By David L Pierce
Over a hundred George Mason University students watched the first televised presidential debate Friday night at a Debate Watch Party in the Johnson Center.
Although the debate was focused on foreign policy, the economy took center stage in the beginning.
Sen. Barack Obama felt optimistic about the governmental bailout plan, but questioned America’s position in the situation. “How did we get into this situation in the first place?” Obama asked.
Sen. John McCain said that corporate greed and lack of responsibility has led the country into the current financial crisis. “We’ve got to start also holding people accountable, and reward people who succeed,” McCain said.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were also major points of discussion in the debate.
Obama said that McCain was wrong in regards to the Iraq war. “You pretend like the war started in 2007,” Obama told McCain “the war started in 2003, and [when it started], you said it was going to be quick and easy.”
McCain said that Obama refused to acknowledge that we are winning in Iraq. He also noted that the former leader of all U.S. troops in Iraq, General David Petraeus, among other officials, believed that Obama’s withdrawal plan was dangerous for America’s national security.
The two presidential candidates disagreed on how to handle threats such as Iran and North Korea.
“[We have a] fundamental difference of opinion,” McCain said in regards to having preconditions before meetings with rulers of threatening countries.
He also said that Obama’s viewpoint of not having preconditions when meeting with officials of countries like Iran was dangerous.
“There’s a difference between preconditions and preparation,” said Obama in response. “Of course we’ve got to do preparations, starting with low-level diplomatic talks.”
Students held mixed opinions about the debate at its conclusion.
Junior James Greenan thought that McCain did a better job in the debate, but missed a few opportunities with his opponent. “[McCain] could’ve pointed out more instances where Obama’s judgment was wrong,” said Greenan.
Freshman Samantha Markey said that both candidates were pretty even in regards to their performance. Junior Kaitlyn Burroughs thought Obama did better than McCain, but expressed concern for the level of discussion. “Both candidates have lots of room to work on,” Burroughs said.
The Debate Watch Party was sponsored by Mason Votes, Cox Communications, C-SPAN and the New Century College.
Read Mason Votes’ live blog of the debate.