September 27th, 2008
01:24 PM ET
10 years ago

McCain, Obama fight for title of 'most qualified'

Sens. McCain and Obama went head to head Friday night in their first presidential debate.

Sens. McCain and Obama went head to head Friday night in their first presidential debate.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - In their first head-to-head debate, Sen. John McCain criticized Sen. Barack Obama as a candidate who "doesn't understand" the key issues the country faces, and Obama linked McCain to President Bush on several issues.

"I'm afraid Sen. Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy," McCain said Friday as the two traded jabs over Iraq.

Obama shot back, "I absolutely understand the difference between tactics and strategy. And the strategic question that the president has to ask is not whether or not we are employing a particular approach in the country once we have made the decision to be there."

McCain drew from his experience overseas as he tried to portray himself as the more qualified candidate.

"Incredibly, incredibly Sen. Obama didn't go to Iraq for 900 days and never asked for a meeting with Gen. [David] Petraeus," he said.

McCain slammed Obama for not supporting the surge, an increase of about 30,000 troops to Iraq in early 2007. Bush sent the additional troops as part of a campaign to pacify Baghdad and its surrounding provinces.

"John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007," Obama shot back. "You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong."

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Barney

    No fight to it.

    Education, personality, ability to live today (not 40 years ago), temperament, diplomacy, just to name a few

    Obama/Biden '08

    September 27, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  2. Dan Ohio Voter X Republican

    How can you be qualified to be president when you can not look at a person when discussing issues. John McCain does not hide his opinion. I guess when negociating with Russia he will hae to look at the wall. Not my idea of the future. I want a presendent that listens to both sides and makes an educated decision. John McCain is too rigid to be president!

    September 27, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |

    McCain =
    Leadership, Experience, Commander-In-Chief

    Obama =
    None of the above! Sorry's just that simple.

    McCain won the debate hands down. It's a shame I had to turn off CNN due to the liberal biased comments from most of the reporters...AC is absolutely the worst! Come on CNN, if you couldn't get BOTH VP candidates on, then have neither appear! If you're going to continue this liberal, biased news reporting, at least change your name to:
    ONN – Obama News Network
    BNN – Barack, or Biased News Network
    LNN – Liberal News Network

    September 27, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Deb n Texas

    MCCain and Obama don't have to fight over that "title," all the American people need to do is look at McCain's running mate and know that McCain doesn't have sound judgement, period. He is an idiot!

    September 27, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. Palin 2012

    McCain, if we dont have money we cant wage wars it is that simple..

    September 27, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  6. kathy

    It was really scary watching McCain. He doesn't look normal. Have they done any blood work to see if he's got the first signs of Alzheimer's or dementia. Sometimes he acts like he doesn't know where he is or what he's talking about. That's not a good sign for someone we want to put out there and make decisions for us with or against other world leaders. I think he should hang it up and his wife shoud be concerned about him. If he had been running 8 or 12 years ago i think we'd have seen a totally different man but now he's a shell of what he was.

    I keep going back to that look he had on his face when he was standing behind Sarah Palin. She was introducing her husband and McCain had this grin on his face that made his look, not only, fake but totally wierd. I know he and his wife can't stand being upstaged by her but he was looking like he was wondering what the heck he had done.
    I wish someone could find that picture and post it.

    But it's scary – he can't think on his feet, what is he going to do when that phone rings at 3 a.m.? I'm grateful for his service as a POW but that was 30 years ago – get over it. My dad was a WWII, Korean and Vietnam vet, but it doesn't make him president material.

    September 27, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  7. Big D

    I think that over and over, Obama showed that he has the temperment and judgement to be President, and McCain doesn't. McCain is skilled at using a hammer, and thus thinks that every problem is a nail. Obama is a much better judge of which tool is required for different situations. It's like he said at the debate on the discussion of expense reduction. McCain suggested a broad spending freeze across everything but defense. Obama answered: use a scalpel, not a hatchet. Figure out what should be cut first, and then cut appropriately. But McCain just never sees it that way – he just wants to start swinging his hatchet at the budget, and start swinging his hammer at foreign situations. I trust Obama's judgement and temperment to figure out the right approach to different situations.

    September 27, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. LJ in CA

    McBush was smug and rude, and looked @ Obama like he was not
    good enough to be on the same stage as Mcliar, he made me sick...

    Got Hope !!!!

    September 27, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  9. Lone Wolf

    The objective of the surge was to give the Iraqi leadership ocntrol over the country's security. This has not happened. And, there are more troops in Iraq now than there were before the surge. So tell me Senator McCain: How is this a success?

    September 27, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  10. marie

    How can CNN say they are not biased for Obama, first the will print very few pro McCain posts here, and second there had to be a reason that Obama e-mailed everone to watch the debate on CNN. Roland Martin, Campbell Brown, Jeffrey Toobin and Jack Cafferty are just a few of the commentators who delight in trashing first Clinton and now McCain, so their guy Obama can win. There are others, but these four are the worst. Martin and Cafferty foam at the mouth with anger and rage, and Toobin called Clinton witch right on the air. Brown hates McCain because his campaign called her out on her biased reporting. Yeah, I would say CNN is a little biased, I would bet this doesn't make the blog

    September 27, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  11. 107 yr old white woman

    In the debate, McCain could not shake off Obama. Obama was still in the mix. McCain actually looked frustrated. Most seasoned politician usually underestimate The Illinois Senator and brand him as "not ready or inexperienced". This was the same fatal mistake that the other nominees used. Now they are out of the race. Obama actually came to this debate as the underdog due to the subject of foreign policy. What Obama showed America was that he is a fast learner. He is learning to be Presidential and that is what is keeping him ahead in the polls. This is why every major attack on Obama is strong. It always seems that Obama will not weather the storm. The more you attack him he just shakes the "dirt" off. Now here is the key to this matter. He does something else. When he shakes off an attack he just stomps it under his feet like dirt. This makes him get higher and higher because he has so much "dirt " under his feet. The only way is up. It is his ability to fight that is giving him the edge. You can't fight Obama by looking at him. His "good looks and smile" will distract you. That why Mccain would not look at him.

    September 27, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  12. Jane in SV, CA

    And another thing – All Mcliar did was talk about his past.. The world is a difference place now.....
    Hey wake up – this is now not 25 years ago !!!

    Vote for HOPE !!!!!!

    September 27, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. Mr Republican

    They both are unqualified. Not one word about the Constitution. Not one word about illegal immigration. Not one word about the federal reserve. Not one word about impeachment.

    They sound the same to me.........

    September 27, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. texas democrat

    Mccain should know by now in order to put Country First we have to give up the war in Iraq or at least let the Iraqi people pay their own bills. I am voting for Obama.

    September 27, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. VTX13CNJ

    Obama showed what he really is. A political hack, a product of the corrupt Chicago political machine. He's a disgrace to this country, and electing him President would be a disaster.

    September 27, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  16. Hannah Stevens

    Well, if the bailout goes through we won't have any money in government for domestic programs. All of tax dollars are going into the pockets of the already wealthy, wall street fat cats, defense companies. This 700 billion dollar bailout is the last money grab before bush leaves office. And they will have achieved their goal. It's back to the dark ages for all of us. You want your food and drugs monitored for safety, no more. FDA will have no money. You want your roads and bridges repaired, no more money. they will become toll roads and you can just pay for it. Can't afford the money for the toll, just too bad. This is the new America aftermath of the GWB. It started with Ronald Reagan and here we are. The oligarchy is alive and well.

    September 27, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  17. Skunk Meat Anyone?


    The real reason McCain is at his office making phony phone calls is to prevent going on the road with Palin. He's hoping to take the attention away from her after her disasterist interview on CBS. McCain will hide out in his Senate office for the remaining of the week until the coast is clear and his Campaign team think of a solid reason to remove Palin from the ticket.

    September 27, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  18. tuff Col. Oh

    the fact that mccain couldn't look barack in the face proves to me he's intimadated of his intellect, and he's jealous of him, he should be ahsamed of himself for his condecending demeanor, there was a debate about who won the debate, but i bet obama will win the next time hands down, he's the real deal, he's not fake and phoney like mccain, why did they hide sarah palin last night, she's not ready for prime time

    September 27, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  19. Ryan

    Every time Palin and her experience are mentioned, the first thing that should come to mind is, 'would it be better to have an inexperienced VP, or an inexperienced president'. Hmmm.... Let me think.

    September 27, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  20. BettiH. Indianapolis, IN

    I was amazed at how John McCain couldn't or wouldn't even look at Obama during the debate. I have never been a McCain fan but last confirmed... John McCain is a sad old man. ...and some of his answers were STRAIGHT OUT LIES. He lost hands down.

    September 27, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  21. HANDS DOWN..

    McCain..what a question...Obama ain't got it and won't cut..

    Obama is a better speaking Bush...remember Bush flew into

    Washington promising change...Well, the rest is you want

    more change of the same by Obama..?????????????

    September 27, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  22. Andrea

    Come on, Obama=No Experience, you know if the show were on the other foot, you would not be whining because Sarah Palin was interviewed and Joe Biden was not. Besides, CNN tried to get Palin's comment, but she was "unavailable".

    You wingnuts are so hell bent on hating that you have no sense of balance, nor any interest in it either.

    Hypocrit, hypocrit!

    September 27, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  23. LT for Obama

    What I saw was the fact that McCain did a lot of tap dancing around some of the questions and outright lied about Obama's record and proposed policies. When a child lies to you, they do not look you in the eye. McCain was doing just that. He was hoping that Obama would just go away by just pretending he was not there. It was evident that he really dislikes Obama who showed him the utmost respect last night.

    I think what really made McCain mad was the fact that Obama was tossing his own words back at him. This is when McCain seemed to fidget more and when he snickered more. Coping mechanism to keep from blowing his "cool".

    When dealing with super powers of the world, who do you really want to be dealing in negotiations, someone who acts so unprofessional or someone who will treat you with respect?

    September 27, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  24. annie - never again a dem.

    To Dan ohio ex rep. – I am ohio ex-dem. Don't blame McCain – who could look at the lying face of 'o' and 'o' certainly didn't show any respect with his "now john".

    September 27, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  25. JD in NC

    If McCain views traveling abroad as the highest pinnacle of foreign policy experience, why did he choose Palin?

    It seems like selective logic. Then again, that seems to be how he justifies tax giveaways to the richest people during an economic crisis, so why am I surprised?

    September 27, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
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