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Eve of the debate presidential forum: notes and talking points

Notes (and probably actual campaign talking points) gathered at a debate-eve forum:
Islip Chamber of Commerce Presidential Debate
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Long Island, New York

Assemblyman Phil Boyle representing John McCain
Mark Cronin representing Barack Obama

Because both of the candidate representatives in this debate are important people, and have been with the campaigns a long time, I suspect that their debate at the Islip Middle School holds more than just a little foreshadowing of tomorrow nights Presidential Debate at Hofstra University.

I did not attend the whole evening. But, I noticed some key points. I was also able to compare this to a similar debate I saw in Huntington a couple of weeks ago, with similarly high-profile representatives (Jon Cooper, a Suffolk County Legislator for Obama and a gentleman for McCain who has run for office as a Republican.)

The tone was very cordial tonight. At the Huntington debate, both candidate representatives had indulged in frequent attacks on their opponents. It seemed very important to point out the flaws of the opposite candidate. Tonight, on the eve of the Hofstra debate, the focus was on issues. Each candidate representative seemed intent on explaining the value of his candidate, explaining why his candidate acted as he did.

Both campaigns found it uniquely important to make their candidate likeable and of good character. I had seen Mark Cronin speak about Obama pre-primary at the PeaceSmiths Forum in Amityville, and I remembered Cronin being very good at making his candidate seem warm, real and personable. And, he did some of that tonight. But, this time, the McCain representative also wanted to carefully portray the leadership and the character of his candidate. Phil Boyle told the story of John McCain as a POW, who, as an admiral’s son was offered to leave the prison camp early, but refused in solidarity with his men.

I thought it was interesting to hear Mark Cronin give what are probably Obama’s talking points on why Obama voted for the bailout. There were 3, and they go something like: 1. Obama wanted to make sure it was a bailout of Main Street, not just Wall Street 2. Obama wanted to make sure that CEO’s did not profit from their failed companies and 3. Obama wanted to provide oversight and accountability. And, Cronin said it was all in there. Interestingly, Cronin made a very negative speech about Nancy Pelosi (yes, the Democrat). He said that on the first bailout measure, Pelosi made a speech before the vote attacking and blaming Republicans, and that she should have saved that until after the vote.

Phil Boyle said that the bailout and economic crisis showed how McCain’s leadership would help our country. Boyle said that if McCain were President, he would have demanded that Congress pass the bailout without all the pork. And, Boyle asserted that McCain has never, ever accepted pork or earmarks for his state.

Phil Boyle also noted that Senator McCain is extremely popular in Arizona. And, then Boyle said “and throughout the country, too”, though he sounded less convinced and convincing when he said that part.

Phil Boyle is a local Republican who has been on the seen a long time. He appears to be more reasonable than most Republicans (progressive on a few issues, cares about the environment, will at least listen to differing points of view with respect.) Not sure if it was a McCain talking point, or Boyle’s only personality, but Boyle emphasized that he himself was drawn into the Republican party by a vision of fiscal conservativism, and that is something he says that McCain holds dear as well.

I am a third party activist, that believes very strongly in the need to have the other parties in the room. The Green Party was not invited to this debate, and we heard about it a little late to find a representative and force an invitation. So, we can’t argue too much about our exclusion this time.

Though, it is interesting to see how cozy the Democrat and Republican can be when left alone. At one point, Phil Boyle actually said to the audience that they might find a time when neither he nor Mark could answer their questions about the candidates’ stance. As if he was defending himself and his opponent from difficult questions, and giving both himself and his opponent an escape hatch.

It struck me as odd and ironic that the two politicians at the front of the room were almost like a team opposed to the audience. Or, two salesmen making a pitch to the crowd. I think that is often how it is when there are only two parties, and two allegedly opposing views in the room. If those two can agree on something with each other, everyone else seems forced to accept that position. If those two like each other, everything can be smooth and friendly and no reason for pesky questions or pesky dissent.

I made a quick drop by at this event to leave literature with a fellow green, and to leave literature on the table for other attendees to take. I am working and networking in order to let people know that former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is on the ballot for President. I was making a run of events for the evening, and I had not eaten dinner. Though, I am happy to report that my fellow green called and reported that after I left he was able to share his own thoughts about campaign finance. And, he was able to network with some of the people at the event.

I am very glad that the Islip Chamber of Commerce took the time to organize this event. It provided an opportunity for people to discuss politics and quiz the candidates’ representatives. Waldo Cabrero was taping, so there may be video at Islip TV. About 50 people attended, including many young people. Very worthwhile.

-Kimberly Wilder

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