Did McCain Best Obama At The Faith Forum?


So how did presumptive party nominees Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain fare at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church faith forum? The answer is in the eye — and active political agenda — of the beholder but there seems to be an emerging consensus in the media and in the blogosphere:

Once again, McCain has proven to be far stronger than some predicted he would be, exceeding expectations. And Obama has proven to be a tad less dynamic and overpowering than earlier hype suggested, not meeting some expectations.

The issue at hand is who can leverage the Evangelical vote for victory in November. But the larger, broader issue is becoming which of the two have the political skills to communicate and persuade in the 21st century — and do it on the 21st century’s political terms, and benefit from it.

The emerging unmentionable seems to be whether Obama is a latter-day John F. Kennedy, reflecting Kennedy’s charisma and hope-creating dynamism, or a mix of JFK with a large chunk of the cerebral Adlai Stevenson — a smart guy who never connected as well with the public and didn’t make it to the White House. Obama has proven dynamic in live events and speeches, but less-effective in debate or TV performances. Or, is he more like William Jennings Bryan, the great early orator and Democratic Party nominee in 1896, 1900 and 1908 and who, despite his skills before huge crowds, never won a national election?

Obama’s performance has not been judged bad (except by some GOP partisan writers who likely would have proclaimed it bad no matter how well he did because that’s how the spin game is played). But it was NOT a buzz-creating home run or or game-changer. And McCain — once again — came across as highly-likable, sincere and decisive. Will the word “nuance” — once considered a plus — again become a dirty word in campaign 2008?

NBC Political Director Chuck Todd
, one of the most perceptive observers on the political scene, writes:

Quick first impressions: Obama spent more time trying to impress Warren (or to put another away) not offend Warren while McCain seemingly ignored Warren and decided he was talking to folks watching on TV. The McCain way of handling this forum is usually the winning way. Obama may have had more authentic moments but McCain was impressively on message.

This was a mistake Obama made a few times during the primary season. On one hand, it can make a moderator feel good when their subject actually tries to answer every question and take into account their opinions on a particular topic. And Obama’s supporters will email me tonight and say this is what they love about him.

And yet, this reminded me of the many comparisons we made between Obama and Hillary Clinton. She was much more effective at answering questions in 90 seconds and always staying on message while Obama too easily allowed himself to get knocked off his talking points. Remember, Obama doesn’t need to win over his supporters, he needs folks who are just now tuning in.

Todd said Obama may have made Warren like him a lot more but that if a focus group were surveyed he bets McCain would come out ahead.

Obama better be thankful for the timing of this; he seemed a little rusty and clearly has some work to do before he meets McCain face-to-face on Sept. 26, the night of the first presidential debate in Oxford, MS.

On the other hand, some think Obama could have gained given his long term goals. The New Republic:

The audience, after all, was primarily evangelical Christians–a group among whom McCain leads by better than 2 to 1, according to recent polls. That means that if McCain did any worse than twice as well as Obama, it counts as a win for Obama. And, from where I sit, McCain didn’t come close to doing twice as well. My sense is that Obama struck a lot of previously skeptical evangelicals as a reasonable and God-fearing man (a real achievement given that so many of the questions touched on issues that favor Republicans among these voters–abortion, judges, stem cell research, etc.). That’s a big improvement in light of where Obama started.

Advantage Obama.

Some news accounts of the event can be found here and here.


New York Times:

Mr. McCain received the more rousing response from the audience, made up largely of church members here in Orange County, one of the most conservative areas in the country. He told more anecdotes but also filibustered more. One of the few points when Mr. McCain left the audience silent was when he said he favored stem-cell research.

Mr. Obama skirted a question about when life begins, saying that determining such a thing was above his pay grade and sending murmurs throughout the audience. Mr. McCain said simply, “At the moment of conception.”

Asked to define marriage, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain gave the same answer: that it is the union between a man and a woman.

But Mr. Obama also said he opposed a constitutional amendment defining marriage that narrowly and said he supported same-sex civil unions. “For gay partners to visit each other in the hospital, I don’t think limits my core beliefs about what marriage is,” he said.

Washington Post:

In his answers, Obama described many of his positions, even on taxes and energy, in the language of a devout Christian. When asked about his “greatest moral failing,” he discussed his teenage drug and alcohol use, attributing it to “a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me, and the reasons why I might be dissatisfied, that I couldn’t focus on other people.”

Confronted with the same question later, McCain cited the failure of his first marriage and went on to say the greatest moral failure of the nation had come in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In a thinly veiled criticism of President Bush’s rhetoric after the attacks, the presumptive Republican nominee said he was troubled that Americans had been asked to go shopping to stimulate the economy rather than being called on to “devote ourselves to causes greater than our self-interests.”

…McCain and his campaign advisers have been eager to put their struggles with Christian conservatives behind them. Some conservatives remain angry over his role in a 2005 compromise that allowed Democrats to block some conservative judges Bush was attempting to appoint; others still recall his criticisms of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as “agents of intolerance” during the 2000 Republican primaries.

…For Obama, the Saddleback event allowed him to reinforce that he is a Christian before an audience that doubtless included many familiar with Internet and talk-radio-driven rumors that he is a Muslim. That particular falsehood has proven maddeningly difficult to dispel for Obama’s campaign, continuing to dog his candidacy even after the high-profile controversy stirred up by Obama’s former pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

San Francisco Chronicle:

McCain, who has town hall forums from New Hampshire to California, appeared to treat the forum more as a campaign event, often reprising his well-worn jokes and stump speech segments. But he used humor often to the delight of the audience, and connected well with the crowd when he told several stories that underscored his own celebrated history as a POW.

But Obama also showed strengths: He appeared more thoughtful and comfortable discussing faith and domestic issues, exploring with relish the issues and moral dilemmas with Warren.

The Guardian:

Where Obama was thoughtful and cautious, McCain was abrupt – so abrupt in fact that his short responses meant he got to answer more questions in his hour than his rival.

Obama went first, assured by Warren that his rival would not overhear the questions. While Obama tended to engage with the questions in a sometimes cerebral way, McCain exhibited a tendency to lapse into his campaign stump speech. At one point he showed up Warren’s deficiencies as an interviewer to “take 30 seconds” to preach his foreign policy doctrine of catching Osama bin Laden.

….For the flock outside the church leaving the event, such exchanges were manna from heaven. “John McCain did a very good job, very straight-forward,” said Jill Frick, who has attended the church for eight years. “I think Barack Obama is very likeable and emotional, but he skirted the issues. The evening definitely cemented my views.”

Ken Mills agreed: “Barack Obama was just like a regular politician, he didn’t answer the questions. I think John McCain blew him out of the ballpark.”

The BBC’s article is titled “Rivals Shine At Church Forum” and includes this:

Their answers revealed much.

Barack Obama, when asked “what does it mean to you to believe in Christ?” talked at length about his Christian faith, while John McCain simply answered: “I’m saved and forgiven.”

Mr McCain then went on to tell an often heard story about his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, when a guard loosened his ties and on Christmas Day drew a cross in the dirt, allowing them both to pray.

In fact, Mr McCain spent a lot of time telling stories of Vietnam. It was, understandably, a pivotal time in his life and one that he draws much inspiration from. The audience appreciated it.

By contrast, it was Barack Obama who made much of his Christian beliefs and how they would underpin his presidency. And the audience appreciated this too.

Yet Mr Obama had the harder time. America’s conservative Christians traditionally vote Republican and – even though they are less enthusiastic about John McCain than, say, George Bush – the majority still look likely to support him come November.

Mr McCain was, as it were, preaching to the converted, and drew many more cheers, quite a few laughs and louder applause.

However, this huge voting group (one estimate suggests 1 in 4 American adults call themselves born-again Christians) is fragmented as never before.


Andrew Sullivan:

McCain’s evolution into a candidate who knows how to stroke the Christianist base is somewhat impressive. It was a little canned at times, but it will work with evangelicals. All in all, this struck me as pretty much a draw.

Marc Ambinder:

Who says John McCain fares poorly in these types of sessions? At Rick Warren’s forum, he seemed more comfortable and his answers flowed a bit more naturally than Barack Obama’s. Granted, the audience was probably more favorably inclined to him. Obama did fine. Penty of humility. And his answer on taxes was as crisp as I’ve heard.

–The Daily Kos’ Kirstina40 believes McCain fell into a trap:

The Obama campaign knew what they were getting into by entering into that forum. They were targeting the Moderate Christians and Independents, McCain simply pandered to his “base” and gained NO votes for his performance. He tethered himself firmly to Bush and his policies and you can be sure, Obama will be more than happy to use McCain’s answers from tonight in future ads to make sure nobody misses it.

Remember McCain pronouncing “America” as “Amuurica”? How many times do you figure we’ll be hearing that in an ad soon? How about his abortion answers? How many women will run screaming away from McCain now? Any moderate’s watching his performance tonight are appalled by his obvious love of war and all that has to do with it. Obama gained votes tonight from groups other than the Evangelicals it was slanted towards.

–Pajamas Media’s Roger’s Rules felt the two candidates’ answers on an abortion related question illustrated their character…to Obama’s detriment.


McSame mostly did okay until he started rambling about Russia, and then he was totally incoherent. That’s big, because that issue is supposedly why he’s “won the week” — and Obama didn’t even get that question. If there was a lost opportunity for him, that was it. He didn’t offer any meaningful response to Russia and just lamely talked about humanitarian aid. He blew it.

Most annoying to me, McSame refused to define what rich is and what middle class is. Warren asked this for a reason, and McSame weaseled it. Obama, who gave a very direct answer, looked like the straight-talker.

Obama wins the night, by a big margin.


That Obama is just so darn thoughtful. This isn’t just CNN’s judgment. Over at MSNBC, political director Chuck Todd noted that “every Obama answer was certainly thoughtful enough. . . ” San Francisco Chronicle political writer Carla Maninucci writes that Obama “appeared more thoughtful and comfortable discussing faith and domestic issues, exploring with relish the issues and moral dilemmas with Warren.” Dan Glaister, Los Angeles correspondent of the UK Guardian, reports: “Where Obama was thoughtful and cautious, McCain was abrupt – so abrupt in fact that his short responses meant he got to answer more questions in his hour than his rival.”

I watched the forum and would describe many of Obama’s responses as vague. Thoughtfulness, like beauty, apparently is in the eye of the beholder. At CNN and in other mainstream media outlets, they all behold it the same way.

Ann Althouse did live blogging. At the end she adds this:

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of folks think McCain won clearly. A telling comment from XWL: “McCain has the advantage of just being able to say what he thinks.”

ABC’s Political Punch:

But where Obama had more trouble with the crowd – which sat politely throughout the forum – was when Warren delved into the social issues that put Obama and his liberal views at odds with the majority of white evangelicals.

Betsy Newmark:

Obama seems to take a more cerebral response talking about questions theoretically while McCain answers more directly and, with some of these questions, seemed to display more knowledge and familiarity with the issue. They both seemed comfortable and I think they both came off well.

I’m guessing that, for Evangelical Christians, McCain did himself some good tonight. The storyline before this appearance was that Obama was making a lot of inroads with those voters. McCain hit the sweet notes for Evangelicals on issues like abortion and adoption.

In my opinion,seeing them together like this actually did McCain some good.

  • Ricorun

    I’d say Chuck Todd had it exactly right. Obama’s resonses were thoughtful and substantive, but not crisp. Most of the time he never quite drove his point home. McCain’s responses, on the other hand, were clear and concise. Although sometimes shallow and not always on-topic, he certainly remained on message. And he was funny.

    It was also a venue that was tailor made for McCain. I have a lot of respect for Pastor Warren. He’s a good and reasonable guy. but Saddleback Church is an evangelical church in the middle of one of the reddest areas in CA. A red area in CA may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s true. in 2006 our district (CA-42) had the distinction of having the only Republican representative in the state (Garry Miller) to run unopposed. Obama’s first appearance at Saddleback Church (for an AIDS forum back in 2006) sparked quite a controversy, because many of his parishioners thought Pastor Warren went beyond the pale to invite him.

    The present visit didn’t generate that kind of controversy, but it wasn’t exactly Obama’s type of crowd, either. I thought one of the most telling moments was when Warren asked McCain to name something he changed his opinion on in the last 10 years. He said, “off-shore drilling”. The crown went nuts. It was one of his biggest applause lines. Generally speaking most folks here in CA — even here in OC — though willing to consider the idea, are also concerned about the consequences. We have some very nice beaches around here, and they’re very important to the local economy. So when the crowd cheered like they did I thought it was very indicative of their mind-set.

    With that kind of crowd Obama could not rely on his typical talking points. That said though, I think he could have performed better. McCain, on the other hand, never had to stray from his. He was in conservative heaven — or at least as close as could be had this side of the Pearly Gates.

  • Marlowecan

    An excellent overview. Clearly McCain won the contest. Joe Gandelman highlights an important reason why:

    “Once again McCain has proven to be far stronger than some predicted he would be, exceeding expectations. And Obama has proven to be a tad less dynamic and overpowering than earlier hype suggested, not meeting some expectations.”

    This is a contest of expectations. Obama’s partisans have been over-the-top in celebrating his incredible powers . . . and equally excessive in defining McCain as “Grampa Simpson” angrily shouting at clouds.

    Marc Ambinder’s comment shows how influential Democratic partisans’ defining of McCain has been, and how it backfired on them here:
    “Who says John McCain fares poorly in these types of sessions?”

    It brings to mind the Carter-Reagan contest, when the Carter campaign had fiercely hammered Reagan as a bloodthirsty dimwitted warmonger bent on nuclear war. When the majority of the American public saw Reagan in action for the first time in the Presidential debate — a good-humored, avuncular fellow — the expectations that Carter’s partisans had constructed worked against their interests.

    Surprise surprise, the Kossack quoted above echoes the brilliance of the Carter campaign: “Any moderate’s watching his performance tonight are appalled by his obvious love of war and all that has to do with it.”

    That said: I expect the Obama people will retool before the debates.

    This has been a warning shot across their bow, for it would have been far more damaging to Obama in the real debate. They need to reduce expectations. . . by acknowledging publicly McCain’s strength as a debater.

    If the morons at KOS and Firedoglake keep pushing the meme of McCain as a drooling, senile warmonger it will come back to haunt them come the Presidential debates.

  • lucybobaloo

    As a ‘born again Christian’ I thought the questions were pretty well thought out although I would love to have heard where each one stands on the Issue of Israel and the Roadmap. As you can guess, I definately thought that McCain came across as the more able, knowledgeable, experienced and capable of the two. Obama acted to me like he was walking through a mine field and he was trying to choose his comments very carefully…too many, ‘ah’s”. McCain was relaxed and his comments flowed so effortlessly from his mouth….he showed a lot of wisdom in his answers.

  • StockBoySF

    Joe, thanks for the excellent round-up. I see your note that it isn’t finished yet so I’ll be keeping an eye on it for more.

    Obama won the forum hands down. But I know that McCain connected better with the audience and his answers, some of which were directly to the point will resonate with many Americans and more voters will prefer McCain.

    To me the forum sums up the two candidates perfectly. The best way to sum up the two men is to think of them if they were doctors.

    Let’s say you, as a patient, went to McCain the doctor because you had been experiencing really bad headaches. You said, “Doctor, I have a headache.” McCain would say, “Take two aspirin. Trust me, my friend aspirin works. I’ve been doing this for forty years and know from my experience in Vietnam that aspirin will work.”

    If you go to Obama and tell him, “Doctor, I have a headache.” Obama would probe to find out more. Obama might ask, “Have you tried anything, are you experiencing dizziness, nausea or slurring of speech?” And other pertinent questions. Obama might order more tests. After the final diagnosis comes in, “You have a tumor, but we were able to catch it in the early stages, so while there is no guarantee of a full recovery in these cases most folks make a full recovery. It won’t be easy, you’ll have to undergo surgery and then we need to talk to the oncologist about chemotherapy. Not all patients need it but we need to understand what’s available to you and what will work best for your situation.”

    If we insist on having a good doctor for our health why would we expect any less than a good commander in chief and president who will be sending troops into harms way, who will be setting policies that affect the course of our country and each and everyone of us in so many ways in our daily lives? We’ve seen what happens when a president makes a likable impression to get elected, but doesn’t have the mental nimbleness to understand the issues at hand.

    McCain’s and Obama’s answers last night also show their background and education. McCain was trained as a soldier to take orders. He also graduated at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy- he was 894 out of 899. He was almost kicked out of the Naval Academy and didn’t much care to do the hard studying part, preferring to party instead (sound familiar?)

    Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in law. His training is to probe deeper to understand issues and take other sides into consideration. He taught US Constitutional law at the University of Chicago (I think it would be nice to actually have a president who understand the US Constitution, which the president takes an oath to defend).

    So McCain’s brief and simple answers, “Take two aspirin, my friend, because I know from my experience they work,” will win over a lot of voters. Obama’s answers clearly show that he understands that not all headaches will be cured by two aspirin.

    But the thought that goes into Obama’s decision is not quick and easy, nor is it very appealing to many voters who just want to hear, “Yes, I believe this.” Or, “No, I don’t believe this.”

    So my support goes to the candidate who shows he has the education, training and mental ability to analyze and understand issues. Obama clearly demonstrates this. McCain has only demonstrated that he can connect with the audience, but McCain didn’t give any insight into his thinking or how his beliefs would translate into policy.

    I can understand why many voters like McCain, it’s easy to like someone who agrees with you at the starting gate. But once you sit down and probe a candidate (which I thought is what this forum was about) then you see differences and gain a better understanding about that candidate. Obama’s answers were clearly richer and more revealing than McCain’s “Yes/No” equivalent.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    I’m gonna repeat what I said in a post further down the page and add a few things:

    I think Obama treated the event as more of a conversation. You could actually see him thinking about most of his answers. McCain treated it more like a normal speaking event. McCain often avoided the question and went into stories we’ve heard him repeat 100s of times. They’re good stories, and they invite applause, but I think it betrayed the spirit of the event itself.

    So from a substantive point of view, I would say Obama won. But if we’re going by who delighted the crowd more, McCain won.

    And McCain — once again — came across as highly likable, sincere and decisive.

    McCain seemed sincere, but he was repeating his old stories verbatim. That’s not sincerity, that’s practice.

    Once again, we have the choice to ignore the substance of the two candidates and focus completely on style. Or we can choose the candidate that actually has a vision that will bring the country out of the decline of the Bush years.

  • Ricorun

    Once again, we have the choice to ignore the substance of the two candidates and focus completely on style.

    Oh, the irony! Lol!

  • StockBoySF

    It’s interesting how many people think McCain came across as more knowledgeable and wiser than Obama…. given that McCain’s answers were brief and to the point.

    As an example, McCain said he was pro-life and he pounded away at that, without getting into any details or revealing how it would affect his policies. I assume that since McCain wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and make abortion illegal that McCain wants to shut down abortion clinics… and I wonder how women would feel about having the government intrude on their lives like that….

    However Obama does recognize that the decision to have an abortion is a very personal and gut-wrenching one for many women. Obama said that we must reduce the number of abortions in this country, which is a good start for it shows that he would put programs in place to reduce the number of abortions. He also went further and said that we should put programs in place which would help women make “pro-life” decisions. Such programs I imagine would be daycare, etc.

    Another example is the question about Supreme Court Justices. McCain took exception to the “activist” liberal judges and said he would not have appointed them because they don’t interpret the constitution they way the founding fathers wrote it. (But what about the “activist” conservative judges who don’t interpret the constitution the way the founding fathers wrote it?) Whereas Obama had clear and thoughtful answers for why he wouldn’t support some of the SC justices- for instance he would not have appointed because he wasn’t a strong legal thinker, he lacked the experience.

    Given that Obama gave a lot of thought to his answers and gave insight into that thought, whereas McCain offered quick, straightforward responses with no further insights into his thinking, I find it hard to believe that folks would actually believe that McCain was wiser and understood the issues better. There was nothing in McCain’s answers to suggest that he is wiser or more knowledgeable about the issues. My thought is that these folks agree with McCain’s answers and so they find him wiser, more experienced, more knowledgeable, etc.

  • StockBoySF

    Chris, I agree completely.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com/ T-Steel

    My grandmother (84-years old) comment about “Warren Conversation”:

    “That Obama is such a thoughtful, likable man. And McCain’s forceful and direct, like alot of us old-timers. Decisions. Decisions.”

    My grandmother is French, white as porcelain (her words), and has voted all over the map. I think the debate was a draw with sharp contrasts.

  • Marlowecan

    ChrisWWW said: “I think Obama treated the event as more of a conversation. You could actually seem him thinking about most of his answers.”

    Chris makes a very interesting point here. Obama is a very smart man, and I have always been impressed by his incisive reflection upon questions. There is nothing of HRC’s appalling triangulation — as in her infamous immigrant driver’s license answer (“what should I say…what did the debating book say about this?”). Instead, Obama seems like he is thinking about the questions.

    I say this is very interesting, as I have been at several functions this summer where the same point has been made to me:
    “”Obama thinks too much to be president. Voters prefer someone who knows what he thinks, rather than one who thinks”” (i.e. Reagan over Carter/Mondale).

    Earlier this summer I was reading about JFK’s incredible range of reading material – not just political wonk stuff, a la Clinton – but diverse reading in history, culture, literature etc. He was probably the last intellectual president.

    Thus, ChrisWWW ‘s comment begs the question: Do Americans, in a dumber and dumber age, want a President who actually thinks (and is dumb enough not to conceal this fact)?

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    Thus, ChrisWWW ‘s comment begs the question: Do Americans, in a dumber and dumber age, want a President who actually thinks (and is dumb enough not to conceal this fact)?

    They haven’t in the last two elections at least :-)

  • 4turbo

    You are so on point!! It is so unfortunate that the broader segment of voters cannot grasp what you are saying. It seems to so obvious. But clearly many of the other comments show otherwise. I will be a very sad day if we make another “dead or alive” mistake as we did with George W. It’s time to think America! Think intellectually this time. We cannot vote on Barbeque and Beer this go round. We need a Leader that has a Brain! Sorry to tell you, everything is not black and white. As a christian myself, I pray we all use some common sense in the voting booth this time, for the sake of our country.

  • deliziosa

    I think the so called “liberal media” was so slanted on this one. After watching the forum I was left puzzled. I thought Warren was supposed to be friends to both of the candidates, but his questions seemed neutral for the most part but if they leaned, they leaned toward McCain’s advantage. The media fell over themselves with butterfly feelings about how well McCain performed. The point is, it was a performance, and one he’s performed many times. There were so many quotes he’s used in his stump speech that no one seemed to even notice, or care. Obama once again trying to play by the rules gets (seemingly) crushed for being thoughtful. And McCain for answering questions quickly, some so quickly the question had yet to be completed, was given the award for most improved, Gimme a break. People pretend that they want an honest president, someone who’s not gonna just give the more of the same, but when it’s staring them straight in the face, they elect to go the same old route.

  • AustinRoth

    I, for one, and sick of the permamant ‘the Democratic candidate is obviously smarter, and the Republican is a simpleton reciting canned lines’ talking point. That has been the meme since 1952 for the Democrats, and as many have pointed out, it normally comes back to bite them in the ass.

    The complete unwillingness to accept that a different point of view is that, a different point of view and not ignorance, has been and remains the Achilles heel for the Democratic Presidential aspirations. The only notable exceptions are Kennedy, who use charisma and vote stealing, Carter who had the good luck to be the candidate that ran against the remnants of the Nixon fiasco, and Clinton who won with his personality and charisma plus the Ross Perot factor (even though it was generally acknowledged how intelligent Clinton was).

    So please keep running campaigns with that attitude, and turning off huge portions of the electorate. That way I can continue to look forward to that look of surprise on Liberal’s faces (the same look that Sam Kinison talked about on women’s faces under certain specific circumstances) on the day after the elections, at least most of the time.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com/ T-Steel

    In order to get elected President, you have to have a measure of intelligence. Plain and simple. I don’t think ANY U.S. President is/was not intelligent.

    What they do with that intelligence is another story.

  • StockBoySF

    I think we can all agree that some presidents are more intelligent than others. I believe McCain is closer to our current president in intellect, and not just because people are saying that McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time (which is a line I won’t use because McCain’s voting record is more than just aligning hiimself with Bush, though it is a large part of it). Rather I believe that McCain is closer to Bush intellectually because he doesn’t have any academic achievements (legacy student at the Naval Academy, finished almost last in his class of nearly 900, was nearly kicked out), nor a career in anything but politics. (Bush did have a career in energy but it was not at all successful.) The one real job McCain had, as VP in Public Relations for the beer distributorship was given to him by his father-in-law.

    The forum proves McCain can talk the talk, but there was absolutely nothing new about McCain that showed up in the forum. For instance he said his greatest moral failing was the failure of his first marriage. I find it hard to believe that people are surprised that he said this. I find it hard to believe because I consider his answer to be a cop-out. Everyone knows he divorced his first wife and no one can dispute that. And I don’t take issue with this, if McCain thinks it’s his biggest moral failure then so be it. The complaint I have about McCain and the reason I believe his answer is a cop-out is that McCain didn’t tell WHY he thought it was his greatest moral failure. Does he believe that he should have stayed with her because he’s against divorce but failed to live up to his own standard? Did he divorce her out of vanity because she was disfigured? Why did he consider the failure of his marriage to be a moral failure? The forum was suppose to let us see deeper into the candidates’ minds. Nothing anywhere close to this came out of McCain’s mind.

    Obama, to contrast, spoke again of his experiments with drugs and drinking alcohol in his youth. Just as I don’t take issue with McCain’s answer with his first marriage, I don’t take issue with this by Obama. The important difference between Obama and McCain is that Obama delved deeper and let us glimpse into his mind. Obama went on to explain why he considered youthful drugs/alcohol to be his moral failure in terms of religion. (He said he placed himself first, that he was self absorbed). He went on to say what he learned from that and how it directed his life. We got absolutely none of that reflection from McCain. McCain could have been at a rally giving his positions.

    So that’s why I think McCain is more like Bush intellectually (and folks in 2000 had the same concerns about Bush).

    I think McCain has used his maverick image to explain away some of his votes and actions. He’s like a little kid that parents put up with because they’re used to it. When McCain does something folks say, “There goes McCain again. He’s a real maverick and you’re not going to change him.” They don’t expect anything more of McCain.

  • greenschemes

    I thought they were both outstanding and It made me want to totally trash the debates and go to this type of format.

    Debates are so stupid. Its a case of gotcha and thats not what politics is really about. Bush and Putin dont sit in a room waiting for the other person to say Bellar rusha instead of Belarus. They dont wait patiently for the other person to say Ive been to 48 states mabey more and deem it the other person is broken.

    Anyone remember Lock Box?

    This is way more informative for the candidates to reveal what they stand for instead of trying to score debate points. Id rather know what makes Obama tick then listen to his canned stump speeches for the 600000 time during 3 debates.

    Weve had one at a Chruch. The next one could be at a University. Another one could be at a Military base. They dont have to all be at a church or run by a church. They could each have their own themes.

  • CitizenKang

    My random thoughts on the Faith Forum.

    Obama doesn’t need (or, I suspect, expect) to win over a majority of evangelical voters, for his appearance at Saddleback to have been successful. Given his stances on hot-button topics such as abortion, Obama will never win over a majority of those for whom such litmus test issues are the be-all and end-all of their political interest.

    What he needs to do with with Evangelicals is similar to what McCain needs to do with latinos, cut into his opponent’s historical stronghold.

    I can well imagine some thoughtful evangelicals in his wider audience to whom his sincere expressions of belief and calls to service for those less fortunate would have some appeal. Obama simply refuses to cede uncontested, a significant part of the electorate.

    As for McCain, though his lapses into his stump speech were, for a political junkie like myself, tiresome to say the least, they seemed to go over well with the immediate audience is Oh-so-red Orange county. And it may well be that he accomplished what needs to be one of his main goals, firming up his support with social conservative skeptical of his bona fides.

    Whether such a confirmation of his right-wing stances hurts or helps him with a broader audience remains to be seen.

    My verdict: not win/lose, but apples/oranges.

  • daveinboca

    McCain 1, Obama 0. A shutout.

  • AustinRoth

    Stockboy – you can make almost the same identical claims and academic comments against Al Gore, but you Dems worship him as one of your leading intellectual lights.

  • GypsyMan

    It’s unbelievable that Obama cannot answer a simple quesiton about when he thinks babies have “human rights,” instead dodging it by saying it is “above my pay grade.” If he is president, who is above his pay grade?

    As Not WRIGHT for America (http://www.notwrightforamerica.com) points out, Obama clearly does not believe life begins at birth, that’s why he voted agains the Infants Born Alive Protection Act. So when does he think life begins, 1 month, 1 year? Oh, that’s right, above his pay grade! What he means is we should ask Planned Parenthood. That’s who he takes orders from on this issue.

  • $84957

    He was referring to God, genius. The “moment of conception” may be a great talking point, but it makes no scientific, philosophical, or even theological sense. Which is the reason even the Pope doesn’t attempt to define the exact moment that life begins. It’s impossible to say with certainty. I fail to see how a question that has yet to be definitely answered(and in fact defies ever being answered as there’s no single process by which conception takes place identically every time. There’s a lot of variable time in there), can somehow be “simple.”

    At any rate, McCain has displayed that he’s against abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest, and technically even in cases when the health of the mother is threatened. Good luck trying to paint that as anything but extremist.

  • RememberNovember

    McCain had the advantage of being able to preview the questions and spout rightwingnut cheerleading talking points. Cone of silence my left foot- he wasn’t even in the building. I call shenanigans! McCain has morphed himself into a Christian Extremist panderer.
    Gates of Hell indeed- John you have a VIP parking spot there- there is a special circle for hypocrites.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    Hey Gypsy,
    Go peddle your smears somewhere else.

    I hate to say that people are lying, but here’s a situation where folks are lying. I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported – which was to say –that you should provide assistance to any infant that was born – even if it was as a consequence of an induced abortion. That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. What that bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade. By the way, we also had a bill, a law already in place in Illinois that insured life saving treatment was given to infants.

    So for people to suggest that I and the Illinois medical society, so Illinois doctors were somehow in favor of withholding life saving support from an infant born alive is ridiculous. It defies commonsense and it defies imagination and for people to keep on pushing this is offensive and it’s an example of the kind of politics that we have to get beyond. It’s one thing for people to disagree with me about the issue of choice, it’s another thing for people to out and out misrepresent my positions repeatedly, even after they know that they’re wrong. And that’s what’s been happening.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    A large part of the Republican strategy is to paint the Democrats as too intellectual and nerdy for the public to be comfortable with them. The flip-side of that narrative is that the Republicans are intellectual lightweights but people you’d like to have beers with.

    You reap what you sow, eh?

  • AustinRoth

    And Al Gore is an intellectual lightweight masquerading as a nerdy intellectual, but that nobody would want to have a beer with!

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    Al Gore may not be an intellectual giant, but the last 8 years have proved his superiority to Bush. Ditto the last 4 years and John Kerry.

  • CStanley

    stormhit, agree or disagree but don’t misrepresent; the pope (current as well as former ones) do define human life as beginning at conception.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    Sullivan quotes the pope as having said:

    The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature [as to the time of ensoulment], but it constantly affirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion.

    And his quote from Steve Pinker is definitely food for thought:

    Just as a microscope reveals that a straight edge is really ragged, research on human reproduction shows that the ‘moment of conception’ is not a moment at all. Sometimes several sperm penetrate the outer membrane of the egg, and it takes time for the egg to eject the extra chromosomes … Even when a single sperm enters, its genes remain separate from those of the egg for a day or more, and it takes yet another day or so for the newly merged genome to control the cell. So the ‘moment’ of conception is in fact a span of twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

  • Parker1

    In answer to the question on the forum, at forst I thought McCain shined a little brighter. than Obama, while Obama did very well for someone answering off the cuff like he did. Come to find out that McCain may have had access to the questions and time to think about them. It was discovered that he wasn’t in that cone of silence pastor Warren assured us, but rather he was late and still on the road while Obama was being interviewed. That sure explained a lot! McCain said that he didn’t hear the questions, but as we all know by now, McCain is a liar. So stop praising him for cheating. McCain seems ashamed to talk about his faith. Obama won the night as far as I’m concerned.

  • Leonidas

    I think McCain came out clearly ahead. He looked like a man ready top lead Obama looked like on ready to discuss and theorize.

    Obama also made 2 huge mistakes:

    First the “Above my pay grade remark”. , definately not very presidential.

    Second the snafu where he caught himself an instant too late when he started to utter that Justice Thomas would have been the Justice he wouldn’t have appointed due to a lack of experience. Thomas in fact was more experienced regarding the Supreme Court than Obma is for the office of the presidency. Very rarely do you see a candiate shoot themssself in the foot so obviously and Obama did it twice.

    Without his teleprompter Obama seems to stumble and stutter, although some will write it off as him thinking while he answers, it seems to me to be a bit of uncertainty and a lack of conviction on core issues. There was no question that was asked that he should not have been ready to answer. These guys have been campaigning along time, during the Iowa caucas being caught offguard might have been excusable, but not now.

    All that being said, Obama did nothing that will lose him many votes except among evangelicals or pro-life voters which he probably didn’t have many of before. But If this had been the final televised debate, we would be inaugerating John McCain as President in January.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    First the “Above my pay grade remark”. , definately not very presidential.

    It’s refreshing to see a candidate calmly and confidently assert that doesn’t know everything. Do you know when the human soul is created? Do you even know if there is a soul?

  • FoxFan

    It is interesting to see how coverage of the abortion issue has changed over this campaign. You can see a history of quite a few articles on this topic at obamatracker.com. It has a link to an article that Obama wrote when he was younger…a legal opinion about the life of the fetus vs. the rights of the mother.

  • Parker1

    McCain cheated! Warren should be ashamed of himself!

    We trusted him to be fair!