In a civil debate interspersed with exasperation at times, Barack Obama and John McCain were keen to highlight their differences in front of the cameras on Friday.
It was supposed to be a foreign policy discussion but the economic crisis had to be addressed, and blame was apportioned.
“John, it’s been your president, who you said you agreed with 90 percent of the time, who presided over this increase in spending, this orgy of spending and enormous deficits. You voted for almost all of his budgets,” said Obama.
“This isn’t the beginning of the end of this crisis. This is the end of the beginning,” McCain warned. “If we come out with a package that will keep these institutions stable, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Obama was at pains to draw comparisons between the spending in Iraq and the provisions of the proposed Federal bail-out fund, alleging Republican mismanagement of both.
“At the time, when the war started, you said it was going to be 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,” Obama said.
McCain replied: “The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to why we went into Iraq or not. The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind. That’s the decision of the next president of the United States.”
McCain invoked his wealth of political experience, and his war record, in a bid to prove the inexperience of his opponent.
He frequently accused Obama of being naive in world affairs, especially where Iran and Russia are concerned. Obama countered that a fresh approach was essential as the present one was failing.
This is the first of three live, televised, debates between now and mid-October.