Sep 282008
Authors: Sean Reed

If you tuned into Friday’s presidential debate looking for lively discussion about the future of the country, odds are you were sorely disappointed.

The Oxford, Miss. debate almost didn’t happen, and given the poor showing from both candidates, Republican John McCain probably should have stuck with his original plan to stay in Washington and “help” Republicans in the House of Representatives send the economy stimulus bill through.

The 96 minute debate essentially covered two topics — the economy and national security. And the “debate” between the two candidates could not have been more predictable.

McCain put his emphasis on his one and only major strength — his 30-plus years of experience in Congress — and offered the audience constant reminders of Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s relative inexperience. His experience in politics, he said, would make his presidency more immediately effective.

“I don’t think I need any on-the-job training,” McCain said. “I’m ready to go at it right now.”

This claim, of course, may have been purposely overstated. As far as I know, John McCain has no more experience being president of the U.S. than Obama. But then again, his political career did start more than 20 years before I was born.

Obama’s retort to all this was fairly simple. Essentially, he tried to convince that while McCain certainly had more experience, it was the wrong type of experience.

He made repeated reference to McCain policies that, in his mind, were bad for Americans, including deregulation of the economy that may have (and probably did) contribute to the current state of the economy and Sen. McCain’s support of the war in Iraq.

What got lost in the mix, of course, were the real plans for the future that Americans watching the debate were seeking.

If you watched the news the next day, things only became worse. Both candidates, hoping to mold public perception, claimed they won the debate, and offered their opponents biggest mistakes as evidence.

McCain, according to the Obama camp, never once mentioned the words “middle class,” which is apparently proof that he is out of touch with regular Americans.

The McCain camp noted that Obama never once used the word “victory” in reference to the Iraq War, which is evidence that he is unaware — or just doesn’t care — about military successes in the Middle Eastern nation.

The reality is that nobody won the debate Friday night. Both candidates, rather than focusing on the issues facing Americans and potential solutions, chose instead to point fingers at the other guy. And PBS moderator Jim Lehrer — in one of the most pitiful displays of debate moderation in recent history — helped and encouraged them to do so.

If McCain and Obama are truly devoted to winning, they need to show Americans more than petty bickering. They need to show the nation that they have a plan and offer evidence that it will work.

As the nation awaits their next debate on Oct. 7 in Nashville, Tenn., hopefully these two men re-evaluate their current debate strategy and come up with something real to offer Americans.

The future of the nation depends on it.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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