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The debate's Kissinger flap: Who was right?

By Jimmy Orr / September 28, 2008

Just like the campaign commercials, there were elements of truth in Friday night's presidential debate (which is always a good thing). And both campaigns had their communications staff sending emails throughout the evening clarifying what their bosses said and how the other guy was completely wrong.

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The McCain communications staff got the evening started with an email sent out at 8:32 p.m. It was like tailgating with the McCains. The email let us know that spokesman Brian Rogers would be the point man for fact checking and responses. It also boasted that another staffer would be hurling "insults" from the McCain website.

There's no doubt that the wasteland known as "The Spin Room" offers nothing but hot air, but for a presidential campaign to showcase that they're paying someone to offer "assorted insults" provides a clear indicator to the health of US campaigning.

First strike

Regardless, the first clarification came just 13 minutes into the debate with the McCain team stating, "Despite Barack Obama's claims, John McCain has a strong record of promoting reform and oversight of Wall Street."

Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro got into the act 10 minutes later offering a "debate reality check" on the topic of deregulation. Shapiro said, "McCain has been in favor of more deregulation for 26 years and his VP nominee couldn't name a specific example of reform he had fought for."

No one can dispute the second part of Shapiro's email unless Sarah Palin has gotten back to Katie Couric.


One of the sharper exchanges of the evening - in an evening full of butter knives - came when the two disputed what former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's position was on meeting with rogue leaders.

McCain criticized Obama for saying in earlier debates that he would meet with with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban President Raúl Castro "without precondition."

He said in the past US presidents such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon would not meet with certain leaders until sufficient groundwork had been done by lower-level personnel.

"Look, I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions," McCain said. "Those pre-conditions would apply that we wouldn’t legitimize with a face to face meeting, a person like Ahmadinejad. Now, Senator Obama said, without preconditions."

Obama didn't dispute McCain's characterization, stating, "I reserve the right, as president of the United States to meet with anybody at a time and place of my choosing if I think it’s going to keep America safe."

What Would Kissinger Do?

The two got into an argument over what Kissinger, a McCain adviser, had said the prior week at a conference in Washington, D.C.

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