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NDvotes ’08 hosts campaign advisors

Robert Singer | Wednesday, October 29, 2008

If the six days remaining until Election Day are as unpredictable as last night’s “Campaign Forum” hosted by NDVote’08, the outcome will not be easy to forecast.

Ike Brannon, Senior Policy Advisor for the McCain campaign, and Howard Lerner, Executive Director at the Law and Policy Center and advisor to the Obama campaign, were scheduled to sit side-by-side, arguing for their candidates on the issues of energy, the economy, health care, and national security.

Ten minutes past the scheduled start time, one of the seats was still empty, so moderator Rev. William M. Lies improvised.

“We have a little change in plans. Howard Lerner thinks we’re on central time. Even though you’d like to, don’t let this reflect poorly on the Obama campaign,” he joked.

The format was changed to two separate question and answer sessions prefaced by opening statements, with Brannon starting off, and Lerner taking over when he arrived.

Brannon said he supports John McCain because of the character and independence he has shown throughout his life and political career.

“I think it says a lot about the man, that despite taking on several very scared cows in government, despite the fact that he’s fought the president head-on on many issues, that he’s the standard bearer for the Republican Party,” Brannon said.

Brannon then answered audience questions about McCain’s policies.

When asked how McCain would appoint Supreme Court Justices with regard to his beliefs about abortion, Brannon said although McCain disagrees with Roe v. Wade, he would impose no “absolute litmus test” and he does not believe abortions should be federally banned but left to the states’ discretion.

Responding to another question, Brannon explained the goals of McCain’s tax plan.

“One of the biggest problems we have with our tax code is that it taxes capital and business way too much,” he said.

According to Brannon, taxing businesses at a high rate reduces job creation and makes workers less productive. He said that companies have less incentive to invest in the United States when they can be taxed at a lower rate overseas. Less investment, according to Brannon, lowers worker productivity, which often determines wages.

Lerner arrived shortly thereafter and stated his case for Obama.

To solve the world’s environmental problems, the next president, Lerner said, will have to “walk into a room with a number of leaders of developing nations” in order to persuade them to the proper course of action. Lerner believes that Obama has the right “personal and political skills” to achieve this.

He also stressed Obama’s commitment to meeting both economic and environmental goals, noting that they are not contradictory but reinforcing aims.

“Energy, the environment, and national security have come together,” Lerner said. “We can solve them in ways that work for the environment, work for clean energy, work for our economy, and work for our national security.”

When prompted by a question expressing doubt about the compatibility of economic growth with environmental concerns, Lerner elaborated his argument.

“We don’t have a choice,” he said. “Like I said we can’t hit pause on a Tivo and wait for our climate problems to get better.”

He stressed that developing renewable energy will create jobs in new industries and laid out some of Obama’s specific proposals, including policies that will make the U.S. 50 percent more energy efficient by 2030 and a cap and trade program that should reduce pollution 90 percent by 2050.

Lerner also defended Senator Obama’s tax plans, arguing that it will help to balance the budget.

“The fact of the matter is that when President Bush came into office, this country had more than a $200 billion surplus,” he said. “We’ve frittered that away partly because of tax cuts that have benefited the wealthiest Americans.”