Saddleback Civil Forum Observations Offered
Obama offered long-winded answers. McCain offered succinct responses followed by anecdotes as time permitted.
When it came to describing a gut-wrenching decision in his life, Obama described the process via which he arrived at his vote against going to war in Iraq. Conversely, McCain described a decision made while incarcerated as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
On the subject of world view, Obama said something that fascinated me — something many might have missed. After describing himself as a Christian and outlining his beliefs, he said his “…sins, hopefully, will be washed away.” Most Bible-believing Christians, myself included, would say our “…sins are washed away.”
The topic of abortion produced answers that said a lot about the candidates. After Obama described his faith journey, he claimed he was pro-choice. And when asked a question about abortion (i.e., “At what point does a baby get human rights?”), he said, “Answering that question with specifics is above my pay-grade,” before going on to describe how he favors reducing the number of abortions. When asked whether he had ever voted to reduce abortions, his dance around the question equated to saying, “No.”
Conversely, McCain answered the baby human rights question in one word — “Conception!” — before going on to say he would be a staunch pro-life president.
Both candidates defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Obama opposed a Constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. McCain said he would only push for such an amendment if states rights on the matter were threatened (i.e., a federal court holds Massachusetts law up as a standard other states must follow).
Both candidates answered the stem cell debate question in opposition to my evangelical conservative viewpoint, but hid behind “This is a tough issue” and “This is a terrible dilemma” rhetoric.
When asked if evil exists and, if so, what should we do about it, Obama answered like a politician. McCain said, “Defeat it!” and then went on to pledge how he would find Osama bin Laden if it meant following him to the gates of hell. He also identified the elephants in the room — Radical Islamic extremists and Al-Qaeda — that Obama ignored.
Asked which Supreme Court justice he would not have nominated as president, Obama said he would not have nominated Justice Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court of the United States. He explained that he did not think Thomas was a strong enough legal thinker. He also added that he didn’t agree with Justices Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, though the latter was “compelling, smart and thoughtful.”
McCain answered the same question in a more-succinct manner, naming Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens as four he would not have nominated.
Questions about whether faith-based organizations should qualify for federal funding if they didn’t hire staff per guidelines of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Obama expressed worry about discrimination occurring. McCain highlighted the work of FBOs in post-Katrina New Orleans as being more productive than government agencies and said he believed they should received federal funding.
In general, both candidates seemed to express support for merit pay for teachers. Obama said he would set up a merit pay system and involve teachers in the process. McCain said we should find bad teachers another line of work and asked, “What kind of opportunity is it if we send (kids) to a failing school?”
Asked to define “rich,” Obama put a dollar amount — $150,000 — on it. McCain said it’s not for him to define what being rich is. It’s up to him to not raise taxes and offer tax breaks.
Questions about the United States’ role in the world generated similar Washington, D.C. answers. McCain was able to say we should safeguard freedom with a sense of purpose Obama did not offer, citing personal experience of having lived without freedom during a season of his life.
Nothing in the candidates’ answers to questions about ending genocide and religious persecution struck me as noteworthy, but McCain’s answer to Pastor Warren’s question about helping orphans around the world. Using few words, he described his wife Cindy’s trip to Bangladesh nearly two decades ago and how she returned with a baby girl, now 17, who they adopted as their own.
On the question of why each candidate wanted to be president, one (Obama) said, in essence, he wanted to stand up for the little guy and show that anything is possible in America. McCain said he wanted to inspire younger generations.
I, for one, was inspired by McCain. Not so much by Obama.