Candidates Spar over Economy, Iraq, Iran

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CBNNews.com - Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama faced off in their first debate Friday night tackling the economy first before getting into foreign policy issues.

Despite their fundamental differences, the two men agreed that Congress needed to act quickly to calm the economic crisis.

Moderator Jim Lehrer asked both candidates if either of them would vote for the rescue plan currently being hammered out on Capitol Hill.

Click the play button to watch a portion of Friday's debate.

 "I hope so. Sure," McCain replied. 

"We haven't seen the language yet," Obama said. "I do think there is constructive work being done."

Obama also used the financial crisis to take a swipe at the current administration's economic policies.

"We also have to recognize that this is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by President Bush and supported by Sen. McCain," Obama said. "And we can't afford another four."

McCain, who has touted himself as a reformer maverick during his campaign, pointed out that Obama sought millions in earmarks and pork barrel spending. McCain said he will veto those projects if he becomes President.

"You will know their names and I will make them famous," he said, an oft-used line from the campaign trail.

"This is a classic example of walking the walk and talking the talk," he added, accusing Obama of becoming a recent convert to the cause of opposing wasteful government spending.

Foreign Policy

The two men clashed over spending, taxes, and energy before turning to the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues during their 90-minute debate.

McCain took aim at Obama, pointing out that Obama opposed the surge from the start and has not admitted to its success.

"Senator Obama after promising not to vote to cut off funding to the troops did an incredible thing and voted against the funding," McCain said.

Obama retorted by saying the surge did reduce the amount of violence, but that the Iraq war took attention off of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and Afghanistan.

The two men also discussed current U.S. relations with China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

McCain sought to paint his younger rival as being naive on foreign policy, criticizing Obama for saying he would talk with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without precondition. Iran's president has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel.

"So let me get this right, we sit down with Ahmadinejad and he says 'we're going to wipe Israel off the face of the earth' and we say, 'no you're not.' Oh please," McCain said.

"If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the region because they would feel completed," McCain said. "We cannot allow a second Holocaust."

"The single thing that strengthened Iran is the war in Iraq," Obama responded. "McCain is right. We cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran threatening Israel. It would create an environment where you can set off an arms race in the Middle East. We do need tougher sanctions."

"We're also going to have to engage in tough diplomacy with Iran," Obama added. "The idea that if we don't talk to them we are punishing them that will change when I'm President of the United States."

More to Come

The debate was being held at the Ford Center at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. There will be a total of three Presidential debates held before the election.

The other two will be held at Belmont University in Nashville on Oct. 7 and at Hofstra University in Hempsted, N.Y., on Oct. 15.

One Vice Presidential debate will be held Oct. 2. at Washington University in St. Louis.

Source: CBN News, The Associated Press

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