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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Obama-McCain Saddleback Church Forum: Live Blogging

George Wenschhof

For those who do not already know, this Forum is televised live on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX beginning at 8:00 PM ET.

With all the discussion over the years pertaining to the separation of Church and State, it is difficult for many to believe a Presidential candidate forum is taking place at a Church and moderated by a Reverend. Yet, here is it. Evangelicals were given credit by many in the media for helping President George W. Bush be reelected in 2004. Now, both Republican and Democratic candidates have discussed their religious beliefs while on the campaign trail. Interestingly, Evangelicals have not warmly embraced either candidate to date.

This Forum will be more of an interview than a debate as Reverend Warren will interview Senators Barack Obama and John McCain separately for one hour. Per a coin flip, Senator Obama will go first and Senator McCain will be unable to hear the questions or answers. Reportedly, the candidates will meet briefly on stage at the conclusion of the Obama interview.

The early buzz is Reverend Warren will be asking plenty of personal questions. As always, it's not always the interview itself, but more the spin from both of the campaigns and the media that follows. Let's see how this goes...

Reverend Warren is explaining the rules, says both candidates are his friends, need to restore civility, he will ask identical questions to both candidates-welcome senator Barack Obama. First series of questions pertain to leadership: Who are the three wisest people you know and who will you rely on heavily. Obama says excluding you of course and my wife.-he got a good laugh, talks about his grandmother, as to the administration, he would not restrict himself to 3 people, foreign policy- Biden and Lugar, domestic, Kennedy of course.

personal life - what is greatest moral failure of his life and of the country - his teenage years of drug use and drinking, lack of a Father. Both Obama and Warren are dressed casually without ties.

Warren - good legislation getting killed due to party loyalty - give him an example of you going against the party for the good of America. Obama - finance reform actually working with Senator McCain. He opposed the move to go into Iraq at a time when it was popular to do so.

any Flip Flops - a change of mind? - welfare reform - was concerned when it was signed into law - it worked better than he expected, he now believes work needs to be a central part of any social policy.

what was the most gut wrenching decision he ever made? Iraq again, Sadamm was a real bad person but it was a bad decision.

Break - talk about world view in next section. Obama ok so far, several applause answers,a little heavy on the Iraq answers.

Christianity - what does it mean to you? he believes Jesus died for his sins ( a good answer for the evangelicals) acting justly.

Abortion - 40 million since Roe v. Wade - at what point does a baby get human rights? unable to answer specifically, above his pay grade. There is a moral and ethical part of this issue. he is pro choice - how do we reduce abortions? He is in favor of limits on late term abortions except in the case of the mother's health.

define marriage - a union between a man and a woman (applause) - talks about same-sex marriage - he believes in civil unions. On to stem cell research - if embryos are going to be discarded then they should be used for research

does evil exit? evil does exist - we see it in Dar fur, we need to confront it, we can not erase it from the world, but we can confront evil. need to have humility.

Domestic issues - which existing supreme court justice would you have not nominated? Clarence Thomas, Scalia, Roberts

Faith Based organizations - would you insist they forfeit their right to receive federal funds? He points out his earlier speech about being in favor of faith based organizations. Education - merit pay for Teachers? Obama- believes in performance based pay. Taxes - define rich - Obama - if you have book sales of 25 million - referring to Warren-got a laugh. If you are making more than 250K you are doing well. 150k or less and you will see a tax cut under his plan.

Break - questions are good, but rat-a-tat-tat. hard for any real discussion or in depth answers

International issues - whats worth dying for? American freedom, security. We have national alliances we must honor. 148 million orphans in the world - would you commit to do a energy plan for Orphans? should work with NGOs, international community and look at how do we prevent the increase of orphans. Gave Bush credit for his work against AIDs. what about religious persecution around the world?

What about human trafficking? Give prosecutors the tools, need to speak out internationally. Why do you want to be President? wants to help everyone have the opportunity to succeed, he has the ability to build bridges, bring people together and change a broken Washington. He trusts in the American people to make the right decision when they vote for President. Americans need to tackle energy issues and it will not be easy.

Well, it went by quickly, here comes McCain on stage. Obama did well with the rapid fire questions and Reverend Warren did well at asking so many. The Obama answer questioning Clarence Thomas's qualifications for the Supreme Court may receive a little media attention.

McCain's three wisest people - General Petraus, Rep. John Lewis, Meg Whitman of Ebay - 5 person office to 1.5 million. His biggest failure was his first marriage. Biggest flip flop from ten years ago? Off-shore oil drilling, need to drill now and America needs nuclear power. most gut wrenching decision - in a prison camp in Viet Nam he could have been released early-he said no.

Break - what does faith mean to you? strength, gave another story about his captivity in Viet Nam. Abortion question - McCain is pro-life, he believe life begins as conception. define marriage - one man and one woman. the stem cell question - favor or oppose federal funding? he supports research. Issue of evil - does it exist? McCain - defeat it. He will get Bin Laden - goes into his stump speech of facing radical Islamic extremists. Winning in Iraq.

Domestic issues - courts - which existing supreme court justices would you have not nominated? Ginsberg, Beyer Souter, Stevens. faith based organizations - able to receive federal funds even if they only hire like minded individuals? yes. Education - merit pay for Teachers - yes and find bad Teachers another line of work. believes in choice and competition, charter schools work, vouchers work, home schooling works.

Rich defined - he wants everyone to get rich. He doesn't want to take money from the rich. finally says 5 million, wants to keep taxes low, it was spending that got the trouble not taxes. Criticized Congress for taking a vacation in the middle of a energy crisis. Break...

What is worth fighting for? freedom, national security. be a beacon of hope. America should stop genocide wherever, mentions Rwanda, dar fur, how do we effectively stop it. What about Georgia? here he goes, Starts with the Russian empire wanting to grow again. We need the cease fire and territorial integrity respected by Russia.

Religious persecution - started talking about Reagan and how he took on the Russians-never answered the actual question. now the orphan question - would you commit to a U.S. program for 140 million orphans. Need to make adoption easier in the U.S. Why do you want to be President? believes in opportunity, has a record of working across the aisle, will always put his country first. As to having questions asked in a Church- he is honored to be here.

No big surprises. McCain pro-life and Obama pro-choice, both believed in merit pay for Teachers, both had different choices for Supreme Court justices, both agreed with definition of marriage being between a man and a woman, both agreed in fighting to support freedom and national security. As to this crowd and possibly the television audience, although Obama did ok, McCain connected in a stronger manner as was to be expected in this type of Forum.

It probably would have been better had both candidates been on stage together and been able to answer each question after each other. However, Reverend Warren did well with the asking of so many questions and keeping it moving along and non-confrontational.

Let the spin begin.

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