Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Saddleback Civil Forum

John McCain, Rick Warren, and Barack Obama
at the Saddleback Civil Forum (The Economist)
My first reaction to watching the Saddleback Civil Forum was, "Wow, these questions are amazing and the one-on-one setting makes it impossible for the candidates to squirm out of a question non-chalantly." My second was, "The questions are amazing." Rarely will the mainstream media figureheads (I'm looking at you, Stephanopoulos) put on such a fair and well-planned debate. I had my doubts due to the whole Evangelical thing, but Rick Warren was affable and kept the pace of the questions going very well. I would like to see more of these types of forums in the future.

All was not perfect, however (nothing in life is.)  I thought Obama did very well and while McCain was much friendlier and more at ease than he usually is, both candidates said things that were worrisome. Let's begin with Obama.

Obama handled one of the first questions very well: the question regarding what is your biggest moral failure. He was open and honest about his rebelliousness as a teen and young man (specifically mentioning drug use and drinking, etc.). I thought Obama's best answer came after being asked about abortion. Saying that he believes in a woman's right to choose, he expanded on the issue by saying that being pro-choice does not mean that one is pro-abortion. He said that he would like to see the number of abortions in this country decrease. I wish he had expanded and gone into how to decrease abortions (real sex education, not abstinence education, etc.), but he was in front of a mostly Evangelical crowd.

Some things Obama said worried me: To begin with, the fact that he said "Christ died for our sins." I understand that that is the fundamental concept of being a Christian, but just the phrase brings nightmarish memories back of church as a kid and the Sunday school teacher telling my brother that all of his Jewish friends were going to hell for not believing in Christ. If that is what Obama truly believes, I have no problem with that as long as he does not try to push it on people who do not believe it (which is the majority of the world). I trust Obama will not try to turn America into a "Christian nation" or say that God wants him to be president. To each his own.
Barack Obama and Rick Warren (Monsters and Critics)
Another problem with Obama's answers was his gay marriage stance. He is for civil unions, but not for gay marriages. This is confounding, as one is political and the other is religious or spiritual. Under the 1st Amendment (Freedom of Religion), people have the right to establish and practice whichever religion they want to. If that religion says that gays can marry, and Obama is for the political aspect of a civil union, then why should gay marriage be outlawed? Who is anyone to judge a religion's view on who can or cannot be wed before a supreme being? In Christianity I thought God was the final judge on everything, not a politician. If a church wants to perform a gay marriage (and it is their right not to) and civil unions are legal, then why do we not call it gay marriage? It's splitting hairs.

On to McCain. One thing McCain did very well was be more approachable to the average viewer. He was not as stiff and cold as he has been in the past. I also give him kudos for answering the moral failure question in an honest manner (I did not think he was going to mention the failure of his first marriage.)  I would have liked a little more honesty (the fact that he cheated on his first wife, then married his mistress, Cindy McCain), but it's baby steps.

On the flip-flop question McCain was horrible. "Drill now" is a pathetic mantra to have. No matter how many times people are confronted with the facts, McCain still uses this tired campaign schtick. Experts have said that it will take MORE THAN A DECADE to get the oil out of the ground and there may not even be enough of it to significantly change oil prices. That means if McCain is elected twice in a row WE WILL NOT SEE ANY OIL FROM OFFSHORE DRILLING DURING HIS PRESIDENCY.
John McCain and Rick Warren (New York Times)
McCain also said that Ronald Reagan was a great president and that he won the Cold War without firing a shot. This could not be further from the truth. Anyone with an iota of knowledge about the Soviet-Afghan War or the Nicaraguan Contras (to name two campaigns that Reagan was elbow-deep in) knows that this statement (which McCain uttered twice) is offensively incorrect. We helped build Bin Laden's Tora Bora cave system, we sold the Taliban and the Mujahideen Stinger missiles and other weapons (which would later be used against our own soldiers after 9/11). It is scary to think that McCain would even think about saying this on national television and expect people to believe it.

McCain also showed his short-sightedness when it comes to what problems our country faces. He stated that radical Islamic extremism is the "transcendental issue of the 21st century." To begin with, anyone who has read a history book knows that we'll get a new enemy in 10-20 years. In the 1930s and the 1940s it was the fascists, in the 1950s-1980s it was the Communists. In the 1990s it was anti-government nuts in rural America. Now it is the radical Islamic extremists. Who knows who it will be next. Additionally, Islamic extremists are not the only problem for this country. I would say the energy crisis, the broken prison and justice systems, a tattered immigration policy, 8 years of flouting the Constitution, the meth epidemic, etc. are all issues that should be as high if not higher than radical Islamic extremism (don't forget that the largest terrorist attack in America before 9/11 was perpetrated by two American-bred white guys). But "Let's fix the prison system" is not exactly as strong a rallying cry as "I'll follow Osama to the gates of hell if I have to." Good luck with that one.
Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA (New York Times)
I have other issues with both candidates, but simply do not have the time to go over all of them. Maybe later. All in all, I thought that the Saddleback Civil Forum went very well and I would love to see more debates set up in that style. It was good to see the candidates answer tough questions that they rarely like to talk about (moral failure, abortion, etc.). Some of the answers were very good, others were very scary, but it certainly helped inform me as to where the candidates stand exactly on issues, and I hope it helped other people as well.


  1. A316D