Now that the First Presidential Debate is over and we have all had time to listen to the mainstream media punditocracy lend their spin on the debate to their candidate of choice, some major issues arise for Sen. Barack Obama that highlight his inexperience, poor judgment, and overall unpreparedness to be President.
Overall, the debate itself was substantive. I feel the time spent on the economy in this debate should be debited from the third debate to make up for time lost on foreign policy as there are too many issues still undiscussed. I’ll note, for the record, that this position was advocated by Ambassador John Bolton on FOX News and I think it has significant merit. However, if the rest of the debates continue in this fashion I think Barack Obama will be doomed unless the electorate has truly became as naive as Sen. Obama clearly is on critical policy issues.
I’ve done you the favor of dividing the key issues into four categories, if time is short, I suggest reading this section by section rather than all at once. Within the categories the issues are arranged in chronological order.
Policy – Conservatism/Liberalism
Earmarks – John McCain immediately hammered Barack Obama for his abuse of the earmark process. In Obama’s defense, he did say he has suspended his earmark requests until the process can be reformed; however, to his discredit, it is merely political opportunism to suspend earmark requests once you decide to run for President. Sen. Obama knows this is a contentious issue for himself and Sen. Biden of acting in political self-interest rather than in the interest of the United States.
The other issue, is that one of those earmarks amounting to $100,000 was reported as funded for work that never happened and, instead, lined the pockets of Obama supporters in Chicago. Sen. Obama, trying to trivialize the point, defended earmarks as only accounting for $18 billion in annual spending. I don’t know about you, but I personally think $18 billion is a lot of money to the majority of taxpayers for wasteful spending projects that do not have enough muster to make it into the federal budget.
Sen. McCain won this battle with his signature phrase “I’ve got a pen, and I’m going to veto every single spending bill that comes across my desk. I will make them famous. You will know their names.” Obama’s rebuttal was a huge concession, “Sen. McCain is absolutely right that the earmark process has been abused.” Yes, Sen. McCain is right and you are a principal abuser.
Tax Strategy – Sen. Obama continued to promote his “tax cut for 95% of Americans” offsetting it with a tax increase on individuals making greater than $250,000 annually and increasing the capital gains tax from the current self-employment rate of 15% to somewhere between 20-28%. He also wants to increase corporate, dividends, and estate taxes by essentially allowing the tax cuts earlier this decade to expire. The entire notion that this is a tax cut for 95% of Americans is itself a stretch of the imagination. The bottom 40% of income earner’s in America pay no federal income taxes to begin with. The equates to nothing more than a tax credit — which, in other terms, is a welfare check.
Sen. Obama would have you believe this plan would be beneficial to nearly all households. However, any student of small business, economics, or free enterprise understands the this is essentially a tax on anyone owning a business in addition to those making above $250,000. If you’ve been asleep for the past few decades, the majority of economic and job growth is from small business.
Effectively, Sen. Obama would launch a plan that would only serve to attack small business and restrict economic and job growth. In the current state of the economic, I personally believe it would cause an economic contraction, create additional job loss, and show little change in revenue to the government coffers over the long run. His plan is extremely naive.
How much of a difference does $500 or $1000 in a one-time check make to a households cash flow issues? Very little. Conversely, how much does several billion dollars make to businesses through actual tax cuts enabling the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs. Which would you prefer: $500/$1000 one-time or a salary for years.
Promotion of Class Warfare – This is particularly asinine. When a presidential candidate in America evokes class and race warfare as a means to pander to a constituency, they turn their back on basic American principles.
Some would argue in America that some races and classes would still seek to oppress others. I know of no evidence in my life where this is true or in the lives of anyone I know. As a society it is time to beyond the issue of race and class because it only serves to divide Americans into competing groups rather than unify.
I call on Barack Obama to reconcile the following two ideologies he promotes in his campaign:
- that America is divided into classes where the upper-class is responsible for the conditions of the middle and lower classes; and
- that he plans to unify us all as simply Americans.
The fact of the matter is this: I don’t view America as having an upper, middle, and lower class. I view everyone as American. All Americans have the same opportunity to be successful as a part of our free market system. The idea of class warfare is intended to level the playing field so there is less wealth separating their view of the haves and the have-nots. This sounds great to the have-nots who lack the self-constitution and decision-making power to make something of their lives. Unfortunately, to those of us with the desire to accept responsibility for our lives, we are completely opposed to making excuses for why we cannot succeed.
Case in point, my Dad was making as much as my Grandfather ever did by the time he was 30. At 25, I was making as much as my dad did at 40. My Grandfather never owned a home or a new car. My dad dropped out of school in the 9th grade but now owns his own successful business. I was the first guy in my family to move out of “blue collar” and into “white collar” work. My family history is nothing short of the American dream. Mr. Obama, it is disingenuous to assert that part of my family’s hard work over many generations should be taken away and given to others simply because they do not have what they did not rightfully earn.
Budgetary Spending – When asked how Obama would deal with budgetary cuts as a result of dealing with the deficits, he said he wanted to increase funding in areas like early childhood development where federal funding has never shown a marked improvement.
In his attempt to not characterize himself as fiscally responsible, he only managed to reinforce that he was a tax-and-spend liberal.
Universally Poor Logic
Refusal to Admit He Was Wrong About Iraq – Liberals and anti-war proponents can spin this however they want. Obama bases his view of the Iraq war on decisions in 2003. He then voted to cut essential funding of troops that his own running-mate pointed out in the primaries. When called out directly about the success of the surge, which he also voted against, he said it worked beyond “everyone’s wildest expectations.” Yet, he still does not admit that his vote on the surge was wrong and ties his logic back to 2003 versus the 2007 conditions.
It strikes me as odd that a President would rather force military defeat for political purposes rather than doing what is necessary to ensure victory and the spread of democracy.
He now says Iraq was a mistake because it distracted us from Afghanistan, but hindsight is 20/20 and at the time everyone agreed Iraq was the central front in the war on terror. He only took this view well after the fact and for him to pretend he was some sort of ‘oracle’ — well, to use a phrase from someone else — it takes a little bit of hubris.
A commander-in-chief that refuses to fight foremost for the victory of the military he commands is not fit for command of anything beyond his own personal affairs.
Tactic vs. Strategy – Roughly 41 minutes into the debate, Sen. Obama referred to the surge as a ‘tactic’. Obama was referring to the surge as merely a military decision intended to fix the previous four years. It is odd to me that someone who has zero military experience would seek to pass judgment on living, breathing and wildly successful Generals after the fact. I suppose this proves my long-held viewpoint that constitutional law majors are not as smart as many of them think they are.
I was a business major and had to learn the differences between strategic, tactical, and operational goals and objectives. How is it possible that someone who chairs a subcommittee on Afghanistan (which has never held a meeting) could not understand the basics of strategy? This is exactly why Obama is unfit. He lacks military experience, or in lieu of that, executive experience to understand the layers of complexity in an organization as well as how to make to make decisions in such a complex environment.
This also applies to Obama calling for, simply, more troops in Afghanistan versus McCain calling for a strategy (not a tactic) like the surge in Iraq. This came later in the debate and reinforces the earlier point made by McCain.
No Preconditions – He tried his best to back out of this one. He really did. The problem, however, is that you cannot back out of a major policy shift such as saying in the primaries that you, as President, will meet with the world’s worst dictators when the policy of the United States for decades is that there are never talks at the Presidential level with dictators. That is what ambassadors are for.
Now, Obama tried to dig out of the hole by adding the requirement of ‘preparations’. I don’t think he thought this statement through. As McCain noted, he hoped anyone would prepare for a meeting like that. This was a lousy attempt to communicate a position he never intended to have that has now evolved in a dangerous policy of legitimizing the insane statement of dictatorial regimes.
When McCain said mocked him with a potential conversation in a situation under Obama’s policy, the debate over foreign policy was essentially over.
Touring Theaters of Concern – Obama has strong viewpoints on Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet he nearly had to be forced to visit Iraq. He has never visited Afghanistan. McCain is right to state that if Obama is so concerned about conditions in those countries, he might put down committee reports and get a first-hand look. It comes off as very disingenuous the he feels Afghanistan is important to him.
Announcing A Strike On An Ally’s Sovereign Territory – You absolutely cannot do this without working with the ally’s government. You certainly do not announce it either. Can we expect Obama, as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military, to spill the beans like this to the world? How will he protect our national interests if he cannot keep his mouth shut regarding sensitive decisions?
The Dichotomy of the Two Bracelets – When Sen. McCain used a bracelet he was wearing, given to him by a mother of a fallen soldier, as anecdotal evidence for why we must always fight until victory is achieved, Obama was quick to retort that he has “a bracelet, too.”
Interestingly, when he went to name the soldier the bracelet was honoring, he had to look down and read the name to remember.
As a President, your dedication to causes is everything. If you do not appear genuine and sincere in your position then your entire effort to win public support is lost. In this case, I find it hard to believe he was sincere in his position, which was lost, on his snarky remark.
Dying in Vain – Obama said right after the bracelet embarrassment that “no U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they’re carrying out the missions of their commander-in-chief.”
Interestingly enough, his speech prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 concluded with the following final paragraph:
The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not?—?we will not?—?travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.
So which is it Sen. Obama? How do you so flippantly change opinion referring to death in the most honorable defense of liberty? This is a huge gaffe, and to me, underscores how little he values the principles of this nation and how to defend them.
Henry Kissinger – In an attempt to validate your point, it is dangerous to cite an expert who is a friend of your opponent. Honestly, who would really understand the expert friend’s opinion more? In this case, Obama was invoking Kissinger doctrine to support his poor judgment that he would meet without precondition rogue dictators. He then tried to further develop his position based on the depth of Sen. McCain’s remarks and it only sought to reinforce the silliness of his original statement in the primaries that he has yet to admit is wrong.
Almost immediately, Kissinger issued a statement to the National Review saying that Obama had misquoted and Sen. McCain was correct. How embarrassing. This is far worse than Gov. Palin requesting clarification from Charlie Gibson regarding the ever evolving Bush Doctrine. Sen. Obama blew this one big time.
Other Minor Issues
References to 1st Person in Plural – I cannot for the life of me understand why Sen. Obama constantly refers to himself as “we”. Does he sincerely believe he has the mandate of all Americans? It comes off as haughty to speak of oneself in the plural when his objective is to define himself and state his positions and what he would do as President.
Finger Pointing/Wagging at Sen. McCain – I noticed that, at times, Sen. Obama would point and wag his finger at Sen. McCain. Whatever happened to respecting an elder? I would never consider wagging my finger at anyone older and more experienced than myself as if they were now under my tutelage.
The restraint Sen. McCain showed was amazing in the midst of blatant disrespect. I think Sen. Obama forgets that Sen. McCain endured years of torture to protect the principles and ideals Sen. Obama has the audacity to rail against.
With treatment like that, Sen. Obama is unfit to even pour Sen. McCain’s coffee, in my humble opinion.
Looking Angry – The entire debate, Sen. Obama admitted he tried anger Sen. McCain in an attempt to call into question his temperament. However, it is a bit odd that Sen. Obama never accomplished this goal, yet himself looked angry the entire debate.
Rather than try to ruffle Sen. McCain, who has dealt with men much more troublesome, maybe Sen. Obama should focus on looking happy to be free in America and running for President? Oh wait, you’re a socialist at heart, liberty goes against your grain — with socialism, happiness does too.
“McCain is right…” – It’s hard to win a debate when you say you’re opponent is right eight times. Never, ever, ever acknowledge the superior logic of your opponent and then attempt to disagree with subpoints.
Talking loudly, emphasizing all first syllable hard consonants – See above “Looking Angry.” Who was he speaking too? Did he hope those rogue dictators could hear him from Ole’ Miss? Hard consonants signal to me that he is trying to over assert himself.
Phrases like “Let’s talk about this…” – It sounds like you are trying to assert authority and control over the debate. Usually, you already have the floor when you said it, so it just looks like you’re insecure and over playing your hand.
Book Smarts vs. Experience from Application – When you pronounce Pakistan, pah-KEE-staun, you come off as an academic elitist. It really only works, as Bill Kristol said, if you pronounce Spain “la España”. And for the record, when referring to Spain’s Prime Minister, he didn’t.
Hopefully, he’ll be overconfident about the next two debates so all this mistakes continue to re-manifest themselves. McCain 1 – Obama 0.