Barack Obama and John McCain
On Tuesday night Democrat Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona met at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee for the second presidential debate. As expected, the main topic in the town hall style question and answer forum was the global economic crisis, followed by government spending, taxes and energy policy.
At one point, in response to a question about his priorities as president, Senator Obama declared that the U.S. could no longer afford to annually transfer billions in wealth to major oil producers abroad, specifically mentioning Russia, Venezuela and Iran in that category. Obama then touted his ten year plan that he says will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and promote alternative energy technologies.
Click on the extended post to read more.
A banner at the campus of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee promoting the presidential debate
Click here to read Russia Blog's post about the first presidential debate in on the campus of Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi on September 26, 2008
The moderator of the debate, former NBC nightly news anchor Tom Brokaw, then asked a follow up question from an undecided voter in Texas about U.S.-Russia relations. McCain responded with his stump speech about Vladimir Putin being a KGB agent and a resurgent Russia enriched by petrodollars turning into an aggressive power on the world stage. McCain advocated bringing Ukraine into NATO as soon as possible. McCain added that he did not want or expect a New Cold War with Russia.
Brokaw then asked the candidates if they thought Putin's Russia was becoming a new evil empire, the term President Reagan used for the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, to which Obama replied that "they've engaged in evil behavior" and McCain said "maybe". Senator Obama then said that the U.S. should send economic aid to Georgia and take a tough diplomatic line with Moscow, while taking steps to reduce Western dependence on Russian and Middle Eastern oil.
Read the presidential candidates' remarks verbatim below
Excerpted from the extended debate transcript
The Second McCain-Obama Presidential Debate SENS. MCCAIN AND OBAMA PARTICIPATE IN A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DEBATE, BELMONT UNIVERSITY, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (AZ)
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE
U. S. SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (IL)
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE
TOM BROKAW, MODERATOR
BROKAW: I'm trying to play by the rules that you all established. One minute for discussion.
Senator Obama, if you would give us your list of priorities, there are some real questions about whether everything can be done at once.
OBAMA: We're going to have to prioritize, just like a family has to prioritize. Now, I've listed the things that I think have to be at the top of the list.
Energy we have to deal with today, because you're paying $3.80 here in Nashville for gasoline, and it could go up. And it's a strain on your family budget, but it's also bad for our national security, because countries like Russia and Venezuela and, you know, in some cases, countries like Iran, are benefiting from higher oil prices.
So we've got to deal with that right away. That's why I've called for an investment of $15 billion a year over 10 years. Our goal should be, in 10 year's time, we are free of dependence on Middle Eastern oil...
BROKAW: Senator McCain, this question is for you from the Internet. It's from Alden (ph) in Hewitt, Texas.
How can we apply pressure to Russia for humanitarian issues in an effective manner without starting another Cold War?
MCCAIN: First of all, as I say, I don't think that -- we're not going to have another Cold War with Russia.
But have no doubt that Russia's behavior is certainly outside the norms of behavior that we would expect for nations which are very wealthy, as Russia has become, because of their petro dollars.
Now, long ago, I warned about Vladimir Putin. I said I looked into his eyes and saw three letters, a K, a G and a B. He has surrounded himself with former KGB apparatchiks. He has gradually repressed most of the liberties that we would expect for nations to observe, and he has exhibited most aggressive behavior, obviously, in Georgia.
I said before, watch Ukraine. Ukraine, right now, is in the sights of Vladimir Putin, those that want to reassemble the old Soviet Union.
We've got to show moral support for Georgia.
MCCAIN: We've got to show moral support for Ukraine. We've got to advocate for their membership in NATO.
We have to make the Russians understand that there are penalties for these this kind of behavior, this kind of naked aggression into Georgia, a tiny country and a tiny democracy.
And so, of course we want to bring international pressures to bear on Russia in hopes that that will modify and eventually change their behavior. Now, the G-8 is one of those, but there are many others.
But the Russians must understand that these kinds of actions and activities are not acceptable and hopefully we will use the leverage, economic, diplomatic and others united with our allies, with our allies and friends in Europe who are equally disturbed as we are about their recent behaviors.
BROKAW: Senator Obama.
MCCAIN: It will not be a re-ignition of the Cold War, but Russia is a challenge.
BROKAW: Senator Obama? We're winding down, so if we can keep track of the time.
OBAMA: Well, the resurgence of Russia is one of the central issues that we're going to have to deal with in the next presidency. And for the most part I agree with Senator McCain on many of the steps that have to be taken.
But we can't just provide moral support. We've got to provide moral support to the Poles and Estonia and Latvia and all of the nations that were former Soviet satellites. But we've also got to provide them with financial and concrete assistance to help rebuild their economies. Georgia in particular is now on the brink of enormous economic challenges. And some say that that's what Putin intended in the first place.
The other thing we have to do, though, is we've got to see around the corners. We've got to anticipate some of these problems ahead of time. You know, back in April, I put out a statement saying that the situation in Georgia was unsustainable because you had Russian peacekeepers in these territories that were under dispute.
And you knew that if the Russians themselves were trying to obtain some of these territories or push back against Georgia, that that was not a stable situation. So part of the job of the next commander-in-chief, in keeping all of you safe, is making sure that we can see some of the 21st Century challenges and anticipate them before they happen.
We haven't been doing enough of that. We tend to be reactive. That's what we've been doing over the last eight years and that has actually made us less safe. That's part of what happened in Afghanistan, where we rushed into Iraq and Senator McCain and President Bush suggested that it wasn't that important to catch bin Laden right now and that we could muddle through, and that has cost us dearly.
We've got to be much more strategic if we're going to be able to deal with all of the challenges that we face out there.
And one last point I want to make about Russia. Energy is going to be key in dealing with Russia. If we can reduce our energy consumption, that reduces the amount of petro dollars that they have to make mischief around the world. That will strengthen us and weaken them when it comes to issues like Georgia.
BROKAW: This requires only a yes or a no. Ronald Reagan famously said that the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire. Do you think that Russia under Vladimir Putin is an evil empire?
OBAMA: I think they've engaged in an evil behavior and I think that it is important that we understand they're not the old Soviet Union but they still have nationalist impulses that I think are very dangerous.
BROKAW: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: Depends on how we respond to Russia and it depends on a lot of things. If I say yes, then that means that we're reigniting the old Cold War. If I say no, it ignores their behavior.
Obviously energy is going to be a big, big factor. And Georgia and Ukraine are both major gateways of energy into Europe. And that's one of the reasons why it's in our interest.
But the Russians, I think we can deal with them but they've got to understand that they're facing a very firm and determined United States of America that will defend our interests and that of other countries in the world.
Click here for a full transcript of the presidential debate.