Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

MSNBC just made an interesting point: McCain did not mention God or Jesus once in the entire debate. But now Pat Buchanan is coming on, so I'd better turn the TV off.

The much ballyhooed Saddleback Church faith forum with McCain and Obama is now over. You can read my liveblog of both interviews with Pastor Rick Warren below. Overall, I'd sum it up this way: Obama had a better night, but not enough to matter.

People looking for policy specific will say McCain won. Obviously, most of his content was wrong, but he still had lots of content on education, Georgia, taxes, and more. If you don't know the issues, he comes across as better on them. Obama, however, was stronger on issues of faith and character. He was more forthcoming about his own faith and was very personal. His candor about his own past selfishness was downright inspiring. McCain showed candor with his stories about being a POW, but the entire night, his voice had an edgy tone to it, whereas Obama was warm and inviting, something that goes over very well in the nonideological evangelical churches like Warren's.

I think both had a positive performance. Obama's was better, and probably more tailored to the specific audience. It certainly didn't seem forced. However, given that this is an audience likely leaning towards McCain to begin with, Obama may have allayed some fears, but I don't think he overcame the gap. In short, he won a non-event.

As for Warren himself, I generally respect him and there will be a heavy focus on him in my upcoming senior thesis on the changing religious right, but I wasn't that impressed tonight. He was as good as any other forum moderator we've seen, but that's not saying much. It was great to have issues like human trafficking and orphans get some attention for once, and it was a breath of fresh air to finally have a moderator not get bogged down on nonissues like lapel pins - in fact, he started the evening out with a salute to BOTH men's patriotism, something the World Magazine crowd needed to hear. However, he could have done a better job of keeping McCain on track, perhaps with more specific questions rather than vague generalities, and as a person of faith whose career path lies in the church, I really wish he had brought up poverty and the environment.

If you tuned in, you saw one of the more substantive discussions of the election so far, but if you watched the Olympics instead, you didn't miss anything.

Update 10:10 pm: Whoops, before I forget. I should add that at least I'm glad the event was held. One other thing I wish Warren had asked is, "What is the proper role of faith in politics? What role should it play in your own decision process, and what role do you think faith-based lobbyists should play?" Or perhaps, "Both of you are Christians. What do you believe Jesus says about authority and power?" He came sort of close by asking about faith-based initiative funding. My own interest, as a likely future pastor and someone whose past jobs and internships are almost entirely with the Democratic Party or The Episcopal Church, is in the intersection of faith and politics. This would have been a homerun question for some in the target audience, given the role the "Emerging Christian" movement, led by folks like Brian McClaren and Tony Campolo, is playing in helping to broaden the evangelical focus.

Tags: Barack Obama, John McCain, Rick Warren (all tags)



Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

 If Obama did no harm to himself before that audience, then I say he did as well as he could have done, We'll see what the spin-meisters do with it.

by QTG 2008-08-16 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Those looking for policy distinctions were simply looking for reinforcement of what they already know. The voters that needed to be spoken to are the ones who were looking for signs of character, and Obama won that. I don't care what anyone says, people are seeing through McCain's constant POW bullshit.

by vcalzone 2008-08-16 06:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Obama had a better performance in the context of what the forum was about.

However on a political level the Mccain on screen today would be tough to beat.

by lori 2008-08-16 06:16PM | 0 recs
And both the candidates deserve criticism

for engaging in a competition to be 'holier than thou.'

^From: the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance and a frequent critic of the role of faith in politics today, praised Warren, but said:

   "Some of the questions Pastor Warren posed crossed the line and promoted the fiction that the American people are electing a pastor-in-chief, rather than a commander-in-chief. Questions like 'What does it mean to trust in Christ?' create a religious test for public office and should have no place in the political discourse for a secular office. America is the most religiously diverse country in the world, and Christianity is only one of those faith traditions. Millions of voters who tuned in tonight will feel disenfranchised by some of the questions posed in this forum. And both the candidates deserve criticism for engaging in a competition to be 'holier than thou.' The American people want real solutions for real issues. Discussing the personal theology of the candidates does little to elucidate those solutions."

by cChalfonte 2008-08-17 04:52PM | 0 recs
Re: And both the candidates deserve criticism

I don't think it was a religious test, it was just probing htem to find out what they believe. Some people are going to vote on character and religion, and that's not illegal; one might as well give them the information they want so they're at least informed.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-08-17 05:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Oh, and THANKS!

by QTG 2008-08-16 06:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Yikes!  You aren't very bright, are you?

by deepee 2008-08-16 06:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Overall I thought McCain had the most to lose and reassured the Christian right re: abortion, judges and marriage. This was not friendly territory for Obama, but he handled it well. I agree with Lori that McCain won on a political level...I would expect that Obama didn't walk in planning on sticking to talking points, however. I would expect a far different approach by Obama during the actual debates this fall.

by GrahamCracker 2008-08-16 06:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Thanks for the live-blogging, Transplanted Texan, and for participating in the threads. You seem to have captured the substance of the exchanges, and I think you managed to keep the discussion here on away from pure ad hominem.

by souvarine 2008-08-16 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Thank you, souvarine. I try, anyway. :)

by Nathan Empsall 2008-08-16 06:42PM | 0 recs
Video online?

Anyone have a link to online video yet? I missed it :(

by sab39 2008-08-16 06:34PM | 0 recs
This is McCain's turf

He's the one who has to blowout Obama among evangelicals (which he will in my opinion); this is his turf in the same way that a forum before the AFL-CIO would be Obama's turf.  I thought McCain won on a political level but not by much; it's good that Obama can actually somewhat hold his own in front of this type of crowd (just imagine how Kerry and Gore would have fared).

Apparently, McCain didn't want a hug; Obama had to pull him into the half-hug.

by Blazers Edge 2008-08-16 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: This is McCain's turf

For realz. This was McCain's debate to lose, it's predictably sad that the media would portray him as doing well. What the hell would have qualified as doing POORLY here, if he just slipped and said "I think abortion must remain legal" or "I think Jesus was a pansy"? He did as poor as I could have possibly expected him to do in that debate. Once the real ones hit, he'll be blindsided.

McCain did well when there was nobody to call him on his bullshit as it came up. That is not a luxury that will last.

by vcalzone 2008-08-16 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: This is McCain's turf

I hope you're right in that last sentence.

I saw a lot of debates during the primaries that resembled TV game shows, though, so I wouldn't count on the official debates being more rigorous.

by Bush Bites 2008-08-16 07:07PM | 0 recs
ah, but will they turn out

Chris Dickey in Newsweek said he couldn't find a single bumper sticker or yard sign traveling thoughout his home tuff, the south.

yeah McSame will win the demo, turnout will likely recede.  

by Al Rodgers 2008-08-16 06:47PM | 0 recs
Re: ah, but will they turn out

I have seen a few scattered, but far more that are pro-Bush and probably still more that are pro-Obama. I'm not in the most conservative area of Georgia by any means, but it's still Bush country. Or rather, it was. I think all the "For Sale" signs have pushed aside any "McCain 08" signs taht might have gone up.

by vcalzone 2008-08-16 06:55PM | 0 recs
is the market that bad?


by Al Rodgers 2008-08-16 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: This is McCain's turf

I agree that this is McCain's turf having the policy positions he has.

My underthought theory is this, Obama's message (i.e. more personal connection with social gospel) will play well with the younger evangelicals and pick up a few, which is all Obama's modest goals are with these group.  He is job was not to "beat" McCain in this group, but get closer.

I think the media saying that McCain won this debate would be a good thing, it's pre-primary, it's not going to matter much.  If this serves to lower expectations for Obama for the 'real' debates, I think that is a victory (let's remember how helpful Bush's lower expectations were to him).

I think Rick Perlstein's point in Nixonland that you have to give something to the mark.  Obama had to navigate far tougher terrain.  For example talking to a pro-life crowd about abortion McCain can just say "I am pro-life" while Obama has to explain his pro-choice position (bonus point for reminding democrats that McCain is not the magical bipartsian they imagine).  Therefore he can achieve his more modest goal of appealing to a segment of the audience with his more thoughtful answers.

Meanwhile, forgetting his home court advantage McCain thinks his "black and white" performance went pretty well and that he is running against the reincarnation of Adlai Stevenson.

I think that this is the reason Obama was resistent to a debate a week, you don't want McCain getting comfortable with your line of attack before the playoffs.  This was an oppening scrimmage.

by labor nrrd 2008-08-16 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: This is McCain's turf

You make a good point, one that I can't believe I didn't realize. McCain was ALWAYS going to win this debate, especially in the media, who based their reporting on the number of applause cues. But Obama could have looked very foolish and could have been booed or could have made a huge misstep. He did not. In fact, he probably did much more good than harm to his own candidacy.

McCain, on the other hand, was preaching to the choir, and anyone who wasn't already convinced probably was not won over by his performance tonight, considering it was the same remarks we've heard over and over. He stood to gain from his performance, but considering that he had a 75/25% advantage to begin with, he needed to win big to gain ground. He didn't. Time will tell, but I don't think he did. Certainly he didn't win over any independent or pro-choice voters tonight.

by vcalzone 2008-08-16 07:21PM | 0 recs
Can't Be Afraid to be Booed

I've seen McCain go before hostile crowds and be just as clear and forceful as he was tonight. He is not afraid to be booed and is why at this moment McCain is the better debater. The problem with Obama is that he is too eager to please others. He can't be afraid to be booed. Obama would have won the debate if he wasn't so nuanced and was more direct. Even though the crowd would have disagreed with Obama, he would have won a lot of respect. This makes me very nervous about the election.

by Zzyzzy 2008-08-16 07:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Can't Be Afraid to be Booed

I understood McCain's answers.  Obama's answers, not so much.  Everyone will know exactly where McCain stands, take it or leave it.  Obama's all over the place, using words and phrases that I can't quite understand what it is he is trying to say.  Plus his stuttering thing is really starting to bother me.  He needs to learn to just pause, or something, when he can't think of any answer.  

I hate to say it, but McCain was just so much better tonight.  The average voter would like him.  That, along with the polls showing that we're losing Ohio, Florida, Virginia AND Colorado, I am getting very nervous.  Maybe it's just me, but I am beginning to fear that we could lose BIG with Obama.  

by SueBee 2008-08-16 11:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Rick Warren's audience is not Bubba. A lot of people arrogantly believe a lot of false things about faith, and you seem to be one of them.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-08-16 06:42PM | 0 recs
I didn't see it

But it's important to keep in mind Lori's first point: this was a faith forum. If undecided voters wanted an infomercial where candidates could recite talking points then McCain wins. But if this a window into a candidate's character, Obama seems to have won.

by elrod 2008-08-16 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: I didn't see it

My fiancee's father had been slow to decide who to vote for because he didn't trust either of them. But in the last week, he decided to vote for Obama because McCain kept repeating the same shit over and over and over and he thought he didn't really seem to know what he was talking about. Glad to see his message is coming across.

by vcalzone 2008-08-16 06:53PM | 0 recs
what's his voting pattern like?

by Al Rodgers 2008-08-16 07:02PM | 0 recs
Re: what's his voting pattern like?

Bush. Twice. He lives in Tampa. This is good news. Both my in-laws typically have been pretty good bellwethers for the temperament of the country. They keep up with the news but without really following it, you know? Get their info from Charles Gibson and the local crew.

by vcalzone 2008-08-16 07:23PM | 0 recs
this is one time where the away team gets bonus pt

imagine a forum at the Emily's List or the National Organization of Women and a candidate saying he or she is against choice, against equal pay, and bashed teachers.  think of the boooooos.

Yet Obama went into hostile territory, and shinned, when the home crowd was predisposed to dislike him, if solely on issues.

by Al Rodgers 2008-08-16 07:01PM | 0 recs
Obama has to improve

I agree with the news analysts I saw on TV that McCain was the clear winner tonight. Fortunately, not many people were paying attention to the forum.

Obama was very nuanced and sounded a lot like Al Gore and John Kerry (in style), while McCain was clear and forceful. Obama really needs to hire a debate coach.

by Zzyzzy 2008-08-16 07:33PM | 0 recs

the news analysts were very nuanced and sounded a lot like Al Gore and John Kerry (in style).

let's remember, polls showed Kerry beat Bush in all three debates, especially the first one ("being prezident is hard work" and "he forgot Poland!!"), erasing, almost overnight, Bush's ten point lead, on October 1st.

I think it's good to adjust expectations.  But really, there's one thing we can count on the corporate media bias in favor of McSame.

by Al Rodgers 2008-08-16 08:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama has to improve

This wasn't a debate.  Usually, in a debate, you're actually debating against someone.  

The forum really were two separate town hall meetings in which the same questions were asked and in which both were held back to back.  

by ProfessorReo 2008-08-16 10:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

On the abortion issue neither addressed it in relation to the American value of liberty. A question either candidate could have posed in answering the question would be, "Is abortion a liberty issue? That is, does a woman have a constitutional right to an abortion?"

Then they could have gone on an elaborated their views. Obama did that but didn't phrase it in the context of a liberty issue. McCain didn't even think to address it in the context of a liberty issue.

He said he'd always been pro-life and that was his position. So much for McCain standing up for American values.

On the abortion question, his values are wing-nut religious right. However, they're not necessarily biblical. According to The Gospel of John (16:21), it's at birth when a human being emerges:

When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.

For McCain, at the moment of conception a zygote is a human being. McCain needs to tell how these zygotes are going to be counted in the census. Does that include detached zygotes? Will zygotes be counted to determine representation in the House of Representatives? McCain has some questions to answer.

by Hempy 2008-08-16 07:50PM | 0 recs
Regarding the Supremes...

McCain says he wouldn't have selected half the court, but after 26 years in DC (most not spent pandering to Religious Right) there are probably tons of videos and quotes of him praising some of those very same Supremes and when those quotes come out I look forward to a lovely segment on CountDown shoving those words in McCain's face. His obvious pander on the heels of saying Ridge being pro-choice wouldn't eliminate him will leave him looking, stupider.

One final point, I think this Warren exercise was entirely academic as few watched it due to Phelps ruling the pool. So the only people viewing were die-hards who long ago had their answers on these candidates. This really swayed no one. In fact, the only mind changed was McCain's for the umpteenth time.

by RocStar 2008-08-16 08:33PM | 0 recs
Flip Flop

McSame VOTED to confirm each of those Justices.  

Every one them (except Stevens, who was nominated 11 years before McSame entered the Senate).

by Al Rodgers 2008-08-16 08:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Flip Flop

Sounds like a really, really good commercial to me.

You know, hand-wringing from PUMA weenies and Republican concern trolls aside, I wonder if the Obama campaign was waiting for something like this to happen so they can undermine McCain's support among evangelicals.  They can understand forgiveness and redemption, but they hate being lied to and played for fools.

by beerwulf 2008-08-17 05:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Flip Flop

No big deal; voting to confirm someone isn't the same as nominating them in the first place. Russ Feingold voted to confirm John Roberts, but do you think he would have nominated him in the first place?

by Nathan Empsall 2008-08-17 05:34PM | 0 recs
McCain sounds good

Obama is better on the issues, and speaks well to his religious audience -- but McCain SOUNDS good .

I hate everything that McCain has to say, but there's a sound of "reasonableness" in what he says.

McCain sounds "reasonable" to the casual listener (as so many are)!

Yes, he panders to his audience. But people cheered when McCain talked about "no taxes for anyone" (in response to a question about the income level that would be reasonable to tax more); "school vouchers and charter schools" for everyone; "making adoption easier" (in response to a question about the millions of orphans everywhere in the world).

McCain sucks -- but don't write him off! Lots of folks there who want to vote for grandpa.

by MS 2008-08-16 09:01PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain sounds good

Yup.  McCain sounded like a reasonable guy who knew exactly where he stood on everything.  He was very appealing.  

Sorry all.  McCain made a better impression tonight.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think this sounds like what we've heard about the election of 1952?  The intellectual, elite, liberal, against the plain speaking war hero?  My parents loved to quote Stevenson, he was so smart, such an intellectual.  Yet Ike trounced him, twice.  

by SueBee 2008-08-16 11:52PM | 0 recs
Here's a thought, pesticles

You won't have to look at your shag rugged living room if you'd pick yourself out off the remnants of your laz-e-boy and go to bed.

by Sumo Vita 2008-08-16 10:06PM | 0 recs
He shouldn't sidestep the abortion issue.

The abortion issue was used successfully against Kerry, with lethal consequences. Obama's campaign needs to tackle this charge head-on - he certainly isn't on the losing side of this debate,  not by a long shot. And especially not in the Christian context.

Given that abortions have been occurring since the beginning of time, and given the tunnel vision and hysterical tones adopted by many conservative Christians on this subject, it's interesting that the number of times the word "abortion" appears in the Bible is: exactly ZERO. Jesus' mission on earth was to effect a change of heart and soul - to almost the exclusion of affairs of the world. He showed little desire to change the political or social landscape, and seemed averse to dismantling laws of the time - hence "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's".

The New Testament also emphasizes the importance of motivations of the heart over the deed. For example, the exhortation in Matthew 5:27-28: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (NIV). Passing laws against abortion have little impact on the desire to have one. Overturning Roe v. Wade would do little to effect a change of heart.

Many in the pro-life movement bring up the numbers of abortions since the beginning of time, to draw comparisons to the holocaust - and to juxtapose these against the numbers of war casualties. The key deception here is that the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq resulted from the decision of one man, or one cabal of men; one key decision that robbed so many of their lives. In contrast, the millions of abortions are a result of millions of personal decisions and desires - desires that that (as explained above) won't change by outlawing abortion.

My personal position on this issue is nuanced - I do believe that life begins at conception. The point to be emphasized, however, is that outlawing abortions should not, and should never have been, a religious issue.

by Sumo Vita 2008-08-16 11:14PM | 0 recs
Re: He shouldn't sidestep the abortion issue.

I thought I'd diary these thoughts: 4/8738

by Sumo Vita 2008-08-16 11:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts
McCain repeated talking points and jokes he's been using in his speeches for the past 7 months.
Obama gave people insight into how he thinks (whether you agree with it or not)and why he thinks and how these affect his policy stances.
For people who think  a president should run on slogans and talking points, McCain won hands down.
Obama definitely will appeal to deeper thinkers.
Yes, we wanted Obama and we're happy to have him.
I'm sick of having a moron in the White House.
by skohayes 2008-08-17 03:37AM | 0 recs
We're All Sick of Having a Moron in the W.H...
However, Americans don't vote much for "deeper thinkers".
Ask Adlai Stevenson.
by susie 2008-08-17 12:14PM | 0 recs
Poor little bitter.

I wonder why Clinton lost if she is such a superior candidate?

Want to take bets on whether Obama "has the balls" to debate McCain.

They will debate....and McCain will lose.

by lojasmo 2008-08-17 04:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Poor little bitter.

Clinton lost largely because Mark Penn didn't know diddly about how the Democratic Party apportions delegates.  If she had spent time organizing the caucus states instead of letting that doofus talk her into concentrating on the big states, she'd be the nominee now.

by beerwulf 2008-08-17 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Poor little bitter.

Obama's campaign was in every way superior.

That's why he won.

by lojasmo 2008-08-17 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Overall thoughts on the event:  Wouldn't mind more of these, perhaps with other religious groups.  People often forget that we are also electing a leader, and these forums are often better than the loosely scripted, well-rehearsed debates.

Other thoughts:

Was there a winner?  If so, while I'm voting Obama, I think the winner was probably McCain.  Look, he's not warm and fuzzy ... but he isn't selling that.  People aren't going to vote for him because he's a grizzly bear grandpa type.  The people that vote for McCain will want to see, well, in many ways, a fighter of sorts, and I think he did well in that regards.

In saying that, I don't think there really was a winner or loser.  I do think that Obama wasn't aggressive enough.  Whether that was through a forced attempt to "build bridges", I don't know, but something seemed off about his game.

by toonsterwu 2008-08-17 07:21AM | 0 recs
Shoop Da Whoop


by X Stryker 2008-08-18 10:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Saddleback Concluding Thoughts

Dr. Octagonopus BLAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!

(Imma firin' mah lazer. It's on the youtubes)

by X Stryker 2008-08-18 10:35AM | 0 recs


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