The First Debate and What’s Up With Reagan?

September 27, 2008

So the first presidential debate is over. After the debate was under wraps both camps released statements declaring their candidate the clear winner. Commentators and pundits have been mixed on who won as well. Some claimed McCain sounded condescending and lecturing towards Obama while others claimed this was because he showed his experience and knowledge over Obama; I’ve read that McCain was both on the offensive all night and on the defensive all night depending on who you ask. Snapshot polls by both CBS and CNN show that among uncommitted voters the number of viewers who think Obama won the debate were more than double the number who felt McCain won. After the debates we saw comments by Biden claiming the democratic victory and with Sarah Palin nowhere to be found we had to instead hear from Mayor Giuliani who, in my opinion, sounds increasingly sarcastic and vile whenever he comments on Obama. Perhaps Palin is holed up somewhere rehearsing for her upcoming debate with Joe Biden; anyone who has seen her meltdown interview with Katie Couric knows she needs more preparation before she attempts a debate on her own. While watching the debates I couldn’t help but worry that much of what the candidates argued over flew right over the heads of the typical viewer at home. I’m not claiming I’m an expert on everything that was discussed, far from it, but I do try my best to read and research what’s going on and what the issues are about and it does take active participation on my part to understand what much of the issues center on…does the average American do that? I’m afraid not, judging by many conversations I have with people who always resort to comments like, “Well, I guess I don’t pay much attention to that,” “ I don’t like to hear things about politics,” and “Neither party can do anything for me, nothing in Washington affects my life.” Even when there are plenty of us who do at least a small part of research into the matters at hand, most of us attach ourselves to our own pet issues and concerns and do tend to get blind eyed about other equally important issues. Much of this first debate centered on Foreign Policy and I felt very troubled that almost every time Jim Leherer, who preceded over the debates, asked any question regarding any other country it was always in the context of a threat assessment. “How will you deal with Iran in your presidency,”, “Russia?”, “Korea?” “Afghanistan?”, “Pakistan?”, and so on. I kept thinking, “How did we come to this?” I suppose I am a bit naïve in matters of foreign policy because I like to think peace is still a possibility. I’d like to think we could talk about other countries in terms of diplomatic negations, trade, humanitarian aid, culture and hope rather than “threat assessment.” It seems in a world of possible “nuclear suitcase bombs” and fundamentalist terrorists rising out of poverty and war stricken areas to aim their anger at those that have more than they do and who now have our weapons to do so, well, it seems like we have to discuss how to protect ourselves from any and every other country should the need arise. I hope that one day we can spend some of the billions that we spend on the military and on war on instead feeding, clothing, educating and helping those in other countries so that they can have aspirations to strive for other than terrorism. As far as the foreign policy debate, I do think Obama is correct in saying we need to establish a timetable for the removal of troops from Iraq. I do agree that Iraq never had anything to do with Al Qaeda or Bin Laden. I do feel that we should finally capture Bin Laden and confront the Taliban where they really are. At the same time, it’s disheartening to think of pouring more troops into Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan. As for Russia? Can we please try a non-combative plan with them, they’re more than we can handle right now. No nation stays great and maintains “top dog” status forever, so we need to not spread ourselves too thin and we need to try a little peace when possible.
The things I most support in Obama are his economic plans: Obama plans to provide for 5 million renewable energy jobs and to rebuild our decaying infrastructures and roads–these types of measures would provide for millions of jobs here in America that cannot be outsourced. I support his tax plan: if you make more than $250,000 a year your taxes will go up, but as planned, if you make under that threshold your taxes will go down: that’s a tax cut that will benefit 95 percent of Americans. For years we’ve had that in reverse, with the largest percentage of tax cuts benefiting the top 5 percent, a method of government McCain would continue. I support Obama’s move to improve health care; while I wish he would announce a strong and immediate push for universal, government-provided health care for all Americans, I’m at least glad he plans to make the initial steps to improving and providing better and more affordable health care for all of us instead of McCain’s stated plan to de-regulate the health care industry to promote competition in the hopes that that will be the solution (we see how deregulation played out on Wall Street, do we want that in our clinics and with our insurance providers even more than we have now?). These and many other issues are what draw me to Obama’s plan and campaign and I hope these factors get to be touched on in much greater depth in the next two debates. Obama made a really good point in last nights debate concerning our standing in the world. Can we really say that how the world and its people view us is better than it was before the Bush presidency? Obama commented on how when his father was a boy he dreamed of coming to America because “anything was possible” here. Do those of us living here even feel that so much anymore? People may scoff that our “standing in the world” isn’t that important, but how can anyone say that? Our relations with other countries, with allies and enemies alike and with the United Nations is very important. I feel that if our country decides to elect another Bush-like Republican we will even further distance ourselves and hurt our image in the world.
Sometimes I can’t believe how far we’ve come (or fallen) over the past eight years. When Bill Clinton was president our unemployment rate was at an all-time low, our respect in the world was high, our diplomatic relationships were solid, fuel costs were low, foreign wars and skirmishes were scarce, affordable health care seemed possible. Clinton had his personal failures, which tarnished his image at home but had scarce affect abroad–most of the bewilderment abroad was in response to our citizens reactions to Clinton’s scandal not to the scandal itself. As a leader focused on the economy Clinton did his best to fix what 12 years of Reagan and G.H.W. Bush had done. After he left it all came back again, in many instances worse than before.
The thing is, I do not hate John McCain. I really don’t even dislike the man. I think his intentions are good. I think he is intelligent. I think he believes he knows what is best for this country. I do not, however, feel his policies are actually what this country needs now. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, truly frightens me. I don’t believe I’ve seen a more ill-prepared and politically unsound candidate in my lifetime. Palin seems to be worse than even Dan Quayle or Ross Perot. Even when she has her talking points down pat and sounds passionate in a speech, her policies and personal beliefs are disastrous possibilities for this country. Nowadays it seems that Vice Presidents take on more than they ever have; I know people keep saying that “Palin is only a heartbeat away from the Presidency,” and I now think that’s a bit of a cheap shot. McCain is elderly now and he has had health problems in the past, but I don’t really think he has much of a higher chance of dying in the White House than any other President in history, all Vice Presidents are a “heartbeat away from the Presidency.” But with Palin I think even the slightest possibility of her having full rein in the White House is terrifying. I’ve mentioned several times on this site aspects of her political thoughts that I vehemently oppose so I won’t mention them again here and you’ve probably heard them elsewhere. I will say that in this day and age we need a President who can effectively and respectfully govern over the entire population; not just it’s Christian citizens but also it’s Jewish, Muslim and Atheist citizens. Not just heterosexual white citizens, but also African-American, Hispanic and homosexual citizens as well. America is a melting-pot Nation, a diverse and blended society of all types of thoughts and appearances and we need a leader that can lead them all; I really don’t feel that Palin’s strongest supporters care that much about governing the more diverse members of our society.

One last point I want to make about the debate last night is in regards to the late President Ronald Reagan. McCain referenced Reagan and his respect for Reagan and his policies and presidency on several occasions. I began to notice that McCain’s voice even began to eerily sound like Reagan’s. I’m just a bit confused; you see, when I was in college every conservative and Republican I knew had an unwavering support of Reagan. I’ve heard many conservative pundits even call for his face on Mt. Rushmore. There have been appreciative articles and books about Regan even by moderate writers and politicians over the past few years. I know the man wasn’t an imbecile or an evil man, and I know he accomplished some important things in foreign policy and is credited with “ending the cold war.” But how did he become so revered and respected as a President? If you’re reading this and like Reagan, please post a comment and explain to me how these following issues can be overlooked to cause such beaming admiration for his role as President:

1) The Iran-Contra scandal: Reagan’s administration sold U.S. weapons to Iran in exchange for a release of hostages. Funds of these weapon sales also went to support anti-Communist contra rebels in Nicaragua. His administration helped proliferate dangerous weapons to most of the countries that we’re still having problems with today. When Iran-Contra was all said and done, fourteen Reagan Administration officials were charged with crimes, eleven were convicted and all would eventually be pardoned by G.H.W. Bush while he was President. No evidence of Reagan’s direct involvement and knowledge of what was going on has come forward–he claims he didn’t know the arms trading and selling was going on, and many volumes of documents were destroyed by Reagan Administration Officials, so we’ll never know how involved Reagan himself truly was. But which is worse? His active involvement in such a dangerous and damaging operation, or his complete ignorance of what was going on with his cabinet on his watch? People today still debate whether or not Reagan’s middle- east policies aided the rise of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and that if they did in some way do as such did the overlapping policies that ended the cold war make up for it.
2) “AIDS gate”- AIDS was first reported in both the popular and medical press in 1981. Reagan waited until April 2nd, 1987 to ever mention the word AIDS in public. He finally mentioned AIDS in siding with Education Secretary William Bennett and other conservatives in saying that the Government should not provide sex education information. “But let’s be honest with ourselves, AIDS information can not be what some call ‘value neutral.’ After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don’t medicine and morality teach the same lessons,” he said. Reagan’s White House slowed funding for AIDS research and the distribution of information to the public by almost ten years. For the Reagan white house, AIDS was something people “brought on themselves,” and safe sex was a foreign concept.
3)”Trickle-Down Economics”- or, “Voodoo Economics” as it was sometimes referred to in the eighties. I’ve railed against this before so go back and read “Moral Issues Conservatives Overlook” on this site if you want more of my opinion on it. In short, it’s a terrible and failed economic plan that the GOP has been doing whenever they are in the office ever since Reagan initially implemented it. By giving the wealthiest Americans the best tax cuts and encouraging massive wealth for a small percentage of Americans, Republicans think the rest of us will be okay because some of that money will trickle down.
4) To wrap this up, Reagan is also responsible for GHWBush and his son by default.

That’s it. If you would like to post and tell me the good qualities Regan had that overshadow these scandals, please feel free to comment. If you have input on the debate and my reaction, comment as well. Please go to you-tube and search for “Katie Couric interviews Sarah Palin” to see the interview I mentioned earlier if you haven’t seen it already. Coming up next on this site I plan to post my article “Why I Loathe Wal-Mart and How We Can Make a Difference.”


3 Responses to “The First Debate and What’s Up With Reagan?”

  1. Hi. I read a few of your other posts and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links?

  2. President Reagan was the first national candidate to embrace supply side economics, the cornerstone of contemporary economic thought.

    The fact that the idea does not work does not threaten his standing as the prophet of this economic religion.

  3. […] Of course to contrast Obama these “news”-casters had to invoke Reagan. Reagan (read my piece here from two  years ago trying to puzzle through this whole problem in detail) is approaching […]

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