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Student groups debate platforms

Kaitlynn Riely | Monday, October 13, 2008

There was no debate Friday afternoon between Sen. John McCain, Sen. Barack Obama and former congressman Bob Barr. There was no face off between Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden and Wayne Allyn Root.

Instead, members of the Notre Dame College Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians acted as surrogates for their candidates and argued in favor of their platforms, taking questions first from a moderator and then from an audience.

Junior Christine Romero, the co-chair of ND Votes ’08, a campaign run by the Center for Social Concerns, posed questions to the three teams of two and then later allowed the audience to ask questions of their own.

The debate, held in the LaFortune Student Center ballroom, lasted an hour but the discussion continued for at least another 20 minutes afterwards. As Romero thanked the audience and the debaters for taking part in the debate, a student wearing a College Democrats T-shirt rose from the crowd, demanding to hear more information from the Republicans and the Libertarians about their plan to reverse the current economic crisis.

The debate ended, but the conversation continued, with some members of the audience staying after to talk more about the candidates’ platforms.

Freshman Nicole Burson said she has been following the 2008 presidential election, attending ND Votes ’08 events and watching the televised debates. The Notre Dame debate, she said, was more informative about the real issues than the actual presidential and vice presidential debates have been.

Romero asked the debaters questions ranging from abortion to immigration to what she called “sleeper issues.” Terrorism, Romero said, was a “sleeper issue” in the 1990s. What, she asked, is today’s sleeper issue?

Senior Spencer Howard, the co-president of the College Democrats, said he thinks today’s biggest sleeper issue is the finite supply of clean water.

“If we don’t work with other nations on this issue, we are going to see the supply of fresh water great reduced,” he said.

College Libertarians co-president Ben Linskey said the sleeper issue of today is that America’s government is on the path to bankruptcy.

“American policies are headed in a direction that just is not sustainable for the future,” he said. He called for the government to massively reduce spending.

Freshman Henry Eggers of the Notre Dame College Republicans said the sleeper issue was “governmental tyranny,” the problem of the government taking public funds and misusing it.

After Romero asked her five questions, members of the audience, who filled up most of the ballroom, asked their own questions. One female student wanted to know how each of the candidates would promote peaceful solutions to global conflicts.

Eggers gave the example of the United States’ response to the recent conflict between the counties of Russia and Georgia, which did not garner a military response from the United States. McCain knows some situations require aggressive diplomacy, he said.

“They are not under the mentality that the military is the only way to fix things,” he said.

The next president should have the ability to make the proper judgment when it comes to using the military, Howard said. The United States cannot spend its money on “just any war,” he said.

“We have to have the judgment of what the right ones are,” Howard said.

Linskey said the United States should start withdrawing troops from Iraq in a “responsible and safe manner.”

“The best way to promote peace there is through a peaceful foreign policy,” he said, which includes trading with the countries in the region.

The debate grew rowdy as the discussion turned to health care.

“We have the best health care in the world,” Eggers said. “Never let anyone convince you that we don’t.”

But problems that exist in the health care system should not be dealt with at the federal level, he said.

Howard said Obama’s health care plan will not mandate health care for everyone, just for children.

The College Libertarians said they were opposed to Obama’s plan.

“People need to work for their health care,” freshman Justin DeRosa said. “You are not just going to get it.”

Friday’s debaters will return to their status as observers Wednesday for the third and final presidential debate between Obama and McCain, scheduled to start at 9 p.m.