Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain and Obama battle it out in McCosh

Sam Norton '12, in character as John McCain, delivering his opening statement

Several dozen students gathered in McCosh 50 last night to ask questions in a mock debate between presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) (played by Sean Durkin '11) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (played by Sam Norton '12) and moderated by Princeton Debate Panel president Dan Rauch '10.

Both candidates began with opening statements, then laid down their key positions and attempted to portray their candidate faithfully.

Norton opened and closed the debate by mentioning his military past. He wore a tight jacket, appearing stiff and somewhat awkward throughout the debate, and placed his right hand strategically on the left side of his jacket, as McCain often does. Durkin, on the other hand, who, appropriately, was taller than Norton, imitated Obama's hand movements, pausing several times to evoke past presidential icons like Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson.

The issue at hand

More than half of the debate was a discussion of the economy, much like the real presidential debate that followed the mock debate, with Durkin (Obama) explaining that the $700 billion bailout plan allowed for two provisions he approved of: more congressional oversight and government claim of some of the profits of the businesses it will be assisting. Durkin proposed a system in which the government would refinance mortgages to prevent foreclosures.

"Sen. Obama claims that he was the one responsible in passing this bill when I was the one who was willing to suspend my campaign and put country before partisan interests. When I got there, we immediately started a new negotiation. Sen. Obama ... he took more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any other politician than the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee," Norton responded.

Norton also explained that cutting corporate taxes would make America more business-friendly.

"Phil Gramm and I want you to remember that name, is the chief economic adviser to Mr.McCain," Durkin rebutted.

Matt Westmoreland '10, an audience member and a senior writer for the 'Prince', asked the candidates how the current financial crisis was affecting them personally.

"I am a very privileged and very well-off American, and I am proud of that, and I'm proud of my wife and her philanthropy. Even though I am not personally being affected, as I travel across this great country, I see everyday people that are struggling to get by ... I promise you, as president, I will be a friend to these working-class Americans," Norton replied.

Durkin, in character as Obama, reminded the audience that he was not from a "good neighborhood" and that he was an "ordinary American" who struggled to pay off his student loans.

Reproductive rights

When the debate shifted to the candidates' stances on abortion, Durkin said he would work to ensure that Roe v. Wade remains the law.

"I have always supported a woman's right to choose ... but I believe that every abortion is a personal tragedy. And yes, I am proud of Bristol Palin. I want to get bumper stickers that say, 'This what a pro-life family looks like.' When it comes down to it it is the social policies of the last eight years that have stigmatized teenage pregnancies and made situations like Bristol Palin's even worse," he said.

Norton, who declared himself "pro-life," said he hoped that states would be given the right to choose on issues of reproductive rights and that the solution was counseling teenagers and financing other options and adoption programs.

Durkin expressed his indignation at Norton's suggestion that he wished to provide sex education to kindergarteners.

"I find it offensive for him to suggest that I want to teach sexual education to kindergarteners," Durkin said. "The bill he is referring to would increase funding for existing programs, not implement new programs for kindergarteners. My opponent has taken money from people who throw rocks at pregnant teenagers, and people who deny contraception and people who say condoms are murder."

Whig-Clio president Molly Alarcon '10, posing as an undecided voter from Ohio, asked the candidates to convince her that they had chosen qualified vice presidents. The audience erupted with laughter.

Durkin explained that he was happy with his choice, a senator with more than 30 years of experience.

Norton, on the other hand, said, "I am very proud for the first time in American history, I was the first Republican candidate to choose a woman as a running mate. Not just any woman, but a strong independent woman whose life experience and outsider status makes her qualified for vice president. Unlike Sen. Biden [D-Del.], she hasn't been hanging around Washington for the past 30 years. She's been out there in the country, small town America - real Americans like the ones you know in Ohio [...] Yes, she has said that she can see Russia from her house and that is an aspect of her foreign policy that certainly grounds her to the importance of national security being in a state isolated from the rest of the country where she understands more than anyone else the importance of our brave men and women fighting overseas."

"Actually, I believe that it was Tina Fey who said that, but these days it's tough to tell the difference," Rauch quipped.

--Tasnim Shamma '11