Kudos to Pastor Rick Warren for providing a civil exchange. I think he did a good job not to be a political expert. His questions seemed fair even though they did hit on a few hot button issues of importance to the evangelical community. Generally, I thought Pastor Rick avoided the media circus approach that other debates or forums have encouraged. This format allowed the audience to contrast both candidates as they addressed virtually identical questions.
I actually believe both candidates did a good job of appearing personable and at-ease on issues of faith, leadership and wordview. The big difference is how the two men answered the questions.
Obama took a thoughtful approach trying to keep from alienating various people in the audience. He never really tried to self himself to the crowd like McCain did on many occasions. Obama seemed more postmodern in that he avoided specifics in many instances. Some critics believe this was his way of ducking the questions. I disagree. I think it reflects his worldview, which is one of collaboration and avoiding the appearance of extremes that cause polarization. He was clearly trying to portray himself as a moderate – the kind of leader who considers all sides and stays cool and calm during any situation. And Obama seemed to succeed on this point. The only major exception is the Supreme Court justice question where he showed a very liberal attitude toward court appointments.
McCain by contrast was very direct in his answers. He was much more personable than I remember him in the past. McCain used a number of stories to give his arguments a human face. He didn’t come across as a maverick who shot first and ask questions later. He talked liked an informed leader who spoke from a lot of personal experience.
Some Obama supporters have suggested that McCain secretly heard all the questions, which gave him an advantage. I don’t believe he lied about it or heard the questions. If that could ever be proven, it would seriously harm his credibility. Both of the candidates were provided some of the questions ahead of time to prepare. Another point to consider is that Obama went first, which means that more people probably heard him than McCain. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t have the patience to last through two hours of political discussion. Let’s be real honest most Americans were doing something “better” on a Saturday night than watch two politicians talk to a pastor. Thus, I don’t believe it will have much affect on the election.
The good news is that I believe the process clearly contrasts the leadership styles of the two candidates. It helped further develop my opinion of the two men. One is a very direct, strong leader who generally knows what he thinks about things. The other guy is more of a community organizer who leads by building consensus and alliances. It seems to me that Rick Warren did what he set out to do which was to give the country a chance to understand the two leadership styles of the candidates. Both leadership styles have their strengths and weaknesses.
Given all the chaos and problems in the world right now, I would rather have a guy who has the experience and already knows mostly what the right call is in most situations. I personally believe McCain is more that guy than Obama.
I think Obama failed to understand that his subtle arguments would seem like political dodge ball to the average American. We don’t like anything that smells of political spin or bull. McCain just came out as the straight shooter. And that is why his answers seemed more genuine to many viewers.
I believe that both men are Christians who do care about the issues and want to see things improve. They simply have very different leadership styles and attitudes about what needs to be done to turn this country around.
One question that I would have liked to see both men answer was, “Describe a time when U.S. military action or foreign policies has backfired and caused more problems despite our good intentions. Why do you feel our actions were a mistake and what do we learn from this episode?”
Here are some news sites that had various takes on the Saddleback forum.