Policy and Pizza in the Pit Series Looks at the Presidential Debates
Web Editor - Published: October 27, 2008
On Thursday, October 23rd, the Policy and Pizza in the Pit Series looked at the results of the Presidential Debates, with Professor Wesley Oliver, Professor Amanda Smith, and student Bryan Depowell, the Vice President of the Federalist Society, providing their thoughts and insights into how the candidates performed.

Professor Oliver showed clips from the debates and then the panelists gave their reactions to those clips. Speaking generally as an undecided voter about what she wanted to see from the candidates, Professor Smith said, “I wanted to see the candidates actually answer the questions that are posed to them. Because I was undecided, I wanted to actually know their positions, and a lot of times I feel like they could answer the question, and I still don’t have any sense of what their position is. They haven’t answered the question. They just talk about what they want to talk about.” In describing what he was looking for, Professor Oliver stated, “I was looking for someone who had great facility with the facts and the positions that they wanted to advance. I want to see that they’re rational, thinking, thoughtful people.”

The first clip dealt with the financial crisis and government earmarks that result in wasteful spending. Senator McCain’s answer involved vetoing any bills filled with government earmarks, and while Obama agreed with McCain on that point, he took the opportunity to take a shot at McCain’s tax plan. Professor Smith noted that in this particular clip, the candidates actually answered the question and offered a clear picture of how their opinions differ. Bryan Depowell was curious to see their demeanor when answering the question, and he noted, “I took some issue with Senator Obama minimizing $18 billion in earmarks and transferring it to $300 billion in taxes.”

Professor Oliver discussed the value of putting out a single sound bite that can encapsulate the candidate’s agenda, and he suggested that Senator McCain did a nice job of that when he said, “We came to Washington to change government, and government changed us.” In judging the performance of both candidates, he said, “I don’t care whom you are in favor of in this election. I think that what we’re seeing here in the first half of this first debate is either one of these men could be President, and from a competence standpoint, I think either is demonstrating that they do have that sort of rational, reasonable – to use a McCain phrase – cool hand at the tiller.”

The discussion also touched on the issue of Iraq and the differences of the candidates on how best to deal with the situation, the economic realities of military intervention, and the negative tone that the campaign had taken on.

The Policy and Pizza in the Pit Series continues on Tuesday, November 4th with Professor Robert Power speaking about “The Impact of the Election on the Supreme Court,” at 12 pm in the Pit.

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