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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

September 29, 2008 at 5:14 PM

Readers weigh in on presidential debate

Associated Press

Sens. Barack Obama, left, and John McCain debate at at the University of Mississippi Friday.

Obama has better notion of leadership

Friday’s presidential debate illuminated the two candidates’ notions of leadership [“First debate wasn’t a game-changer,” Times, News, Sept. 28]. Sen. John McCain’s behavior and demeanor illustrated a widely held view of what it means to be “tough.” Sen. Barack Obama’s showed a very different view of strength.

McCain interrupted Obama, sneered at him, refused to look him in the eye and insulted him. I think we can safely expect that McCain would relate in the same way to people and nations he regarded as our enemies. This is what has been, in the past eight years, widely perceived as what a strong leader would do. It is obvious what an utter failure this behavior has been.

President Bush has treated foreign leaders and dissenting Americans in the same way: [with] contempt for the press, his failure to include democratic leadership in important decisions, and his treatment of the American people as ignorant sheep that he can frighten into obedience. McCain is Bush with a great deal more sneering.

On the other hand, Obama’s wide smile, his persistent cool and his articulate, calm critique did nothing to degrade McCain: “You were wrong about that.” And Obama calmly invited the American people to choose which of them showed better judgment about the key issue of when to deploy American troops.

Under Obama’s leadership, I believe our troops would be safer, but Osama bin Laden would not. For all Bush’s and McCain’s bluster, they have still not apprehended bin Laden. That may be the most damning criticism of their leadership.

— Robert Stevenson, Port Townsend

Have a conversation, don’t fight

Friday’s presidential debate was frustrating in the extreme for me. I learned nothing new about either man or his policies. Sen. John McCain was doing his usual alpha-male, angry thing, and Sen. Barack Obama was cool and cerebral. We learned nothing about how either would govern day to day or in a crisis.

Why do we expect debates to be a 21st-century version of a duel with parries and thrusts? What nonsense! The ability to deliver knockout blows to a rival tells me nothing about governing a nation well.

I would be far more interested in seeing these two men sit down together and have a real conversation in which they listened to each other’s views, tried to learn from one another, sought common ground and looked for a way to solve one of our nation’s problems together. Wouldn’t that be something? Or how about taking us inside a policy meeting with their top advisers, so we can see how they work?

Governing well is tough. You have to think on your feet, work with a team and make good choices. Show me that, and then I’ll vote for you.

— Joy Helmer, Shoreline

Obama ignorant of world politics

Am I the only person who noticed this howler in Friday night’s debate? Sen. Barack Obama: “Back in April, I warned the administration that you had Russian peacekeepers in Georgian territory. That made no sense whatsoever, and what we needed to do was replace them with international peacekeepers and a special envoy to resolve the crisis before it boiled over.”

How does Obama propose to replace Russian invaders with international peacekeepers? Do we just ask them to leave? Since he appears to think they are occupying Georgian territory on a peacekeeping mission, I expect he would be surprised when they decline to leave.

Obama’s stunning ignorance of what is going on in the world is no bar to his being elected president, so long as his protectors in the media are resolved to cover up his delusions.

— Brad Rind, Mercer Island

McCain ignoring Navy tenets

Sen. John McCain and I were classmates in the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1958. From our earliest days at the Academy, we were expected to adhere to the tenets expressed in a letter from the father of our U.S. Navy, John Paul Jones.

The letter said that a naval officer must be a gentleman of education, of highest honor and integrity.

Saturday’s front-page photograph and accompanying articles covering Friday’s debate both disappointed and alarmed me [“Exchange of blows on economy, war,” page one, Sept. 27]. McCain showed no respect to a fellow senator. He replaced respect and honor with rudeness and mendacity.

How can we expect McCain to treat our nation’s friends and adversaries with honor and fairness as president, based on his performance Friday night?

— Samuel A. Belcher III, U.S. Navy (ret.), Bellevue

Obama a man of integrity, compassion

I nervously watched the presidential debate Friday night. It seems now, in the postgame analysis, that most Americans and pundits alike agree that Sen. Barack Obama won the night, both on substance and demeanor.

However, I wanted to point out a moment that was likely missed by most people. I cringed and sweated while Sen. John McCain struggled over the difficult name of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was an honest and tongue-twisting mistake, but one that would likely be replayed over and over during the critical evaluation of the debate.

Just after McCain finally vocalized the name, Obama quietly says with a kindly and sympathetic tone, “That’s a tough one.”

It was that moment that reminded me that Obama is a man of integrity and compassion — that he truly cares for his fellow man, even when that man is an adversary. It reminded me, too, of the moment in the primary debates, when Gov. Bill Richardson had not heard the question posed to him, and Obama whispered, “Katrina, Katrina.”

Obama reminded me that we all need to live up to the better angels of our nature, and that one can excel at presidential politics without being meaner and nastier than the other guy.

This to me was a defining moment for our future as a nation. One can imagine that a president with Obama’s character, grace and compassion would vastly improve the image and standing of the United States in the world community.

— Victoria Wilkins, Seattle

Don’t exclude countries in league

During Friday’s debate, Sen. John McCain said he wanted to create a “league” of democracies that would be able to do what the U.N. Security Council cannot do: create stricter sanctions that we are not able to create now.

While I agree that the U.N. Security Council is flawed, I think creating this league is the wrong decision, especially if we are to exclude countries from it.

Before World War II, the League of Nations — the predecessor of the United Nations — did not include Germany or Communist Russia because they were deemed not worthy; that because Germany was the “aggressor” in World War I and Russia was communist, they shouldn’t be included. The league felt it had the right to punish Germany and Russia. It excluded instead of helping, which might have prevented the rise of extremists in both nations.

The problem is in the veto power all members of the Security Council have. It is important to include dissident viewpoints, so we can deal with these worldwide problems and have no dominance from either side. That is the point of the U.N.

Don’t run away from the problem at hand. Start fixing it.

— Paul Duncan, Seattle

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