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Tyrone students discuss heated final debate between presidential candidates

Although “Joe the Plumber” was nowhere to be found last evening at the Tyrone Area Middle School LGI Room, there were over 50 students and several adults who attended a Community Debate Watch hosted by the Tyrone Area High School Mock Election Club.
The final 90-minute round table debate moderated by Bob Scheiffer at Hofstra University between Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. and Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., might have been the best debate in terms of the two candidates addressing campaign accusations and personal attacks, along with addressing issues such as the country’s current economic crisis, taxes, and abortion.
Obama answered and cleared up accusations about his association with 1960s era terrorist William Ayers and the ACORN issue that is accused of violating federal law as it sought to register voters. McCain quickly shot down Obama’s accusation that his campaign ads have been 100 percent negative.
As for economics and taxes, McCain criticized Obama’s method of “spreading the wealth around” and taxing those who make $250,000 plus a year, while Obama reiterated that “we need to invest in the American people again.”
Regardless, there were plenty of young and attentive ears at Tyrone High last evening. None of the students who attended the debate watch are old enough to cast a vote in three weeks, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about the presidential election and the shape America is currently in.
Tyrone Area High School civics and government teacher Todd Cammarata said that he was impressed with the student turnout for the debate watch, stating that it wasn’t even a class requirement for any of the students.
“It goes to show you that kids do care about this stuff,” said Cammarata. “They took their own time to come here and watch the debate, which shows a maturity that a lot of people in the community don’t give kids credit for.”
Cammarata thinks it’s important to get students involved at a young age, where good as well as bad habits are formed. He said voting is a habit and he would be supportive of letting kids as young as 16 years of age to vote.
“If students could vote for three years in a civics class before getting out of high school, they’d continue to do it and pay attention,” stated Cammarata. “It’s hard to teach a class theoretically about something that’s going to happen to them in the future.”
He added, “I think the kids tonight showed they’re ready to be involved.”
After the debate was over, the students, several adults, and teachers Cummins McNitt and Cammarata set up in small groups to discuss what their thoughts were on the topics and issues addressed by Obama and McCain.
Tyrone eleventh grader, Jacob Baird, is a supporter of Obama and thought the debate could have went a lot worse, because of the candidates attacks on each other. He said that McCain needs to “lay off” on his attacks towards Obama, and that he thinks McCain should remain a senator and not be elected as president.
Baird’s reasoning was based on his assessment of the candidates’ tax cut policies, stating that Americans already pay “too many taxes” and don’t get much back from taxes.
“I think Obama makes a good point with his tax cuts,” said Baird. “I think McCain wants us to pay more taxes.”
Olivia Stever, 14, is a ninth grader at Tyrone, who would cast her vote for McCain if she was old enough. She said that she doesn’t like Obama’s views on taxes, because she believes “people work for what they have.”
“People who make $250,000 a year, I don’t think they should be punished for being successful,” noted Stever. “I don’t think McCain relies on the government as much.”
She added, “Obama says he wants to help the poor people, but those people who make money, it’s like he doesn’t care.”
Stever’s best friend, tenth grader Ashley Ford, agreed with her opinion on Obama’s tax cut policy. Also a McCain supporter, Ford thought it was a great learning experience for all the students to get together and watch the debate.
Fellow tenth grade student, Johnathan Higley, 15, was glad that that the candidates talked about the economic crisis in America today. He feels that what Obama brings to the table economically is far better than what McCain views as the correct steps to alleviate the problem.
“Obama’s been fighting for the economy for a long time in Illinois,” said Higley. “He’s turned down so many offers from Wall Street to work with them, but instead he stayed in Illinois to help his people in his own area – he can do that for our country.”
As for McCain’s claim that Obama associates with terrorists, Higley said Obama proved him wrong in the debate.
“I even did my own research, and it’s proven wrong that he did not have anything to do with Bill Ayers about the attack with the terrorists,” said Higley.
Higley would vote for Obama on November 4, not just because of his economic policies, but also because of his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who he feels has “huge foreign policy experience.”
“McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin wasn’t the strongest pick, she has no foreign policy experience,” said Higley. “She has economic experience since Alaska is an oil and natural gas producing state, but he should of picked Mitt Romney or someone else to have a chance.”