Alright…it’s time for some politics! I’ve been working on this post for several days now, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I believe the forum at Saddleback has given us a clearer picture of our two candidates, and I think Mr. Warren did a fine job with the interviews. Although I missed the event live, I’ve been reading transcripts and watching videos all weekend. There’s a good digestable video format over at Kingdom People, so thanks for that.
I’m going to give my comments on each question and who’s answer I liked better. I’ll love to hear your comments, also.
Note: I’m also relying on factcheck.org and their excellent writeup of Saddleback Bloopers (and some downright lies).
Question 1: Who are the three wisest people in your life, or three you would listen to in your administration?
Obama mentioned his wife and his grandmother – then listed several politicians and stressed that he likes hearing different viewpoints.
McCain mentioned Gen. Petraeus, Democratic civil-rights activist John Lewis, and eBay CEO / economic advisor Meg Whitman.
My take: Both were pandering a bit, so I’m not particularly impressed with either. McCain started immediately with war stories…I guess he naturally thinks about that first. The wisest people that I know are low-key, behind-the-scenes people who wouldn’t be recognized, and I kind of wish one of these candidates would have said something like “well, I could name them, but you wouldn’t recognize them. It’s just a friend that I call on in tough times and he/she always has a the right thing to say…”
Question 2: What is the greatest moral failure in your life / and greatest failure of America?
Obama mentioned his teenage years and drinking / drugs. Then said America’s greatest failure was not taking care of the poor and misfortunate, quoting Matthew 25.
McCain mentioned the failure of his first marriage, and then America for not serving a cause greater than ourselves.
My take: I liked McCain’s personal answer – he really showed courage, didn’t make any excuses and that’s a subject he hasn’t brought up before. I wasn’t impressed with Obama’s personal answer, mainly because he prefaced it with an excuse about his missing father. I didn’t like either one’s national answer really…
Incidentally, in Obama’s answer he stated at one point “it’s not about me”, and the audience and Warren really enjoyed that. Obama didn’t flinch…I guess he hasn’t finished the book.
Question 3: Give an example of how you have worked across party lines or gone against the party.
Obama mentioned campaign finance reform and his position on the Iraq war.
McCain mentioned his vote against sendiing troops to Beruit in the 80′s, going against his party and a president he loved.
My take: Obama had me until factcheck.org discovered that Obama actually didn’t work with McCain on the legislation. Whooops…
Question 4: Name the most significant position that you’ve changed on in the past 10 years.
Obama mentioned Clinton’s welfare reform…he was initially skeptical, but it ended up working better than he expected.
McCain quickly said “off-shore drilling” to loud applause, and he expanded on the national security aspect of imported oil.
My take: I liked Obama’s answer better…didn’t seem to be on the talking points like McCain’s did. I’m not sure if he connected to anybody with it, but it seemed sincere.
Question 5: Most gut-wrenching decision you’ve had to make.
Obama mentioned his opposition to the Iraq war.
McCain told a POW story about turning down an offer to escape early.
My take: Back in 2002, Obama wasn’t even a Senator so it’s hard to believe that his most gut-wrenching decision ever was his stance on the war while a state Senator. McCain’s played a trump card, so it didn’t matter what Obama said. The story is compelling, though, and you can’t help but respect a man who makes decisions like that.
Question 6: What does it mean to you to be a Christian?
Obama said it means that Jesus died for his sins, and he is redeemed. It also means a sense of obligation not just to words, but deeds. He quoted Micah.
McCain said it means saved and forgiven, and then goes into another POW story about a Vietnamese guard who was secretly a Christian.
My take: Can’t really favor either one here…both were interested. Unsurprisingly, Obama spoke thoughtfully and McCain told personal stories. Both are fine.
Question 7: Abortion: What point is a baby entitled to human rights?
Obama claimed that question was above his pay grade. He said he was pro-choice, but no pro-abortion, and he is pro-choice because he thinks women think long and hard about this issue. When asked if he has ever voted to limit abortions, he dodged but stated his agreement with limiting late-term abortions if there are exceptions for the mother’s health. He also criticized the current President for opposing abortion but letting abortions increase under his watch.
McCain said at the moment of conception, and strongly committed to a pro-life administration.
My take: Obama’s answer will probably haunt him in the coming three months. If you are president, nothing is above your pay grade. Also, his explanation about how women wrestle with the issue made no sense and showed no conviction. Is he saying that if he were on a jury for an assault trial, and the defendent explained that he did assault the victim, but it wasn’t a decision he came to lightly, that he should get off?? Oh well, Obama thinks that’s acceptable, as long as it wasn’t an easy decision. Please.
Second, if there has ever been a politician who is pro-abortion, it is Obama. Case closed. He went as far as voting against the Born Infant Alive Protection Bill, which sought to protect infants who survived an abortion attempt and were alive apart from the mother.
Third, abortions actually have decreased during Bush’s term. In fact, abortions have decreased every year since 1989.
Finally, if you don’t have an idea of when life begins, doesn’t it make sense to err on the side of life instead of on the side of death? You know…just in case.
Question 8: Define marriage.
Obama said he believes it is a sacred union between a man and a woman. He would not support a constitutional ammendment, because historical we haven’t defined marriage in the constition. He does not support same sex marriage, but believes in civil unions and equal rights.
McCain said a union between one man, one woman. He believes the states should make the decisions, until a federal court gets in the mix. At that point he would support a constitutional ammendment.
My take: Again, I’m not sure about Obama’s answer here for a couple of reasons. First, the fact that the constitution hasn’t historically defined marriage is a cop-out. Of course not – there was not a homosexual movement when the constitution was written. Furthermore, Obama said he does not support same sex marriage, but he is opposed to California’s Proposition 8. Maybe he could clarify that answer a little more in the future…
Question 9: Would you defend embryonic stem-cell research?
Obama supports stem-cell research, and defended the practice as well-intentioned since embryos are being discarded anyway.
McCain said he supports stem cell research, but hopes it will be a moot point in the near future.
My take: It’s difficult to understand McCain’s position here, given his belief on #7.
Question 10: Does evil exists, and what should we do about it?
Obama said yes, and confront it. He gave examples of domestic violence, Darfur, etc. He said we cannot expel evil from the world, that’s God’s business, and a lot of evil has been done in the name of purging evil.
McCain said “defeat it!”. He promised to get UBL and talked about radical islamic extremism. He told another war story about suicide bombers in Baghdad. He stressed the central battle ground of evil is in Iraq.
My take: I liked Obama’s answer…it was thoughtful and I believe right on the money. In large part we are probably only making things worse running around the world playing whack-a-mole with suspected terrorists.
Question 11: Which existing Supreme Court justices would you have not nominated?
Obama said Clarence Thomas, and explained that he did not feel Thomas was of the legal stature to warrant an appointment.
McCain listed all 4 of the liberal justices, stating that justices should be appointed that strictly interpret the constitution.
My take: While I’m most concerned about Obama nominating justices like himself to the SC, his answer was the better answer to this question. McCain is not a lawyer, never been a law professor and may not understand much beyond his stump speech talking points on the S.C. Even though I disagree with Obama on justices, he gave a well-thought out answer that does have some merit. It’s hard to argue the Clarence Thomas was qualified to be a justice, and court observers are quick to note that he is very different from his colleques. i’m sure he is a fine man, but I wish elder Bush would have picked a stronger legal scholar like his son did when choosing John G. Roberts.
Question 12: Faith based organizations. Would you support FBOs should forfeit discriminated hiring for access to federal funds.
Obama said yes, but it’s a small percentage. He believes there should be an equal playing field. He said the devil is in the details…
McCain said absolute not, and told a story about how FBOs operated magnificantly in New Orleans after Katrina.
My take: Obama is right about one thing: the devil is always in the details.
Question 13: Education – Do you support merit pay for good teachers?
Obama said yes, excellence should be rewarded.
McCain said yes, choice and competition works. Charter schools, home schools and vouchers work. Oh, and find bad teachers another line of work.
My take: As the spouse of a good teacher, I agree with Obama. Actually, McCain backed his answer up with good examples from N.O., D.C., N.Y.C., etc. I don’t have kids, so I really haven’t looked into this issue as much as I should have.
Question 14: Define Rich.
Obama said households making $150,000 a year or less, that’s middle class and you’ll see a tax cut. More than $250,000 households will see an increase.
McCain thinks rich should be defined as a home, good job, education and handing a better world to children. Then he went off on gov. healthcare. He threw out $5 million, maybe as a joke but I couldn’t tell. He mentioned how spending is out of control. He went on about general tax policy stump…
My take: Obama’s answer was more cut and dry, and you have to love that from Obama when you can get it. Also, McCain exageratted his tax cut numbers according to factcheck.org, so no soup for you!
Question 15: What’s worth dying for?
Not sure what Obama said here…
McCain said “freedom – national security as a nation”. Be a beacon… (isn’t that from the movie Sneakers?)
My take: No good answer here…bad question, actually.
Question 16: Commit to international orphan assistance?
Obama liked the idea…said he would explore it. He also mentions exploring ways to reduce the number of orphans to begin with.
McCain said we need to make adoption easier in this country. He tells his story about adopting a girl from Bangladesh.
My take: McCain is the one who has first-hand experience with adoption, and therefore would be more likely to value and support programs regarding orphans and adoptions, in my mind. Anytime you have a personal connection to something, it’s easier to be a champion of that something (for instance, me and Blue Bell ice cream).
Question 17: What should we do about religious persecution?
Obama said we must speak out and over time views will gradually change. Must lead by example.
Mccain mentioned the bully pulpit, and said we must speak out as well.
My take: Tie goes to the runner.
Question 18: One minute – why do you want to be president?
Obama said he believes in the original American dream – anyone can be whatever the want to be. Washington is broken, and Obama said he can build bridges and fix problems.
McCain said he wants to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than self-interest. He mentioned his bi-partisan history.
My take: They both want the power – who wouldn’t? No one get’s to run for president who isn’t completely selfish and prideful. Those people get eliminated way early in the political process.