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Saturday, February 28, 2009

2008 Presidential Debate -- Professors Kmiec and Kaufman for Obama and McCain

Kaufman (McCain) – Kmiec (Obama)
Presidential Debate

Presidential politics come to Pepperdine
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 1:09 PM PDT

Douglas Kmiec from the School of Law and Robert Kaufman from the School of Public Policy debate the presidential election at a full-house event at the school's Smothers Theatre.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

The war in Iraq and the current financial crisis were the main topics of the eagerly anticipated debate on the presidential election Monday night between Pepperdine University professors Douglas Kmiec and Robert Kaufman.The standing-room only crowd at Pepperdine's Smothers Theatre remained mostly silent at the opening portion of the debate between the two intellectuals. But the attendees became increasingly enthusiastic for favored responses from both debators by the end of the night, particularly toward the Republican sentiment voiced by Kaufman for the need to continue with a military presence in Iraq.

The debate, which was co-sponsored by The Malibu Times, had an interesting angle with the participation of Kmiec, a conservative law professor who has worked in both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, but is actively campaigning for Barack Obama. His support for Obama made national news earlier this year when a Roman Catholic priest denied him communion. Kaufman, a professor at the School of Public Policy, has been an outspoken advocate for the foreign policy of George W. Bush., writing about it in a book last year titled "In Defense of the Bush Doctrine."Kmiec, who focused many of his responses on Obama's potential to improve the national government's compassion both at home and abroad, called the war in Iraq inhumane, built upon false pretenses made by the Bush administration. Kmiec said these "artificial fears" would only be continued by McCain, who had no timeline or plan for removing troops and who valued winning a war over ethics and the international reputation of the United States."This a time of domestic hardship and international embarrassment, yet remarkably tremendous hope," said Kmiec, who credited this "hope" to Obama."Barack Obama supplies something else," Kmiec continued. "Hope not just to end the war in Iraq, but the war in America, a war of culture, religion and race referred to as a culture war. Obama will unify us rather than divide us and show that we are not red states, we are not blue states, we are the United States.

Kaufman said the war in Iraq is necessary and a result of a foreign policy pursued by former presidents. He said a quick withdrawal would not "make the world safe for democracy," but result in the possibility of another dictator who abuses human rights as badly as Saddam Hussein did. He said McCain's plan for "staying on course" would mean definite and necessary victory in Iraq."We are in easy distance of victory because of the surge," Kaufman said. "Iraq is on track for peace and a democratic government. Iraq is the central theater in the fight against Al- Qaeda."

Kaufman and Kmiec asked one another questions about the current financial state of the country and debated which party caused the problem and who had the better solution to fix it.Kaufman, who blamed the financial crisis on mortgage- backed security companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said the "Democratic negligence was the prime cause of the crisis," and that McCain's strategy based on free market principles had proven the test of the time. He compared Obama's tactics to what he considered to be the failures that prolonged the Great Depression.

Kmiec said "Reaganesque tax cuts" planned by McCain would do nothing to alleviate the current financial situation. He said the problem had been escalating for years due to poor accounting practices on behalf of major corporations like Enron."The sky is the limit in filling the pockets of those who know no limit to their own greed," Kmiec said.

Moderator James Wilburn, dean of the School of Public Policy, asked Kmiec how his Roman Catholic religious beliefs could coincide with Obama's pro-choice platform. Kmiec has attempted to answer this question in his book released last month, "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama."Kmiec said pro-life supporters will not necessarily be getting what they want if McCain is elected, which is overturning the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Kmiec said even if the decision was in fact overturned, the issue would return to the states, and in the case of many, such as California, abortion would remain legal.Kmiec said that although Obama supports the mother as the one person able to make the choice, he will also attempt to deal with the root of why so many people are getting abortions, by increasing support services, including health care for the uninsured. This would encourage women, Kmiec said, to take their pregnancy to term and give their children up for adoption.

Vice Presidential candidates were not discussed at length, although Kmiec asked how Sarah Palin is qualified to have a national office. Kaufman said Obama's credentials were more limited than Palin's.

The evening closed with a standing rendition of "God Bless America" from the audience.