The College Democrats, College Republicans, Program Board, and Student Association presented the “Only at GW Debate Series 2014” on Sunday night in Lisner Auditorium. The debaters included Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, representing College Republicans, and former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, David Plouffe, representing College Democrats. Columbian College Professor, Daniel Ericson, moderated the debate.
Topics included Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, America’s future with Iran, the Affordable Care Act, and the upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections. Plouffe provided the first answer of the night in regard to whether or not the U.S. Administration could have prevented the annexation of Crimea.
“This isn’t about something Barack Obama didn’t do, this is about something Vladmir Putin did do, like he did in 2008,” said Plouffe. “Obviously, the big question is what’s the next move here?”
While the audience mulled this question, Krauthammer took the opportunity to join in. “I think it is probably unlikely that anybody gathered the welter of Putin’s desire to absorb Crimea,” he said.
The debaters’ differing views on Obama’s foreign policy track-record came to light with Krauthammer’s response to Plouffe’s take on situations in Iran, Libya, and Syria.
“If I may respond: so much error, so little time,” said Krauthammer.
The liveliness continued with applause erupting from Republicans with Krauthammer’s take on discrepancies with Obamacare, and from Democrats with Plouffe’s take on the successes of Obamacare.
Despite the fervent dispute between the debaters, civility reigned.
Krauthammer praised Plouffe for his analysis of the 2016 presidential election. “And now you know why David’s in the hall of fame of political thought,” said Krauthammer. “That was a brilliant analysis.”
Plouffe directly addressed the audience of GW students at the conclusion of the debate. “We need you to stay involved because some of you will probably work for campaigns and run for yourselves,” he said. “We need better people in politics and we need better people to vote for.”
Krauthammer ended on a humorous note as Ericson gave him the last word.
“So this is the last word of all words,” joked Krauthammer. He concluded with an anecdote and joke about Winston Churchill’s 1945 loss to Clement Attlee.
The debate was positively received by both parties.
“I think Charles Krauthammer really showed what a true intellectual he is and really spoke to the conservative values that he discusses,” said College Republicans Chair Alexander Miller. “I think it was very fair on both sides and I think we talked about a lot of issues; overall it was a very engaging debate.”
While not agreeing about who actually won the debate, the GW Democrats certainly agreed about the overall success.
“They are both so smart, so informed, and really genuinely respectful towards one another, which made it a lively yet civil exchange,” said College Democrats President Omeed Firouzi. “I think Mr. Plouffe wisely defended the President’s approach to Iran as a smart policy, he was rightfully aggressive in defending Obamacare, and his analysis of the upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections was brilliant.”
The College Democrats, College Republicans, and the Program Board submitted questions for the first half of the debate. Questions for the second half of the debate were submitted via Twitter using the hashtag #OnlyAtGWdebate. This was the third OnlyAtGW debate series.
With another debate in the books, both groups look forward to bringing other exceptional speakers to campus. “We greatly enjoyed hosting this event because it’s an opportunity for us all to experience what is best about GW,” said Firouzi.
Emma Franklin contributed to this article.