U.S. Presidential Campaign: Candidates & Issues

More on the 2008 campaign and issues

Although the early days of the campaign were regrettably short on serious exploration of issues and the candidates’ positions, their websites supplied considerable information. Now that the Democrats have united (sort of) behind Barack Obama, we are moving away from following the issues in one post. There are now individual posts on the economy, energy & environment, Foreign policy and NAFTA and there will be more in the coming weeks. As with other pages on this site, this is a work in progress and we readily accept suggestions and comments.

Candidates’ websites on issues

John McCain
Barack Obama

August 17
The Obama-McCain Faith Forum
Tonight’s encounter, marked the unofficial opening of the general election and serve as a prequel to the fall debates as the two candidates discussed, although not simultaneously, a range of faith-related, character, leadership and humanitarian issues.
… After Mr. Obama was up, it was Mr. McCain’s turn. On the applause-o-meter, Mr. McCain received the more rousing response from the audience, made up largely of church members here in Orange County, one of the most conservative areas in the country. He told more anecdotes but also filibustered more. One of the few points when Mr. McCain left the audience silent was when he said he favored stem-cell research.
August 16
Seeing Tougher Race, Allies Ask Obama to Make ‘Hope’ Specific
Mr. Obama has run for the last 18 months as the candidate of hope. Yet party leaders — while enthusiastic about Mr. Obama and his state-by-state campaign operations — say he must do more to convince the many undecided Democrats and independents that he would address their financial anxieties rather than run, by and large, as an agent of change — given that change, they note, is not an issue.
Obama advisers say he has made significant headway defining his positions on issues like tougher trade policies, the links between new energy sources and job creation and projecting American leadership abroad. At the same time, his trip last month to Iraq, Afghanistan and Europe helped reassure voters about his experience, they said, and his agreement to a roll-call vote on Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy at the convention should bring her disappointed supporters into the fold.
April 8
In advance of the 2008 US Presidential election, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is releasing its 2008 Presidential Questionnaire on vital issues that are of special interest to our constituents. All three of the leading candidates have answered ten questions on issues ranging from international affairs to domestic issues. [The last three questions are on domestic issues: hate mongering, the economy and immigration.]

The Economy
Hilary Clinton: Leadership on the Economy
John McCain: Economic Stimulus Plan
Barack Obama: The Economy

May 2
The Power of a Stupid Idea
Eugene Robinson in Truthdig
If the tax were to be suspended, gas would cost less and people would want to buy more of it. Demand would rise, supply wouldn’t—and thus the price would ultimately go up. There’s no way on God’s Earth that consumers would end up saving anywhere near 18 cents a gallon.
What else would happen? The money from the gas tax goes into a trust fund that pays for construction and repair of highways and bridges. If the tax were suspended for the summer, the fund would lose $9 billion. That would mean less maintenance of potholed roads and rusting bridges—and no jobs for thousands of people who otherwise would have been hired on work crews.
What else would happen? All the rhetoric from McCain and Clinton about climate change would be revealed to be just so much hot air since their proposal would encourage people to drive more, thus spewing more carbon into the atmosphere. If climate change really presents a grave threat to the planet, one of the quickest and most effective ways of attacking the problem would be a dramatic increase in the federal gasoline tax.
April 17
(PBS Nightly Business News) In western Pennsylvania, it’s the environment that’s the big issue. All three major presidential candidates favor faster, more aggressive action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There’s no question the climate change debate is heating up, and Pennsylvania is a good place to examine the economic stakes as the state prepares for next Tuesday’s presidential primary.
March 25
(Salon.com) John McCain’s plan to ignore the economy
Maybe McCain is hoping that his restatement of support for a corporate tax cut and his recommendation to remove “impediments” to capital-constrained financial institutions will get him some corporate contributions for his cash-strapped campaign. He certainly can’t be imagining that any swing-state voters facing ballooning credit card bills or a foreclosure notice in the mail will see anything in his speech to assuage their concerns.
McCain Warns Against Hasty Mortgage Bailout
Drawing a sharp distinction with the Democratic presidential candidates, Senator John McCain, warned Tuesday against hasty government action to solve the mortgage crisis, saying “it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers.”
His comments came a day after Senator Clinton called for aggressive federal intervention to help troubled homeowners, including directing $30 billion to states to help homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Senator Barack Obama, has similarly called for active federal intervention, including a $10 billion relief package to prevent foreclosures.
February 15
(Washington Post) Clinton, Obama Offer Similar Economic Visions
Clinton and Obama both promised that they would make the tax code more middle-income-friendly and would protect consumers from threats — including predatory credit card companies and rapacious college lenders. Both candidates condemned corporate tax breaks that they say send jobs overseas. Both pledged to protect homeowners and said they would repeal President Bush’s upper-income tax cuts while extending those for the middle class. Both promised to rein in credit card companies that arbitrarily raise interest rates, sending families into a downward spiral of debt.

Energy and Environment
Hillary Clinton on Energy & Environment
John McCain on Stewards of Our Nation’s Rich Natural Heritage
Barack Obama
on Energy & Environment
May 1
The Gas-Guzzler Gambit
Senators John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton have hit on a new way to pander to American voters: a temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The proposal may draw applause and votes from Americans feeling the pain of nearly $4-a-gallon gasoline. But it is an expensive and environmentally unsound policy that would do nothing to help American drivers.
March 31
(Washington Post) The three major party presidential candidates — Sens. McCain, Clinton and Obama — have all endorsed federal limits on greenhouse gases, virtually ensuring that the next occupant of the White House will offer a sharp break from President Bush’s climate policy.
All three have discussed global warming with (Al) Gore in phone calls over the course of the past few months. While McCain backs a more modest plan than that favored by the Democrats — he supports a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2050, compared with Obama and Clinton’s vow of an 80 percent cut during that period — the presumptive Republican nominee emphasized [recently] that he had pushed for a federal cap-and-trade system before either of his opponents came to the Senate, sidestepping the fact that Clinton and Obama both back climate legislation, up for a Senate vote in June, that he has yet to endorse.
March 30
The politics of Katrina recovery
With the departure of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards from the presidential race, a vacuum exists over who will be the Katrina candidate.
March 20
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama would take an active role in U.S. oil markets as president, tackling concerns about the dominance of large oil companies and eyeing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential weapon to combat high prices, his top energy adviser said.
Jason Grumet, the presidential hopeful’s key energy and environmental policy aide, told Reuters this week that an Obama administration would crack down on any competition lapses in the sector that have resulted from big corporate mergers.
Grumet also said Obama would seek to link a future U.S. carbon emissions trading system with the European Union’s scheme as soon as possible while focusing attention on China and India in forging a global warming pact.

Foreign Policy
Hillary Clinton on Foreign Policy

Obama on Foreign Policy
March 26
Tested Over Time
(NYT) David Brooks on John McCain) Unlike the realists, McCain believes other nations have to be judged according to how they treat their own citizens. Unlike the Bush administration in its first few years, he believes global treaties cannot solely be evaluated according to a narrow definition of the American interest. The U.S. also has to protect the fabric of the international system.
March 21
“Change and continuity in US foreign policy” by David T. Jones
March 14
(NYT Opinion) What Foreign Policy Agenda?
By Andrew Kohut
Issues have hardly played a dominant role in the nominating races, especially on the Democratic side. Still, the public has a clear domestic agenda for the next president. Fix the economy, reduce health care costs, improve the environment, reform education, deal with rising energy costs and so on. This hearty appetite for an assertive domestic approach arises in no small part from the discontent that large majorities have with the Bush administration’s handling of nearly all of these issues.
This disapproval holds true with respect to foreign policy, too — just 30 percent approve of President Bush’s stewardship of it. But the public is far less clear as to what it wants with respect to foreign policy.
February 21
(Toronto Star) Beware Democrats, ex-U.S. envoy tells Canadians
OTTAWA–A former American ambassador is warning that Canadians’ preference for Democratic presidential candidates flies in the face of the problems that their trade policies would present for Canada.
February 20
Why Foreign Policy Favors Obama, Not McCain
In a few months Barack Obama will square off against John McCain and inevitably the subject of foreign policy and national security will arise. Next to a decorated Vietnam War vet, Obama risks being painted as a neophyte with a flimsy résumé who’s unfit to be commander in chief. But he should relish the chance to debate McCain on U.S. foreign policy. Read article
Hillary Clinton on restoring America’s standing in the world
The next president’s most urgent task will be to restore America’s standing in the world to promote our interests, ensure our security, and advance our values.

Healthcare
Hillary Clinton
John McCain
Barack Obama
February 23
2 Plans and Many Questions on the Uninsured
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton contends that the only way to achieve universal health coverage, and to make the marketplace fair and efficient, is to require that everyone have insurance. That would include people like Ms. Coons, who may not currently rank health care above other needs and wants.
Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, shares her goal of insuring all Americans. But he says that a mandate could mean financial devastation for middle-class families if the government did not first adequately reduce the cost of insurance.Both candidates express confidence that by pumping at least $110 billion into subsidies and tax credits they can make policies affordable for all.

Iraq
Hillary Clinton: Ending the war in Iraq

Obama on Iraq
John McCain on Iraq [Does not have specific page on Foreign Policy]
March 19
McCain Missteps on Iraq; Democrats Pounce

John McCain’s trip overseas was supposed to show off his foreign policy acumen, but on Tuesday he misidentified some of the main players in Iraq.
March 14
If Democrats Remain Silent on Iraq Now, They Will Pay a Stiff Price in November
Although Election Day is still eight months away, this is a crucial moment in the 2008 campaign. While Clinton and Obama trade blows, the Republicans are slowly winning the war over the war. And Democrats are doing very little to stop them.
The idea that the surge is working and that the U.S. is making progress — the self-declared make or break issue of John McCain’s candidacy — is taking hold with the public. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of Americans — 48 percent — believe that the military effort in Iraq is “going well.” This is an 18 percent jump from a year ago.
February 25
John and Elizabeth Edwards have thrown their support behind a new $20 million election-year campaign to press for a withdrawal from Iraq and tie the war to the faltering economy.
Tentatively called Iraq Campaign 2008, the group intends to focus heavily on the domestic costs of a protracted Iraq war, and includes MoveOn.org, the Service Employees International Union, VoteVets.org, and the Center for American Progress. John Edwards claimed repeatedly that the American people will have a “very clear choice in the fall” between John McCain and the “Democratic president who will end this war.” More

Race and Gender
The undeclared issue that underlines the Democratic campaign is, sadly, race and to a slightly lesser extent, gender; we may be assured that whichever candidate is the nominee, the Republicans will pounce on this perceived flaw in the Democratic candidate. While we do not want to perpetuate the hateful perceptions, we will from time-to-time post notable commentary on these two topics.
March 25
(Bob Herbert in NYT) With a Powerful Speech, Obama Offers a Challenge
With a worldview that embraces both justice and healing, Senator Obama is better on these issues than any American leader since King.
Unfortunately, what is more likely to happen is that the essence of the speech will be lost in the din that inevitably erupts whenever there is a racial controversy in the United States.
March 18
Barack Obama’s Speech on Race (Prepared-for-delivery text
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
(Washington Post) For Obama, a Test in Leadership
… there was much more to this speech than a political rescue mission, one that may live beyond his candidacy. For his other objective was to use the heat of the moment to speak frankly about the grievances and resentments that exist on both sides of what remains a chasm between black and white America — and to elevate the country’s sights towards the beginning of ending what he called a “racial stalemate” in America.
Healing the Wounds of Race
It has simmered throughout this campaign, and now race has exploded into the center of the media debate about the presidential race. Just when a black political leader is calling us all to a new level of responsibility, hope, and unity; the old and divisive rhetoric of race from both blacks and whites is rearing its ugly head to bring down the best chance we have had for years of finally moving forward.

One Comment on "U.S. Presidential Campaign: Candidates & Issues"

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