Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rick Warren holds Civil Forum with separate interviews of Obama and McCain, at Saddleback Church in CA

Reverend Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life” (he actually trademarked the term) and pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, held the presidents’ candidates “Civil Forum” tonight, Saturdaym Aug. 16, at 5 PM PDT. The format was separate one-hour interviews of each candidate with Warren asking the same questions that he culled from those submitted by the congregation. The price of a ticket to attend was $2000. The broadcast took place on CNN.

Barack Obama went first, and then John McCain.

The questions were supposed to be divided into four sections. The first section was leadership. Warren mentioned a Proverb about listening, and asked who each candidate thought was the wisest person on his life. Obama mentioned Senator Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. Obama was asked about America’s “moral fiber” and Obama mentioned our inability to do right for the “least among us.” He mentioned the “common good.” Obama said that he had struggled with too much self-consciousness, and his having to accept the idea, "it's not about me" (to quote Rick Warren's "it's not about you"). Obama was asked about when he changed his mind, and said that he had come to respect the need for the strictness and work requirements in welfare reform.

Warren followed his script less strictly with McCain, who immediately talked about how we needed to do everything regarding energy: drilling, hydrogen and hybrid cars, solar and wind power.

The second portion concerned “world view.” One question was about abortion, and Obama said that he was pro-choice, but would work to reduce the temptation for the procedure at all. He wouldn’t answer when life began. But McCain said that life begins at conception and that he had always been pro-life.

Obama came out in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples, but not for formal marriage. He did not favor a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage, on grounds of “federalism.” He spoke of the practical issues for same-sex couples, like hospital visits.

McCain favored the effort to amend the California state constitution overturning the recent state supreme court decision that struck down California’s laws forbidding gay marriage. But McCain insisted that gays are equal under the law as individuals. He didn’t seem to get the idea that the marriage laws mean that gays subsidize the marriages of others.

Obama thought that it was acceptable to use embryos that would be discarded for stem-cell research, but favored research on adult tissue. McCain said that skin cell research could make the question obsolete.

Obama talked about the question of evil, and mentioned Darfur. McCain said you have to defeat evil, and that he would capture Osama bin Laden.

Somewhere in the discussion, early on (in having to account for a change of mind), McCain talked about his years of captivity in North Vietnam, about the rendition, and about his captors’ drawing a cross for him in the dirt on Christmas day. Apparently he might have been given the chance to leave if he would talk, but he complied with the Code of Conduct, not knowing that the Vietnam war would go on for three more years.

On domestic issues, Warren asked the candidates about Supreme Court appointees. Obama said he would not have appointed Clarence Thomas, or Anthony Scalia. He felt that John Roberts allows the executive branch too much power.

Both candidates seemed to have similar positions on performance pay for teachers, but McCain added that parents should be able to get vouchers for better performing private schools.

McCain called for a $7000 tax exemption per child, and a $5000 tax credit to purchase health insurance. Obama said that we needed health care and not “disease care.” Neither talked about the difficulties with pre-existing conditions or the ability to join large groups for discounts.

Both candidates seemed to agree to emergency measures to adopt overseas orphans, but McCain felt that we needed to make adoption easier in this country.

Both were asked where the cutoffs were for the middle class and the “Rich.” Obama drew the lines at $150000 and $250000 a year. McCain would not draw the line, but wanted everybody to “get rich” (like Donald Trump!) Remember, the People’s Party of New Jersey back in 1972 wanted to limit incomes to $50000 a year!

The last section was a single question: why do you want to run for president?

Obama talked about sacrifice: that “The Greatest Generation” had sacrificed for us during WWII, and that our generation needed to think about this with respect to environmental issues. McCain said that it was important for every person to “find a cause greater than self-interest.” He had said that back in 2001. He also said that it was shallow for the administration to tell people to "go shopping" after 9/11 when they should have been talking about joining the Peace Corps or similar services. Actually, the administration did push Americorps publicly after 9/11.

Neither candidate mentioned eldercare or the demographic problems associated with it (although Obama mentioned Alzheimer's in conjunction with stem cell research).

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