For the first time in any election in my lifetime, I feel as if I have been given a glimpse into the two remaining candidates not as the media paints them, but as they are. Last night I watched the Saddleback Church’s forum and came away from the experience having a much better insight into the people behind the political personas.
Of course, I’m sure both their answers were part-spin, part-truth. But because both candidates were given the same questions, we can truly compare apples to apples. And compare I did. I even took notes because I wanted to make sure I knew what each man said and not rely on TV pundits to spit it back to me, out of context.
A search of my past posts on politics will show that I am an avid Huckabee supporter. I was disappointed that he did not win the Republican nomination, but I am very encouraged because several of the issues he stood for, such as achieving energy independence within ten years, have now been picked up by both McCain and Obama. I was not happy about McCain frankly because of his betrayal of his first wife. I was not happy about Obama because of his extreme leanings to the left. Recognizing that no one who has walked this earth except Jesus is perfect, I watched the forum with an open mind.
I’ll begin by saying what many reporters and pundits noticed. While Obama’s answers seemed professorial and philosophical, McCain’s were decisive and pragmatic. I got the sense that in a crisis, Obama would convene a group of advisers and would bring in more advisers and would take as much time as he needed to in order to make what was, in his mind, the right decision. McCain’s demeanor was polar opposite to Obama’s. He answered the questions first and then backed his answers up with short stories which gave me a greater insight into his thinking process. Yes, he’d take advice, but he would ultimately make the decisions himself in as efficient a manner as possible. He would do the right thing even if it meant breaking away from the party lines. Obama, on the other hand, would be a much more cautious leader. I got the sense that he would prefer to do nothing than to make a decision that would later be termed a mistake. McCain doesn’t seem to care what others think about him.
Right off the bat we could see the difference in the two men when they listed their top three “wise” advisers. Obama chose his wife, his grandmother, and then listed a bunch of Democratic politicians like Sam Nunn and Ted Kennedy. McCain’s wisest advisers would be General Petraeus, John Lewis (a civil rights citizen who suffered a skull fracture and can, as McCain said, “teach us a lot about courage,”), and Meg Witman, CEO of eBay.
On the issue of moral failures both individually and as a nation, Obama and McCain also differed. McCain’s greatest failure was his failed first marriage. He said our greatest failure as a nation is that we have not, as a nation, devoted ourselves to the causes of others beyond our own self interests. Interestingly, McCain’s words for our nation’s worst moral failure echoed what Obama shared about himself, about his selfishness and how he couldn’t focus on others and ended up abusing drugs and alcohol. It was here that Obama said something that I completely agree with — gasp! He said that as a nation we don’t abide by the words of Jesus in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me. I have been looking for ways to “act out” my faith. But then Obama said that verse applies to how we as a nation view poverty, racism, and sexism. Poverty? Yes, I agree with that. Racism? It depends on what you’re talking about. If you are talking about a pastor who rails against people of a different color or a scholarship committee that selects someone of a different color, then yes, I agree with that. I’ve always maintained that employment and scholarship applications should be color blind. And if the names of students or potential employees are somehow tip-offs to their race, then we should give all applicants a number sort of like the numbers you get when you stand in line at the deli counter in the grocery store. That way, hiring decisions or scholarship decisions are made solely on the basis of merit.
Obama said that welfare reform is something that he disagreed with back in the Clinton years but that he has since seen that it works. He says he now believes it is essential to tie work as a centerpiece of social assistance. McCain’s position that has changed? He was quick to say his position has changed on off shore drilling. He said (as Huckabee pointed out earlier this year) our country sends 700 Billion dollars to countries that don’t really like us that much, and some of that money probably ends up in the hands of terrorists who mean to do us harm. He now sees energy independence as a matter of national security.
As for the most gut-wrenching decision he’s ever had to make, for Obama, it was his decision to vote against going into Iraq. Despite pressure from those around him, he was and still is firmly convinced we didn’t have enough strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and we didn’t know how the factions would get along, and we hadn’t finished what we started in Afghanistan. Obama might have been on to something here. Bush relied too much on others to make his decisions for him. But gut wrenching? His lone vote against the war made him an object of ridicule politically. But McCain’s most gut-wrenching decision was quite literally GUT wrenching and led to some horrific torture…the decision to stay behind instead of having an early release from the POW camp in Vietnam. He said there was a military code of ethics that said that prisoners are released in the order in which they became captives. He made that decision knowing that it would make it harder for him and on him, despite being in bad physical shape. He said he is still happy he made that decision. So am I. That decision to not accept special treatment is a clear picture of the kind of man McCain is. He puts others before himself.
Forty million abortions have been performed since Roe v. Wade. Obama is pro-choice but maintains he is not pro-abortion. He skirted the issue of when a baby is entitled to human rights, saying that making that kind of theological or scientific decision was “above my pay grade.” Earlier in the interview Obama said he was a Christian and that for him, this means that Jesus died for his sins. He said this gives him a sense of obligation for deeds and not just words…acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. Notice a disconnect there? How can a person logically be pro-choice and still follow Jesus? Is allowing the dismemberment of a fetus acting justly? Is it merciful to the fetus or to the mother?
John McCain, on the other hand, believes that life begins at conception. Period. He stated he has a twenty five year history of pro-life decisions. He and his wife adopted a baby. On the question of being a Christian, he recounted a story from his days in the POW camp. There was a guard who sometimes loosened the ropes typing McCain’s hands up over his head in a crippling position. On Christmas Day, when he was let out of his cell for a few minutes, the guard stood with him and carefully drew a cross in the sand. The two men, jailer and prisoner, stood together and worshiped Christ despite being on opposite sides of a war. Perhaps facing extreme torture shaped his views on conception, but I get the sense that after what he’s been through, McCain values all human life.
Another question that highlights their differences was the question about faith-based community service organizations. A Civil Rights Act dictated that faith-based organizations may choose to hire only those who follow their same belief systems. Although Obama didn’t say that he would rescind that, he did say he favors an “all hands on deck” approach and that agencies receiving federal funds — even faith-based ones– should not be allowed to “discriminate” in their hiring practices. Let’s say a church is looking to hire a youth minister to run an outreach for inner city youth. They receive two resumes…one of those applying is openly gay, and the other is married and straight. Obama’s words seem to mean that the church would not be allowed to use the applicant’s sexual orientation as a basis for not hiring him. I say Obama’s head isn’t very clear on this because a church wouldn’t knowingly hire a child molester or someone who was actively cheating on his wife or someone who openly used cocaine. In God’s eyes, sin is sin, and homosexual activity is sin according to God, just as adultery and stealing are sins.
John McCain, on the other hand, said that faith-based community service organizations should not have to give up their right to hire who they want.
On taxes and the economy, Rick Warren asked the candidates to define…RICH. Obama said if you make $150,000 or less you are middle class or poor. And if you make $250,000 or more you are “doing well” and should have a moderate tax increase. Moderate? Define moderate. It makes a lot of sense to penalize people for making more money, doesn’t it? McCain’s answer….$5 million (he was joking). He said our government debt is so out of hand not because we aren’t being taxed enough, but because we have out of control spending. He let us know that last year we spent $3 million dollars to study bear DNA in Montana. That’s the kind of thing McCain would slash out and would insist that the government become smaller, not larger. He said the worst thing to do in tough economic times is to raise taxes. I agree. I think we need a completely new system. He listened to Huckabee about getting rid of our dependence on foreign oil; maybe he’ll take a page from him and listen to him about the FairTax or a flat tax or some other alternative that stops penalizing people for being successful! Yes, as Obama mentioned, in tough times we have to make sacrifices. But he’s not calling on everyone to make sacrifices….just those who make over $250,000 a year.
Perhaps the most telling are their responses to a question asking them why they want to be President of America.
Obama wants to be president because he believes everybody has a shot at success (even him). He wants the disenfranchised to know that we care for them, too. He said that the American Dream is slipping away because we can’t seem to bring people together.
McCain wants to be president because he wants to inspire the next generation to serve a cause greater than their own self interests. He said that we face great domestic and international challenges and that he has a record of crossing the political aisle to get whatever needs to be done, done. He said,
I’ll be the President of every American, and I’ll put my country first.