Going through the news today I see that the joint forum where John McCain and Barack Obama answered some questions from Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church has gotten some play around the Internet.
The transcripts can be found here but a few things are already standing out.
Abortion: Warren's question was: At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?
The question was simple, Warren wanted to know, in the candidate's minds, when rights begin. Using the word "rights" and asking for their view made it plain that Warren was talking about legal rights.
The two separate answers from the candidates showed a huge contrast between the two.
McCain's Answer: At the moment of conception. I have a 25-year Pro-life record in the Congress and 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. That's my commitment. That's my commitment to you.
Obama's Answer: Well, I think that whether you are looking at at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.
Then he went on to speak in more general terms, completely sidestepping the actual question itself.
Another question that stood out was Warren wanting to know who each candidate would "rely heavily on" in their administration.
Warren's question: Who are the three wisest people you know in your life and who are you going to rely heavily in your administration?
Obama's answer: You mentioned one person I's be listening to and that's Michelle, my wife, who is not only wise but she's honest. And one of the things you need-- I think any leaders needs is somebody who can get in your face and say, boy, you really screwed that one up. You really blew that.
Warren: Your wife's like that too?
Obama: Yes. Yes. So, so that's very helpful. Another person is my grandmother who's an extraordinary woman. She never went to college. She worked on a bomber assembly line during WWII when my grandfather was away, came back, got a job as a secretary, worked her way up to become a bank vice president before she retired and she's just a very grounded common sense no fuss no frill kind of person and when I've got big decisions I often check with her.
In terms of the administration or how I would approach the presidency, I don't think I's restrict myself to three people. There are people like Sam Dunn a Democrat or Dick Luker a Republican who I listened to on policy on domestic policy. I got friends ranging from Ted Kennedy to Tom Colbert who don't necessarily agree on a lot of things but who both, I think, have a sincere desire to see the country improve. What I found is very helpful to me is to have a table where a lot of different points of view are represented and where I can sit and poke and prod and ask them questions. So That I'm not--so that any blind spots I have or predispositions that I have that my assumptions are challenged and I think that that's extraordinarily important.
John McCain's answer: First one I think would be General Petraeus, one of the great military leaders in America history who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq. One of the great leaders.
Fourth of July a year ago, Senator Lindsey Graham and I were in Baghdad. 688 brave Americans whose enlistment had expired, swore an oath of reenlistment to stay and fight for freedom. Only someone like David Petraeus could motivate somebody like that.
I think John Lewis. John Lewis was at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Had his skull fractured. Continues to serve. Continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment to causes greater than ourself.
Meg Whitman. Meg Whitman, the CEO of E-Bay. Meg Whitman, 12 years ago there were five employees. Today they are one-and-a-half million people that make a living off e-mail in America in the world. One of these great American success stories and in these economic challenging times we need to call on the wisdom and knowledge, background of people like Mg Whitman who have been able to make such a great American story part of the world's folklore.
Those are but two examples from the uncorrected and unedited transcripts provided by the Warren website, but they show a perfect example of how McCain managed to stay on topic, focus and answer direct questions with direct answers and Obama side-stepped or enlarged his answer instead of sticking to the point.
(Note- The answers to the individual questions were taken from the transcript provided at the Warren site, which may not be in final form yet)
Another telling thing there is the people the two candidates chose. Obama picked his wife and grandmother, both of whom may help him in times of need, but neither are experts in areas needed to run a country. Military, economic, whatever the case may be, Obama chose people as inexperienced as he is in matters instead of experts that could objectively look at a problem and help solve it.
He also couldn't name just three as he was asked to do.
Reactions from around the web are varied, but The Corner points out that McCain was as good as Obama was bad.
I would tend to agree with that assessment after reading the transcript. Obama strayed, expanded and once again showed that he is not in his element without his teleprompter, while John McCain focused and answered his questions directly.
Roger Kimball over at Pajamas Media called Obama's answer on the abortion question "insulting and mendacious equivocation."
Riehl World View points out one spectacular misrepresentation:
Tonight with Rick Warren, Obawon-calliope said this:
Obama said the most gut-wrenching decision of his life was to vote against the Iraq War. McCain said it was when he declined an offer to leave a prison camp in Vietnam.
Obama didn't vote against the Iraq War. He wasn't even in the Senate! Am I missing something here? Did he somehow qualify this to make it true? Or was it simply made up?
Obama was not in the Senate at the time of the vote but opposed the war from the start. He has proposed a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to be completed by the end of March 2008, and he told reporters he was uncertain how Clinton intended to end the conflict.
So did he vote as he claims or didn't he? Another slip of the tongue? "Bad phrasing"?
PowerLine points out other areas where McCain and Obama starkly contrasted each other.
MSNBC's First Read phrases it perfectly in one paragraph:
Quick first impressions: Obama spent more time trying to impress Warren (or to put another away) not offend Warren while McCain seemingly ignored Warren and decided he was talking to folks watching on TV. The McCain way of handling this forum is usually the winning way. Obama may have had more authentic moments but McCain was impressively on message.
Obama supporters will undoubtedly fly to his defense, but his performance was not up to par with McCain's.