West Virginia U. Student Organizations Debate Election Issues In Open Forum

This story was written by Ryan Hoffman, The Daily Athenaeum

Students and faculty gathered in the Mountainlair Ballrooms on Thursday night for the third and final debate between the West Virginia University Young Democrats and College Republicans.It was a town hall-style debate where all questions came from members of the audience.The speakers for the College Republicans were Gwen Riley, Brandon Shapiro and president Chris Walters. The Young Democrats featured Erica Sladky, Joey Bailey and president Andrew Barnes.The first and last questions were about the health care crisis in America.The College Republicans focused on Sen. John McCains plan to cut health care costs, encourage free clinics and give a $5,000 refundable tax credit for families for health insurance.They also noted that Sen. Barack Obamas plan for universal health care is similar to the health care system in Europe and Canada where recipients often have to wait in lines to receive treatment.In Canada, people have to wait seven to nine months for an MRI, Walters said.The Young Democrats responded by saying that Obamas plan is not to socialize medicine but to expand health care to those who cannot afford it.Health care is a right, Bailey said. Obama will bring health care to all Americans. There are 50 million Americans without health care, and that is 50 million too many.Sladky added that the United States ranks 37th in health care throughout the world, a number that she believed should be higher.Both sides said their candidate planned to eliminate paper billing in order to reduce health care costs.Another key point during the debate was foreign policy.Bailey noted that the United States government is unpopular in much of the world, and Sen. McCain would do little to change that.Obama drew a crowd of 200,000 people in Germany. He puts faith in people. Bailey said. He represents a different path for the United States than the George Bush Doctrine.Barnes added that the Iraqi Prime Minister endorsed Sen. Obamas 16-month withdrawal plan for the war.Obama understands what victory is, Barnes said. We need to talk to Iran and be involved in securing Iraqs borders.Walters said that Obamas plan was the same as giving up and stressed that victory is necessary in Iraq.America wins, Walters said. We dont ask questions, we win. We need make sure they can take care of their own problems.He accused Obama of wanting to start a new war in Afghanistan without finishing in Iraq.We need to stay there until the job is done. When it is done, we will leave.Sladky responded for the Democrats and noted that the war in Iraq has been going on for seven years.The Democrats later said that nuclear weapons are the biggest problem that our generation faces.Barnes said that Obama worked with Republicans in the Senate to secure loose nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union.He added that the U.S. needs to leave Iraq, where weapons of mass destruction have not been found.We dont know why we are in Iraq. We need to meet with Iran to stop nuclear proliferation. There is no way to stop it if we dont meet with them.Walters said that the U.S. cannot talk to Iran without preconditions such as disarming nuclear programs.The debate touched on a number of other issues such as stem cell research, gay marriage rights, abortion and the economy.The debate restated many positions that we have heard from the candidates, said Jimmy Smith, a junior electrical engineering major at WVU.Audience members differed on who they thought won the debate.The Republicans won the debate, they seemed more prepared on the issues said Jim Ashley, a senior political science major.Sera Mathew, a public health graduate student thought the Democrats won the debate.They seemed to be more driven about what they were talking about and had good points, Mathew said.