For the Roosevelt Institution last night, it was all about the issues.
Partisan experts from both sides of the political aisle lined up to support their preferred presidential candidates Tuesday night in a debate on foreign policy and economics sponsored by the Roosevelt Institution, a national network of campus-based think tanks founded after the 2004 presidential election. Over 200 students and faculty gathered in the Law School Auditorium to hear from Yale professors William Nordhaus ’63 and Jolyon Howorth, along with Trinity College professor Ward Curran and Jay Nordlinger, senior editor of the conservative magazine National Review.
Meg Evans ’10 and Sam Brill ’10, co-presidents of Yale’s Roosevelt chapter, emphasized during the debate’s introduction that panelists would focus on the policies — and not the personalities — of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.
“I think we’ve heard a lot about how much the candidates’ clothes cost, or how many houses they have,” Brill said. “This is about sticking to the issues.”
Moderator James Warren, former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, opened the event by giving the floor to Nordlinger for an opening statement. Nordlinger argued on behalf of McCain’s foreign policy. Nordlinger asserted that the nation needs a leader who can walk the line between peacemaker and bully.
“I think Americans need to decide what kind of nation we want to be,” he said.
Nordlinger’s foil across the aisle was Howorth, a visiting professor of political science and international affairs who holds multiple appointments at European universities. Howorth said that Obama’s judgments in regard to foreign policy issues have been “cool” and “correct,” and he praised Obama’s willingness to enter into diplomatic talks with Iran.
“We need a return to multilateralism,” Howorth said, adding that he felt McCain’s “Bomb-Bomb-Bomb Iran” illustrates that the Republican candidate would not reach out to the country.
“There are several things in the Obama campaign I disagree with, and there are some things in the McCain campaign that I agree with,” Howorth added. “But I’m not telling you which.”
Ward Curran, a professor of economics at Trinity College and a former visiting professor at Yale, spoke on McCain’s economic policy and criticized Obama for planning to raise taxes on corporations. Curran also took shots at Obama’s health care plan, criticizing his plan to implement a single-payer system.
Nordhaus defended the Democratic candidate’s economic platform, stressing the importance of taxes in order to save government programs. Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics and a former member of President Jimmy Carter’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the next president would inherit weighty fiscal problems.
“The Bush legacy is sad,” he said. “[He] refused to obey the rules of budgetary arithmetic. When a parent asks you ‘Do you want chocolate or vanilla?’ the answer is not both.”
Students generally said they appreciated the panel, but some said panelists did more analyzing than sparring.
“It wasn’t really a debate,” said David Mogilner ’12. “But I thought it was really well done, I felt informed about their policies.”