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August 16, 2008
Style was fine, but was there any substance?
While the McCain campaign revels in a reasonably clear win (on a stage where a clear win was the minimum requirement), the Obama campaign enjoys the fact that their candidate quoted scripture in a church without saying GD America (in a no-lose situation for them), while the media generally fawns over the style of all involved. I have to wonder this; is anyone taking a look at the transcript of what was said?
Maybe it's just me, but seems like there was a lot of mis-reading of history, the Bible, recent campaign quotes and reality by the candidates. And all of it seemed to zip right past the moderator, Saddleback Church Pastor and best selling author Rick Warren.
(Much of that seems to still be zipping past the pundits who are breaking down the performances as well.)
In Pastor Warren's defense, he attempted to put together a whole new election forum style, and in that pursuit he succeeded. It was, as commentator Charles Krauthammer said, a terrific "laboratory experiment" with both candidates sitting in the same chair, on the same stage, answering the same questions from the same moderator in front of the same crowd.
That's an admirable format, but it has its limitations. To keep the questions the same, no follow up questions were part of the process...no pressing for clarifications...no, well, calling "I doubt it" on anyone. Warren will not be replacing Tim Russert any time soon. The lack of follow up was rather un nerving on many occasions, especially as Barack Obama continued his habit of perverting the Gospel of Matthew in response to a prominent preacher who seemed to enjoy the answers. I can only wonder if they were "high-fiving" back at TUCC, where I'd wager a Jeremiah Wright tape collection that they watched as a congregation.
But I digress. As the media continues to chew this one over in the coming days from the "horse race" standpoint, consider a few obvious revelations.
First, McCain showed that for the evangelical, he is clearly the most philosophically consistent choice in this election. Not a great choice. Maybe not even a good one. But he does present a stark contrast to the post modern -- you must find grey areas and the need for government programs in everything -- approach of Obama. The Democrat nominee, much like his base, finds the call for taxation and government welfare in the Bible, where Jesus is pretty clear that He is calling for individual responsibility in such issues. He kind of stumbled over this while mumbling apparently the only Bible verse he knows, the one in Matthew referring to "the least of these." In ObamaLand that always means higher taxes and more government hand outs.
Further, Obama finds it impossible to answer the question of when life begins and says that anyone who is totally sure of that answer "is not paying attention", which is not exactly an accurate reading of "fearfully and wonderfully made" not to mention modern science brought to life post Roe v Wade.
And on the question of evil, Obama did concur that such exists, though he was much more interested in making sure that our country moves slow in defining evil because we are not perfect (and happen to have a Republican President at the moment). He also did not find Al Qaeda or the Russian Army among the readily available evils.
For the patriot, McCain also demonstrated a clear and present difference. History might show that General David Patreaus as a great American military hero. McCain is willing to grant him that status now and his mentioning Patraeus as the first of the three people he puts his trust in was instructive of how McCain feels about country, duty and honor. Yeah, I know that mentioning the general gives Mac another chance to slip in a reference to his supporting the surge, but it was an effective moment for him nontheless.
Meanwhile, Obama mumbled something about his grandmother being "an extraordinary person," this being the same grandmother BHO described as "a typical white person" just a scant few months ago. In addition to that, Michelle Obama is among the top three confidants BHO will rely on, whether or not she happens to be "proud of her country" at the time.
For the pragmatist, the show demonstrated that McCain is more familiar with having core beliefs and values and is able to answer certain basic fundamental questions quickly and with self assurance. Obama, ever the academic and politician, is quick only to say "as I have said before" and then he quotes himself from a previous obfuscation. Aside from the Jesus of Black Liberation Theology and the white devil, there is no black and white in Obama's world. Everything is an academic debate and discussion leading to a singular conclusion: government government and more government.
McCain, of course, is very weak on that little item we call "the private sector" as well, though he did at least throw us a few free enterprise bones during the evening, one of which was listing the president and CEO of EBAY among his top three advisors. (The CEO of Exxon Mobil might have been a better choice, but we'll take acknowledgment of business success being something other than evil anywhere we can get it)
He couldn't resist taking a clumsy jab at President Bush, listing among America's shortcomings our "call to go shopping and spend money" right after 9-11 instead of calling people to public service. This was totally uncalled for and so out of context as to be jejune. With a scared nation and a groundswell of people volunteering for military, fire and police service in the aftermath, getting our economy going and getting people over their fear was the perfect response. Nontheless, Mac drew a big applause from the crowd with the line so it served a purpose.
And that's kind of a micro cosm of the entire evening. It drew a lot of applause. There was a palpable air of self congratulation among the congregants of Saddleback. McCain and Obama, to their consitituencies, came off above the minimum requirement level. The media, at first blush, liked the format and the performances.
But you can go through the transcript of the evening, and with only a sophomoric understanding of the issues, find a lot of problems with McCain, Obama and Warren. But will anyone bother to do this?