Posted by: lcowie | October 9, 2008

Elon University Student Debate

Elon law students and undergraduates rehash the political plans of their supported presidential nominee at student debate

by Lesley Cowie

SGA President Chase Rumley outlines the rules for the debate.

SGA President Chase Rumley outlines the rules of the debate.

Students from Elon Law School, as well as College Republicans and College Democrats, gathered Wednesday evening in Whitley Auditorium to debate important topics facing this year’s presidential election. The topics were narrowed down to education, environment, Iraq, and the economy.

SGA President Chase Rumley opened the debate by introducing the participants and explaining the rules. Rumley was one of three SGA officers who asked questions.

The moderators asked two questions per topic. They gave the initial respondent two minutes to answer the question and then allowed one minute for rebuttal.

Improving education

The first question asked what the major goals were of each party. Supriya Khazanie, a first-year student at Elon Law, joined the College Democrats to answer this question.

Khazanie cited the 10th amendment and No Child Left Behind policies to show where President George W. Bush went wrong.

No Child Left Behind was meant to increase standards of accountability for the state, Khazanie said, and give parents a larger choice in which schools they would like their children to attend.

“The problem with No Child Left Behind is that the money was left behind,” she said. “The Bush administration did not properly fund [this policy]. The Obama/Biden plan is to address the issues that were not addressed initially.”

Another problem that Khazanie mentioned was that teachers are teaching to the test. They are not trying to address excellence in education, Khazanie said.

According to Khazanie, Sen. Barack Obama has high hopes to recruit more teachers, increase pay, and retain teachers.

Barron Thompson, a third-year law student, joined the College Republicans and rebutted Khazanie’s claims.

The Republican supporters prepare for the debate by reading the news online, written notes, and the fact they have memorized.

The Republican supporters prepare for the debate by reading the news online, written notes, and the fact they have memorized.

Sen. John McCain, Thompson said, wants to end pork barrel spending, which is spending that generally benefits campaign contributors. He said rather than giving the money to campaign contributors, this money can go toward different education programs.

“States need to do a better job of educating our students,” Thompson said. “When students graduate from high school, they should be ready to enter the workforce, military, university or other job training.”

The states, he added, have to provide high standards and accountability. The national government, on the other hand, must set broad standards.

How to care for the environment

When asked what each party’s plan was for energy, Summer Nettleman, a third-year law student, argued with the College Republicans that the president should focus less on foreign aid and more on energy independence. We should begin tapping into domestic reserves that we already have, she said.

Nettleman cited a variety of campaigns for which McCain is promoting, from the clean car challenge to clean coal and alternative fuel sources.

Nettleman’s final point was that construction should start green so that the government would not have to convert to green in the end.

“We need to start from the bottom, so we don’t have to take a step back,” she said.

In response, Judson Campbell (JC) MacCallum, a second-year law student, cited Obama’s “use it or lose it” campaign. He described how the president should promote responsible production of domestic gas. MacCallum added how Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions exceeded McCain’s cap by multiple percentage points.

Although the U.S. is ranked 22nd among nations for being the most energy efficient, MacCallum said, we can increase our standing by increasing our standards.

Junior Daniel Shutt and sophomore Nick Ochsner go head-to-head on the issues facing foreign policy.

Junior Daniel Shutt and sophomore Nick Ochsner go head-to-head on the issues facing foreign policy.

To withdraw or not to withdraw from Iraq?

Junior Daniel Shutt, a member of the College Democrats, opened his discussion with a joke about holes.

“When you get in a hole, stop digging,” he said. “Folks, we’re in a pretty deep hole. Nobody would dispute that.”

He supported his joke by saying that the war in Iraq is endless and that al-Qaida has gained strength.

“George Bush and John McCain have made a mess of things in the Middle East,” Shutt said.

According to Shutt, Obama’s mission is to end the war in Iraq. Military experts, Shutt said, believe responsible withdrawal from Iraq can take place in 18 months.

“This will put the pressure back on the Iraqi government,” Shutt said. “They’re sitting in Baghdad while the nation goes to flames. It won’t be until our troops withdraw that they’ll start doing their jobs.”

Shutt described Obama’s final effort to be a diplomatic effort. A diplomatic surge, Shutt said, will rebuilt relationships with nations around the world.

In reference to the initial decision to go to Iraq, Shutt said that McCain failed.

“McCain was 100 percent dead wrong,” he said. “Obama was 100 percent right. We cannot continue the diplomatic policy that we’ve had for the last eight years….You have to sit down with your friends and your enemies.”

Sophomore Nick Ochsner, of the College Republicans, noted how all of Shutt’s remarks were negative. This is the exact attitude, Ochsner said, that we have received from the Democratic party and the Democratic presidential nominee.

“We want to keep America safe,” Ochsner said. “We can’t do that if we’re withdrawing with defeat and announcing combat plans in Afghanistan….McCain’s going to make sure that we have a plan that makes sense.”

Nick Ochsner defends the Republican Party in the student debate.

Nick Ochsner defends the Republican Party in the student debate.

Ochsner continued to say that McCain understands how to secure the nation. Diplomacy is always the first option, Ochsner said. We cannot just go over to these countries and try to be diplomatic, Ochsner said.

Worrying about the economy

While discussing the economy, senior Daniel Jessup noted Obama’s plan to raise taxes.

“Obama has a record of raising taxes,” he said. “Now we’re supposed to believe that he’s going to cut taxes for 95 percent of workers? McCain has a plan to grow our economy by keeping taxes low.”

The Republican supporter added that Obama was noticeably absent from discussions surrounding legislation about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Obama, Jessup said, was the second largest receiver of funds from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

“This gives him a reason not to say anything, right?” he said.

Sophomore Amanda Duberman said that the big issue was deregulation. In the past few years, she said, there has been sweeping deregulation.

She said that Obama wants to keep people in their houses and take care of 10 percent of peoples’ interest.

According to Duberman, what was said about Obama wanting to raise taxes is not true. Obama’s plan, she said, provides three times as much tax relief as McCain’s plan. The restoration of the economy, she added, must start with the middle class.

Following the debate on these issues, there was a 15-minute break where audience members could submit their own questions on an index card. Prior to the break, the SGA officials asked questions that has been chosen by Dr. Thompson’s political engagement class. The rules from the first part of the debate applied to the second portion as well.

For the most part, these newly-submitted questions were aimed toward a specific party or supporter. As a result, some of the party supporters repeated their initial statements toward education, the economy, and the Iraq War.

When asked about undocumented workers wanting to obtain an education, Barron Thompson needed to repeat and clarify the question.

“If you are here illegally [as an undocumented worker], you are a criminal!” he said. “You should not get federal tax dollars to go to college!”

Representing the College Republicans, senior Daniel discusses Sen. McCain's economic policy.

Representing the College Republicans, senior Daniel Jessup discusses Sen. McCain's economic policy.

One audience member asked for clarification on Shutt statement about McCain being 100 percent wrong and Obama being 100 percent right. Shutt used the surge as an explanation.

He said that the U.S. established 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government after the surge. The Iraqi government, Shutt said, only met four of the benchmarks.

“The purpose of the surge was to meet the political benchmarks,” he said. “Iraq met four out of 18. [According to No Child Left Behind,] If Iraq was a school, it’d be closed down!”

In addition, Shutt criticized McCain’s opposition to a GI Bill update. The update is supposed to allow veterans to go to college after only three years of service. Shutt described this update as a “no-brainer,” yet McCain opposed it, Shutt said, saying that soldiers should have to serve more time in the military.

Ochsner ended the debate by saying that the president who understands veterans is a veteran. McCain was a prisoner of war, Ochsner said.

“McCain knows what it’s like to combat in war, knows what it’s like to need medical care,” Ochsner said. “That’s why we need McCain as president.”

Chase Rumley thanked all those who attended the debate, as well as those who participated. He reminded the audience that Oct. 10 is the deadline for registering to vote in North Carolina. Rumley said he hoped the debate was helpful for informing the decisions of voters.

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