Vice Presidential Candidates Biden and Palin Debate

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(APN) ATLANTA — Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee, US Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), and Republican nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), met Thursday, October 02, 2008, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, for the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2008 campaign.

Both campaigns significantly lowered expectations heading into the debate leaving both candidates with simple goals. Biden succeeded in keeping a cool temper and linking Republican Presidential Nominee, US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), to President Bush with harsh criticism, while Palin competently answered questions using simple language to connect with Middle America.

Gwen Ifil, PBS contributor and debate moderator, kicked off the evening with questions on the economy, starting with the proposed government Wall Street bailout of $700 billion.

Biden put the blame for the economic meltdown on the policies of the Bush administration and argued Wall Street needs more oversight.

“We let Wall Street run wild,” Biden said. “John McCain thought the answer was…[to] deregulate.” Biden accused McCain of voting 20 times in the Senate for more deregulation.

Palin put the blame for the economic crisis on “predatory lenders.”

“There was deception there,” she said. “There is corruption and greed on Wall Street.” While Palin argued the people of the United States are not to blame for the crisis, she said they should learn from past mistakes.

“We need to band together and say never again will we be exploited,” she said. “We need to make sure we demand of the federal government to have more oversight.”

Palin urged all Americans to take more personal responsibility and live within their means.

Both Biden and Palin said their respective running mates sounded the alarm months and even years ago on the coming crisis.

Palin praised McCain for bringing Democrats and Republicans together in Congress in crafting a bailout plan. Biden said he and Obama would make sure any bailout plan ensures protections for homeowners, treats taxpayers like investors, includes more oversight, and prevents golden parachutes for CEOs.

Ifil asked if either candidate supported making it easier for debt holders to declare bankruptcy. As a US Senator, Biden actually supported legislation that would make it harder for Americans to declare bankruptcy.

On Thursday, he tried to refine his position on the issue.

“We should be allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to adjust not only the interest you’re paying on your mortgage…but also be able to adjust the principle that you owe,” Biden said. “That would keep people in their homes and help banks from going under.”

Palin dodged the question while trying to redirect the debate to other topics.

Both candidates said a key remedy to the economic crisis is tax relief for middle class families. Palin and Biden each said the other ticket would raise taxes.

Biden said Obama would cut taxes for 95 percent of families making less than $250,000 per year, while raising taxes on the wealthy. He said McCain would give $300 billion in tax cuts to corporations.

Palin said, under the Obama plan, small businesses would have to shoulder the burden of such a plan and called the idea “backwards.” Biden said the vast majority of small business owners would not see tax increases because they make less than $250,000.

Palin said McCain would shrink government and cut taxes, including giving families a $5,000 tax credit so they can purchase their own healthcare coverage.

“Unless you’re pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don’t think it’s going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider government running health care,” Palin said.

To be sure, Obama’s health care is far from socialized medicine; nor is it a single-payer plan; nor is it a universal plan. His plan is to attempt to make private health insurance more affordable for families.

Biden fired back that McCain will raise taxes on employer health plans, which Biden said will force employers to drop millions of Americans from healthcare rolls.

“I call that the ultimate bridge to nowhere,” Biden quipped, drawing laughter from the audience.

As during the first presidential debate last Friday, Ifil asked Palin and Biden if they think any priorities will have to be set aside as a result of the economic crisis.

Instead of giving up on priorities, Biden said he and Obama would eliminate wasteful government spending and not give tax breaks to large corporations.

“I don’t believe John McCain has made any promise that he wouldn’t be able to keep,” Palin said, adding that because she had only been campaigning for five weeks she had not made any promises except to do her best.

On several occasions during the domestic policy section of the debate, the conversation returned to energy policy. Both candidates said energy independence is essential not only for national security but also for long-term economic sustainability.

Palin touted her record as a reformer in Alaska who took on big oil companies and broke up an oil monopoly. She accused Obama of voting for an energy plan in the US Senate that gave tax breaks to big oil.

Biden said Obama cast such a vote because the legislation contained incentives for alternative energy. He added that Obama would support a windfall profits tax on big oil that McCain does not support, despite the fact that Palin supported such a tax in her state as governor.

Palin noted her state’s construction of a natural gas pipeline and said she and McCain support more offshore oil drilling. Palin even supports drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) but McCain does not.

She added McCain supports all energy alternatives, what she called an “an all of the above” approach to achieving energy independence.

“John McCain has voted 20 times in the last decade and a half against clean energy sources,” Biden countered. “Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it.”

“Drill we must,” Biden added, “but it will take 10 years for one drop to come out of the wells.”

As Atlanta Progressive News has reported there is no such thing as clean nuclear or clear coal. Many progressive environmentalists also oppose drilling.

Climate change is another reason to switch to alternative fuel sources, both candidates argued.

“I think it is man made. I think its clearly man made,” Biden, who support putting a cap on emissions, said of climate change. “If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution.”

“I don’t want to argue about the causes,” Palin said, adding that she believes it is both man-made pollution and natural solar cycles which cause warming. “We have got to clean up this planet and we’ve got to encourage other nations to help.”

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, all peer-reviewed scientific research shows that controlling for natural cycles of the Earth, man-made pollution is the cause of global warming.

Ifil capped the domestic section of the debate with a question on same-sex marriage. Neither Obama nor McCain, nor their running mates, support same-sex marriage.

But Biden and Palin do support treating same sex couples the same as heterosexual couples when it comes to benefits, such as property ownership and hospital visitation rights, they said. Biden said he would see no distinction between marriages and civil unions legally; Palin specifically said she was not opposed to hospital visits or signing contracts for couples, adding many of her [presumably Conservative Christian] close friends disagree with her on this issue.

Ifil launched the foreign policy section with a question about leaving Iraq.

Biden said Obama would withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 16 months, turn control of the country to the Iraqis, and transfer troops to Afghanistan.

“We will end this war,” Biden said. “For John McCain, there’s no end in sight.”

Palin said McCain would keep troops in Iraq until they achieve victory, touting the success of the surge.

“Your plan is a white flag of surrender,” Palin said. “That’s not what our troops or nation need to hear. We’ll know we’re finished in Iraq when they can govern themselves and defend themselves.”

Both candidates said a nuclear Iran is unacceptable because it poses a serious threat to not only the United States but also close ally Israel.

Biden favors a more aggressive approach to Pakistan, a country he said is harboring al-Qaeda operatives. Palin agreed Pakistan is dangerous but maintained the central front in the “War on Terror” is still in Iraq.

Palin said Obama’s policy of negotiating with hostile nations without preconditions is “downright dangerous” and “naïve.”

Biden defended tough diplomacy, noting that former Democratic and Republican Secretaries of State of the US support the idea of negotiating with countries like Iran and North Korea.

The evening concluded with Palin and Biden touting their records of reaching across the aisle to accomplish legislative goals.

Biden said he has made just as many Republican friends as Democrats while working on legislation that put more police officers on the street, helped prevent violence against women, and helped secure equal pay for women.

Palin said, like McCain, she is a reformer who took on the establishment and even her own party as an Alaskan mayor and governor.

Presidential candidates McCain and Obama will debate again on October 07, 2008, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and one last time on October 15, 2008, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston, Senior Staff Writer, is reachable is jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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