Fight Night: McCain, Obama Spar on Economy, Foreign Affairs

In the first of the election season's presidential debates, Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama said America's staggered economy was the "final verdict" on President Bush's policies, which he claimed were backed by his opponent, Sen. John McCain.

In a 97-minute debate Friday, Obama, D-Ill., asserted lack of oversight brought on the current financial turmoil, while McCain, R-Ariz., blamed greed and corruption for Wall Street's woes, and echoed Obama's concerns about the impact of the crisis on Americans across the nation.

"This is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies -- promoted by George Bush, supported by Sen. McCain," Obama said, "a theory that basically says that we can shred regulations and consumer protections and give more and more to the most, and somehow, prosperity will trickle down."

pic of john mccain and barack obama shaking hands at debate

"It hasn't worked," he added. "And I think that the fundamentals of the economy have to be measured by whether or not the middle class is getting a fair shake. That's why I'm running for president."

McCain said if he is elected, he would address the economic problem of earmarks for pork barrel spending.

"I've got a pen and I'm going to veto every spending bill that comes across my desk," McCain said, vowing to crack down on pork-pushing legislators. "I will make them famous and you will know their names."

After the debate, political pundits were split on the subject of who won. But several, including ABC News political contributor Matthew Dowd, the former chief strategist for President Bush's 2004 presidential campaign, gave a narrow edge to Obama.

"I don't think there was a clear winner, but I think you have to give the possession arrow after the debate to Barack Obama," Dowd said. "Debates are judged by the American public by substance and by style, and how you connect with an audience. And I think on that regard, Barack Obama did a much better job."

The official topics of the debate, hosted by the University of Mississippi, were to be foreign policy and national security, but veteran debate moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS, noting that the subject matter "by definition, includes the global financial crisis," kicked off the debate with questions about the economy, as was widely expected.

Both candidates agreed on the need for a financial rescue package.

"But I want to emphasize one point to all Americans tonight: This isn't the beginning of the end of this crisis," said McCain. "This is the end of the beginning."

Obama said that, in the face of "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," leaders must "move swiftly" and "move wisely" to address the problems Wall Street has created for Main Street.

Foreign Policy

As the debate turned to Iraq, Obama noted that he opposed entering Iraq from the beginning, and ticked off the costs of the war.

"We've spent over $600 billion so far, soon to be $1 trillion," Obama said. "We have lost over 4,000 lives. We have seen 30,000 wounded, and most importantly, from a strategic national security perspective, al Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than at any time since 2001.

"We took our eye off the ball," he added. "And not to mention that we are still spending $10 billion a month when they [Iraqis] have a $79 billion surplus, at a time when we are in great distress here at home."

McCain countered by saying that the next president shouldn't look back and parse the past.

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