All posts from “Debates & Forums”

October 30, 2008

Video: Debate Déjà Vu

If you watched the three presidential debates, you might have felt a little déjà vu. Don't worry. You weren't losing your mind. This video shows how closely the presidential candidate stick to their scripts.

October 7, 2008

Liveblogging: McCain, Obama battle on the economy

Barack Obama and John McCain are making jabs at each other as they walk around at the town hall debate tonight.

Most of the debate has focused on the economy, including the bailout, healthcare, and tax cuts so far. A transcript is available here.

The debate shifted to foreign policy with a question about the candidates' support for Israel: "If, despite your best diplomatic efforts, Iran attacks Israel, would you be willing to commit U.S. troops in support and defense of Israel? Or would you wait on approval from the U.N. Security Council?"

McCain said, "Let me say that we obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council. ... we can never allow a second Holocaust to take place."

Obama: "If we could have intervened effectively in the Holocaust, who among us would say that we had a moral obligation not to go in? ... So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us."

There were seven references to God in the vice presidential debate. Tonight, zero. McCain said "my friends" or "my friend" 22 times, but there was little faith talk from either candidate tonight.

Maybe the closest was Obama's line when referring to McCain's approach to health care: "So what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away." Sounds a tiny bit like Job's "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away."

September 25, 2008

Obama Religious Reps Bow Out of Debate with McCain Team

Family Research Council Action is alerting constituents that a senior Barack Obama advisor on religious issues bowed out of a high-profile debate with a counterpart from the McCain campaign yesterday:

People hoping for a lively discussion on faith and values from Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign were surprised yesterday when Team Obama failed to show for a media-heavy debate. The capacity crowd that gathered at the Capitol Hill Club had expected Obama's Senior Advisor for Religious Affairs, Rev. Evna Terri La Velle, to square off with Bob Heckman, a representative from Sen. John McCain's campaign. Just hours before the lunchtime event began, members of the sponsoring organizations, the National Clergy Council and Evangelical Church Alliance, received word that Obama's delegation of 11 had backed out. Rev. Rob Schenck, who was scheduled to moderate the debate, released a statement questioning the Obama campaign's genuine commitment to issues of concern to social conservatives. "Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean assured me...that his party would do everything possible to constructively engage Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, and other moral conservatives... Barack Obama has made similar promises. They did a couple of high-profile media events, but it appears they were not serious at a grassroots level." While the Illinois senator and his campaign never shy away from talking about faith, they have missed opportunities to let that faith be examined up close to determine how it would impact their public policy positions.

The Obama campaign had no comment, but didn't contest FRC Action's version of events. For conservative Christian groups that are eager to prove that Obama's religious outreach is empty talk, the Obama team just made their job a little easier.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

August 20, 2008

The international media's take on Saddleback

Media outlets are still parsing Rick Warren's forum with the presidential candidates on Saturday. Tom Heneghan at Reuters' religion blog took a look at some of the international headlines.

"It's striking how many chose the term 'confession' to describe the event," he writes. Here's a sample:

U.S. religious forum would not have happened here - The separation of church and state is more notional than real in the U.S. (Montreal Gazette, Canada)

Obama&McCain:Confession in front of puritans (Journal du Dimanche, France)

McCain and Obama confess their sins (Elsevier, Netherlands)

Campaign launched for religious voters ? Obama and McCain "confessed" to the pastor of the nation (DieStandard.at, Austria)

Obama and McCain reveal their dark sides on stage (La Stampa, Italy)

Confession road to the White House (El Peri?dico de Catalunya, Spain)

August 18, 2008

Rick Warren gave candidates an early glance at questions

Saddleback pastor Rick Warren gave the presidential candidates an early look at some of the questions he planned to ask them Saturday, the Washington Post reports.

He gave three examples of questions: What is your greatest moral failure? What is America's greatest moral failure? Who are the three people you rely on for wise advice?

Warren's spokesman A. Larry Ross told the Post that Warren provided McCain and Obama with the four subject areas: leadership, stewardship, worldview and international compassion. He also gave them a sense of the themes he would ask about, including topics such as energy and taxes.

On "Larry King Live" tonight, Warren said he thought Sen. John McCain had been in a "green room," what he called a "cone of silence" during Sen. Barack Obama's answers. Instead, McCain was in a car on the way to the church. Warren said that he takes McCain's word that he did not gain an advantage by hearing.

August 18, 2008

Rick Warren to God-o-Meter: Obama, Dems Can't Just Talk Faith

In an interview with Beliefnet's God-o-Meter on the day after his Saddleback Civil Forum with John McCain and Barack Obama, the Rev. Rick Warren sounded pretty dubious about Barack Obama's and the Democrats' chances of making inroads among evangelicals. The full interview will run Monday on Beliefnet. Here's a preview:

Before last night, McCain had been widely criticized by Christian activists for keeping mum about his faith and about values issues like abortion and marriage Last night seemed to change that. How much headway did McCain make among skeptical evangelicals?

I'm a pastor, I'm not a prophet, so I would not predict how evangelicals are going to vote. I will tell you they're not monolith. That's a big myth. They're going to make up their minds based on the hierarchy of their values. For many evangelicals, of course, if they believe that life begins at conception, that's a deal breaker for a lot of people. If they think that life begins at conception, then that means that there are 40 million Americans who are not here [because they were aborted] that could have voted. They would call that a holocaust and for them it would like if I'm Jewish and a Holocaust denier is running for office. I don't care how right he is on everything else, it's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going to vote for a Holocaust denier...

It all depends on the hierarchy of their worldview of what matters most to them. My gut reaction when it was over was that Obama will pick up probably some younger votes and McCain will probably pick up some older votes and it might come down to which group winds up showing up that the polls.

The Democrats recently added language to their party platform that they say is aimed at reducing demand for abortion. Do you think it represents a significant step toward a pro-life position?

It is a step, there's no doubt about that. I've been getting a lot of feedback on it. I was out of the country and people starting writing me about it. The general perception was 'Too little too late--window dressing". I'm not saying I would say this, because I haven't even read it, but what I was hearing form people was that [Democrats] were saying 'It's OK to be pro-life and be a Democrat now. In other words, 'You can join us. We're not changing our firm commitment to Roe v. Wade, but you can now join us.' Well, for a person who thinks that abortion is taking a life, I'm sure that's not going to be very satisfactory to most of those people. And to put it in right at the last minute at the end of a campaign, there was some question about that: Why are they doing this?

When you asked Obama about when life begins, he punted, saying 'it's above my pay grade.' Should someone running for the highest office in the land have a clear answer to that, or is that kind of ambivalence acceptable?

No. I think he needed to be more specific on that. I happen to disagree with Barack on that. Like I said, he's a friend. But to me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, 'Oh, sorry, I didn't take the time to figure out' because if I was wrong then it had severe implications to my leadership if I had the ability to do something about it. He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.

That's why to say that evangelicals are a monolith is a myth, but the other thing is that you've been hearing a lot of the press talk about 'Well, evangelicals are changing, they're now interested in poverty and disease and illiteracy, and all the stuff I've been talking about for five years now. And I have been seeding that into the evangelical movement and it's getting picked up and a lot of people are talking about doing humanitarian efforts. But I really think it's wishful thinking on a lot of people who think they're going to drop the other issues. They're not leaving pro-life, I'm just trying to expand the agenda....

If an evangelical really believes that the Bible is literal--in other word in Psalm 139 God says 'I formed you in your mother's womb and before you were born I planned every day of your life,' if they believe that's literally true, then they can't just walk away from that. They can add other issues, but they can't walk away from the belief that at conception God planned that child and to abort it would be to short circuit the purpose.

Then it sounds like it would be unconscionable for an evangelical to vote for a pro-choice candidate like Obama.

Well, we're going to see what happens. All I can say is you'll see what happens. This is why there's a difference between simply talking the lingo... after the 2004 election the Democratic pundits were saying 'The Democrats lost in '04 because they didn't talk the language of faith.' And actually that's kind of, not paternalistic, but it's talking down. It's basically saying 'If you just get the right words, then they'll think you've got the lingo.' And just because a person can say 'God' and 'Jesus' and 'salvation' and whatever doesn't mean they have a worldview. And people want to know what do they believe, not just their personal faith. It's just like how many different beliefs do Jews and Christians have and still call themselves Christians or Jews? It's all over the spectrum.

Some Obama supporters are claiming that McCain saw the questions before the forum began, giving him a leg up on Obama.

They're dead wrong. That's just sour grapes. They both did fantastically well. The only question he knew, I gave them the first question and I was changing the questions within an hour [before the forum began.] I talked to both of them a week before the debate and told them all the themes. I talked personally to John McCain and I talked personally to Barack Obama. I said, 'We'll talk about leadership, talk about the roles of government,' I said I'd probably have a question about climate change, probably a question on the courts. I didn't say, 'I'm going to ask which Supreme Court justice would you not [nominate]. They were clearly not prepared for that.

A source at the debate tells me that McCain had access to some communications devices in the few minutes before he went on stage with you and that there was a monitor in his green room, in violation of the debate rules.

That's absolutely a lie, absolutely a lie. That room was totally free, with no monitors--a flat out lie.

(Originally posted at God-o-Meter.)

August 16, 2008

In case you missed it

The transcript of the Saddleback forum is available here.

August 16, 2008

The candidates on Supreme Court justices

One of the more surprising questions from Rick Warren was, "Which Supreme Court justice would you not have nominated?"

Barack Obama said Clarence Thomas.

"I don't think that he was as strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution. I would not nominate Justice Scalia although I don't think there's any doubt about his intellectual brilliance because he and I just disagree, you know. ... One of the most important jobs of I believe the Supreme Court is to guard against the encroachment of the executive branch on the power of the other branches and I think that he has been a little bit too willing and too eager to give an administration whether it's mine or George Bush's more power than I think the constitution originally intended."

John McCain said Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and Justice Stevens.

"This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record of strictly adhering to the constitution ... and not legislating from the bench. Justice Alito and Justice Roberts are two of my most recent favorites. I’m proud of President Bush for nominating them."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Georgia, the Christian Nation

Why does McCain keep bringing religion into the Georgia-Russia conflict?

McCain had some criticism earlier this week among some religion-and-politics bloggers when he noted that Georgia is "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion."

The criticism earlier focused on the church-state aspects of the comment.

"First of all, a nation cannot 'convert' to Christianity -- only individuals can choose to follow Jesus Christ," Wake Forest University's Melissa Rogers wrote on her blog. "Second, while some nations do establish an official religion, I find it disturbing that an American presidential candidate would seem to describe that as a good thing."

Steve Waldman thought the line was political, communicating:

1) I think having Christianity as an official religion is a fine idea in general
2) This is just like the Cold War when the forces of Christianity are at war with the forces of Atheism
3) I view the protection of Christians from attack worldwide as an important goal

Mark Silk just thought McCain's comment was weird.

But tonight, after McCain repeated the line, recent Eastern Orthodox convert Rod Dreher just got mad. "Total and shameless pandering to Evangelicals," he blogged. "As if Russia isn't a Christian nation. As if Russia hasn't been Christian for over a thousand years. As if Christianity had anything to do with this conflict."

Seriously, though, if you're looking for a good religion angle on the conflict, check out George Pitcher's Telegraph article on church responses.

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

McCain on stem-cell research, abortion, marriage, and evil

Conservative evangelicals have raised John McCain's support of embryonic stem-cell research in opposition to his candidacy.

McCain addressed it briefly in his response to Rick Warren's "worldview questions." "For those of us in the pro-life community, this is a great struggle. … I’ve come down on the side of stem cell research, but I’m wildly optimistic that skin cell research … will make this debate an academic one."

Rick Warren: At what point is baby is entitled to human rights?
John McCain's answer: At the moment of conception. I have a 25 year pro-life record in congress, in the senate. This presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment to you.
Warren's answer: We won’t go longer on that one.

Warren: Define marriage.
McCain: A union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. The court overturned the definition of marriage. I believe they were wrong. I’m a federalist. I believe states should make that decision. That doesn’t mean that people can’t enter into legal agreements, that they don’t’ have the rights of all citizens.

When asked a question on evil, McCain said, "If I have to go to gates and hell and back, I will get Osama Bin Laden."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

McCain's faith

Rick Warren's question: How does faith work out for you on a daily basis?

John McCain's answer: "It means I’m saved and forgiven."
He then told a story about worshiping with another Christian during his captivity in Vietnam. On Christmas, a North Vietnamese guard walked with him in the yard, and drew a cross in the dirt and quickly scratched it out.

"For a minute there, it was just two Christians worshiping together. I'll never forget that."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Moral failure

Obama has already had a lot of ink spilled on what he told Warren his biggest moral failure was: using drugs and alcohol and selfishness in his youth.

McCain's answer was short: "The failure of my first marriage." Background is here if the answer was a surprise.

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Gotcha?

How's Warren doing as moderator?

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder asks a good question: If "which Supreme Court member would you not have voted for" (and, I'd add, "what's your greatest moral failure") don't count as "gotcha questions," what's a gotcha question?

As for Warren, so far Rod Dreher thinks he's doing a bad impression of a journalist. but Steve Waldman points out that "Warren's questions are MUCH better than the TV journalists that moderated previous debates."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

The candidates' and the country's greatest failures

Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama just stood on the same platform for the first time this campaign.

One of the first questions Rick Warren posed to the candidates was: What would be the great moral failure in your life? What would be the great moral failure in America.

McCain said his personal failure was the failure of his first marriage but didn't say anything further on it. The country's greatest failure was its own self-interest.

"I think after 9/11, my friends, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, expand the military, serve a cause greater than your self-interest," he said.

Obama's answer about himself:

"I had a difficult youth ... I experimented with drugs and drank ... I trace this to a certain selfishness on my point ... I couldn't focus on other people. The process of me growing up is to recognize that it’s not about me."

On the country's greatest failure:

"We still don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me. That basic principle applies to poverty to racism and sexism. It applies to not thinking about ladders of opportunity to get in the middle class. As wealthy and powerful as we are don't spend enough time thinking about the least of these."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Obama on abortion

Pastor Rick Warren posed a question on abortion to Sen. Barack Obama.

Warren asks, "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?"

Here is some of Obama's answer:

"Whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade.

"Let me speak more generally about the issue of abortion. One thing that I am absolutely convinced of is there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. ... I am pro-choice...not because I'm pro-abortion. But ultimately I do not think women make these decisions causally.

"I am for limits on late-term abortion.

"If you believe that life begins at conceptions, and you are consistent in that belief, then I can’t argue with you on that. That is a core issue of faith for you. What I can do is say are there ways to work together to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
As an example of that is, how do we provide the resources for women to keep a child? … Have we given them the options of adoption?"

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Obama is still not a Muslim

Twelve percent of respondents believe Barack Obama is Muslim, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

Rick Warren asked Obama: What does it mean to you to trust in Christ on a daily basis.

"I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed by him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don't walk alone. I know if I can get myself out of the way, I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends. Those things that I have on a fairly regular basis will get washed way. It also means an sense of obligation to embrace not through just words but deeds the expectations God has for us. That means thinking about the least of these. It means acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

What about Proposition 8?

Leaving marriage to the states? Really?

At the Saddleback Civil Forum, Obama just said that he opposes a federal marriage amendment because he thinks it's not something the federal constitution should decide. It's a state issue, he says.

He also says he supports civil unions, but thinks marriage is between a man and a woman.

So why does he oppose California's Proposition 8? It only deals with marriage, but would allow civil unions.

If "leaving the issue to the states" doesn't mean allowing a state to define marriage, what does it mean?

Too bad Warren didn't ask a follow up question on it, considering it's his own state.

Update: Warren, who said he'd ask the same questions of both candidates, just asked McCain about the California Supreme Court decision and Proposition 8. McCain says he thinks the states rather than the federal government should define marriage, but does support a federal marriage amendment if necessary. He has also supported Prop. 8.

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Presidential candidates face off at Saddleback

California mega-church pastor Rick Warren will interview the presumptive presidential candidates at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight.

The candidates will probably not introduce new political stances, but they may pitch new ideas of how to respond to issues like abortion or the environment.

So far, though, it seems as though several people are more interested in the questions Warren will ask. Warren has been kind of a poster child for evangelicals who have expanded their "agenda" from abortion and homosexuality to HIV/AIDS and the environment.

"I think Rick is in an unenviable position in that he stands to get attacked from the right and the left, based on what direction he takes," Mark DeMoss, an evangelical public relations specialist told Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press. "As an evangelical, I am much more interested in his list of questions than in either of their answers."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 7, 2008

Toward Saddleback

Over at God-O-Meter, Dan Gilgoff has a nice dissection of Barack Obama's short pre-Saddleback "on Faith" essay for Time, showing how well calculated it is to appeal to evangelicals. I agree that it hits a lot of evangelical buttons, though not, perhaps, the most important one. It says nothing about his personal born-again experience--something he has written and talked about elsewhere. Perhaps that would remind people too much of that pesky Trinity church he used to belong to. Or perhaps it would strike non-evangelicals as, well, just a little too evangelical. And then there's this remark: "The next President will have to lead Americans of all religious and secular backgrounds and will navigate a range of tough values issues." The evangelicals Dan thinks Obama is directing his appeal to don't tend to regard the values issues as in themselves tough, but rather see the tough part as actually treading the straight and narrow. So I think we should at least entertain the possibility that this is what Obama actually believes.

As for John McCain, his essay sticks almost exclusively to a vision of faith as something that sustains a person in extremis. He tells the story he always tells about the Christian guard who loosened his bonds when he was a prisoner of war, and throws in one about his father praying for him at the time. There's a short paragraph about caring for the least among us (with a little pro-life pitch), but it's sandwiched in, in a kind of obligatory way. Then he returns to the importance of religion in the "dark" and "solitary" places. I'm inclined to think that that's the real deal when it comes to McCain and religion, and why shouldn't it be? Being a prisoner of war seems to have been the defining experience of his life. That the McCain faith has real resonance for many people I don't doubt. But it's far from the guiding of one's choices in daily affairs that tends to be what Americans are looking for when they seek to know how a candidate's faith will inform his conduct in office. The contrast with Obama couldn't be greater.

(This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.)

July 24, 2008

McCain's Evangelical Moment?

John McCain and Barack Obama have accepted invitations to sit down with Purpose-Driven Life author Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church for public (and open-media) interviews just before next month's big nominating conventions. David Brody sees the forum as presenting John McCain a golden opportunity to have an "evangelical moment," wherein the Arizona senator can finally come out forcefully on two key issues: life (i.e. against abortion rights) and marriage (i.e. against gay unions):

[W]ith Obama there as well, he has a MAJOR opportunity to clearly showcase the differences between the two candidates on social issues. He can talk about the unborn baby and the abortion issue; he can talk about his support for the California Constitutional Marriage Amendment.... It's McCain's clearest opportunity yet to paint himself as a "friend" of the Evangelical community.

God-o-Meter is skeptical that he'll seize this opportunity. The press release for Warren's summit makes clear that his questions will focus on four areas: poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate, and human rights. Warren is sending the clear message, in other words, that he won't be fixating on hot button issues. So it could be up to McCain, as Brody to bring those issues up himself, which Brody acknowledges. The record show that one of the Christian Right's major gripes about McCain is his habit of completely ignoring those issues unless he's asked about them point blank. So what are the chances he departs from that at Saddleback, especially when his interlocutor--Warren--is out to bridge the country's ideological differences?

Pretty small, God-o-Meter thinks. But he has been bulking up his ranks of faith advisors, and maybe they'll get through to McCain in the month before he sits down with Warren. But there are risks involved: McCain could look like he's pandering--or come off as a divider at a "unity" event.

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.