Monday, August 18, 2008

Courting the Evangelicals

Rev. Rick Warren talked with McCain and Obama at his church in California on Saturday about issues he thought would be important to evangelicals. I didn't get a chance to see it because I was at the beach, but everything I've read and heard indicates that McCain did quite well. Obama's camp is now alleging that McCain somehow heard the questions in advance and that accounted for the difference, although that doesn't seem to be true.

Highlights (thanks NR online):

When asked, “What’s the most gut-wrenching decision you’ve ever had to make?” Obama cited his decision to oppose the Iraq war. That is like me saying the most difficult decision of my life was to support the Iraq war. Obama was not in the Senate at the time this decision was being made and had no more influence on the decision that I did.
When McCain got the question, he was able to tell an old story with a sense of gravity and poignancy that he seldom shows in public. He described his time as a prisoner of war, when he was offered a chance for early release because his father was a top naval officer. “I was in rather bad physical shape,” McCain told Warren, but “we had a code of conduct that said you only leave by order of capture.” So McCain refused to go. He made the telling even more forceful when he added that, “in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m very happy I didn’t know the war was going to last for another three years or so.” In one moment, he showed a sense of pride and a hint of regret, too; he came across as a man who did the right thing but not without the temptation to take an easy out. In any event, the message was very clear: John McCain has had to make bigger, more momentous decisions in his life than has Barack Obama.

They were asked when they “went against party loyalty and maybe even against your own best interest for the good of America.” Obama cited working with McCain on campaign finance reform. Unfortunately, Obama worked with McCain only briefly on the issue before jumping back in the Democratic camp, prompting an angry letter from McCain asserting that Obama had done exactly the opposite of what Warren's question was about. The fact is, Obama doesn't have any examples because he's never gone against party loyalty.
When McCain got the question, everyone in the room thought he would bring up campaign-finance reform, the issue on which he has alienated the Republican base for years. But he didn’t. 'Climate change, out-of-control spending, torture,' he said. 'The list goes on.' McCain’s prime example, though, 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?”

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.” Um, er, please don't make me answer this question. As I discussed last week, Obama doesn't even believe all babies that are already born have human rights.

McCain: “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.”

Perhaps the low moment for Obama was when he was asked, “which existing Supreme Court justice would you not have nominated?” Obama said, “I don’t think he was an exp . . . ” — he then caught himself — “a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation.” He went on to say that, while he opposed their views on the Constitution, he had no such reservations about the intelligence of the white conservatives on the bench. From the WSJ:

So let's see. By the time he was nominated, Clarence Thomas had worked in the Missouri Attorney General's office, served as an Assistant Secretary of Education, run the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sat for a year on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's second most prominent court. Since his "elevation" to the High Court in 1991, he has also shown himself to be a principled and scholarly jurist.

Meanwhile, as he bids to be America's Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama isn't yet four years out of the Illinois state Senate, has never held a hearing of note of his U.S. Senate subcommittee, and had an unremarkable record as both a 'community organizer' and law school lecturer. Justice Thomas's judicial credentials compare favorably to Mr. Obama's Presidential résumé by any measure. And when it comes to rising from difficult circumstances, Justice Thomas's rural Georgian upbringing makes Mr. Obama's story look like easy street.

This is all promising, let's just hope McCain doesn't blow it by picking an unacceptable VP.

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