Red and blue clashed Tuesday night as students from various political organizations let sparks fly over a number of current issues. With the results of the “Potomac Primary” of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia looming over the night, the UR Debate Union, along with Delta Upsilon Fraternity, played host to members of the College Republicans as they went head on against the College Democrats and Students for Obama.
This marked the second public debate sponsored by the Debate Union. It followed the success of the previous public debate last September with the British World Champion debaters. While the topic in September concerned the possibility of an invasion of Iran, this debate took a broader political angle to include the topics of foreign policy, immigration, energy and the environment, subjects that have pervaded the 2008 presidential contest.
The clash, moderated by Assistant Director of the Debate Union Gordie Miller, got under way with a discussion on foreign policy and Iraq.
“As of now, we are in a situation where there is a political conflict, and it needs a political solution,” Chapter Coordinator for Students for Barack Obama and sophomore John Pellito stated.
Pellito went through Senator Obama’s platform on Iraq policy until his time ended, at which point his opposition took the floor.
“The goal of Jihadists is to establish a pan-Islamic caliphate? and although this goal is unattainable, [they] have shown they are willing to go to any length to attain that end,” College Republican member and freshman Mike Duraciewicz argued.
Duraciewicz went on to assail the concept of redeployment, Harry Reid and Michael Moore, noting that Obama’s plan for withdrawal would be “a hemorrhage” and taking on Senator Hillary Clinton, finishing with a call to keep the military in Iraq.
“These people will not prevail over us if we stay the course,” Duraciewicz said.
Students for Barack Obama member and sophomore Marc Epstein countered that the Bush Administration had precipitated an unnecessary invasion of Iraq and mishandled the war. He re-asserted Obama’s plan and finished with a shot at former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.
Duraciewicz returned the attack, stating, “The Iraq War is physically impossible to lose.”
If tensions were high over Iraq, they only increased when the conversation turned to immigration.
College Republican member and junior Doug Bennett stated that amnesty was not the solution.
“By the same logic, we can get rid of all the criminals by dismantling the criminal justice system? We take unskilled, uneducated illegal immigrants and turn them into unskilled, uneducated legal immigrants,” Bennett said.
Pellito went on the defensive, noting that several plans existed within the Democratic Party, adding that “amnesty is not the official platform of the Democratic Party.”
After another round of rebuttals by both sides, the debate turned to energy and the environment, with Epstein emphasizing Obama’s plan for a cap-and-trade system and a $150 billion investment in energy over the next decade.
Junior Nathan Danek, arguing for the College Republicans, called for furthering independence from foreign oil in the short term and investing in alternative fuels in the long term, giving particular attention to hydrogen-based fuel options.
After the last round of rebuttals, Miller opened up the floor to questions. The audience grilled the debaters on all aspects of the evening, bringing up everything from the endangered sage grass and caribou population of the American northwest to the policy differences between Clinton and Obama to whether the Kyoto Protocol should be ratified by Congress.
The debate ended with applause for the participants, and the audience seemed to be impressed with how the debate went.
“The College Republicans were a lot better prepared… I might not agree with the Republicans, but I appreciated that they were prepared. I really liked the questions and comments from various people after. It’s nice to see the general public is more interested in politics than in previous years,” senior Julian Crawford said.
The Debate Union wishes to increase that interest further and plans to hold more public debates in the future, though not necessarily of a political nature.
“It’s a beginning,” Miller said. “We’d like to involve more of the campus community in discussion.”
Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.