Did you have a chance to watch the Rick Warren hosted forum at Saddleback Church? Let me just say that kudos are due Rick Warren for leveraging his pulpit and popularity to bring about a civil forum for discussion about where faith, character, and politics intersect.
Here are my thoughts. I'll do it in the same order Warren did and start with Obama.
Right off the bat, Obama's answer to the Warren question sounded like a stump speech and Warren called Barack to order. Obama's answer to Warren was that he's been doing quite a bit of stumping lately so it flows kind of naturally. But, after that, Obama was compliant and conversational.
Obama was most flustered, I felt, by Warren's question, "When does an unborn child get basic human rights?" Obama's answer was not an answer to the question, - he said the answer to that question was above his pay grade - but an explanation to why he is pro-choice. He mentioned that Bush is pro-life, but during his time as president, the rate of abortions has not come down and that is something that everyone agrees should happen and should take steps to make reality.
That was the biggest question to be answered for me as a man who has always voted a pro-life ticket right down the line. I think the issues this generation face right now go beyond that single issue, but in the past, that has been the single issue that has kept me voting a straight Republican ticket since I was eighteen years old and voted for Reagan in his second term.
I love that Obama invoked Mathew 25 saying that we have to follow Jesus's teaching to take care of the least of these; that we have to be willing to serve a cause greater than ourselves. Later, McCain said something similar about serving causes greater than ourselves. In fact, when McCain said that the one mistake we made in the wake of 9-11 was that we called for people to go shopping and to travel instead of calling people to serve in the Peace Corps and Military and volunteer organizations. I wanted to stand up and cheer but I was holding the baby. I know that the church was shocked and fearful and missions has suffered ever since. O, that a leader at the national level would have stood up and said don't stop; do more.
McCain was warmly welcomed by the Orange County crowd. The moment on stage when Obama and McCain occupied the same space was civil with Obama going beyond the offered hand shake to pull McCain in close for a man-hug.
While I love the directness and confidence with which McCain fired off answers to Warren's questions, I was a little disappointed that Warren didn't reign McCain in the way he did with Obama. McCain often defaulted from conversation to a campaign style of answering questions. McCain answered quickly, but he stumped. He told stories instead of giving direct answers. His quick answers permitted Warren to ask more questions, but it also gave McCain more time for campaigning leaving wondering if McCain was capable of listening and responding vs. responding to what he think is going to be asked. I feel like we already have a president that does that and had made serious policy errors because of that.
McCain's tendency to campaign in this forum hurt him in my opinion. He told me a bunch of things I've already heard or read. Don't get me wrong, I think he's an honest guy passionate about his beliefs. But I was hoping he's answer Warren in the same thoughtful way Obama did.
Here's the verdict: Obama seemed more human than McCain. He listened and responded. McCain launched into talking points. I'm not saying that Obama was totally innocent of this, but I felt he respected the forum, Warren, and the audience more than McCain did.
These are my initial impressions. I know there were questions about energy, evil, the Supreme Court, etc, but I don't want to take up space here or your time hashing through each one. In the next few news cycles, we'll watch pundits dig trenches along party lines and fire shots at each other doing exactly what Pastor Rick asked then not to do: demonize the man you don't agree with. Both sides will be guilty of making the other man look like Satan, the Father of Lies.
But neither man is. Both men came across as sincere men. I honestly can't remember when I've had a tougher choice between two good candidates. Most times, I've felt that I've had to pick the lesser of two evils. But this time, from my point of view, it's not as cut-and-dried as previous elections.