BROKAW: Good evening from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm Tom Brokaw of NBC News. And welcome to this second presidential debate, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Tonight's debate is the only one with a town hall format. The Gallup Organization chose 80 uncommitted voters from the Nashville area to be here with us tonight. And earlier today, each of them gave me a copy of their question for the candidates.
From all of these questions -- and from tens of thousands submitted online -- I have selected a long list of excellent questions on domestic and foreign policy.
Neither the commission nor the candidates have seen the questions. And although we won't be able to get to all of them tonight, we should have a wide-ranging discussion one month before the election.
Each candidate will have two minutes to respond to a common question, and there will be a one-minute follow-up. The audience here in the hall has agreed to be polite, and attentive, no cheering or outbursts. Those of you at home, of course, are not so constrained.
The only exception in the hall is right now, as it is my privilege to introduce the candidates, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator John McCain of Arizona.
Gentlemen, we want to get underway immediately, if we can. Since you last met at Ole Miss 12 days ago, the world has changed a great deal, and not for the better. We still don't know where the bottom is at this time.
As you might expect, many of the questions that we have from here in the hall tonight and from online have to do with the American economy and, in fact, with global economic conditions.
I understand that you flipped a coin.
And, Senator Obama, you will begin tonight. And we're going to have our first question from over here in Section A from Alan Schaefer (ph).
QUESTION: With the economy on the downturn and retired and older citizens and workers losing their incomes, what's the fastest, most positive solution to bail these people out of the economic ruin?
OBAMA: Well, Alan (ph), thank you very much for the question. I want to first, obviously, thank Belmont University, Tom, thank you, and to all of you who are participating tonight and those of you who sent e-mail questions in.
I think everybody knows now we are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And a lot of you I think are worried about your jobs, your pensions, your retirement accounts, your ability to send your child or your grandchild to college.
And I believe this is a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years, strongly promoted by President Bush and supported by Senator McCain, that essentially said that we should strip away regulations, consumer protections, let the market run wild, and prosperity would rain down on all of us. #p#副標題#e#
It hasn't worked out that way. And so now we've got to take some decisive action.
OBAMA: Now, step one was a rescue package that was passed last week. We've got to make sure that works properly. And that means strong oversight, making sure that investors, taxpayers are getting their money back and treated as investors.
It means that we are cracking down on CEOs and making sure that they're not getting bonuses or golden parachutes as a consequence of this package. And, in fact, we just found out that AIG (NYSE:AIG) , a company that got a bailout, just a week after they got help went on a $400,000 junket.
And I'll tell you what, the Treasury should demand that money back and those executives should be fired. But that's only step one. The middle-class need a rescue package. And that means tax cuts for the middle-class.
It means help for homeowners so that they can stay in their homes. It means that we are helping state and local governments set up road projects and bridge projects that keep people in their jobs.
And then long-term we've got to fix our health care system, we've got to fix our energy system that is putting such an enormous burden on families. You need somebody working for you and you've got to have somebody in Washington who is thinking about the middle class and not just those who can afford to hire lobbyists.
BROKAW: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: Well, thank you, Tom. Thank you, Belmont University. And Senator Obama, it's good to be with you at a town hall meeting.
And, Alan (ph), thank you for your question. You go to the heart of America's worries tonight. Americans are angry, they're upset, and they're a little fearful. It's our job to fix the problem.
Now, I have a plan to fix this problem and it has got to do with energy independence. We've got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't want us very -- like us very much. We have to keep Americans' taxes low. All Americans' taxes low. Let's not raise taxes on anybody today.
We obviously have to stop this spending spree that's going on in Washington. Do you know that we've laid a $10 trillion debt on these young Americans who are here with us tonight, $500 billion of it we owe to China? We've got to have a package of reforms and it has got to lead to reform prosperity and peace in the world. And I think that this problem has become so severe, as you know, that we're going to have to do something about home values.
You know that home values of retirees continues to decline and people are no longer able to afford their mortgage payments. As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes -- at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those -- be able to make those payments and stay in their homes.
Is it expensive? Yes. But we all know, my friends, until we stabilize home values in America, we're never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy. And we've got to give some trust and confidence back to America.
I know how the do that, my friends. And it's my proposal, it's not Senator Obama's proposal, it's not President Bush's proposal. But I know how to get America working again, restore our economy and take care of working Americans. Thank you.
BROKAW: Senator, we have one minute for a discussion here. Obviously the powers of the treasury secretary have been greatly expanded. The most powerful officer in the cabinet now. Hank Paulson says he won't stay on. Who do you have in mind to appoint to that very important post?
MCCAIN: Not you, Tom.
BROKAW: No, with good reason.
MCCAIN: You know, that's a tough question and there's a lot of qualified Americans. But I think the first criteria, Tom, would have to be somebody who immediately Americans identify with, immediately say, we can trust that individual.
A supporter of Senator Obama's is Warren Buffett. He has already weighed in and helped stabilize some of the difficulties in the markets and with companies and corporations, institutions today.
I like Meg Whitman, she knows what it's like to be out there in the marketplace. She knows how to create jobs. Meg Whitman was CEO of a company that started with 12 people and is now 1.3 million people in America make their living off eBay. (NASDAQ:EBAY) Maybe somebody here has done a little business with them.
But the point is it's going to have to be somebody who inspires trust and confidence. Because the problem in America today to a large extent, Tom, is that we don't have trust and confidence in our institutions because of the corruption on Wall Street and the greed and excess and the cronyism in Washington, D.C.
BROKAW: All right. Senator McCain -- Senator Obama, who do you have in mind for treasury secretary?
OBAMA: Well, Warren would be a pretty good choice -- Warren Buffett, and I'm pleased to have his support. But there are other folks out there. The key is making sure that the next treasury secretary understands that it's not enough just to help those at the top.
Prosperity is not just going to trickle down. We've got to help the middle class.
OBAMA: And we've -- you know, Senator McCain and I have some fundamental disagreements on the economy, starting with Senator McCain's statement earlier that he thought the fundamentals of the economy were sound.
Part of the problem here is that for many of you, wages and incomes have flat-lined. For many of you, it is getting harder and harder to save, harder and harder to retire.
And that's why, for example, on tax policy, what I want to do is provide a middle class tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans, those who are working two jobs, people who are not spending enough time with their kids, because they are struggling to make ends meet.
Senator McCain is right that we've got to stabilize housing prices. But underlying that is loss of jobs and loss of income. That's something that the next treasury secretary is going to have to work on.
BROKAW: Senator Obama, thank you very much.
May I remind both of you, if I can, that we're operating under rules that you signed off on and when we have a discussion, it really is to be confined within about a minute or so.
We're going to go now, Senator McCain, to the next question from you from the hall here, and it comes from Oliver Clark (ph), who is over here in section F.Oliver?