Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 4:50 PM
Last night's presidential candidates' debate at Cleveland State University left some Northeast Ohioans dissatisfied. At least that's the conclusion from this morning's "Sound of Ideas" program. Callers complained that some issues that are very important here, such as the home foreclosure crisis, never got discussed while other issues like health care got bogged down in minutia. ideastream's David Molpus reports.
Neither Senator Hillary Clinton nor Senator Barack Obama broke much new ground in last night's debate but they did spend a lot of time taking jabs at each other, spending 16 minutes, arguing health insurance mandates. They skimmed over or didn't address at all how much their plans would cost or what constraints would be put on hospital costs, for example.
A lot of questions about reviving the economy also didn't get answered at least not to the satisfaction of callers to 90.3's morning talk show like Mike from Akron. He wanted to hear more straight talk, especially about jobs.
MIKE: For someone to say "look these jobs are gone" and let's not blame NAFTA. Let's look at how we're going to generate these new jobs and how that can help us turn around health care, etc.
One reason that kind of detail wasn't discussed may be that the candidates spent so much time defending what appears to be double-speak on the North American Free Trade Agreement which many in Ohio blame for our devastating job losses. Co-moderator Tim Russert of NBC News was determined to set the record straight. He cited three instances where Hillary Clinton had said NAFTA...overall...was good for America. But Clinton continued to argue that she has consistently opposed the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Russert wouldn't let it go.
RUSSERT: This is something that you wrote about as a real success for your husband and now you're in Ohio and your words are much different, Senator. The record is very clear.
CLINTON: You don't have all the record because you can go back and look at what I've said consistently and I haven't just said things, I've actually voted to toughen trade agreements, to try to put more teeth into our enforcement mechanisms.
MOLPUS: Russert gave Obama similar treatment on his NAFTA record.
RUSSERT: Senator two journalists here in Ohio wrote a piece called "business as usual" which is very well known, suggesting it wasn't trade or manufacturing jobs that were being lost because of it (NAFTA) but rather business as usual (was the cause)...lack of patents, lack of innovation, lack of investment; 70 percent of PhDs in biology and chemistry and engineering leaving the state. Ohio ranks fourth in terms of exports to Canada and Mexico. Are you sure this hasn't been better for Ohio than you are suggesting?
OBAMA: I am positive this has not been better for Ohio but you are making a very legitimate point which is that trade can't be the only part of our economic agenda.
MOLPUS: Many listening and watching the debate were less impressed by the policy specifics than by the way the candidates conducted themselves and their overall demeanor. Danielle of Shaker Heights, another caller to the "Sound of Ideas," picked up a lot of negative vibes from Clinton.
DANIELLE: She came off so combative, so abrasive and she reminded me of a chiwawa nipping at your heels.
MOLPUS: Kris of Painesville had a totally different reaction. She lauded Clinton and said in the debate Clinton reminded her of a big hearted golden retriever. She found Obama pretty cold.
KRIS: He comes across sort of abstract, very abstract and placing himself above the issues.
MOLPUS: So, the debate didn't settle much. Clinton came off as a fighter to some, an angry woman to others. Obama seemed confident to some, aloof to others. Both turned out to be pretty good punching bags though for Tim Russert.