions from viewers, apparently, but the cynical side of me is wondering if ABC edited out the unsexy ones. Right now, at 7:34, we're talking about the Bosnia trip again. Seriously, Pennsylvania - the economy is in the crapper, we've got soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are hundreds of thousands living below or at the poverty line - and you want to ask Obama why he doesn't wear a flag on his lapel? Were the questions really that craptastic, ABC, that this was what floated to the top? Now George Stephanopoulos has asked Obama about William Ayers and Weather Underground now. He basically responds, then Hillary gives a long winded version of "known by the company you keep." Bad move, because now Obama can point out that President Clinton pardoned some of the Underground when he was president, which means she - by her own standards - is not fit to be president. FINALLY - an Iraq question from a real person. Do the candidates have a real plan to bring troops home from Iraq? Clinton says she's going to bring home one to two brigades a month home. She's convinced it's in America's best interest and Iraq's best interest to begin troop withdrawal in 60 days of er taking offices. Iraqis "will no longer have a blank check." She's made her decision, she says. Afghanistan has been neglected, she adds, and there's other problems "we've failed to address." Obama says that its not the role of the generals to decide when troops come home - its the commander-in-chief's. While he'll listen to the commanders on the ground, "ultimately the buck stops with me." He plans on having troops out in 16 months. "We are overstretched in a way we do not have a strategic reserve at this point." He also says its important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region. Clinton says that the deterrent to Iran should go beyond Israel, and the Bush policy has failed. "Iran has not been deterred." She thinks this is an opportunity for diplomacy in the region, starting with low level discussions. "We cannot permit Iran to become a nuclear weapons power." She promotes having the rest of the region band together to deter Iran. Stephanopoulos turns it to the economy, saying McCain said both are planning to raise taxes for everyone. Clinton says she won't raise taxes on the middle class, and has a plan for tax cuts that will help that group better afford health care, college, etc. But she went on the record as saying there would be no tax increases. Obama said he would cut taxes, not raise them. One of the centerpieces of his campaign, he says, is offsetting the payroll tax. The tax code in Washington, he said, was written for the wealthy and well-connected. Charlie now gives Obama a history lesson on capital gains taxes. Obama said he would look at the capital gains tax in the interest of fairness. He pointed to articles today on hedge funds making millions. Says he wants to be able to fund healthcare, education, etc., "but you can't do that for free, and you can't do that on a credit card from the Bank of China." Clinton wants to invest in clean, renewable energy, and in infrastructure. She works in the union - "good union jobs." Both talked about the mortgage crisis, and said Bush didn't do anything to stop it. For the record, btw, Clinton said she wouldn't raise the capital gains tax above 20 percent, if she raised it at all. Charlie Gibson says Obama was on record saying he wouldn't raise it above 28 percent. Obama says he would consider raising the cap on payroll tax, because the current cap is $90,000 a year. Chuckles gets a little pissy about Obama and his taxes...and Obama says he'd consider some exemptions. Hillary talks about how the 1983 commission was the most awesomest thing ever. Obama points out they raised the retirement age and the payroll tax. Hillary then rambles about there being a better way, and channels her inner Paula Abdul right before the commercial break. Now we're talking gun control. I almost missed the question because I had to check American Idol and the Mavericks score. I'm still unclear on both, just as I am this debate. Oh well. Chuckles is apparently asking them about their apparent flip flop from pro gun control to being all for an individual's right to bear arms. Hillary's talking something about police knowing how to track illegal guns. She respects the second amendment, but thinks most lawful gun owners want to make sure their guns stay out of the wrong hands. Chuckles now asks Obama if DC's gun law about sawed offs and handguns jibes with the second amendment. Obama says he believes in the second amendment and the government, but he also thinks the local government should have the ability to set zoning requirements. He thinks we can make sure criminals and the mentally deranged don't get handguns. That's so cute. BTW, this DC gun law is before the Supremes. Hillary says she also thinks the local government should be able to set its own laws. Snuffleupagus now asks Obama about affirmative action, because Obama is African American, and his children are, too, you know. I dunno, the wording of this question was just kind of almost offensive. As if the Obama children were the beneficiaries of such a policy. Hillary is against No Child Left Behind. Who isn't? She talks about healthcare for a while, then gas prices and releasing petroleum out of the reserve, and (like McCain) a temporary freeze on the gasoline tax. Obama says people are cynical about energy policy because we've been talking about it since the Carter administration. He wants to raise fuel efficiency standards, and "get serious" about it, and investing in new technologies and new energy strategies. How would they use George W.? Hillary said that she's sure that there will be an opportunity for him to work on behalf of the country. Obama says he's more likely to ask advice of George H.W. than George W., and actually spoke in admiration of George H.W.'s foreign policy prowess. In short, neither one of them has a job for George W. Bush.