RICHMOND, Va. — The New York Times recruited 20 editors college publications from around the country to share their thoughts in real time for the final presidential debate. I provided observations and analysis for the debate, in addition to the vice presidential debate and the first debate. Read the full stream of entries from other student editors and me here.
12:30 a.m. — The two issues students were most pleased to hear about were education and abortion — issues that until now students said hadn’t received much attention. The possible crisis in higher education isn’t limited to one class. For those still in school, will the economic policies of either candidate allow the credit markets to unfreeze so students can obtain private loans? For those graduating: Will the job market be robust?
On secondary education: Another student, who tutors inner-city students, said he thought McCain’s idea of introducing competition in the public school system was fundamentally a better approach than Obama’s vague calls for “reform.” More students from our school in recent years have joined the ranks of Teach for America, so it’s an issue that will affect them. I was approached myself by the program.
On abortion, many were happy to see the candidates embrace a controversial issue like that and talk about it. One other student argued abortion’s not an issue the president should consider anyway because the Supreme Court’s decision is not likely to be overturned under either candidate.
10:27 p.m. — The entire specter of an abortion has fundamentally changed on campuses since emergency contraception (Plan B has become widely available in this country over the counter.) It’s more-or-less anonymous and not terribly expensive. Officials at our health center have reported seeing fewer people for emergency contraception, likely because it’s so readily available. Still, the abortion debate shows no signs of subsiding, at least among students here. There’s a strong debate about women’s rights going on in our opinion section right now. I think it’s an issue that many people at college are still struggling to reconcile: pro-life or pro-choice?
10:09 p.m. — Candidates are pledging a strong commitment to reducing foreign oil imports. But it’s realistic to assume that this economic crisis is going to seriously derail or at least delay those plans, including Obama’s 10-year commitment to ween us off foreign imports. Again, it’s an issue that’s urgently important to college students. Some energy experts argue we’ve already reached peak oil, so it’s admirable to see both candidates at least acknowledge energy independence is a priority. But whether they’ll follow through — unlike so many presidents before them — remains to be seen.
Obama is making an effort to equate the energy revolution with an economic revolution, which should appeal to many college students who are fearful they’ll be unemployed when they graduate college.
9:28 p.m. — I’m glad Bob Schieffer asked the question about the federal budget deficit. Students here trust Obama more — but not by much — to handle it. When Sarah Palin came to Richmond Monday, she declared McCain would balance the federal budget by the end of his term. “We cannot afford another big spender in the White House,” she said.
Both candidates are trying to divorce themselves from the polices of President George W. Bush. The deficit is a serious issue college students have to care about, because if this generation doesn’t take care of it, it’s our generation that’s going to have to. There’s a good number of students who don’t think either candidate can balance the budget. It’s going to require raising taxes, cutting spending, or both — and those aren’t popular to talk about when you’re trying to get elected as president.
8:35 p.m. — Absent from the presidential debate so far has been detailed discussion about the Second Amendment. When 33 people were killed at Virginia Tech in April 2007, and more were killed at Northern Illinois University, college campuses began seriously contemplating how best to prevent another massacre. Should we arm students? Arm professors? Bolster security? Candidates also need to talk about whether to renew the assault weapons ban and whether to close the gun show loophole.