With all the drama leading up to the presidential debate last night in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, I was looking forward to the discussion of foreign policy. I was surprised to hear so much of the debate focusing on the economy, and happy it was put on the front burner by moderator Jim Lehrer. In my estimation, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama actually addressed what they would carve away from their federal budget proposals to address the money being loaned to the banks, the automakers, AIG, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and so on--in addition to funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is one reason why I hope, in future years, that presidential debates will be open to, at the very least, to any candidate who is on enough state ballots to win the electoral votes needed to be president--this would have allowed the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and independent candidates like Ralph Nader to join in the fun and give the American public a chance to hear from candidates who are not debating so cautiously and, therefore, may present more innovative ideas.
For instance, had Cynthia McKinney have been there, we would have heard about her plans for an immediate withdrawal of troops and contractors from Iraq, no war with Iran. and a cutoff for all war funding.
Additionally, McKinney might reinfoce her proposals that Congress:
1. Enactment of a foreclosure moratorium now before the next phase of ARM interest rate increases take effect;
2. elimination of all ARM mortgages and their renegotiation into 30- or 40-year loans;
3. establishment of new mortgage lending practices to end predatory and discriminatory practices;
4. establishment of criteria and construction goals for affordable housing;
5. redefinition of credit and regulation of the credit industry so that discriminatory practices are completely eliminated;
6. full funding for initiatives that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in home ownership;
7. recognition of shelter as a right according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights to which the U.S. is a signatory so that no one sleeps on U.S. streets;
8. full funding of a fund designed to cushion the job loss and provide for retraining of those at the bottom of the income scale as the economy transitions;
9. close all tax loopholes and repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of income earners; and
10. fairly tax corporations, denying federal subsidies to those who relocate jobs overseas repeal NAFTA.
11. Appointment of former Comptroller General David Walker to fully audit all recipients of taxpayer cash infusions, including JP Morgan, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, and to monitor their trading activities into the future;
12. elimination of all derivatives trading;
13. nationalization of the Federal Reserve and the establishment of a federally-owned, public banking system that makes credit available for small businesses, homeowners, manufacturing operations, renewable energy and infrastructure investments; and
14. criminal prosecution of any activities that violated the law, including conflicts of interest that led to the current crisis.
If Ralph Nader had been there he'd have likely added: An end to personhood for corporations. repeal of Taft-Hartley Labor Bill, reduction of the military budget, creating a National Initiative system, (i.e., for issues people feel strongly about—health care, the war in Iraq, election laws—people can force a national vote on a proposal for change.
If Bob Barr were invited, he might talk about the National Taxpayer Union study that found his party would be the only one to substantially reduce the federal budget and that the bulk of Barr's spending cuts comes from withdrawing troops from Iraq ($92.4 billion in annual savings) and eliminating the Department of Education ($92.4 billion in annual savings).
Having said this, the debate between McCain and Obama could be seen as a victory for either candidate with Obama benefitting from the lowered expectation based on the perception that foreign policy is McCain's strong suit. Additionally, McCain's energy level was significantly lower than Obama's, giving me the perception that the rigors of the presidency might better be handled by a the younger, more focused Obama.
McCain did have moments of extreme clarity and certainly made his points with the kind of historical knowledge that former US Representative Jim Leach favors. Whether this knowledge was a positive would depend on the age of the voter.
Still, I wondered where was the discussion of foreign aid to areas like Darfur, renewing the commitment to AIDS and malaria aid to Africa, their views on closing Guantanamo, our tenuous relations with governments in Central America, and our conditions for entering into a global climate change reduction compact?
Granted an hour and a half was not much time, but the back and forth on some issues could have been better moderated by Lehrer to allow more time for other important issues.