Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pastor Rick Warren Interviews Sens. Obama & McCain

For Christians, in this election year, understanding the faith of the candidates cannot be taken lightly. Posted below are excerpts of an article from MSNBC followed by excerpts from National Review Online concerning last night's event.

-- From "Obama talks religion at forum" by Mark Murray from MSNBC 8/17/08

Obama talked about Iraq, abortion, the Supreme Court, and his greatest moral failure during an hour-long televised talk on faith and politics with pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren here at Saddleback Church.

McCain also attended the event, but he spoke with Warren separately.

Obama has been able to appeal to some religious voters in part, because he seems more open to talking about his faith than McCain does. He has written about finding his faith as a young man and about his work with churches while a community organizer on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. Still, for many conservative Christians, the senator’s views on issues like abortion make him a tough sell.

Two interesting moments came when the pastor asked Obama to define “rich." After joking with Warren about the pastor having sold over 25 million books, Obama said families making up to $150,000 were middle class, if not poor -- depending on where they live -- while those with incomes of $250,000 or more were well off, though he did not use the word “rich”.

When asked which sitting Supreme Court justice he would not have nominated, Obama named first Clarence Thomas and then Antonin Scalia, saying he disagreed with both ideologically and that Thomas had not been a "strong enough jurist or legal thinker" at the time of his nomination.

Warren told the audience at the beginning of the event that the senators would be asked identical questions so that the audience could “compare apples to apples” and said they had “safely placed Sen. McCain in a cone of silence” to prevent his receiving any advantage by being second.

-- From "How McCain Won Saddleback" by Byron York, National Review Online 8/17/08

Lake Forest, Calif. — It’s fair to say that in the hours before John McCain appeared with Barack Obama at the “Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency,” here at Pastor Rick Warren’s famed southern California mega-church, there were at least a few McCain insiders who were a bit nervous about their candidate’s prospects. Obama can be remarkably polished in this sort of situation. Unlike other Democrats, he’s not afraid to hang out with evangelicals. McCain, on the other hand, can at times be cranky and take pleasure in irritating his base. Could he come out ahead in this one?

[The format] brought out something we don’t usually see in a presidential face-off; in this forum, as opposed to a read-the-prompter speech, or even a debate focused on the issues of the moment, the candidates were forced to call on everything they had — the things they have done and learned throughout their lives.

The contrast was striking throughout each man’s one-hour time on stage. When Warren asked Obama, “What’s the most gut-wrenching decision you’ve ever had to make?” Obama answered that opposing the war in Iraq was “as tough a decision that I’ve had to make, not only because there were political consequences but also because Saddam Hussein was a bad person and there was no doubt he meant America ill.” But Obama was a state senator in Illinois when Congress authorized the president to use force in Iraq. He didn’t have to make a decision on the war.

McCain bested Obama . . . when Warren asked for an example of a time in which he “went against party loyalty and maybe even against your own best interest for the good of America.”

“Well, I’ll give you an example that in fact I worked with John McCain on,” Obama said, “and that was the issue of campaign ethics reform and finance reform.” But it turned out that was an issue on which Obama had briefly allied with McCain and then jumped back to the Democratic mother ship, causing McCain to write Obama an angry note about the abandonment of what had been a principled position. As far as bucking your party goes, it wasn’t very big stuff.

McCain’s [response] was his story of opposing Ronald Reagan’s decision to send a contingent of Marines to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force. “My knowledge and my background told me that a few hundred Marines in a situation like that could not successfully carry out any kind of peacekeeping mission, and I thought they were going into harm’s way,” McCain said. But he deeply admired Reagan, and wanted to be loyal to the party; it was a difficult decision.

“At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?” [Warren] asked Obama.

“Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade,” Obama answered. “But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion because this is something obviously the country wrestles with. One thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is there is a moral and ethical content to this issue. So I think that anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention. So that would be point number one.” Obama went on to say that he is pro-choice. Even for people who agreed with him, it wasn’t a terribly impressive answer.

An hour later, when Warren asked McCain the same thing, he got this: “At the moment of conception. I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate, and as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies.”