I will be honest and blunt. For months now, I have been encouraging conservatives and Republicans to rally around John McCain, not because I believed he was the right man for the job, but because I believe Barack Obama would be far, far worse. But after last night's performance at the Saddleback Forum, I now see McCain as the RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB.
There is a lot of information and commentary posted already elsewhere. You can get some good run-downs here and here. Both these links contain many other links, so invest some time and read as much as you can. And note: both these bloggers have been unenthusiastic about McCain and at least willing to see good sides of Obama. They aren't right wing partisans. So it is telling how their focus is directed.
Let me share with you some thoughts.
First, this was the best "debate" format ever. Candidates had plenty of time to not only give canned sound bites, but long responses with detailed information. Furthermore, there was no time or energy wasted on "gotcha" comebacks. I wish all candidate forums could proceed more like this, and less like what Fred Thompson called "hand shows." And I like that we got to see one long period of one candidate, then one long period of the other. That's a great way to show the real contrast.
Second, I don't give a hoot that this forum came in a church before a largely evangelical crowd. As McCain said, the candidates should appear in every venue, to reach as many people as possible. No one should seriously believe the choice of forum violates any "separation of church and state" doctrines just because candidates share information there. Would it be a violation of the so-called separation for churches to have televisions in them, running CNN coverage of a debate? Ever heard of that whole "free speech" thing that goes along with that "religious stuff" in the First Amendment? How about "freedom of association"? Does that ring a bell?
Anyway, on to the candidates themselves.
Right off the bat, McCain demonstrated presidential qualities in his description of close advisors. General Petraeus - the military genius leading us to success in Iraq. John Lewis - he may be a political "enemy," but he still commands respect and is the sort of leader a man like McCain can turn to for bi-partisan support or alternative viewpoint. Meg Whitman - the maverick business executive who turned eBay from a garage operation to a multi-billion dollar international industry, a person who can bring much-needed economic and business sense to Washington. Obama? Well, he went with his America-hating wife, his typical white grandmother, and a non-descriptive jumble of generic Washington insider advisors. Who is the real candidate of hope and change here? And who is the status quo political insider?
Obama really stepped into it with abortion. Asked at what point a child is entitled to human rights, he waffled and wobbled. He basically blew off any personal responsibility and said that sort of decision is "above his pay grade." Seriously?
Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is, you know, above my pay grade.
Yes, seriously! One of the hot-button issues people of all viewpoints expect their leaders to actually LEAD on, and Obama says he can't lead. He then went on to LIE about the increasing number of abortions in America. OK, to be fair, maybe he was just wrong. Either way, a candidate for PRESIDENT shouldn't go onto a nationally televised forum for VALUES VOTERS without the real facts on THE VALUES ISSUE.
McCain? Well, agree with him or not, you have to credit his personal moral clarity when he was able to answer the same question clearly and instantly with life begins at conception.
Another one that blew me away was the question asked of both men about evil, and what to do about it.
Obama rambled, talked about how you can see evil in the streets of America, talked of vague "confrontation," and then again punted by saying it was up to God to fight evil. McCain leapt right into his answer with a definitive "defeat it!"
I am particularly troubled by Obama's answer in light of his continually claiming he is a devout Christian. Now, this isn't about whether Christianity is right or wrong. It is about Obama's response in light of his declared Christian faith. Obama made a critical mistake about one of the fundamental tenets of Christian dogma: it is not up to God to defeat evil, it is up to man!
God gave man Free Will. With Free Will, man has the choice between a life of sin or a life of virtue. God could, as an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Being, wipe out all evil in creation with a Thought. But God does not do this, because it would take away His great gift to man of Free Will. If there were no evil, then there would be no value to choosing good.
This has been a central theme of Christian faith for almost 2,000 years. St. Augustine's treatise on Free Will is probably second only to the Holy Bible itself as a fundamental document of Christian teaching. And Obama, who continues to claim he is a devout man of Christian faith, blew this question!
Again, this is not to say Obama is right or wrong in his answer to the question (although I personally clearly believe he is wrong). The truly important point here is that Obama's answer shows he is not true to his professed faith. If you are an evangelical Christian looking for a candidate who can relate to you and your beliefs, Obama is not your man.
Both men were asked about Supreme Court justices, in a reverse of the usual "who do you like" format. Instead, they were asked what current justices they would NOT have chosen. Obama went directly to Clarence Thomas, ironically calling him inexperienced. Then he attacked Scalia. He railed them both for writing opinions he supposedly doesn't agree with. Funny thing is, some of the biggest decisions of the year found Scalia and Thomas writing the opinions Obama supported publicly. After all, Obama now claims he believes in the individual right to bear arms. He claims he believes Louisiana should be able to use the death penalty for child rapists. And of course, Obama also stated he would not have supported Chief Justice John Roberts - but we already knew that, since Obama voted against him.
McCain instantly answered the question with eight simple words:
With all due respect: Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter, Stevens.
That is about as stark a contrast as you can get. And McCain also went on to champion his personal support of Roberts and Alito, praising Bush for their appointments.
Hey, if judges are a big issue for you, the difference between the two men is crystal clear.
Another telling moment was a question about a difficult decision they had made. Obama went directly into MoveOn.Org mode by defending his difficult decision to oppose the war in Iraq. Funny thing is, Obama wasn't in the Senate at the time, so it really wasn't that difficult for him. McCain, on the other hand, talked about his time in the Hanoi Hilton.
A quick refresher course in history:
When McCain was a P.O.W., his father was an admiral in the U.S. Navy in a position of command in the Pacific. The N.V.A. knew it could make a great propaganda statement if it let McCain go free. They would say the evil American military was willing to work with the enemy to free the sons of their leaders, while soldiers from poor families continued to languish and die in prison camps. So the N.V.A. offered to release McCain.
McCain refused. He would not allow himself to be released while his brothers in arms remained captive. He made this decision knowing he would be subject to continued torture. He made it knowing his own physical condition was already so frail he might not survive. And, to this day, he believes it was one of the most correct and most important decisions he ever made.
McCain mentioned there was a lot of prayer involved. Anyone who doubts McCain is a man of faith should think about this. He spent over five years in a hell hole receiving routine torture while deprived of almost all basic necessities. He came back ready to continue to serve his country. Yes, there was prayer involved. I have never met John McCain. I haven't read his books. And I haven't invested a lot of time researching his P.O.W. history beyond what is commonly reported. But I don't need to do any of that to know in my heart that McCain prayed to God, and God answered his prayers. God kept McCain alive and sane during those five years. God helped McCain continue to serve his country and his fellow man after his release. Anyone who doesn't think McCain is a man of faith should try living McCain's life some day.
But enough about spiritual matters. We are electing a Commander in Chief, not a pastor in chief. I only write what I have about faith because I know that, for some, it is the only real issue in this election. I am not one of them, so let's move on.
Both men were asked about a change of opinion they have had. Pastor Warren skillfully built up the question to show that changing an opinion isn't the same as a "flip-flop." Rather, changing times and new information can cause a real leader to recognize that it makes sense to go in a new direction.
Obama rambled about welfare reform, and how he was upset with Bill Clinton over it, but now he sees it was a good thing. Of course, remember it was Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution of 1994 that brought us welfare reform, not Bill Clitnon - so Obama just said he agrees with Newt.
McCain, without hesitation, moved loudly and enthusiastically to announce his change of opinion is DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW. That probably received the biggest applause of the entire night.
And on a related note, in a different question, Obama talked about how we need to sacrifice in order to solve the energy problem. That's a start contrast from McCain, who believes we can maintain our economic position and our quality of life while implementing a broad energy plan including not just drilling, but wind, solar, nuclear, and more efficient technologies. And that is the key contrast between left and right: the left wants to solve problems by bringing us all down a notch. The right wants to solve issues while keeping us strong and vibrant.
The two also shared radically different ideas on taxation and the rich. Obama says if a couple makes more than $150,000 a year, well, they must be middle class. That's interesting, considering the mediam household income is more like $40,000. You would have thought a Republican was giving that answer, based on how the GOP is portrayed in the media. But Obama quickly recovered his socialist composure and went on to talk about how the rich have to pay more. He didn't mention that the richest one percent of taxpayers are already paying more than one-third of all income taxes. He didn't mention that the top 50% of wage earners are already paying nearly ALL income taxes. He didn't mention that even under a flat tax, the more you make, the more you pay. And he certainly didn't mention that under our current plan we are far from flat, with workers paying a higher percentage of income as a reward for earning more. No, he just blathered on about the rich needing to pay more money. And why? So we can spend more money.
McCain took a different route. He said we should SPEND less money. He said we should be taxed LESS. He said he doesn't want to tax the rich, because he wants everyone to BE rich. Again, Obama wants to solve problems by knocking down the rich. McCain would rather elevate the poor.
Fiscal conservatives should rejoice in our nominee!
All in all, McCain dominated the night. He presented ideas that are so common-sense oriented, they should appeal to moderate independents and the conservative Republican base. But perhaps more importantly, he took away what is supposedly Obama's strength. McCain appeared to be the candidate with energy. He appeared hopeful for America. He presented ideas for positive change. All Obama did was trot out the same failed policies of John Kerry, Al Gore, and Jimmy Carter.
After two hours, my mind became clear. While I had already been opposed to Obama, I am now much strongly opposed to him as a potential President of the United States. He is just plain wrong for America. And while I had been ready to support McCain before, now I am ready to actively campaign for his election as the right man for the job.