John McCain accused Barack Obama of compiling “the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate” Friday night in their first debate of a close campaign for the White House. The Democrat shot back, “Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrong-headed policies.”


John McCain accused Barack Obama of compiling “the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate” Friday night in their first debate of a close campaign for the White House. The Democrat shot back, “Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrong-headed policies.”

Obama said his Republican rival has been a loyal supporter of the unpopular president across the past eight years, adding that the current economic crisis is “a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by President Bush and supported by Sen. McCain.”

“And we can’t afford another four,” he added moments later.

The two men stood behind identical wooden lecterns on the stage of a performing arts center at the University of Mississippi for the first of three scheduled debates with less than six weeks remaining until Election Day. The two vice presidential candidates will meet next week for their only debate.

The 47-year-old Obama is seeking to become the nation’s first black president. McCain, 72, is hoping to become the oldest first-term chief executive in history — and he made a few jokes at his own expense.

“I’ve been around a while,” he said at one point. “Were you afraid I couldn’t hear you?” he said at another after Obama repeated a comment.

Moderator Jim Lehrer’s opening question concerned the economic crisis gripping Wall Street. While neither man committed to supporting bailout legislation taking shape in Congress, they readily agreed lawmakers must take action to prevent millions of Americans from losing their jobs and their homes.

Both also said they were pleased lawmakers in both parties were negotiating on a compromise.

But they clashed over spending, taxes, energy and war in the first half of the 90-minute encounter.