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Debate: McCain vs. Obama

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*'''Barack Obama is no John F. Kennedy.''' [ Ted Widmer. "Ask Not! Why Obama is No JFK". Washington Monthly. January 2008] - *'''Barack Obama is no John F. Kennedy.''' [ Ted Widmer. "Ask Not! Why Obama is No JFK". Washington Monthly. January 2008] -
- +:[ "Barack Obama: He's No John F. Kennedy". Knight Kiplinger. Politics '08]- "I'm beginning to hear more and more people compare Barack Obama to President John F. Kennedy. Not surprisingly, those making this comparison are mostly too young -- or too little schooled in history -- to know how invalid the comparison really is."

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Who is the better candidate, John McCain or Barack Obama?

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Background and Context of Debate:

All content from the Wikipedia article of the candidates or the election. Used under the GFDL, which debatepedia uses

John McCain:

John Sidney McCain III (born August 29, 1936) is the senior United States Senator from Arizona and presumptive Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in the upcoming 2008 election.

Both McCain's grandfather and father were admirals in the United States Navy. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958 and became a naval aviator, flying ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, he nearly lost his life in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. Later that year while on a bombing mission over North Vietnam, he was shot down, badly injured, and captured as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese. He was held from 1967 to 1973, experiencing episodes of torture and refusing an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer; his war wounds would leave him with lifelong physical limitations.

He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and, moving to Arizona, entered politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. After serving two terms, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, winning re-election easily in 1992, 1998, and 2004. While generally adhering to conservative principles, McCain has gained a media reputation as a "maverick" for disagreeing with his party on several key issues. Surviving the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s, he made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which eventually led to the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002. He is also known for his work towards restoring diplomatic relations with Vietnam in the 1990s, and for his belief that the Iraq War should be fought to a successful conclusion in the 2000s. McCain has chaired the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, and has been a leader in seeking to rein in both pork barrel spending as well as Senate filibusters of judicial nominations.

McCain lost the Republican nomination in the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. He ran again for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, and gained enough delegates to become the party's presumptive nominee in March 2008.

Barack Obama:

Barack Hussein Obama II (pronounced /bəˈrɑːk hʊˈseɪn oʊˈbɑːmə/; born August 4, 1961) is the junior United States Senator from Illinois. He is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential election, and the first African American to be a major party's presumptive nominee for President of the United States.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama worked as a community organizer and practiced as a civil rights attorney before serving in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. From 1992 to 2004, he also taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. Following an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate in January 2003. After winning a landslide primary victory in March 2004, Obama delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. He was elected to the Senate in November 2004 with 70% of the vote.

As a member of the Democratic minority in the 109th Congress, he cosponsored legislation to control conventional weapons and to promote greater public accountability in the use of federal funds. He also made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In the current 110th Congress, he has sponsored legislation regarding lobbying and electoral fraud, climate change, nuclear terrorism, and care for returned U.S. military personnel. Since announcing his presidential campaign in February 2007, Obama has emphasized ending the war in Iraq, increasing energy independence, decreasing the influence of lobbyists, and promoting universal health care as top national priorities.

Experience: Does McCain have more experience than Obama for being president?

McCain is better

  • McCain has been in office for around 25 years. John McCain has been in office for 25 years. Barack Obama has only beeen in government for nearly 10 years so John McCain has significantly more experience to run America.
  • McCain has been tempered by adversity in a way that Obama has not.
  • McCain has a wide range of interests and experience. "The case for John McCain". The Economist. 6 Dec 2007 - "Mr McCain's qualifications extend beyond character. Take experience. His range of interests as a senator has been remarkable, extending from immigration to business regulation."

Obama is better

  • Obama's time spent abroad is valuable. Obama spent three years in Indonesia as a boy. He regularly cites this as having a formative effect on him, providing him with a powerful perspective on distant, different cultures. This is very valuable. Clinton never lived abroad for this length of time, and she lacks the perspective.
  • Obama's diverse global background is valuable. Obama was born to a father of Kenyan descent, has a white mother, lived in Indonesia in his youth, and has traveled to Kenya to visit his grandmother. He certainly is a diverse person with a diverse background. This is valuable in many ways to how he thinks about the world. Generally, it is likely to give him a more holistic view of the world.
  • Obama would be a fresh, uncorrupted face in the White House While experience can be seen as a virtue, it can also be viewed as a liability, in the sense that experience within the Washington Beltway, which Clinton has, can have a corrupting influence. Obama, conversely, is a fresh face on the American political scene. As such he embodies the fundamental change that Washington, DC so desperately needs. He has not been stuck in the Washington, DC "beltway", which has kept him clear of much of the corruption and influence that can occur as a result of this.
  • Obama has a strong record of legislative achievement Obama has a very strong legislative history as a US Senator. The Daily Kos lists 19 legislative successes for Obama during his Senate career while only 13 legislative successes for Clinton. It is argued that Obama's record of successes is, in large part, due to his ability to convince other Senators to support his legislation. Clinton, with a more divisive history, does not appear to have this same capacity.
  • McCain's long career in the Senate is a negative. "Is McCain too old? Is Obama too young?". LA Times. 12 June 2008 - "The Senate is not a particularly good training ground for a presidential career. Its titans are masters of securing consensus from a few dozen other senators and some key players in the House. It is a place of subtle power plays and the political long game. The president, on the other hand, must be able to manage the vast federal executive branch, directly marshal voter support for his initiatives and take full and personal responsibility for any projects that fail. One can make a convincing argument that the longer a politician spends as a legislator, the less qualified he becomes for the office of commander in chief."

Judgment: Which candidates has a better record of judgement?


  • McCain is amicable and reasonable toward his colleagues. "The case for John McCain". The Economist. 6 Dec 2007 - "True, he has a reputation as a hothead. But he's a hothead who cools down. He does not nurse grudges or agonise about vast conspiracies like some of his colleagues in the Senate."
  • McCain has been prescient in his judgement. "The case for John McCain". The Economist. 6 Dec 2007 - "He has also been right about some big issues. He was the first senior Republican to criticise George Bush for invading Iraq with too few troops, and the first to call for Donald Rumsfeld's sacking. He is one of the few Republicans to propose sensible policies on immigration and global warming."
  • Obama has showed bad judgement in associating with certain individuals. "Top Ten Arguments Against Obama". The Big Picture. June 24, 2008 - "He has a 20-year history of close ties with people who hate America and say so. His official position is that he had no idea what his close friend Reverend Wright was like ("The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation"), or what his business associate Tony Rezko was like ("this isn't the Tony Rezko I knew"). At times, he'd like us to believe, he doesn't know what his own statements mean. From Reuters: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama misused a 'code word' in Middle East politics when he said Jerusalem should be Israel's 'undivided' capital but that does not mean he is naive on foreign policy, a top adviser said on Tuesday." In short, his official position of excuse after excuse after excuse, is tantamount to admitting that he had insufficient judgment to recognize who he was associating with, or at times, what he himself was saying."


  • Obama showed prescient judgement in opposing invasion of Iraq Obama said in 2002, "Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history."[2]
  • McCain's "experience" is tainted by a past of folly and bad judgement. "McCain's 'Experience'". 28 Feb. 2008 - "All this week I've heard endless garbage from Joe Scarborough and his yes-people insisting John McCain's "experience" factor obliterates Barack Obama's candidacy.
It's garbage and I want it to stop.
When Obama defenders point out that Obama was right about Iraq in 2002 while McCain was wrong, Scarborough says "Americans don't care about the past." McCain echoed Scarborough on the stump:
Of Mr. Obama's criticism that America should never have gone to war against Iraq, Mr. McCain said: "That's history, that's the past. What we should be talking about is what we're going to be doing now.
Well what the hell is "experience" about if it's not precisely about the judgments you've made in the past?
You can't have it both ways. You can't say "McCain has infinitely superior experience" and then say "but we're not going to talk about the past.
If McCain's issue is "experience," then the issue to debate is the past - McCain's past versus Obama's past."

Integrity: Is McCain better than Obama on this account?


  • Obama's move to the center for general elections lacks integrity. "What does Barack Obama truly believe? Does it depend on the day of the week?". New York Post. - True, candidates typically tack to the center after contentious primaries. But the "candidate of change" is taking that process to Twilight Zone levels. Last fall, a spokesman said of a controversial element in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization bill, 'To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.' This week, Obama declared his support for a FISA bill that included just such immunity." [read the full article here]


  • Obama is willing to tell Americans "inconvenient truths". Susan Estrich. "Blue Streak: The Case for Obama". Fox News. 12 June 2007 - "He is telling people, as more than one commentator has called it, "the inconvenient truths," whether to the black community about the need to stop denigrating those who speak well for being too white or the Jewish community about the need to recognize Palestinian suffering."
  • John McCain tried to circumvent campaign-finance rules he created. "McCain's integrity problem"., Democracy in America Blog. 23 Feb. - "WE referenced it earlier in the week, but let's be a little more clear about how John McCain tried to circumvent campaign-finance rules that he helped create. Last year, when Mr McCain's campaign appeared moribund, the senator applied to join the presidential public financing system. Under this programme Mr McCain agreed to certain spending limits and, in turn, received access to federal matching money. (Sidenote: It's a terrible system that is basically designed to keep losers in the race.)"

Inspiration: How do the candidates compare as far as their inspirational capacity?

McCain is better

  • McCain has a lot of military experience. As a result he will have learnt how to inspire people to support his ideas.
  • John McCain is a patriotic war hero. "The case for John McCain". The Economist. 6 Dec 2007 - "Mr McCain is such a familiar figure that it is easy to forget how remarkable he is. He fought heroically in Vietnam, spending more than five years as a prisoner-of-war, when many other politicians of his generation discovered, like Dick Cheney, that they had 'other priorities'."
"Barack Obama: He's No John F. Kennedy". Knight Kiplinger. Politics '08- "I'm beginning to hear more and more people compare Barack Obama to President John F. Kennedy. Not surprisingly, those making this comparison are mostly too young -- or too little schooled in history -- to know how invalid the comparison really is."

Obama is better

  • Obama inspires people to become better citizens. Obama's oratory abilities are very high. People often call him "poetic" in this way. This oratory ability has been a defining feature of the best presidents and leaders in American and world history. The reason is very straight forward; it causes people to have pride in their leaders, trust in the direction their leaders are taking the country, and hope in the future ahead. This often leads individuals to act more ethically, work harder, and generally hold themselves to a higher ethical standard. In short, inspiration matters, and the main vehicle for inspiration is inspirational oratory.
  • Obama can inspire ordinary citizens to get involved and take action. Obama is in a unique position to inspire and influence people to take action. Youth and potential activists listen intently to him, and would respond to requests he makes for citizens to take action. Obama could say, as John F. Kennedy first did, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for you country", and people would respond.
  • Obama is a natural leader and mobilizer. One of the most important qualities of a leader is the ability to bring people together to get things done. Obama has both a Senate legislative record of this, and an impressive campaign-mobilizing record.

Bi-partisanship: Is one candidate better than the other on this front?


  • Obama is too liberal to unify America and act as president Peter Wehner. "How McCain Should Take On Obama". Real Clear Politics. February 19, 2008 - "The area where Obama is vulnerable is his record, as brief as it is, and his stated positions. Senator Obama is a completely orthodox liberal -- the most liberal person in the Senate in 2007, according to National Journal -- in a nation that is not. Why hasn't this fact hurt Obama so far? Because his two main opponents in the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, haven't advertised Obama's liberalism. They are essentially as liberal as Obama is, so that political arrow has been removed from their quiver. Hillary Clinton has therefore been forced to criticize Obama for his lack of experience -- even though her own experience is quite thin and her past forays into policy have been disastrous (her mishandled health care plan helped the GOP win 52 House seats in 1994 and gave them control of the House for the first time in four decades)."


  • Obama can unify America to get things done. Obama has said, referring to himself, "we need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents and Republicans together to get things done."[4]

Change: How important is "change"? Is it wrong to cite McCain as "another Bush"?

McCain is Better

  • McCain is not Bush. John McCain is not George W. Bush and therefore you cannot call him that. John McCain may be a republican, but that doesn't mean he will take the same approach to things as Bush did.
  • It's not as if that's a bad thing. George Bush was a good president and you would find that he had many supporters. Being the next "Bush" is not necessarily a bad thing.

Obama is Better

  • Obama is a break from a Republican administration. Republican President Bush has been been in office for 8 years. It is time for a change from this. Obama represents a clear break from the Bush-years, while McCain represent a less distinct change.

Security: Which candidate would better advance national and international security?


  • Obama's time in Indonesia did not provide foreign policy experience. Ted Widmer. "Ask Not!. Why Obama is No JFK". Washington Monthly. January 2008 - "Obama lived as a boy in Indonesia—a big, fascinating country, but not central to U.S. global strategy. If that childhood experience had a genuine impact beyond teaching him the obvious truth that the world is diverse, then he needs to make it clearer how he will translate that knowledge into sound policy."


Iraq War policy: Whose policy is better?

McCain's is better

  • Obama's Iraq policy wrongly denies progress there "The Iraqi Upturn." Washington Post. 1 June 2008 "While Washington's attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, routing the Shiite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qaeda. So many of its leaders have now been captured or killed that U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists have 'never been closer to defeat than they are now.' ..... Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments -- and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the 'this-war-is-lost' caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)."
  • The Iraq war is justified by events; the world is safer. Saddam Hussein is out of power and no longer a shadowy hazard and menace to the region. It is no longer possible for Saddam Hussein to re-build Iraq's WMD. Iraq now has the opportunity to grow into a democratic state, if it chooses. These are welcome developments, despite the costs of the war. This opinion is in line with McCain's policy.
  • Withdrawing early will destroy the democratic potential of Iraq Iraq has great potential to become a bastion of democracy and secularism in the Middle East. Withdrawing early jeopardizes this historic opportunity. It would also, therefore, undermine the spread of democracy in the Middle East generally.
  • Many Iraqis support the continued presence of US forces Sheikh Mahmood Ejemi, head of the Ejmani tribe in Hiyt, believes the improved security could quickly unravel without sufficient US support. - "I advise the Americans to withdraw only when Iraqis can secure and achieve security and have a strong and capable military force to protect the borders and the populace. We need to have a national government that protects Iraqis, not works to isolate and kill them, like it is doing now. We need US support in fighting sectarian militias and al-Qaeda."[5]
  • An early withdrawal from Iraq would be highly risky to exiting troops. Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the Army War College, told National Journal in 2007 - "There's an old military adage that the most dangerous and hazardous of all military maneuvers is a withdrawal of forces while in contact with the enemy. That's the operation all of us soldiers fear the most,"[6]
  • The sputtering Iraqi economy fosters conditions that would require an indefinite US presence to fix. "A responsible plan to the end the war in Iraq." 2008, Democratic plan - "Economic crisis in Iraq The state of the Iraqi economy gives Iraqis little incentive to work to preserve it. Unemployment is estimated at 60 percent,24 and most educated Iraqis, or those with money, have already fled. Foreign direct investment is under 1 percent. Most Iraqis have electricity for less than 3 hours per day. This economic paralysis is a direct impetus for the ongoing violence. Young, unemployed men end up joining militias that vie for control of neighborhood turf, rather than putting their energies toward rebuilding a shattered nation."

Obama's is better

  • Obama has a clear policy calling for the instant withdrawal from Iraq. This shows that Obama has a clear idea on how to limit the damage in Iraq
  • The invasion of Iraq was illegal, making a withdrawal necessary "Iraq war illegal, says Annan". BBC. September 16th, 2007 - "When pressed on whether he viewed the invasion of Iraq as illegal, he said: 'Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.'" There are two basic justifications for this claim. First, the UN charter only allows for self-defensive wars in cases where the threat is imminent. The threat was not imminent in Iraq's case. Second, exceptions to self-defensive wars require UN approval through Security Council resolutions. No explicit authorization was provided by the UN to the US and coalition forces to wage war. UN resolutions only mentioned "serious consequences" in the event of Iraqi non-compliance with inspectors. "Serious consequences" is certainly not the terminology used by the UN to authorize war; "all necessary means" are the keywords that authorize war, and they were not provided in any UN resolution. Thus, the war was illegal and coalition forces have no legal basis for continued operations in Iraq.
  • Iraq will not become a model democracy; US shouldn't stay for this The democratic potential of Iraq is non-existent. It is a false hope. It is wrong, therefore, to maintain this hope as a justification for remaining in Iraq.
  • The Iraqi parliament has called for the United States to withdrawal
  • Prolonging the Iraq War will permanently damage the US military "A responsible plan to the end the war in Iraq." 2008, Democratic plan - "Our capacity to respond with overwhelming force has been a powerful deterrent. Our military capabilities and readiness, however, have been deeply damaged by this war. Both our troops and our military equipment have been seriously depleted. Our forces are stretched so thin that we are unprepared to defend our country.6 Many of our best and brightest officers are choosing to leave military service.7 Under the grinding strain of constant wartime use, a dangerously high percentage of our military equipment is damaged, gone, or unavailable to units who might need it.8 Our dependence on private military contractors9 and the politicization of some of the upper echelons of the military compromise the professionalism which had been a hallmark of our forces10. And the nationalization of the state National Guards presents a further threat by hampering our ability to respond to emergencies at home."
  • Iraq contains oil reserves that are critical to deterring the looming energy crisis - "While its proven oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks Iraq second in the work behind Saudi Arabia, EIA estimates that up to 90-percent of the county remains unexplored due to years of wars and sanctions" [7]. The current stagflation the U.S. is experiencing is rooted in the oil shortages and energy shortcomings - continued troop presence is paramount to obtaining and using these resources effectively and preventing U.S. stagflation.

McCain's Age: Is McCain's age not a problem?


  • John McCain is energetic and young at heart. "The case for John McCain". The Economist. 6 Dec 2007 - "The more persuasive reason for worrying about Mr McCain is his age. The senior senator for Arizona will be 72 if he takes office in January 2009—two years older than Ronald Reagan when he was inaugurated. But Mr McCain is an extraordinarily energetic 70-year-old, far more full of beans than many younger candidates. (“My philosophy is to just go, go like hell,” he says. “Full bore.”) The American constitution also provides an insurance mechanism against presidential death or illness. Provided Mr McCain chooses a sound vice-president, his many positive qualities outweigh worries about his age."
  • John McCain is healthy.
  • The Vice President assumes office in the event of a president's death. "Is McCain too old?". Andres Martinez blog. Washington - "Our constitutional system and political tradition have established an orderly succession process in the event of a president's death. So as ghoulish as it sounds, the death of a president in office is not as worrisome or paralyzing a prospect as the death of a corporate CEO can be, where that executive's succession plan remains vague."


  • John McCain's old age is a serious handicap and consideration. Megan McArdle. "Is McCain too old? Is Obama too young?". Los Angeles Times. June 12th, 2008 - "Polls show that voters do think that age is a handicap in a president, and they are right to think this: The presidency is a grueling position from which even relative young-uns such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have emerged looking prematurely ancient. It's reasonable to wonder if McCain's body is up to the task, particularly considering the abuse it took in Vietnam -- and the fact that his father died of a heart attack at the age of 70."
  • John McCain would be the oldest president ever to take office.
  • John McCain would likely "lose his bearings" while in office. It is common for seventy-year-olds to show signs of confusion, memory-loss, and dementia. It is better not to elect someone that is likely to experience these problems, and by which his ability to act effectively as president will be diminished.
  • John McCain would be older than Ronald Reagan.
  • John McCain's dad died of a stroke at 70.
  • Relying on the VP stepping in for an aging McCain is a bad idea. Chuck Norris said in January 2008. - "I didn't pick John to support because I'm just afraid that the vice president would wind up taking over his job in that four-year president."[8]

Obama's age: Is Obama too young to be president?


  • Obama is simply too young to be president "It's Too Soon, Senator. On Nov. 4. 2008, Obama will be 47 years old. He will have served in the Senate for less than four years and in elected office for little more than a decade. Even assuming a Democrat wins the White House and is reelected in 2012, Obama will only be in his mid-50s when the 2016 election comes around."


  • Barrack Obama is 46, plenty old enough to be president Laura Sonneborn-Turetsky. "Obama is NOT Too Young". The Knight News. 6 June 2008 - "Barack Obama is 46 years old. There are several qualifications one must meet in order to become president of the United States. One of these is the '35 or older age requirement.' It is true that the United States is not the same country it was when the constitution was written. The responsibility of president has grown tremendously. Still, it is worth mentioning that not only does he make the cut, but he does it by 11 years."

Obama's race: Is it insignificant that Obama would be the first black president?



  • Obama's election would push country forward into an era of racial equality.

McCain as Republican: Is McCain sufficiently "Republican" for his party?


  • McCain "entered public life as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution,"


  • Robert Novak - "McCain is no longer a conventional Republican who has defied party orthodoxy on the single issue of fund-raising."
  • Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot compared a statement by McCain to one by the Democratic National Committee and concluded, "Can't see much difference? Well, that's the point."
  • A Washington Times editorial fumed, "Mr. McCain's [tax] plan is far more Clintonesque than Reaganesque, no matter how much he seeks to dress it up in conservative rhetoric."



  • Obama has a history of relations with anti-American figures. "Top Ten Arguments Against Obama". The Big Picture. June 24, 2008 - "He has a 20-year history of close ties with people who hate America and say so. His official position is that he had no idea what his close friend Reverend Wright was like ("The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation"), or what his business associate Tony Rezko was like ("this isn't the Tony Rezko I knew").


  • Obama can push America beyond quarrels of baby-boom generation Andrew Sullivan. "Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters". Atlantic. December 2007 - Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly—and uncomfortably—at you."

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