Liveblogging Warren and McCain
by Nathan Empsall, Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:59:33 PM EDT
Obama is done, and McCain is joining him on stage. So here is the first shot of Obama and McCain together since the Manchester January debates, and it lasted less than 30 seconds. Neither looked completely at ease, although I'd say Obama seemed a tad more stand-offish.
Warren is about to start with McCain. Given his question to Obama re: what is your greatest moral failing and Obama's striking candor about selfishness and drugs, it will be interesting to see if we get similar candor from McCain about his first wife.
9:03: Who are the three wisest people that you know and would rely on? General Petraeus, who he gives a rather serious and sober paeon to. Here's a curveball: Democrat Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights veteran. And Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay. (Obama answered this before I started blogging this, and joked about Warren himself, talked about his family, then named Nunn, Lugar, Kennedy, and for diversity, Coburn.) A well articulated-answer, but a little too somber given Obama's overly personal performance. This is an audience that wants personal.
9:10: Here it comes!!! This'll be good. What is your greatest moral failure, and what is the greatest moral failure of America? McCain: "My greatest moral failing, and I have been a very imperfect person, is the failure of my first marriage." Says nothing else. America's greatest failure is devoting ourselves to individualism. After 9/11, we (Bush, not we as a nation, Bush! say it, dammit!) shouldn't have said go shopping, but we should have expanded the Peace Corps and service. Goes on to quote Warren, "This is not about you."
I hate to say this, but he handled that answer well. He admitted to his failed marriage so won't get hit for ducking it with torture or anything like that, but managed to not elaborate and put the focus on service. Most independents and undecideds probably don't know the marriage's details, so bearing that in mind, his focus on service did gel well with the question since hey, he's right, we are a selfish, individualistic society not focused on the common good or on public service. But, I think Obama did a better job by talking about Christian obligation and Matthew 25. That's what these voters want to hear, and it's more personal. McCain gets a positive here, but not nearly the positive Obama got.
9:10: What have you changed positions on that's not a flip flop? McCain: "Offshore drilling! We've got to drill now, and we've got drill here!" What is this, a Harley convention? Makes his first joke of the evening by impersonating Gov. Ah-nuld's accent.
Energy never came up with Obama. Ok, it did, but as a five second throwaway at the end. McCain scores big political points by elaborating on energy. He lists everything we need - solar, wind, nuclear, nuclear, nuclear - and salutes the French. But I really, really wish we could get someone to actually educate the public about offshore drilling. Dammit.
9:12: What's the most gut-wrenching decision you've ever had to make? Tells the story of choosing to stay in the POW camp when they offered to let the Admiral's kid go home. I won't sum up the answer, but it is personal, and it is moving. The honor and strenght McCain showed as a POW is admirable, and not in a thirty second way. Read his old US News account, admire him, respect him - and then vote against him.
9:14: First commercial break. So far, I'd say McCain is doing a good job, but not nearly as good a job as Obama did. Religion has only come up once with McCain - just now, he said his time as a POW took a lot of prayer. Obama was much more open and forthcoming about faith, tying it into several policy positions and thought processes by this point. Obama has also been very personal and chatty, wheras except for his final POW answer, McCain has been stiff and somber. If this is Obama vs. McCain for a complexly conservative crowd, so far, McCain has fended him off, but the challenge is strong.
9:18: What does faith mean to you? "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Tells another POW story of worshipping with another soldier. Very moving, but more personal than faithful. It's clear he doesn't mind being personal, but that he doesn't want to talk about faith. McCain wins with those not paying attention who are moved by stories of courage; Obama wins with everyone actually paying attention to the substance of faith.
9:21: Abortion. McCain is pro-life, human rights start at conception. Gay marriage. Man and a woman. Wow, short and sweet. McCain: are we going to get to the Courts, or do I need to bring it up now? Warren: we'll get to it. But, was the CA Supreme Court wrong? McCain: Yes. I'm a federalist, I believe that this is a state issue, and I hope AZ will "Recognize the unique status of marriage between a man a woman." But this doesn't mean they can't enter into legal agreements (is that civil union?). I would only favor a Constitutional amendment if a federal court said my state had to do what other states did.
9:23: Embryonic stem cells. McCain says it is a great dilemma "for those of us in the pro-life community." As someone who is pro-life, I would say no, it's not, those embroys would be unused and discarded anyway. But at least he is pro-research.
9:24: Does evil exist? Do we ignore it, contain it, or defeat it? McCain: "Defeat it... If I have to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, I will." The answer from the first GOP primary debate, but without the weird smile. Goes on to decry "radical Islamic extremism" (hey, he dropped that awful unword Islamofacism, hooray). Personally, I like Obama's social justice answer much better, but I think McCain's national security answer will score more points with independents.
9:26: Which existing justices would you not have nominated? McCain: In a slow and measured tone, "With all due respect, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and Justice Stevens." The next President will have two or three vacancies. We need justices who will not legislate from the bench (so you wouldn't nominate Scalia, then? phoo), and he's proud of Alito and Roberts.
9:29: Faith based organizations. McCain says New Orleans wouldn't be where it was without the faith groups, and I've got to say, he's dead on, he's never said anything truer. But be that as it may, it was an uneventful answer with the angry edge in his voice he's had all night long. It'll look good in print to the faith crowd, but nothing big for the viewers.
9:30: Do you support merit pay? And don't give me a stump speech on education. Big Mac: Yes, and find the bad ones another line of work. Warren: Wow, these are short answers, we'll have time for a poker game! Big Mac: Vouchers, charter schools, homeschooling, choices, we need it! Charter schools work! Me: Yes, they do. I graduated from one. But didn't Pastor Warren tell you no stump speech? Pastor Warren, aren't you going to stop him? No? Oh well. Anyways, it's one of McCain's best answers of the evening, and actually shows some domestic policy detail, something he's not known for.
9:32: Warren: On taxes, define rich. Give me a number. Big Mac: Some of the richest people I've ever known in my life are unhappy. Rich should be defined as a home, a good job, an education, and the ability to hand a good world to our children. "I don't want to take any money from the rich, I want everybody to get rich!" Small businessmen who work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week are not rich. Don't raise their taxes. Let's give every family a tax credit for children, a health care tax credit, blahblahblah. I was a McCain guy in 2000, when my political identity was only just starting to form, but now even *I* want to vomit.
He spins off his answer into an attack on spending - $3 million to study bear DNA in Montana. "Now, I don't know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue." Yeah, and we spend $10 billion a week in Iraq. Where's your fiscal responsibility now, old man? $3 million ain't going to balance the budget. I'm the young person you say you want to hand a better world to. And I think you're full of it when it comes to budget politics. Your heart's in the right place, but so was the Scarecrow's.
9:37: Security questions, but I have to take the dog outside.
9:41: Warren: What is worth committing American lives for? Big Mac: freedom. Quotes Reagan. American blood is precious. No other nation has ever shed its blood for other peoples' freedom. We won the Cold War because of our ideology, and we defeated communism, and we can defeat radical Islam. Can we talk about Georgia? No, Warren moves on. When would you commit troops? Genocide in Darfur, or mass killings in Georgia? McCain: Our obligation is to stop genocide. We messed up in Rwanda. Cindy was just there with Hucakbee and Frist (he doesn't mention that Daschle and Podesta were also on the trip, it was through the ONE Campaign). We've got to martial the world's forces to not make the same mistake in Rwanda. We can supply the logistics, equipment, and aid. "We've got to be committed to never saying never again, again."
And then Warren throws him a bone and asks about Georgia, something he did not do with Obama. Politically, McCain does a good job balancing compassion (and prayer) for Georgia with toughness against Russia. An appealing answer.
9:49: I had great respect for him until the General started this year, but right now, McCain is boring me.
9:50: Warren's personal question about orphans. Could we do a PEPFAR, an emergency plan, for the 150 million orphans? They need families! Big Mac: I think we have to make adoption a lot easier in this country, that's why so many people go to other countries. TR was the first modern American president to talk about adoption (he was also the first modern American president), and I promise this is my last story. (Talks about his adopted daughter.) As an adopted child myself, I love this answer, BUT, it does not address Warren's question, since it address US orphans but not the global issue.
9:52: Warren: Why do you want to be President? Hamburger: I want to inspire Americans to serve, and to put their country first like I've always done in the Navy and in Congress. Our best days are ahead. America wants hope and optimism. I reach across the aisle, and I want to do that. But you know, he kind of sounds angry as he says that.
9:53: Warren: What would you say to people who object to me asking you these questions in a church? McCain: I want to be in every venue in America talking about these issues, and America was founded on Judeo-Christian values (got to love Jefferson's Bible, right, McCain?). That wraps it up.