Jim Lehrer.....Chris Parnell
Sen. Barack Obama.....Fred Armisen
Sen. John McCain.....Darrell Hammond
Sen. Hillary Clinton.....Amy Poehler
[ open on CNN graphic ]
[ dissolve to exterior, University of Mississippi, Gertrude Castellow Ford Center ]
[ dissolve to Jim Lehrer ]
Jim Lehrer: Good evening. And welcome to the Gertrude C. Ford Center at the University of Mississippi, for the first of three Presidential debates, between Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. I'm Jim Lehrer, and I will be your moderator this evening. Tonight's debate will primarily focus on foreign policy and national security, which, by definition, includes the current financial crisis. Also, throughout the debate, I will urge you both to look at one another up to and beyond the point it becomes uncomfortable. So let me begin by asking each of you: where do you stand on the financial recovery plan, right now before Congress. Senator Obama?
Sen. Barack Obama: Uh, Jim, look. I think the most important element of any bailout plan... is that it protects Main Street... as well as Wall Street. 'Cause hardworking middle-class Americans shouldn't be taxed in order to rescue the nation's wealthiest one percent.
Jim Lehrer: Senator McCain.
Sen. John McCain: Jim, I would like to take this opportunity to make my opponent a proposal: effective immediately, each of us suspend our campaigns, and instead hold a series of three pie-eating contests. Next Tuesday, Kansas City, lemon meringue; Saturday, Jacksonville, blueberry; the following week, in Dallas, coconut custard.
Jim Lehrer: Senator Obama?
Sen. Barack Obama: Jim, uhhhhh... I don't see the value of this. [ a beat ] Maybe the blueberry.
Jim Lehrer: But, Senator McCain, what does this have to do with the issues in this election?
Sen. John McCain: Nothing at all, Jim. It's what, in my campaign, we call a "stunt" or a "gimmick". Something to shake up the race.
Jim Lehrer: That's what it sounds like.
Sen. John McCain: That's all it is. A little "straight talk" there.
Jim Lehrer: Still, Senator, I would like to hear your position on the bailout plan.
Sen. John McCain: Jim, what the American people need to understand, and what Senator Obama does not,/i> understand, is that the real problem here is excessive government spending, especially Congressional earmarks, and pork-barrel projects. Like this one: $75 million to the Department of Justice, for a program to notify convicted sex offenders when a child moves into their neighborhood. I fought that earmark, and I got the funding reduced to 41 million. And how about this? $8.2 million for something called "Tony Rezko Hush Money".
Sen. Barack Obama: John, I withdrew that earmark right after he began cooperating with prosecutors. And I think you know that.
Sen. John McCain: Senator, the fact is, to fund all the other programs you're planning, will require a massive tax increase.
Sen. Barack Obama: John, once again, you're not being truthful about my proposals. Under my tax plan, not only would every American making less than $250,000 per year get a tax cut; so would most members of the Chicago City Council as well as city Building Inspectors. That's because my plan would not tax income from bribes, kickbacks, shakedowns, embezzlement of government funds, or extortion.
Sen. John McCain: I just thought of something. Senator Obama, why don't you and I immediately suspend our campaigns, and instead do three town hall meetings, where we appear nude or semi-nude. I think the American people have a right to know what their President would look like with no clothes on.
Sen. Barack Obama: Look, I'm not comfortable with that, Senator. I have two young daughters.
Sen. John McCain: October 4th, Hartford: completely naked, with optional posing strap. October 9th, Nashville: see-through body stockings. October 17th, Seattle: modified Chippendales-collar and bowtie, with tear-away tuxedo, or fringed leather chaps.
Sen. Barack Obama: Again, I don't see the point.
Jim Lehrer: I think we'll let the two of you work that out. But for now let's turn to the war in Iraq. Senator Obama, what has this war taught us?
Sen. Barack Obama: Look, as you know, Jim, I opposed this war from the very beginning, when it was not the politically popular thing to do.
Sen. John McCain: Yet, Senator, you voted against the "surge", a strategy that I have been arguing for since 1985. Long before anyone even thought of invading Iraq, I wanted to add more troops, in case we ever did invade.
Sen. Barack Obama: John, think about that for a moment. That doesn't even make sense.
Sen. John McCain: Perhaps not to you, Senator. That's because you're not a "maverick".
Sen. Barack Obama: John, the fact is, the "surge" was itself a remedy for a series of failed military policies by this Administration, policies you initially supported. As you have supported this President 90 percent of the time.
Sen. John McCain: Jim, my opponent knows that's not true. I've never supported President Bush. I have undermined President Bush. Just ask any Republican: I have always been disloyal to this President, a disloyal, unreliable, untrustworthy renegade, who has abandoned my Party whenever it most needed me. The fact is, you simply can't count on John McCain. And that's why, on November 4th, the American people will elect me their next President.
Jim Lehrer: Alright. Now let's turn to the topic of nuclear proliferation. Senator Obama, you have frequently been critical of this Administration's efforts to stop Iran and North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. What would you do differently?
Sen. Barack Obama: First of all, Jim. I would use traditional diplomacy. Something this Administration has consistently refused to do. Should that fail, then, and only then, I would try what I call "playing the race card".
Jim Lehrer: And how would that work?
Sen. Barack Obama: Take North Korea. I would ask Kim Jong-Il to shut down his country's nuclear weapons program. If he declined, I would say to him: 'Alright, I get it. I know why you're really refusing to stop the program.' And he would say, 'No, what are you talking about?' And I would say, 'It's because I don't look like all the other Presidents you've dealt with.' Then he would say, 'Wait. That's not fair. That has nothing to do with it.' And I would add, 'That's cool, I understand. I'm different. I'm not like the other guys on the five and ten dollar bills.' It's a long, delicate process. But eventually, he'll have to give in.
Jim Lehrer: And what if he didn't?
Sen. Barack Obama: Then I would try the "carrot": dinner with Scarlett Johansson.
Jim Lehrer: Would she agree to have dinner with Kim Jong-Il?
Sen. Barack Obama: For me she would, yes.
Sen. John McCain: Look, my friends. I have no idea who Scarlett Johansson is. But let me tell you something. No President should ever tell our enemies what we might do in a negotiation.
Sen. Barack Obama: That's interesting, John. Coming from the guy who sang, "Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran."
Sen. John McCain: Obviously, my opponent doesn't understand. There was a musical combo called the Beach Boys. Who recorded a song that went "Bar-bar-bar, bar-Barbara Ann", which sounds like, "Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran." Evidently, he's unaware of that.
Jim Lehrer: Okay. I had hoped to explore the candidates' views of the War on Terror, but we are just about out of time.
Sen. John McCain: Jim, may I throw out one more offer? My opponent and I both suspend our campaigns. We're airdropped into Waziristan, and neither of us comes back until we've found and captured Osama Bin Laden. It's a 'maverick' move, and it could break this race wide open.
Sen. Barack Obama: I can't. I have a fundraiser at Rob Reiner's.
Sen. John McCain: I know it's not the safe thing to do politically. But if there's any chance of catching Bin Laden, I would rather lose my life than win an election.
Jim Lehrer: Really? You'd rather risk capture by Al Qaeda than possibly become President?
Sen. John McCain: Truthfully, yes. At this point, I don't really care anymore. I mean it.
Jim Lehrer: And that concludes tonight's debate. I would like to thank our candidates, our audience and Senator Hillary Clinton who flew down here just in case Senator McCain didn't show up. [ show Hillary Clinton sitting in wait ] I'm sorry it didn't work out. From all of us here at the Gertrude C. Ford Center, thank you and good night.