McCain, Obama spar in final faceoff before poll

October 16th, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Oct 16 (IANS) In their final faceoff before the Nov 4 US presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain sparred in their debate televised live over issues ranging from the economic crisis to who has run the more negative campaign.Seeking to separate himself from the unpopular policies of President George Bush in the midst of America’s worst economic crisis in decades, a trailing-in-the-polls McCain declared he was his own man and would go in a “new direction”.

“Senator Obama, I am not President Bush,” said McCain in the third and last presidential debate Wednesday night after Obama pointed out that he had voted for Bush’s budget proposals. “If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.”

The debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, came as Obama made some gains in key battleground states and continued to lead McCain by eight percentage points, according to CNN’s average of six national surveys. Eight percent of voters are still undecided, according to CNN’s poll of polls.

The two candidates also bickered over which campaign had been more negative, with Obama alleging that more of McCain’s ads had been negative while McCain pointed out that Obama had been spending record amounts of money on his ad spots.

Describing his plan to have the government buy up home mortgages, McCain Said: “I am convinced that … we ought to put the homeowners first, and I’m disappointed that (Treasury) Secretary (Henry) Paulson and others have not made that their first priority.”

Obama, as he did in previous debates, focussed on the middle class, saying they need a “rescue package” of their own. He agreed with McCain on the idea of buying up mortgages, but disagreed on how it should be done, suggesting the Republican’s plan “could be a giveaway to banks”.

McCain said he would “have an across the board spending freeze”, an idea that Obama mocked as impractical. As for specific programmes he would cut, McCain cited ethanol subsidies and wasteful defence spending. Obama suggested he would cut money for the Medicare Advantage programme, which sends cash to private insurers.

Asked why their vice presidential candidates were best, Obama called Joe Biden “one of the best public servants in this country” who has “never forgotten where he came from” and whose “consistent pattern throughout his career is to fight for the little guy”.

McCain said Americans know Sarah Palin is “a role model to women and reformers everywhere. She’s a reformer through and through, and it’s time we had that breath of fresh air coming into the nation’s capital.”

On whether Palin was qualified to be president, Obama said: “Obviously that’s going to be up to the American people” and that she was a talented politician.

McCain said Biden is “qualified in many respects, but I think he’s been wrong on many national security issues”, criticising the Democrat’s “cockamamie” idea for dividing Iraq into pieces.

McCain and Obama followed with a foray into trade policy, with the two men disagreeing over whether the Colombia free trade agreement should be ratified; McCain supports it, Obama doesn’t.

On health care, Obama suggested his plan was both the best way to expand coverage and cut costs. McCain accused Obama of wanting to fine small businesses that didn’t provide health insurance, while Obama said that wasn’t true and that small businesses were exempt.

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