Economy dominates second debate
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In the second of three presidential debates, Barack Obama and John McCain traded punches on their economic platforms in a town hall format face-off that also saw the candidates tackle pressing foreign policy issues.
The second US presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee, opened with presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain locking horns over their economic platforms as they attempted to show voters they cared about the financial pressures affecting average Americans.
Hammering his message that the current crisis was due to Republican support for deregulation, Obama said Americans were “in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and a lot of you I think are worried about your jobs, your pensions, your retirement accounts.”
For his part, McCain noted that the solution lies in cutting “the spending spree that’s going on in Washington.”
In the course of the 90-minute, town hall format face-off, the two candidates often walked up to the audience at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, making eye contact with their interrogators and directly addressing the questions posed.
But between the two candidates, the rancor was palpable.
Taking a swipe at his Democratic rival’s tax policies, McCain said that, “nailing down Sen. Obama's various tax proposals is like nailing Jello to the wall."
But when McCain charged that Obama’s tax plan would adversely affect small businesses, Obama shot back with a, “I think the Straight Talk Express lost a wheel on that one.”
The Republican candidate’s campaign bus is often referred to as the “Straight Talk Express”.
• Photos: campaign at a glance
• The issues: compare the candidates' platforms
• Swing states map / Democratic Convention / Republican Convention
Reporting from Nashville, Tennessee, FRANCE 24’s Guillaume Meyer said Obama faired better in the second debate than expected. “Surprisingly, Barack Obama was much more relaxed than expected,” said Meyer. “John McCain is very used to the town hall format. Pundits were explaining that he would be more at ease with the format. But in the end, Obama seemed much more relaxed.”
‘Warren would be a pretty good choice’
Just hours after Americans watched the Dow plunge to a five-year closing low, the carefully selected group of questioners – including some who posed their queries on the Internet - put their candidates through the wringer on economic issues.
Hammering home his message of strong oversight, Obama said a solution to the economic crisis would mean cracking down on CEOs and top Wall Street executives so they do not benefit from bonus payments from failing companies.
Noting that the current economic downturn was sparked by the subprime crisis, McCain pledged that if he was elected president, he would order the Treasury Department to buy bad home mortgages and to help homeowners in trouble.
Responding to a pointed follow-up question by moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News, McCain floated the names of billionaire US investor Warren Buffett as a possible replacement for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
Buffet is a vocal Obama supporter.
Obama agreed that “Warren would be a pretty good choice,” but the Democratic senator from Illinois declined to go into specifics about who he would nominate.
‘Talk softly, but carry a big stick’
Foreign policy dominated the final third of the debate, with Obama and McCain once again clashing over the war in Iraq.
McCain accused Obama of failing to support the “surge strategy” to increase US troops in Iraq. Obama, on the other hand, reminded voters that he did not vote for the war in Iraq - one that he said had diverted attention from the real fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
When asked about their positions on Pakistan and the militants in the tribal zones, McCain lambasted Obama’s pledge to hit al Qaeda inside Pakistan if Islamabad failed to contain the militancy. The 72-year-old senator slammed his rival for “talking loud” when the US should “talk softly, but carry a big stick.”
In his response, Obama took a swipe at a video clip of McCain singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of an old Beach Boys single. The song was meant as a joke on the campaign trail, but backfired when it went viral on YouTube.
"This is a guy who sang, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, who called for the annihilation of North Korea,” said Obama. “That, I don't think, is an example of speaking softly."
The third and final debate between McCain and Obama is set for Oct. 15 at the Hofstra University, Hemstead, NY.