McCain, Obama Clash over Iran, Iraq in 1st Debate
TEHRAN (FNA), September 27, 2008
Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama accused one another of
glaring errors over Iran, Iraq and the US economy in their first
Obama, 47, promised to end the "failed" policies of the Bush
administration, which he blamed McCain for supporting. McCain, 72,
presented himself as a reformer.
The most intense exchanges of the first half of the debate came over
Iraq, as Obama claimed credit for opposing the war in the first place,
and McCain said he had been instrumental in pushing the successful surge
"We are winning in Iraq and we'll come home. And we'll come home as we
have when we have won other wars and not in defeat," McCain said,
warning defeat in Iraq would embolden Al-Qaeda and Iran.
But Obama shot back, saying "six years ago I stood up and opposed this
war," condemning McCain for standing with Bush over 2003 US-led invasion
to topple dictator Saddam Hussein. "I wish I had been wrong for the sake
of the country and they had been right but that's not the case," Obama
And he accused his rival of a catalogue of miscalculations on Iraq.
"When the war started you said it was quick and easy, you said we knew
where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong.
"You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were
wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shiite and
Sunni and you were wrong."
Although the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees seemed to
agree that more sanctions are needed against Iran over its nuclear
program, they had what McCain called 'a fundamental difference of
opinion' on talking with Iranian leaders without preconditions.
During the Friday night debate, McCain said engaging in direct talk with
the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions would
'legitimize' his position toward Israel.
"Here is Ahmadinejad, who is ... talking about the extermination of the
state of Israel, of wiping Israel off the map, and we're going to sit
down, without precondition, across the table, to legitimize and give
(him) a propaganda platform," said McCain, maneuvering on the 2005
Ahmadinejad quote, which Iran has repeatedly called a 'mistranslation'.
Obama, however, argued that other than pushing for more sanctions
against the country, it is necessary for the US 'to engage in tough,
direct diplomacy with Iran'. Obama said the US should not expect to
solve every problem before initiating talks.
"This is a major difference that I have with Senator McCain. This notion
that by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked," he
"(A meeting without pre-conditions) doesn't mean you invite them over
for tea one day. What it means is we don't do what we've been doing,
which is to say, until you agree to do exactly what we say, we won't
have direct contacts with you," said Obama.
Five former US Secretaries of State - Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright,
Warren Christopher, James Baker and Henry Kissinger - have said that the
next American administration should hold direct and unconditional talks
with Tehran over its nuclear activities.
Obama used remarks made by Kissinger, who is now an advisor to McCain,
to back up his argument. In earlier comments, Kissinger had said the
United States should negotiate with Tehran 'without setting any
"I am using the same words that your advisors use," said Obama, when
McCain accused him of 'parsing words'.
"My friend doctor Kissinger, who has been my friend for 35 years, would
be interested to hear this conversation… I guarantee you he would not
say that presidential top level… Senator Obama is parsing words when he
says precondition means preparation," said McCain.
During the debate, the democratic presidential nominee also said that
tough sanctions against Iran could not be achieved without cooperation
from Russia and China.
"We do need tougher sanctions. I do not agree with Senator McCain that
we are going to be able to execute the kind of sanctions we need without
some cooperation from countries like Russia and China… (that) have
extensive trade with Iran," said Obama.
Obama's comments came on the same day that the UN Security Council
reaffirmed its previous stance toward the Iranian nuclear program, not
imposing a new round of sanctions on a state that has signed the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowed an unprecedented number of UN nuclear
watchdog inspections and rejected allegations of seeking nuclear arms.
US failure to bring about a consensus against Iran at the UN Security
Council came after Russia announced its opposition to a new resolution
against Iran and China said that it favored dialogue on the issue.
U.S. candidates lash out at Russia
Russia Today, September 27, 2008, 9:32
U.S. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have
singled out Russia for strong criticism during their first debate.
Russia was one topic both candidates seemed to agree on, with Obama
saying the next U.S. president would have to think twice before dealing
with the country.
"It's absolutely important that we have a unified alliance, and that we
explain to the Russians that you cannot be a 21st century superpower or
power and act like a 20th century dictatorship," Obama said before
adding: "We have to recognise that the way they've been behaving lately
demands sharp response from the international community and our allies".
McCain lashed out at Russia for its actions in the Caucasus and pledged
support for Georgia's membership of NATO.
“Russia has now become a nation fuelled by petrodollars, that is
basically a KGB apparatchik run government. I looked into Putin’s eyes
and I saw three letters – K, G, B. The aggression in Georgia is not
acceptable behaviour,” he stated, adding, though, “I don’t believe we’ll
go back to the cold war, I am sure that will not happen”.
Senator Obama, for his part, was no more complimentary in Russia’s
“We have to recognise that the way they’ve been behaving lately demands
sharp response from the international community and our allies,” he said
but added the relations with Russia should be built on a different
platform, “You do not deal with Russia based on staring in the eyes and
seeing his soul but you deal with Russia based on what the security
interests of the United States of America are”.
Still both candidates reiterated they do see Russia as a partner and
want its co-operation on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation,
specifically in monitoring the Iranian nuclear programme.
Analysts doubt, though, that it will be possible for the U.S. to sit on
two chairs criticising Russia and demanding its co-operation at the same
time. They warn that one of the two should be given priority.
The worldwide financial turmoil was also an issue the candidates could
not avoid. Obama openly criticised the Bush administration, blaming it
for the current financial turmoil that affected not only the United
States but the whole world.
Obama, McCain focus on economy, foreign policy in first debate
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) --
U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama clashed
over economy and foreign policy during their first presidential debate
in Oxford, Mississippi, on Friday night.
Republican McCain said that another attack on the scale of the
Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings was "much less likely" now than it was the
day after the terrorist attacks.
"America is safer now than it was on 9/11," he said. "But we have
a long way to go before we can declare America safe."
Obama, his Democratic rival for the White House, agreed that the
United States was "safer in some ways" but said the country needed to
focus more on issues such as nuclear nonproliferation and restoring
America's image in the world.
McCain also said Iranian nuclear weapons would be an "existential
threat to the state of Israel," and called for a new "league of
democracies to stand firm against Iran."
"We cannot allow another Holocaust," he added.
Obama agreed that the United States "cannot tolerate a nuclear
Iran," calling for tougher sanctions from a range of countries.
On Iraq, McCain said that the war had been badly managed at the
beginning but that the United States was now winning thanks to a "great
general and a strategy that succeeded."
Obama blasted McCain as having been wrong about the war at the
start, saying McCain had failed to anticipate the uprising against U.S.
forces and violence between rival religious groups in the country.
Before moving into foreign policy, the candidates focused on the
McCain said he would consider a spending freeze on everything but
defense, veterans affairs and entitlement programs in order to cut back
on government spending.
Obama disagreed, saying, "the problem is you're using a hatchet
where you need a scalpel."
He agreed that the government needed to cut spending in some
areas, but he said other areas, such as early childhood education,
needed more funding.
McCain and Obama also tangled over who would cut taxes more.
McCain said he would lower business taxes in order to encourage
job growth in the United States, and Obama said he would cut taxes for
95 percent of American families.
Obama also said that the United States was facing its worst
financial crisis since the Great Depression.
McCain said he was encouraged that Republicans and Democrats were
working together to solve the crisis.
The first 30 minutes of the debate focused on the economy, even
though the debate was supposed to be centered on foreign policy. The
economy has dominated the campaign trail for the past two weeks.
According to CNN's average of national polls, Obama holds a
five-percentage point lead over McCain, 48 percent to 43 percent.
The 9 percent of respondents who are undecided could swing the
election either way.