Two professors from the School of Political Science took the floor to represent their chosen presidential candidates and debate the advantages of each in “Hot Topics: Election Debate 2008.” The School of Social Sciences and the Dean’s Ambassadors Council presented the event last Wednesday, Oct. 22 in Donald Bren Hall.
Political science professor and Department Chair Mark Petracca spoke on behalf of the Barack Obama-Joseph Biden campaign while political science professor William Schonfeld spoke on behalf of the John McCain-Sarah Palin campaign. Political science professor Wayne Sandholtz served as moderator for the debate.
Before the event began, the Dean Ambassadors Council showed a montage of excerpts from Obama’s and McCain’s speeches during their campaign trail. The final minutes showed footage and images from past presidents, such as Kennedy and Roosevelt, and also featured a surprising image of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill’s speech before the Battle of Britain.
The format for the event included five minutes for each speaker’s opening statement, five minutes for a rebuttal, a question and answer session with the audience and three minutes for closing statements. Responses during the question and answer session were to be limited to three minutes. A coin toss determined the order and Professor Schonfeld spoke first.
In his opening statement, Schonfeld commented on McCain’s willingness to cross the core platform of the Republican party.
“He crosses it boldly,” Schonfeld said. In other words, McCain is a maverick within his own party.
Schonfeld also commented on McCain’s ability to cross party lines.
“John McCain has it and he demonstrated it,” Schonfeld said.
Petracca took a different angle in his opening statement, beginning with a discussion of universal health coverage.
“We are the laughing stock of Western industrial democracies as the only nation without universal health coverage,” Petracca said.
In rebuttal, Schonfeld emphasized the nation’s finite budget.
“We do not have the money for that,” Schonfeld said.
In a rebuttal of his own, Petracca defended Sen. Obama as a capable leader to work with Republicans after Schonfeld remarked on his inability to cross party lines.
“Those people are going to have a constituent relationship with Barack Obama,” Petracca said.
During the question and answer session, both undergraduate and graduate students raised many questions.
“How do you propose to give 90 percent of the people … tax cuts when 45 percent of the people don’t pay taxes?” asked one attendee.
In response, Petracca brought up the economic stimulus package, which outlines that people with an income of $250,000 or higher will pay more taxes.
A graduate student remarked on the fact that the United States makes friends with dictators and mentioned legislation, such as the Patriot Act.
Petracca responded that Obama will not succumb to hysteria by signing another bill that brought the Patriot Act.
During the closing statements, the order was reversed, allowing Petracca to speak first.
“Absolutely, they’re going to be put on hold,” Petracca said, explaining that Obama’s plan will not go into action until the current financial crisis settles.
He continued to argue that McCain and Palin do not necessarily hold up to the definition of a “maverick,” and then closed his commentary with a catchy slogan.
“If you want to end the drama, vote Obama,” Petracca said.
Schonfeld closed by stating that Obama is trying to offer a new plan during a time of economic crisis when the federal government does not have enough funds to provide the necessary capital for the Illinois senator’s goals. He ended with positive remarks about his favored candidate, John McCain.
“We’re getting a realistic, honestly perfect impression of what to do by a highly pragmatic politician,” Schonfeld said.