Republican presidential candidate John McCain says he will "seek and destroy any hurricane that poses a threat to America." Democratic nominee Barack Obama was also questioned about his stance on hurricane issues during the recent "Weather Values Forum" hosted by Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion. In light of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina three years ago, the recent threat posed by Gustav, and the rapidly approaching Ike, the candidates' positions on hurricanes could be a deciding factor for many voters along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard.
For the most part, Sen. McCain kept his answers blunt and to the point, expressing a zero-tolerance attitude towards hurricanes. The first question proposed by Champion was, "Do hurricanes exist? And if so, do we ignore them, do we negotiate with them, do we contain them, or do we defeat them?" Without missing a beat, McCain sternly replied, "We defeat them" and was met with thunderous applause from the audience. "And let me tell you something, friends. If I am president, I will personally travel to the west coast of Africa and kill any hurricane before it even reaches tropical storm status. I know how to get it done."
Obama also conceded that hurricanes do in fact exist, but seemed to suggest that defeating them is not possible. "I think what we need to focus on is better protecting those areas vulnerable to hurricane damage, as well as ensuring that government will respond in a timely manner with aid and relief. We of course cannot control the actions of hurricanes, or in any way apprehend or kill them. Senator McCain and his Republican allies should recall that a hurricane is basically wind and rain."
McCain scoffed at Obama's "soft" attitude, emphasizing that hurricanes "are cowards that hate our freedom and our way of life. They will stop at nothing to kill us. Whether a category 1 or a category 5, I will not allow it." He later clarified that he would defeat hurricanes of categories 2, 3, and 4 as well.
Host Sam Champion also asked the two nominees about their more general views on foreign storms entering America. Obama drew some jeers from the crowd when he again asserted that storms and weather patterns are unpredictable and uncontrollable, even citing the work of prominent meteorologists. He further emphasized the importance of protection and relief efforts. McCain, for his part, said that as senator he has stood firm on this issue, repeatedly proposing legislation to ban all foreign storms from crossing US borders, with stiff penalties for illegal storms. He plainly stated that his administration "would not tolerate cyclones, thundershowers, or low pressure systems of any kind that encroach on American borders. Every raindrop and every gust of wind will be brought to justice. I don't care if it's a slight breeze or a strong gale."
In interviews following the forum, most audience members said that they were more impressed with McCain's answers than Obama's. "Mr. McCain just tells it like it is," said Alan Walsh, a lifelong Republican. "He is strong and direct. Obama sits in his ivory tower, or ebony tower I guess, and thinks too much. There is no time to think about the issue. We must act now and defeat hurricanism [sic]."
"Senator McCain showed that he knows what to do and how to get it done," said Peter Werthstein, who lives in Miami. "What experience does Obama even have with hurricanes? I don't recall too many making landfall in Illinois. If Obama is elected, I will be moving as far inland as possible."
With months left in the campaign, this surely will not be the last time that the two candidates clash over the issue of hurricanes.