Obama and McCain at Saddleback

Last night senators Barack Obama and John McCain appeared on a two hour question and answer program shown on Fox News and hosted by Reverend Rick Warren at Saddleback Valley Community Church in south Orange County, California.

+++ Saddleback Church +++

The forum consisted of Reverend Warren asking each of the presidential candidates the same questions over a one hour period with the other candidate unable to hear the questions and responses.

The structure of the program provided a very revealing picture of the differences between the two candidates highlighting their different personalities, ideologies and approaches to a wide range of issues.

One of the most pronounced differences was the contrast between the basic personalities of the two candidates.

Barack Obama appeared very relaxed, confident and thoughtful in spite of his sometimes hesitant and stumbling search for the right way to express his thoughts.

In contrast, John McCain appeared more energetic and excited, frequently answering questions almost before the question was finished with quick, “to the point” answers with rare hesitation and with obvious passion for his views.

Several questions which pointed out obvious differences between the two candidates had to do with Supreme Court justices, personal advisors and personal changes in opinions.

A predictable difference had to do with Supreme Court justices. Rev. Warren asked each which currently seated judges he would not have appointed.

Barack Obama rather quickly named Justice Clarence Thomas citing, in Obama’s opinion, Thomas’ lack of sufficient experience. He then added the names of the other “conservative” or “constitutional” judges on the court including Chief Justice John Roberts. His stated reason for opposing those other judges was their tendency, in his opinion, to make rulings which tended to give too much power to the executive branch.

Similarly … and equally predictably, John McCain named all of the liberal or progressive judges on the court including justices Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens. His stated objection to these judges was their tendency, in his opinion, to legislate from the bench usurping the power of Congress, the legislative branch of the government.

Another area of marked difference were the individuals each candidate named to be personal advisors.

Barack Obama named his grandmother, wife and several fellow senators like Ted Kennedy.

In contrast, John McCain named General David Petraus, current commander of American forces in Iraq, citing his remarkable and successful strategy to reverse the situation in Iraq. Second, he named John Lewis (politician) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, a noted Democratic Civil Rights leader from Atlanta, Georgia and representative from that state. Finally, he named Meg Whitman – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,president and CEO of eBay. He noted her remarkable ability to start a major successful corporation from scratch which he felt epitomized American ingenuity and entrepreneurship.

Reverend Warren, noting that changing opinions over time might not be considered flip-flopping but thoughtful evolution of judgment and opinion,then asked each candidate what opinion or position they held 10 years ago that had changed.

Barack Obama pointed to welfare reform. He stated he was opposed to the wefare reform that was passed under President Clinton fearing what it would do to people ejected from welfare roles. He noted that he had been wrong stating that jobs or work gave a person self respect and a sense of contribution to and participation in the community which was essential to a person’s sense of self worth.

John McCain began answering before the question had ended, “Drill,drill, drill.” He pointed out the high prices of crude oil and gasoline, the export of $700 billion in American wealth overseas yearly and dependence on foreign oil as security risks to America as well as a threat to the future prosperity of our country. He followed up by emphasizing that all forms of energy production should be explored and developed including nuclear.

There is definitely a pronounced difference between the two candidates.

Some might view Barack Obama as thoughtful and cautious in his approach to world and domestic affairs, seeking the advice of many before making a decision. Others might see him as inexperienced and hesitant, unable to make profound decisions without conferring with a host of advisors.

John McCain’s detractors might see him as rash and irresponsible, making statements and decisions before careful consideration and consultation. Others will see him as experienced and decisive, able to react and lead in rapidly changing world conditions.

There’s definitely a difference between the two candidates … in personality, priority and style. Now people just have to choose their flavor.

There are a number of other areas where the candidates differ that I haven’t mentioned. It appears that the “debate” will be shown again on CNN tonight at 8:00 PM. I’d encourage everyone to watch it. This is everyone’s first chance to view the contrast between the candidates in a relatively even playing field.

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