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Debate: McCain vs. Obama

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Who is the better candidate for the US Presidency?

Background and context

On June 5th, Hillary Clinton officially "suspended" her campaign, securing Barack Obama and John McCain as the candidates in the general election for the presidency of the United States of America. On November 5th, 2008, US citizens will vote for one or the other candidate. Debating the pros and cons of the prospective candidates, therefore, is an important part of informing the choice that these voters will have to make. The debate, it should be noted, does not simply revolve around the fact that Barrack Obama is a Democrat and John McCain is a Republican. Nor does it simply revolve around their policy differences. In fact, a large part of the public debate revolves around a comparison of their experience, integrity, judgement, education, service, age differences, and other characteristics. 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.

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


Contents

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Judgment: Which candidates has a better record of judgement?

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McCain

  • Obama has showed bad judgement in his associations "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."


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Obama

  • 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."[1]
  • McCain makes decisions impulsively "Obama for president". The Atlantic. 4 Nov. 2008 - "Negative 2: Leadership style. John McCain is not willfully ignorant and incurious, which is a welcome contrast to George W. Bush. But he has shown during the campaign that he shares Bush's weakness for impulsive, gut-instinct decisions. For Bush: the Iraq war; for McCain, the choice of Sarah Palin and the short-lived "emergency suspension" of his campaign."


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Experience: Does McCain have more experience than Obama?

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Yes

  • McCain has been tempered by adversity more than Obama McCain has led a life filled with challenges and adversity, starting with his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. This has tempered McCain and prepared him for the presidency in a way that Obama has not been prepared.
"Joseph W. McQuaid: America's choice this Tuesday". Union Leader. 2 Nov. 2008 - "John McCain stands head and shoulders above his rival. McCain has been tested as few men ever have, and he has never been found wanting. Barack Obama has no experience -- none. He may be the most unprepared major-party candidate ever."
  • McCain has abundant foreign policy national security experience. Obama's childhood years abroad and poor background in foreign policy cannot provide him with sufficient knowledge and judgment in these important issues [3]. In this critical time of US foreign policy, it is important we elect a commander-in-chief who can make the best judgment about these challenges.


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No

  • War and senatorial experience does not give McCain leadership experience. Just because McCain almost died in a war and has been a senator for a jillion years does not mean that he has leadership experience. Being the President of the United States requires a little bit more if you ask me. Obama has showed great power in the senate while McCain before 2 years ago has been pretty quiet. Obama is young and ready to make change. This change hasnt been the best, but could McCain have done better? I will let you decide.
  • 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 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."



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Education/intelligence: Which candidate is better on this account?

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McCain

  • High intelligence does not necessarily correlate with good leadership. Intelligence comes in many different flavors, characteristically capricious and patchy. If Freud free-associated with the word "Intelligence", the reply might well be "Einstein". Yet there is no indication that Einstein would have made a good president. In fact, the president is more times a leader, statesman and consensus builder like Abraham Lincoln, rather than a wise professor like Woodrow Wilson. Jimmy Carter was known for being quite sharp minded and his presidential rating is no where near the top. And let us not even speak of Stalin's intelligence and resulting rein. Barak Obama passed the Bar Exam and John McCain passed the rigors of Fight School, two totally different forms of intelligence.
  • John McCain uses has a strong mind for bi-partisanship. John McCain has a strong record for crossing party lines to form solutions and pass legislation. On the other hand, Barak Obama has used his intelligence to achieve the most liberal agenda in the Senate.[4]


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Obama

  • Barack Obama was at the top of his Harvard Law class Barack Obama finished at the top of his Harvard Law class. He was also elected as the president of the Harvard Law Review. As far as educational success, there is almost no higher achievement than these. The President of the United States should be of the highest intelligence and capabilities. Barack Obama has demonstrated that he has these virtues. This compares starkly to John's McCain's less-than-average educational record.
  • John McCain finished 790th out of 795 at Naval Academy (1958).[5] This demonstrates a number of things: McCain is not too intelligent, McCain lacked the judgement to perform in school, and that McCain's rise to power had little to do with his achievements and merits in school.
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Integrity: Is McCain better than Obama on this account?

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Yes

Ralph Peters. "John McCain's Integrity Problem". Real Clear Politics. July 23, 2007 - Senator John McCain has an integrity problem: He has too much of it. At a time when would-be presidential candidates in both parties alter their views depending on the prevailing winds, McCain stands up for what he truly believes.
  • Obama voted "present" too often when in the Illinois Senate. Though Obama's political career is impressive, his legislative record in his own state of Illinois only shows that he rarely takes a firm stand, especially on tough issues like abortion, juvenile crime. According to Boston.com, "Obama acknowledges that over nearly eight years in the Illinois Senate, he voted "present" 129 times. That was out of roughly 4,000 votes he cast, so those "presents" amounted to about one of every 31 votes in his legislative career." [7]. Even Kirk Watson (D), a fervent Obama supporter stumped on Obama's real legislative accomplishments


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No

"Obama is the choice". Atlantic Journal. 19 Oct. 2008 - "Leading the country in such a time will require someone of intellect, creativity, honesty and passion for those traits that have made America great. That person is U.S. Sen. Barack Obama."


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

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Yes

"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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No

  • Obama has articulated a better vision for America "Newsday editorial board endorses Barack Obama". Newsday. 1 Nov. 2008 - "He has articulated a more compelling vision and strategy for the nation than has Republican John McCain, at a time when both are desperately needed. Obama has railed eloquently against the politics of fear and ideological combat, and promoted inclusiveness and cooperation. He has a strong grasp of the nation's economic problems, a more urgent commitment to the green energy revolution and a better plan for expanding access to health care. On issues such as Iraq, taxes and trade, he should practice the bipartisanship he promises, but has yet to demonstrate, by remaining open to alternative views. Still, on balance, Obama offers the better way forward."
  • 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.
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Bi-partisanship: Is one candidate better than the other on this front?

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Yes


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No

  • Obama can unify America to meet its challenges. 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."[9]
"Tribune endorsement: Barack Obama for president". Chicago Tribune. October 17, 2008 - On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.
"Obama for president". Boston Globe. 13 Oct. 2008 - "Obama is clearly a liberal. But when he led the Harvard Law Review, he won praise from conservative thinkers because he genuinely wanted to hear what they had to say."


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

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Yes

  • McCain will fight corruption and clean-up Washington "The Examiner endorses McCain-Palin". SF Examiner. 24 Sept. 2008 - "Domestically, McCain is unique in never seeking an earmark to benefit a family member, political ally back home, or financial contributor. As president, he will veto all earmarks and other pork barrel spending. He believes Americans know better than government how best to spend their hard-earned money, and he promises – in words that make many of his colleagues in Congress swallow very hard – to make famous those in government who waste or steal tax dollars."
  • McCain is not George W. 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.


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No

  • 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.


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

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Yes


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No


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Iraq War policy: Whose policy is better?

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Yes

  • 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."[10]
  • 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,"[11]


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No

  • 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.
  • Prolonging Iraq War will permanently damage 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."


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Economics: Who has the better economic and tax plan?

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Yes

  • McCain tax policies are better than Obama's "Post Endorses John McCain". New York Post. 8 Sept. 2008 - "Taxes: McCain knows that when government absorbs ever-larger shares of national income, the economy suffers...High tax rates diminish investment, killing jobs and stunting growth...And while Obama promises tax cuts for "95 percent" of Americans, what he actually is proposing is some $650 billion in tax-credit-driven hikes in entitlement and other spending, to be paid for with heavier imposts across the board, but especially on investment - like a sharply higher capital-gains tax...This is bad news for the millions of ordinary Americans who own stocks, either personally or through pension funds or who plan someday to sell their homes or other real property."


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No

  • McCain will help fight inequality; McCain will not "Barack Obama for President". Washington Post. 17 Oct. 2008 - "Mr. Obama offers a great deal more than being not a Republican. There are two sets of issues that matter most in judging these candidacies. The first has to do with restoring and promoting prosperity and sharing its fruits more evenly in a globalizing era that has suppressed wages and heightened inequality. Here the choice is not a close call. Mr. McCain has little interest in economics and no apparent feel for the topic. His principal proposal, doubling down on the Bush tax cuts, would exacerbate the fiscal wreckage and the inequality simultaneously. Mr. Obama's economic plan contains its share of unaffordable promises, but it pushes more in the direction of fairness and fiscal health."


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McCain, war hero? Is John McCain a war hero?

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Yes

  • McCain was very brave when held captive in Vietnam. On the other side it states that Mccain was brave but NOT smart in battle. In battle you need more brave people than you need smart people in order to get anything accomplished. Mccain put his life on the line for this country, that despite what he did can truly be called honorable brave.
  • John McCain is a decorated war hero. McCain has many medals of honor, including the Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service gongs.[12]


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No

  • McCain war record shows bravery, not wisdom Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, said that McCain's war record, "simply shows he was a very brave man. But it shows neither wisdom nor judgment."[13]
  • McCain's false confession to committing war crimes was dishonorable. Under duress in Vietnam, McCain falsely admitted that he had committed war crimes. With all due respect to McCain's service to the country, this was a show of weakness and considered, by McCain's own admission, a dishonorable act.
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Obama's age: Is Obama too young to be president?

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Yes

  • 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."


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No


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

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Yes

  • Age as a stereotype that should not be used against McCain. When people think of the old, the first thing they think of is this old man walking on a cane giving advice. Mccain isn't exactly on a cane but he is experienced and wise.
  • 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 has been given a full fill of health. McCain's Doctor has verified that he is completely healthy with not outstanding issues.


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No

  • John McCain would be the oldest president ever to take office. At 72, McCain would be the oldest President to take office. He would be even older than Ronald Reagan when he took office. This is not a virtue, mainly because old age has been a factor in constraining the performance of past presidents.
  • 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.
  • McCain's age is a problem because Sarah Palin is unqualified. 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."[14]


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

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Yes

  • Being black won't change policies. That Obama is black has no bearing on his policies. It is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. It should not be raised, therefore, as something that will somehow promote racial equality by breaking historical barriers. To do so probably does more of a dis-service to racial equality than anything else.


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No

  • Electing Barack Obama will advance racial equality Just because Obama is black dosent change how he thinks or who he is, or what policies he makes. The President is only as good as his house rep's. Everybody is the same on the inside, and i think it would be mature of America to elect a black president, and show that they are improving their racial standards, considering the racial violence and intolerance background that America has.


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Other: Are there any other relevant arguments in this debate?

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Yes


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No

  • 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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Pro/con sources

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Yes


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No


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