The Forum on the Presidency

Written by Lotus on Saturday, 16 of August , 2008 at 8:14 pm

Tonight on MSNBC is Pastor Rick Warren’s Forum on the Presidency.  Both Barack Obama and John McCain will answer the same questions in separate one-hour segments.  As such, I’ll add McCain’s answers under Obama’s rather than retype each question.

Obama’s up first.

Whose advice would you rely on in your administration?

Obama: My wife.  My grandmother.

McCain: Gen. David Petraeus.  John Lewis (soldier).  Meg Whitman, CEO if eBay.

What is the greatest moral failure in your life and the greatest moral failure in America?

Obama: My father wasn’t there, I experimented with drugs, I drank… I became too self-centered.  As I grew up, I realized it wasn’t about me. 


Obama: America’s biggest moral failure in my lifetime has been not abiding by Matthew’s whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.  “Ladder of opportunity” of minorities.

McCain: My greatest moral failure is the failure of my first marriage.  America’s greatest moral failure is not helping the rest of the world, even though we’ve been the best at it.  McCain points out that the first words in Warren’s book is “It’s not about you.” (a subtle jab at Obama?”

(Missed a question because I was investigating a smell.  Seriously.  No luck yet)

Question not given to Obama — When have you gone against your party’s interest or your own personal interests?

McCain: Climate change, spending, torture, early in my political career I was against Reagan’s decision to send troops to Beirut.

What is a flip-flop or issue where you’ve changed your mind?

Obama:  Welfare reform “We have to have work as a centerpiece of any reform.”  “The intrinsic dignity of work”

McCain: Off-shore drilling.  We have to drill here, we have to drill now (big applause).  This is a national security issue.  We’re sending $7 billion a year to countries that don’t like us.

What’s the most gut-wrenching decision you’ve ever had to make?

Obama: The war in Iraq.  “Saddam Hussein was a very bad person” 

McCain: It was long ago.  My father was a high-ranking admiral.  The Vietnamese came to me and said I could leave.  I said no.  It was the toughest decision, but also the one I’m the most happiest with.  (applause)  It took a lot of prayer.

(Commercial break.  Back to smell investigation.)

(FOUND IT!!!  Flowers (or the water) are past their prime.  Boo.  I hate throwing away flowers.)

Now on to “worldview” questions. 

What does it mean to you to “trust in Christ”?

Obama: I believe Jesus died for my sins and I am redeems through him…. I don’t walk alone… It means those sins I have on a fairly regular basis will hopefully be washed away.

McCain: It means I’m saved and forgiven.  Tells the story of a Christmas Day during his imprisonment and the “gun guard” that drew a cross.

“Now the tough questions.”  We’ve had 40 millions abortions since Roe. v. Wade… at one point does a fetus get human rights?

Obama: Whether it’s the theological or scientific explanations, that decision is “above my pay grade.”  I am pro-choice and I believe in Roe v. Wade.  I’m not pro-abortion.  I don’t believe women make these decisions easily.  In consultation with their pastors [ha!].  Their spouses.

McCain: At the moment of conception (applause).  I have a 25 year pro-life record.  I will be a pro-life President. (more applause)

Have you ever voted to limit or reduce abortions?

Obama: I am against late-term abortions.  On this particular issue, if you believe that life begins at conception and you are consistent on that believe, than I can’t argue with you on that… How do we provide the resources that allow women to keep a child?

Define marriage.

Obama: I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman (first applause — I guess he’s not going to be at Ellen’s wedding this weekend). 

McCain: A union between one man and one woman.  (applause) Are we going to get back to the importance of Supreme Court judges?

Would you support a constitutional amendment?

Obama: No, because historically it hasn’t been something that the Constitution has dealt with… Visiting a loved one in the hospital… I would afford those civil rights to others.

McCain: I’m a federalist.  I believe the states should make those decisions. (NOTE: question was asked about California case, not a constitutional amendment.) 

Stem cells

Obama: It’s not like people that are in favor of stem cell research are like “Let’s go destroy some embryoes.” 

McCain: For those of us in the pro-life community, this has been a great struggle. (It has?)  But I am wildly optimisitic that SKIN cell research will offer more.

Does evil exist and if it does do we ignore it, do we contain it, do we negotiate with it, defeat it?

Obama:  Yes, it does exist. Darfur.  In the streets of our cities.  Parents that abuse their children.  We are not going to erase evil from the world.  That’s God’s task, but we can be soldiers in that promise.  We should have humility.  A lot of evil has been perpetrated under the notion that we’re confronting evil.

McCain: Defeat it. If I have to follow him to the gates of Hell, I will get Osama Bin Laden.  Of course, evil must be defeated.  According to David Petraeus and Bin Laden himself, Baghdad is the battleground for evil…  We must face this challenge.  When I’m around our men and women in uniform, I have no doubt.

Which existing Supreme Court Justice would you have not has nominated?

Obama: I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas (applause — that’s odd).  He didn’t have the legal knowledge at the time.  I would not have nominated Justice Scalia, though there isn’t any argument of his legal brilliance. (Typical liberal answer — the black guy wasn’t ready.)

McCain: Ginsberg, Bryer, Souter, Stevens.  This nomination should be based on a proven record of strictly interpreting the Consitutional, not legislating from the bench.  I like Alito and Roberts. 

Faith-based organizations, allowed to discriminate?

Obama: Such a long-winded answer.  See my “Obama Watch” column on for his position.  “The devil’s in the details.” 

McCain: Should not have to forfeit those rights to receive federal funding.

Should we have merit-based pay for teachers?

Obama: It should be based on the whim of the principal or on standardized tests.  We should reward excellence.  (wow — reward excellence — way to take a stand!)

McCain: Yes and find bad teachers another line of work.  Choice and competition.  Home school. Vouchers.  I want every American family to have the choice that Cindy and I had and that Senator and Mrs. Obama made to send our children to private schools.  It’s the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

Define “rich.”

Obama: If you have book sales of 25 million (reference to Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life).  If you are making $150,000 or less as a family you’re middle class… If you’re making more than $250,000, you’re in the top 2-3%. The question we have to ask ourselves is if we believe in good schools, not leaving a mountain of debt for the next generation, then we have to pay for them.  It’s irresponsible, intergenerationally not to do so.  If your family makes $250,000 or more, you’ll see an increase.  (Hope that doesn’t include anyone’s employer!)

McCain: I think that rich should be defined by a home, a good job, happy children.  I don’t believe in redistribution of wealth.  There are some business owners working 16 hours a day that some people want to classify as rich.  If you’re just talking about income, how about $5 million?  I’m sure than comment will be distorted.  The point is that we want to keep taxes low and income high.  It’s not taxes, it’s spending. 

(So, I think the questions are good, but with no follow-up it doesn’t really matter.)

Not asked of Obama — when does right to privacy and national security collide?

McCain: It does collide… also we should have secret ballots for unions (true, but random).  Our enemies are using technologies that we have to keep up with.  We have to sit down and work out these things for the good of national security.

America’s responsibility in the rest of the world.  Let’s talk about war.  As an American, what’s worth dying for? 

Obama: American lives, America’s interest.  When I was in Hawaii, I visited Pearl Harbor.  That was a solemn obligation we had.  Forged alliances.  NATO alliances, that’s something we have to abide by. 

McCain: Freedom.  Our national security.  We can’t right every wrong, but we can be a beacon of hope.  As Reagan called it, a shining city on a hill.

What about Darfur?

Obama: We have the ability to prevent genocide.  We don’t need UN approval, like in Bosnia. (i.e. conflicts entered by a Democrat)

McCain: Our obligation is stop genocide wherever it exists.  Mentions Rwanda, Cindy’s recent trip there.  Powell asked how we can effectively stop genocide.   Regarding the recent rememergence of Russian empire, I’m saddened to be talking about it with you.  Georgia was one the earliest Christian nations.  Now the Russians are coming in there in an act of agression.  We must bring about a cease fire with integrity.  Russians must respect the territorial boundaries of Georgia.  It’s about energy.  Pipeline.  Send a message to Russia that his behavior is not acceptable in the 21st century.

Would you have an emergency plan for orphans?

Obama: I cheated a little bit, I did some research on this issue.  Part of our plan is how do we prevent more orphans in the first place.  We build health care around the world.  Compliments President Bush’s work on AIDS prevention.

McCain: We have to make adoption a lot easier.  That’s why so many people go to other countries.  Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to talk about adoption.  Tells story of Cindy meeting with Mother Theresa and adopting their now 17 year-old daughter.

What do we do about religious persecution?  Like in China.

Obama: We have to bear witness and speak out.  Our relationship with China is very complicated.  They are lenders to us.  We want to move them into the world community.  We can’t move forward by ignoring those very real prosecutions, I means persecutions (imagine if Bush had that slip — OMFG!)  It’s important that when we’re providing moral guidance we’re not engaging in religious persecution, habeas corpus or torturing. 

McCain: The presidency is the greatest bully pulpit.  Reagan went to Berlin despite advice.  Many countries still aspire to have the hope and freedom of America. 

Question about slavery that still exists. (What?!?!?  Listening to the Left, you’d like America was the last hold out)

In a minute, tell me why you want to be president.

Obama: The one time my mother would get really angry with me was when she thought I was being really mean to someone.  That’s what makes America so great, that anyone has a shot.  I want to be president because I think that is America.  We have to make some big decisions not just for us, but for the next generation.  I have the ability to build bridges across political, racial, lines.  I hope I have the opportunity to do that.

McCain: I want to inspire Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves.  America’s best days are ahead.  I’ve always put my country first.  In the military, in the House, in the Senate.  I have a record of reaching across the aisle.  Americans feel it’s time to put our country first.  I want every American to know that when I go to Alabama and when I go to people who probably won’t vote for me, I’ll tell them that I’ll be every’s president and I’ll put my country first.

What do you say to people that oppose me asking you these questions?

Obama: These are the kind of forums we need to have. (Then why not agree to do more of them???).  I want people to know me well.

McCain: I’d like to be in every venue in America.  This is an important election.  Our country was found on Judeo-Christian values and I’m honored to be here.

What would you tell the American public if you knew there wouldn’t be any repercussions?

Obama: Solving big problems like energy is not going to be easy… There’s going to be a price to pay in transitioning… We can’t act like everything is free.  We should be able to make sacrifices on behalf of the next generation.  (Oh, wouldn’t it be so great if he actually answered this question with a non-stump speech answer?)

(Not asked of McCain)

McCain comes in.  McCain and Obama hug.  Ghey.  Commercial Break.

It’s over.  Pat Buchanan just declared that John McCain just had the best hour of his entire campaign.  Barack Obama seemed tortured.  John McCain won the evening and the audience reaction showed it.

Now it’s time to watch Michael Phelps’ body, I mean, race!

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LOTUS lives in Northern Virginia. NOTE: The views expressed on LOTUS blog are the author’s alone. Organizations listed on this blog are for identification purposes only.