WASHINGTON – There wasn’t a “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment at the first presidential debate of 2008. But there were several lines both White House hopefuls kept using throughout the evening as a way of getting in subtle and not-so-subtle digs at each other.
By our count, Democratic contender Barack Obama mentioned the unpopular President George W. Bush 10 times over the course of the 97-minute debate, trying to suggest Republican rival John McCain would represent the same as the last eight years.
“John mentioned me being wildly liberal. Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrong headed policies since I’ve been in Congress,” the Illinois senator said.
McCain had his own way of using words to undercut his rival, focusing on Obama’s four years in the U.S. Senate versus his 22 years in the legislative body.
He said seven different times that Obama just didn’t understand a range of issues, from strategy in Iraq to the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia.
“Well, I was interested in Senator Obama’s reaction to the Russian aggression against Georgia. His first statement was, ‘Both sides ought to show restraint,’” McCain said. “Again, a little bit of naivete there. “He doesn’t understand that Russia committed serious aggression against Georgia.”
Obama on nine occasions said that McCain was right on various issues — sometimes in praising him but also sometimes just agreeing with a comment. He agreed that McCain was correct about the surge of troops in Iraq dramatically cutting down violence, and he agreed that presidents had to be prudent in what they said.
Obama also said McCain was wrong on at least three occasions.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg (McCain and Obama pass each other on stage at debate)