Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Few Thoughts on the Civil Forum

Pastor Rick Warren (C), introduces US presidential candidates as Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) waves to the audience and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) indicates the size of the fish story he's planning to tell. California, August 16, 2008.

In general, if this format demonstrated one thing very clearly, it’s that Barack Obama can listen to tough questions and answer in a thoughtful and authentic way, even when he knows he’s got to give a partly unwelcome answer; while John McCain can’t open his mouth without:

a) Spouting simplistic platitudes that he’s memorized. ("I'll follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell!")

b) Filibustering with stories of being a POW ("Being a Christian to me means that once in the prison camp someone traced a cross in the dirt, and I knew we were two Christians.")


c) Accidentally giving Obama perfect campaign ad material ("I will be a pro-life President!)

Here are a few more of my favorite moments of classic McCainery:

• Admitting that the failure of his first marriage was his greatest moral failure. (Of course, a follow-up question on what was immoral about it would have been nice!)

• Saying he’s proud of President Bush for nominating Alito and Roberts, and then looking down awkwardly as if he suddenly realized he’d been repeatedly warned not to praise Bush.

• Responding to a request for an example of a dramatic change in his position with a stump-speech rally cry to “drill here, drill now,” apparently right in the Saddleback Church!

• Pandering to the Flat Earth Society by referring to the “four corners of the world.”

• And, of course, admitting that he thinks the line separating the middle class from the wealthy is an annual income of $5 million per year.

Meanwhile, Al Giordano thinks the candidates’ answers during the Forum will be less lasting than the idea that bringing them together in a respectful exchange will help offset GOP attempts to dehumanize Obama and give credence to his message of post-partisanship for independent minded voters.

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