Aug 16 2008

Rick Warren, Obama and McCain, reactions live

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 6:10 pm

I just listened to the first hour, the hour of Obama and Warren. Live blogging from here out.

Obama was smooth, spoke better and stuttered less than he frequently does when speaking “off the cuff”.

Warren asked mostly softballs, and did not follow up in meaningful ways that would allow a listener to cut through the fog of glittering generality.

UPDATE: one exception to the “softballs” was the question on abortion. Second was on the definition of “the rich”.

McCain is responding to Warren’s question on three people he’d listen to strongly. Obama mentioned his mother, his grand mother and Ted Kennedy. McCain said General David Petreus, John Lewis and Meg Whitman. Who’s the grown up here?

On the greatest personal failing question: McCain just came out and said “My first marriage failing.” No excuses, no elaboration. Obama had given a “poor me” answer about his teen years.

On the question of being willing to go against your party, McCain wins hands down, of course, including some matters I disagree with him on. He gives as an example a vote from early in his career, when he had more to lose, against Reagan sending Marines to Beirut. McCain turns out to be right on that one, in retrospect, of course.

On the “have you changed your mind lately issue”, McCain said “drill here, drill now” and do everything else, too. (Compare to Obama’s speech about how we all have to tighten our belts energy-wise.) In response to the question itself, Obama mentioned “welfare reform”, without much in the way of timeline, details, what changed his mind, etc.

On the question of “toughest, most gut wrenching decision”, McCain pretty much blows Obama out of the water, mentioning his decision to remain a prisoner in North Vietnam when he could have come home, by taking advantage of his father’s pull as an admiral, but abandoning his fellow prisoners. It isn’t Obama’s fault that he has no such item in his resume, but it highlights the fact that a tyro is running against a lion.

The faith question: Obama took a fairly conventional line. So is McCain. But McCain is talking about how his faith sustained him in captivity, with a story about a Christian Vietnamese guard who performed what small acts of kindness he could.

On to abortion: Obama dodged completely the question of when a baby is entitled to human rights. McCain said clearly, “At the moment of conception.”

On marriage: both say a union of a man and a woman.

McCain wants to talk about judges early in the interview, and insists that Warren get to it. Warren allows it, asking about McCain’s view of the recent CA court case that legalized gay marriage in CA. McCain disagrees with the judgment.

McCain: “I am a federalist, and the states should make decisions.”

Back in the same order of questions:

Stem cells: McCain is for stem cell research but is “wildly optimistic” that skin cell based stem cells will remove the reason for the debate.

On evil: What should we do about evil? McCain: “Defeat it.” McCain specifically mentions Bin Laden. And the evil of Al Qaeda around the world, including the US. Obama had wiggled and dodged on this one, seemed to interpret it psychologically, domestically, etc.

On the question of what judges he would NOT have appointed: Obama said Thomas, Scalia, Roberts. McCain said Souter, Breyer, Ginsburg, Thomas. Specifically mentioned the danger of “legislation from the bench”.

On faith based community service programs that are government funded: Obama wiggled about allowing institutions to use their own people and people who agree with them using federal money, saying “the devil is in the details.” McCain said straight out that faith based institutions doing good work should be able to choose those with whom they’ll work, even with government funds.

On education: On the “merit pay” question for teachers, McCain said, “Yes, and find the bad teachers a different line of work.” McCain stressed “choice and competition”. Obama, as usual, was very low on specifics, trying to say he was for it, but only if the teachers agreed on the criteria by which they would be judged… e.g., let the unions decide how merit pay will be assigned.

On define “rich”, Obama said above $250,000, with $150,000 to $250,000 being “maybe rich”. McCain seems to be avoiding giving a number… says he wants everyone to be rich, is against redistribution in general, mentions small business people who work very long hours, but are considered “rich”, wants to lower taxes, avoid health care system takeover. Said, if you want to pick a number, how about $5,000,000, jokingly, but a guaranteed soundbite for the lefty blogs, of course.

McCain goes on to say it wasn’t tax policy that was the problem in the last few years, it was spending.

McCain takes a swipe at congress for going on vacation without voting on drilling. Says he does not want to raise ANYONE’s taxes.

On security: how to balance right to privacy to right to security? McCain: Stresses need to balance rights, with congressional and judicial oversight, but allowing security agencies to listen to phone calls by terrorist suspects to or from USA, mentions issues with technology changing options, etc.

Warren: “What is worth dying for?” McCain: “freedom”. Obama’s reply was pretty vague. I TIVO’d and will revisit Obama’s reply to this one. McCain mentions USA military dying for the freedom of “other nations”, also, and mentions that USA is pretty unique in this.

Warren: would you commit troops to stop genocide? McCain: “Our obligation is to stop genocide wherever it happens.” “We have to do more, martial forces from around the world, supply logistics and aid to African countries who will enforce a cease-fire, but it’s very complicated.” Re: Russia and Georgia: McCain recites details of Russian depredations, Georgian history, ancient and modern, then: “WE have to have honored the territorial integrity of Georgia by Russia.” “The presidents of other former Soviet republics flew to Georgia to express solidarity.” “It’s about Russian control of pipelinem, so they can use leverage against the rest of Europe.” Sadly, McCain seems to have no more specific plan about Georgia than to give humanitarian aid to Georgia and pressure the Russians. It’s a tough problem.

Warren: What can US do to end religious persecution? McCain: “Other nations want to be like us in this regard.” He has no real solution to offer, though he describes the problem in detail.

Warren: What can we do to encourage adoption for 148 million orphans around the world? Can we give assistance to Americans who want to adopt them? Obama seemed to be for this, so is McCain. McCain has adopted off shore, and tells short story about it.

Why do you want to be president? McCain: “I want to inspire people to think beyond their own self-interest.”

OK, it’s done. And I’ll review the recording I made, try to correct any errors or omissions, but it’ll be a day or two. I have to go practice synthesizer to play for church tomorrow.

18 Responses to “Rick Warren, Obama and McCain, reactions live”

  1. Wandering Reader says:

    Rick Warren asked the audience to take the time and listen to both candidates in this discussion, looking at your recaps, it seems like you only did that for the second half of this presentation. I’ll just ask this; is it really better to give a simple answer to a question about a very complex issue?

  2. harmonicminer says:

    Some questions can be answered simply. Some complex answers are really attempts to avoid letting people know your real perspective, or know you don’t have a fully formed one. Make your own judgments, but McCain is specific, and high on details, while Obama is big on glittering generality and very low on specifics.

  3. harmonicminer says:

    BTW… apologies for not blogging the process sooner… just didn’t get the idea to do it.

  4. Wandering Reader says:

    How is McCain high on details when he is taking half the time that Obama took for his answers? And it’s not like McCain isn’t giving plenty of his own glittering generalities; they both are.

  5. harmonicminer says:

    Are you trying to keep me from blogging live?

  6. harmonicminer says:

    I repeat: Obama can use lots of words and give NO details. McCain uses fewer words but more specifics. Simple.

  7. Wandering Reader says:

    Eh i disagree but I don’t want to be a rude guest on your blog. First let me say I like your posts, you write well and it’s a good read. I initially commented because as an Obama supporter I’m trying to give an active effort to be open-minded about McCain’s message and I was hoping to encourage that mindset in others. I think that Americans need to be willing to borrow ideas from the other party, to take the same stance of their rival party on certain issues, that sort of thing.

    Anyway, I think McCain definitely won this discussion tonight; BUT at the same time, he probably should have. The focus was primarily on Christian issues, and the Bible Belt is solidly Republican so the forum was in his wheelhouse. Issues like stem cell and abortion can be summed up when you take a polar, crowd-favorite position on them like McCain has recently; you can’t if you have a moderate position on them like Obama (or myself). But personally, I don’t want a candidate who takes a “yes/no” approach to those type of issues; as a health professional, in my humble opinion, I want those issues to be answered by Washington in shades of gray. And while I think there are plenty of voters who want a straight yes/no answer, I think there are also plenty of voters who feel the same way that I do.

  8. harmonicminer says:

    Maybe you aren’t aware that McCain has supported embryonic stem cell research, and that he has done so even though it hurt him with the pro-life community. It is the reason James Dobson has had such reservations about McCain. So McCain is in fact to the left of his audience on that point.

  9. harmonicminer says:

    McCain mentioned his historic support for embryonic stem cell research in front of an audience he knew would disagree. I disagree with him on this, but respect his willingness to say it like he sees it, and not to deny or shade his history in the matter.

  10. harmonicminer says:

    I, too, would prefer that as far as the federal government is concerned, that “those issues to be answered by Washington in shades of gray”. If that’s how you really feel (which I doubt, in all seriousness) then you should be in favor of the repeal of Roe v. Wade, which was an example of the judiciary putting everything in black and white, for the entire nation, without legislative options either federally or in the states. Abortion is an absolute right, at any time in the pregnancy, and it’s federal law. So if you’re an Obama supporter, I suggest you write a letter to him encouraging him to appoint originalist judges who will appeal Roe v. Wade… if you really want the federal government to see things in “shades of gray” and leave it up to the individual states.

  11. harmonicminer says:

    Oh, and wandering reader, you’re welcome to comment anytime. I have a thick skin!

  12. Wandering Reader says:

    No I was not aware of that, but the part of McCain’s answer that I saw was him saying that he was optimistic about skin cells being used as a substitute. My mistake. And I am impressed by McCain’s willingness to take the tough position in front of that audience. But my point still stands on their responses to the abortion issue.

    But in response to your lack of details from Obama, if you look at his campaign website he details many of his campaign planks with a great deal of depth; and in some issues he goes into much more detail than does McCain (health care and education, for example).

  13. Wandering Reader says:

    And again I want to say that I like your blog and respect your opinions completely and I’m really not trying to be rude or disruptive on your site.

  14. harmonicminer says:

    You’re about the most polite dissenting commenter I’ve ever seen… so no worries.

    Re: details from Obama’s site on health care and education, that’s precisely my point, I suppose: these are issues that the feds should mostly stay out of. In these areas, the more details you have, the more you’re meddling in what should be in the private sphere. Ditto for education, which should be far more local than federal.

    I think I need to clarify the difference between “detail” and “specificity”. A candidate can provide a zillion details, with little specificity about how it will really work. Not that Obama provided much of either today, but McCain’s answers were less detailed than they were specific. He didn’t make vague references to “evil in our cities”, he very specifically listed evils that are properly the province of government to do something about. He was specific about the evils, without being highly detailed in what, exactly, he would do about the problems he identified.

    I’d have to agree with Obama’s statement about “evils in our cities”, but what do you want to bet that my detailed list of those evils might be pretty different from his? This is the kind of slippery rhetoric that I don’t care for… I don’t really know what he means, and neither does anyone else, so they can interpret it to mean what they like, or don’t like.

  15. flex says:

    the question was wether evil existed and whether it should be containted…? Warren did not ask the candidates to list what evils existed.

  16. harmonicminer says:

    I have to agree, the question wasn’t to list them… but that is about all Obama did, and very vaguely, as I said. McCain was clear in his intent about what to DO about it. Obama, as usual, left me wondering what he actually meant, and what he would actually do…. which WAS the intent of the question, and which Obama evaded.

  17. harmonicminer says:

    Just to clarify: McCain said he wanted to “defeat evil”, as opposed to merely “containing it”. Obama didn’t really say. This was a specific answer on McCain’s part, but it was not “detailed”, in the sense of providing the means by which he would try to defeat each evil he listed. I expect I’m not alone in wondering how he would approach the task, but at least he clearly set out what the task WAS. Obama did not.

    Oddly, Obama has a way of being detailed without being specific…

  18. enharmonic says:

    I didn’t get to hear this debate so I’m glad to be getting your insights.

    To ‘wandering reader’ – you say that if one desires specifics from Obama, go to his website. I would submit that the whole purpose of a public debate in a political campaign is to give each candidate the opportunity to state specifically what he really thinks. Imagine a president who in conversation with world leaders can’t say what he thinks and instead refers them to his website. I will be holding my nose as I vote for McCain precisely because I do know what he really thinks on nearly every issue out there. I don’t like some of his positions but at least I know what they are.

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