September 27th, 2008
01:24 PM ET
6 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. JCD

    It's really funny how McCain says he looked in Putin eyes and saw the letters KGB and couldn't even look at Obama. What a leader..

    September 27, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  2. me in md

    McCain = ABSOLUTELY NO JUDGEMENT and his so-called EXPERIENCE = 26 YEARS of deregulation. What he spouted last night was lies, just like Bush. McCain supporters are most likely old, ignorant and racist.

    September 27, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  3. S. Boatman

    After The Beating Mccain Took On His Own Turf The Title Belongs To Obama!

    September 27, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  4. Anonymous in CO

    Obama was right about Iraq and McCain was WRONG!!! Obama was right about staying the course in Afghanistan and McCain was WRONG!!! Obama was right two years ago Washington needed to do something about the out of control mortgage lending and McCain was WRONG!!! Obama was right that Kessinger said he would meet with Iran's leader without conditions and McCain was WRONG!!!

    We need a president understands the future and not a president living in the world of yesterday and the years he was a POW. Our country cannot be fundamentally secure by a man who thought our economy was fundamentally sound.

    Obama/Biden!!

    September 27, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  5. LT for Obama

    My favs were when Obama literally threw his words back into his face. He could not deny that he said them, although McCain does that often, because it is all on video for the world to see.

    I also loved that Obama took him to task for the bomb, bomb, bomb Iran and the fact that he said he would not meet with Spain.

    McCain needs to go back and really look at the tapes of the debate and figure out why the polls will continue to support Obama right down to the one that counts on Nov. 4.

    September 27, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  6. ltd1974

    CNN POST THIS

    Mark Halperin's Grades for the First Presidential Debate:

    Obama : Overall grade: A-

    McCain: Overall: B-

    CNN Telephone Poll of 524 Adults:

    Who did the best job tonight?

    BO: 51

    JSM: 38

    Who would better handle Iraq?

    BO: 52

    JSM: 47

    Who would better handle the economy?

    BO: 58

    JSM: 37

    CBS Poll Results Suggest More Uncommitted Voters Saw Obama As Debate Winner:

    Who won tonight's debate?

    BO: 39

    JSM: 25

    Draw: 36

    Who got better tonight?

    BO: 46

    JSM: 31

    Who would make the right decisions about the economy?

    BO: 66

    JSM: 44

    September 27, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  7. Stacy from Loudoun County, VA

    RE: OBAMA = NO EXPERIENCE

    Come on CNN, if you couldn't get BOTH VP candidates on, then have neither appear!

    They invited Governor Palin to come on but she declined, just as the McCain campaign has declined a lot of opportunities for Governor Palin to speak. You sure spilled a lot of venom towards CNN when they have a lot of Republican pundits such as Alex Castallanos, Leslie Sanchez, Bill Bennett, etc. When one side hides its eyes and its candidates, it makes it hard to report the facts my friend. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Make your candidates available and maybe your claims can hold water. Don't be secretive, therefore there won't won't be the perception the Republicans are hiding something.

    September 27, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. Pat

    McCain could not look at Obama and came across as rather rude by patronizing his opponent.
    His VP pick now requested to minimze the debating time to 2 min!!! AND CAN'T GIVE A STRAIGHT ANSWER.

    I forgot- he's a war hero, and that alone should qualify him??????
    LMAO – He did not even succeed in his only mission.

    On top of this McCain does not seems rather detached from what people actually go through.
    5000 tax credti for everybody that buys their own health insurance? ROTFL – how are single parents supposed to do this? (Let's say you make 30000/y, you might pay 10000 for daycare and 10000 for health insurance – which leaves you with 10000/y OR 800/m for housing, food, gas to get to work........ )
    REALITY CHECK, McCain!!!!!

    JUST GO AWAY – I sure hope people will start seeing through your sharade by now!!!!

    September 27, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  9. kaz

    America need Obama?Biden. John McCain is too dull, Palin describes the ticket, Palin show no knowledge of any thing.

    September 27, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  10. Puzzled

    It is repellent to hear Barack Obama, a graduate of a college that banned ROTC, a state senator, and a U.S. senator for about 20 minutes, a man who has never worn the uniform of his country, lecture John McCain about the role of the military. What nonsense. Obama should go back to law school or his talky position in the U.S. Senate.

    September 27, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. kaz

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    America need Obama/Biden. John McCain is too dull, Palin describes the ticket, Palin show no knowledge of any thing.

    September 27, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  12. Puzzled

    Deb n Texas, you silly piece of fluff. Was McCain an "idiot" when he voluntarily stayed for five years in a 4X6 room tortured daily when he could have left. He lives by a code. You and the Holy Redeemer live by name calling.

    September 27, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  13. ltd1974

    Washington Post (Robinson)-The Debate: The All-Important Grumpiness Factor: Here’s the politically incorrect way of phrasing one of the central questions about tonight’s presidential debate: Did John McCain come across as too much of a grumpy old man. That might not be a nice question, but it’s an important one. Americans like to vote for the nice guy, not the grumbling prophet of doom. Throughout the 90-minute debate, McCain seemed contemptuous of Obama. He wouldn’t look at him. He tried to belittle him whenever possible - how many times did he work “Senator Obama just doesn’t understand” into his answers? His body language was closed, defensive, tense. McCain certainly succeeded in proving that he can be aggressive, but the aggression came with a smirk and a sneer

    September 27, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  14. Lillyan Holland

    Dear CNN,

    First, I would like to thank you for your daily broadcast of the news and current events,(Politics)! I can't understand why people are confused about the posture of Sen. John McCain during the debates. If people would be honest and offer "talk straight "as all the adds continue to communicate coming from his campaign. He comes across to my family and many, many others within our sphere of influence as though Sen. Obama is beneath him in every way and if nothing else trust me because " White is Right"! There, it has been said! Now let us talk about it!! My husband and I have been registered voters republican, Christians yes, however, we will not vote for McCain/ Palin.. Too many 1/2 truths or just lies! He has had issues in his personal life that have yet to be dealt with in all fairness. Character issues that speak to who this candidate and prospective first lady really are. When I look at Sen. McCain's posture toward Sen. Obama as gracious and servant like as he appeared. It reminded us of the deep, dark,ugly, places in our history. Don't look at "them" they don't mean anything, don't acknowledge as they are not your equal and are not worthy. This was taught in the days of slavery and inequality, it is not true nor is it right!! So, i don't know if this will reach you or if you will share it but, all the voices hundreds, we have contacted across the states will be voting for the intelligent, articulate, even tempered wise candidate, Sen. Obama and his very poised and beautiful wife!!!

    September 27, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  15. No Hillary = No Obama

    All I know is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 175,000 votes, yet we have to see and hear Obama. Obama's talk is his forte – McCain held his own Obama is a talker – McCain is a doer and so is Hillary Clinton. McCain & Clinton – Presidential material. Obama – role player, inexperienced, full of himself and has a wife who is patriotically challenged. NO OBAMA, NO WAY, NO HOW.

    September 27, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  16. ltd1974

    Cnn pos tthis

    Washington Post (Robinson)-The Debate: The All-Important Grumpiness Factor: Here’s the politically incorrect way of phrasing one of the central questions about tonight’s presidential debate: Did John McCain come across as too much of a grumpy old man. That might not be a nice question, but it’s an important one. Americans like to vote for the nice guy, not the grumbling prophet of doom. Throughout the 90-minute debate, McCain seemed contemptuous of Obama. He wouldn’t look at him. He tried to belittle him whenever possible - how many times did he work “Senator Obama just doesn’t understand” into his answers? His body language was closed, defensive, tense. McCain certainly succeeded in proving that he can be aggressive, but the aggression came with a smirk and a sneer

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

    People saw what they wanted to see during the debate..the only opinions that matter will be voiced on Nov.4

    McCain may have YEARS of experience but that really hasn't done anything to benefit the people on MAIN STREET...we can't help when the candidates were borm or how old they are...no one ever denied that he has the YEARS of experience..they just KNOW that he isn't fit to be President..it's just THAT SIMPLE...

    Nor should anyone deny that McCain does not have the TEMPERMENT needed to lead a nation..he couldn't even look his opponent in the eye...mark of a DISHONEST person!!!

    GOBAMA...

    September 27, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  18. eye opener-open your eyes America-PA

    McCain/McPalin are Bush's flunkies (Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest). Take your pick. It really does't matter, they're all DUMB........... America wake up!!! Forrester Gump-Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what your going to get or Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. Caution: Read the box of types of chocolate selection, that way you'll know what your getting, and select the "Mounds" bar you can't go wrong.
    McInsane is a Nut-Basket Case...

    September 27, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  19. Ted:Canada

    TO THE CNN McCAIN SUROGATES

    To the people who appear on CNN regularly and do their best to spin it the McCain Republican way.

    Not doubt you are intelligent and articulate and you have done your best but NOW IS THE TIME to TRANSITION. McCain is loosing ground and this will start to shift quickly. In a few weeks McCain speaking points and sound bites will be old hat and not in demand anywhere.

    Here is some advice:
    1. try to sound more neutral and more analytical
    2. try to be more knowledgeable of international factors – when Obama wins the international stir will be huge an many organizations will be looking for key speakers and US experts
    3. Try NOT to say anything too negative about Obama – as you know it is on tape and can come back to haut you on future opportunities and projects
    4. Plan for eight years as it is likely that Dems will be there for at least two terms

    OF COURSE if you don’t have any bills to pay and you are independently rich like McCain – what is it? -12 house and 16 cars? – something like that ! or have wife who has 100 million in beer YOUDON”T NEED TO TAKE THIS ADVICE

    The rest of you should started planning the transition – on CNN appearances as there won’t be much need for McCain surrogates in a few weeks.

    Best wishes!

    September 27, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  20. Olivia

    None of the Obama supporters have mentioned how rude Obama was to McCain during the debate. Instead they have been chastising McCain for notlooking at Obama.
    Please, people.........did you not see how often Obama tried to interrupt and cut in on McCain while he was speaking? That was rude.
    He got his time to speak, then tried to butt in on McCain's time.
    Also......Obama seemed almost angry when McCain talked about the dog tags given to him. Obama's response was " I have a dog tag also".
    The problem for me was the abrupt matter-of-fact tone he used when he said it, no emotion, no sense of caring. Don't tell me no one noticed!!??
    I understand rooting for your candidate, but let's be fair in our critisizm.

    September 27, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  21. 107 yr old boxer

    John McCain is making the same fatal mistake that the other previous contenders made when sparring with Obama. They brand this fighter as " inexperience" and it is not working. The McCain Camp is only jabbing with the " inexperience " theme. They continue to estimate this crafty young fighter who has dodge many blows from both sides of the political ring. That last match with the Clintons was won halfway through the bout. The McCain camp thinks they are fighting a lightweight match because Obama is young. Obama is a heavyweight. They are hitting below the belt with scare tactics to divert people from the real issues and this could backfire. In the debate McCain constantly said to Obama..."What you fail to understand.......". What McCain fails to understand is that if he don't truly start to recognize Obama's skills in politics, he could find himself faced down in the ring in November.

    September 27, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    McCain is just an angry old man that would stoop to anything to win this last chance. He way beyond his prime and I really don't think anyone wants Sarah "the cheerleader" Palin as President.

    September 27, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. Terrant

    If McCain doesn't allow Palin to do interview, press conferences, spinning, and only allows debating if kid gloves are allowed, why is it CNN's fault? The truth is, the McCain campaign keeps that pitbull on a short leash and it is going undercut her credibility if it already hasn't.

    September 27, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  24. Rodger

    McCain's total lack of judgement, and is not be qualified. Supported Bush in the wrong war, supported de-regulation, Bush's economic policies of spending and reducing taxes for the very wealthy and oil, picked Sarah Palin, has approved campaign adds that are out-right lies, and he know it! McCain has not been a maverick in 8 years, he's now a Bush, Rove man all the way.
    Obama is not only the brightest man to serve and seek the job, he has contiually worked accross party and ideology lines for common ground and for the greater good of our country and all Americans.
    Obama will be the greatest president since FDR!

    September 27, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  25. Observing With BOTH Eyes

    I'm sure CNN would have loved to have both VP candidates on the show but as you know, Little Sarah is not allowed to talk to strangers(the press).

    Have you noticed that McCain and his followers are seeing bias EVERYWHERE now?! Whoever doesn't agree 100% that their candidate is the bee's knee's (CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, etc...) is somehow biased.

    Can it be that these orgainzations have just taken the blinders off and are seeing what actually IS instead of what you WISH?

    WAKE UP!!! Just because someone doesn't always agree with you doesn't make them wrong. And agreeing with you doesn't make them right either!

    September 27, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
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