Saturday, August 16, 2008

Live Blogging Saddleback's "Civil Forum"

Okay, not quite: I'm actually watching the DVR with about an hour and a half delay. On a positive note, I can close some of that delay by fast-forwarding through the commercials.

On a negative note, I'm worried about this. Obama, and even McCain, will probably run circles around Rick Warren in this deliberately "non-confrontational" forum. We'll see.

Obama's up first.

8:06 EDT. Obama calls Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar his administration's "wise men." Does this include Nunn's pivotal role in legislation restricting gays in the military?

8:09 EDT. Obama says (in context) that lack of government welfare is our "greatest moral failing."

8:11 EDT. Obama takes credit for Campaign Finance Reform. Wasn't that passed before he was elected?

8:12 EDT. Warren asks Obama to confess to any flip-flops. He admits to changing his opinion on Welfare Reform. (He now supports it.)

8:13 EDT. Obama calls opposition to the Iraq War his most "gut wrenching decision". Lists the obvious difficulties with 20/20 hindsight.

8:20 EDT. Worldview section: Obama: "I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him." We should "act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with our God." Right out of the song. Damn, this guy's good!

8:22 EDT. Abortion section. Obama doesn't think that there is a scientific or theological answer to the question of when life begins. A lot of shuck and jive about "moral gravity," but he's ultimately pro-choice. More shuck and jive about "limits on late term abortions" that he's never actually voted for. He's in favor of government spending in support of pregnant women.

Obama: "Marriage is between a man and a woman," but will leave the issue to the states, which means activist state judges imposing gay marriage. Supports civil unions, or words to that effect.

8:27 EDT. He's in favor of stem cell harvesting from embryos "about to be discarded." I could drive a truck through that loophole. "If adult stem cell lines are working, we should try to avoid any kind of moral arguments that may be in place." What does this mean, exactly? More vignette's about "perspectives" of the harvesters.

8:30 EDT. Obama: There is evil in Darfur, child abuse, etc., but not, evidently, in Iraq or Georgia. Says that good intentions are not enough. True.

8:31 EDT. Which existing supreme court justice would you not have nominated? Obama sez: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and John Roberts. Honest and predictable. The job of SCOTUS is to "guard against the encroachment of the executive branch on the other branches." Why is SCOTUS supposed to take a side in disputes between the executive and legislature?

8:34 EDT. Obama: faith-based social services must forfeit right to discriminate in favor of their own faith when hiring people for programs for which they receive federal funds.

8:37 EDT. Education. Obama supports "performance pay" for public school teachers as long as teachers agree with it. In other words, no, but the crowd didn't get it, since they applauded.

8:38 EDT. Who's Rich? "If you have 25 million book sales . . ." Outstanding answer. Serious answer: more than $250K, so their taxes will go up. He's in favor of tax simplification.

8:45 EDT. America's role in the world. What's worth sacrificing American lives? "Freedom and National Interest." "Honor alliances." Darfur: no commitment. "If we have it in our power to prevent genocide and if we act in concert with the international community, we should act." Do we need U.N. approval? "No." Obama gives Bosnia as an example of something he would support. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

8:48 EDT. Obama commits America to supporting orphans worldwide. How much will taxes have to go up exactly? Sorry, question wasn't asked.

8:49 EDT. Religious persecution, China specifically. "We should speak out." Blah, blah, that's it pretty much. Not a bad answer, necessarily. But then: "The U.S. must have religious freedom at home. We must support habeus corpus and no torture to have moral standing." So once again, America must be metaphysically perfect by liberal Democrat standards to be concerned about the rest of the world.

8:52 EDT. Human trafficking. Again, we must first fight it at home.

Energy: There will be "a price to pay," "everyone must get involved", "we must make sacrifices on behalf of the next generation." The devil is in the details.

Not a bad performance; he totally snowed these yahoos. I wouldn't trust any of the commitments, but it was a good show, judging by the applause. I wonder how the crowd was picked? The Fox panel gave him high marks, but points out "racism and sexism" were among his answers of America's greatest evil. Krauthammer points out the irony of Obama's criticising Thomas's "inexperience" prior to his SCOTUS appointment.

McCain is up next. He's supposed to be asked the same questions.

9:02 EDT. Petraeus is his wiseman. But who is John Lewis? And why the CEO of Ebay Meg Whitman? I'm skeptical, in general, that corporate types, and especially entrepreneurs, will excel at statecraft.

8:04 EDT. McCain's greatest moral failure is his divorce. An honest answer, and one that helps to disarm the inevitable charge of hypocrisy. America's greatest moral failure is self-interest. We should have told America to "join the Peace Corp" after 9-11. Was the Peace Corp hiring? That would come as news to a lot of folks who lost their jobs.

8:06 EDT. When did you buck your party? A total softball for McCain, obviously. But he mentions our Beirut adventure in the early Reagan administration as something he opposed. If that's true, it was prescient, and an unexpectedly good answer, considering that most people have forgotten about Beirut, in contrast to most of his other party-bucking (immigration, campaign finance reform, etc.), which is viscerally despised by people like myself.

Flip flops? He's now in favor of offshore drilling. Outstanding. Supports alternative energy including nuclear. Double outstanding. "We now have a pro-American president of France, which shows if you live long enough anything can happen." Lots of applause for the home run.

Toughest decision: remaining a POW even after offered early release to deny North Vietnam the propoganda victory. Good answer, and undoubtedly true. "It took a lot of prayer." Good answer, and probably not true.

9:16 EDT. Worldview section. He's "saved and forgiven." Not as good as Obama's answer. Another 'Nam story, this time of a shared Christian moment with a prison guard over a cross drawn in the dirt. Would he make up a story like that?

9:18 EDT. When does a baby have human rights? "At the moment of conception." Applause. Unequivocally commits to pro-life policies across the board.

9:19 EDT Marriage: "Between a man and a woman." California Supreme Court was wrong to impose gay marriage. Supports federalism, as long as gay marriages contracted in one state do not have to be honored in other states; if SCOTUS makes that position non-viable, he would support the Federal Marriage Amendment. Hedges on civil unions, but my impression is that he believes these should be private contracts. Not sure.

9:21 EDT. Stem cells. Supports it without must specificity, but clearly means he's in favor of embryonic stem cell research until adult cells show more promise. I think.

9:22 EDT. Pledges America to fight evil, specifically "radical Islamic extremism." Energetically pledges us to see Iraq through.

9:24 EDT. Which Supreme Court Justices would you not have nominated? Ginsburg, Souter, Breyer, and Stephens. (I guess that means that Kennedy and Alito are the only ones the candidates agree on?) We must nominate judges with a "proven record of adhering to the Constitution and not legislating from the bench." Supports Alito and Roberts with enthusiasm. He implied earlier that he would see the overturn of Roe v. Wade, but it doesn't come up here.

9:26 EDT. Pledges support for full personnel discretion for faith based organizations, including those that receive federal funds. Battery is dying. . . . UPDATE: Most of the rest is from memory.

9:28 EDT. Education. McCain supports not only merit pay, but firing bad teachers. "Choice and competition, vouchers, homeschooling, charter schools. Every American family should have the same choice as we did and Obama's did. Vouchers work, homeschooling works." Lots of applause, but does he really want to "equalize opportunity" as he claims? I think (I hope) he's being hyperbolic here.

9:31 EDT. What is rich? Artfully dodges the question, but says he wants everyobdy to be rich. Supports tax credits for families, opposes government takeover of healthcare. "Spending got completely out of control." Good bit about how he wants taxes to be as low as possible for everyone.

America's role in the world. Avoids specific commitments to Georgia and Darfur, while expressing sympathy for those peoples. Reiterates that he puts American national security first in regards to our commitment of troops.

McCain totally misunderstood the international orphan question, which is just as well, since it probably kept him from saying somethingn foolish.

Religious freedom: I can't recall what he said about the world, but unequivocally said that America was unique in our freedoms and that we should always be greatful for these.

Surveillance. McCain acknowledged the trade-off with privacy, but pointed out the extent to which our enemies use communications to operate. He should have said that privacy protections exist to protect Americans, not scummy foreigners.

Winds up saying that America was founded on "Judeo-Christian principles."

Summary: well done. He totally snowed this yahoo. In fact, since immmigration didn't come up, were this all I knew, he'd have my vote. I specifically was impressed by the way his reflex was to praise America, in contrast to Obama's blame America.

On the other hand, the forum suffered the absence of tough follow-up. I think McCain got the better of this arrangement in that he was often non-specific on the extent of his proposed foreign policy commitments. But Obama got off easy on this too, plus his answers on domestic policy should have been challenged. Of course,the forum would no longer have been "non-confrontational".

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