Obama Versus McCain
The presidential candidates gathered in Lake Forest, California Saturday at the call of Pastor Rick Warren to discuss the crossroads of culture, religion and politics. SheKnows was front and center at Warren's 20,000-member Saddleback Church.
"We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics because faith is just a world view and everybody has some kind of world view and it's important to know what they are," Warren said to lead off the discussion.
"They're both patriots and they have very different views on how America can be strengthened. Now, in America, we've got to learn to disagree without demonizing each other and we need to restore civility. We need to restore civility in our civil discourse and that's the goal of the Saddleback Civil Forum."
Speaking words of wisdom
Rick Warren: Who are the three wisest people you know in your life and who are you going to rely on heavily in your administration?
Obama: You know there are so many people that are constantly helping to shape my views and my opinions. I'd be listening to…Michelle, my wife, who is not only wise, but she's honest. And one of the things you need, I think any leader needs is somebody who can get up in your face and say, Boy, you really screwed that one up. You really blew that.
Now, in terms of the administration's, or how I would approach the presidency, I don't think I'd restrict myself to three people. There are people like Sam Dunn, a Democrat, or Dick Luger, a Republican, who I'd listen to on foreign policy. On domestic policy, you know, I've got friends ranging from Ted Kennedy to Tom Colbert, who don't necessarily agree on a lot of things, but who both, I think, have a sincere desire to see this country improve.
You gotta have faith
RW: What would be, looking over your life, the greatest moral failure in your life and what would be the greatest moral failure of America?
Don't call it a flip-flopRW: What's the most significant position you held ten years ago that you no longer hold today; that you've flipped on, you've changed on because you actually see it differently?
Obama: I think that a good example would be the issue of welfare reform where I always believed that welfare had to be changed. I was much more concerned ten years ago when President Clinton initially signed the bill that this could have disastrous results. I worked in the Illinois legislature to make sure that we were providing childcare and healthcare and other support services for the women who were going to be kicked off the rolls after a certain time. It worked better than I think a lot of people anticipated. And, you know, one of things that I am absolutely convinced of is that we have to have work as a centerpiece of any social policy.
McCain: Offshore drilling. We've got to drill now, and we've got to drill here, and we've got to become independent on foreign oil. I know that there's some here in California that disagree with that position. Could I also mention very seriously about this issue, my friends, you know that this is a national security issue. We're sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much, that some of that money is ending up in the hands of terrorist organizations. We cannot allow this greatest transfer of wealth in history and our national security to continue to be threatened.
Life is a highwayRW: What's the most gut-wrenching decision you've ever had to make and how did you process that to come to that decision?
Obama: Well, you know, I think the opposition to the war in Iraq was as tough a decision as I've had to make not only because there were political consequences, but also because Saddam Hussein was a real bad person and there was no doubt that he meant America ill.
But I was firmly convinced at the time that we did not have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And there were a lot of questions that, as I spoke to experts, kept on coming up. Do we know how the Shiites and the Sunnis and the Kurds are going to get along in a post Saddam situation? What's our assessment as to how this will affect the battle against terrorists like Al-Qaeda? Have we finished the job in Afghanistan? So I agonized over that. And I think that questions of war and peace generally are so profound.
McCain: It was long ago and far away in a prison camp in North Vietnam. My father was a high ranking admiral. The Vietnamese came and said that I could leave prison early, and we had a Code of Conduct that said you only leave by order of capture. I also had a dear and beloved friend who was from California by the name of Alvarez, who had been shot down and captured a couple years before me, but I wasn't in good physical shape. In fact, I was in rather bad physical shape. And so I said no. Now, in interest of full disclosure, I'm very happy I didn't know the war was going to last for another three years or so. But I said no. And I'll never forget sitting after my last answer and the high ranking officer said, "Go back to your cell. It's going to be very tough on you now."
Stem celebrate good times, come on!
RW: What about stem cells? Do we still need federal funding for research? Would you still support that for embryo stem cells?
Shout at the devilRW: Let me just ask you one about evil. Does evil exist, and if it does, do we ignore
it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, do we defeat it?
Obama: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children, and I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, you know, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it. Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because you know, a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.
McCain: Defeat it. Couple points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that and I know how to do it. I will get that done. No one should be allowed to take thousands of innocent American lives. Of course evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcendent challenge of the 21st century, radical Islamic extremists. Not long ago in Baghdad, Al-Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is, and we're going to defeat this evil.
I fought the law and the law wonRW: Which existing Supreme Court Justice would you not have nominated?
Obama: That's a good one. I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations 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, he taught at University of Chicago, as did I, in the law school.
McCain: With all due respect, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter and Justice Stevens. I think that the president of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court. They are lifetime positions as well as the federal bench. There will be two, maybe three vacancies. This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench.
Teach your children wellRW: Okay. Let's go to education. America right now ranks 19th in high school graduations. We're first in incarcerations. Eighty percent of Americans, a recent poll said, they believe in merit pay for teachers. Do you think better teachers should be paid better? They should be paid more than poor teachers?
Obama: I think that we should, and I've said this publicly, that we should set up a system of performance pay for teachers negotiated with teachers, work with the teachers to figure out the assessment so that they feel like they are being judged fairly. That it's not at the whim of the principal. That it is not simply based on a single high-stakes standardized test, but the basic notion that teaching is a profession, that teachers are underpaid. So we need to pay them all more and create a higher baseline, but then we should also reward excellence. I think that is a concept that all of us should embrace.
McCain: Can I just say choice and competition, choice and competition, home schooling, charter schools, vouchers, all the choice and competition. I want every American family to have the same choice that Cindy and I made and Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama made as well and that was, we wanted to send our children to the school of our choice. And charter schools work, my friends. Home schooling works.
When I grow upRW: Tell why you want to be president.
Obama: You know, I remember what my mother used to tell me. The one time that she'd get really angry with me is if she ever thought that I was being mean to somebody or unfair to somebody. She said, 'Imagine standing in their shoes. Imagine looking through their eyes, that basic idea of empathy. And that I think is what's made America special is that notion that everybody's got a shot. If we see somebody down and out, if we see a kid who can't afford college, that we care for them too. And I want to be president because that's the America I believe in and I feel like that American dream is slipping away. I think we are at a critical juncture economically. I think we are at a critical juncture internationally. We've got to make some big decisions not just for us, but for the next generation and we keep on putting it off. And unfortunately, our politics is so broken and Washington is so broken that we can't seem to bring together people of goodwill to solve these common problems.
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