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August 20, 2008
Column #1,408
Stark Differences: Obama Vs. McCain
by Mike McManus

Before his Civil Forum on the Presidency, Dr. Rick Warren said his goal was to test the "faith, values, character, competence, leadership, convictions and world view" of both nominees. He did so by asking identical but profound questions of each candidate.

First, he asked, "Who were the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an Administration?"

Obama mentioned his wife, Michelle, "who is not only wise but honest," and secondly, his grandmother, who has "grounded common sense."  It is hard to imagine Obama relying as President heavily on his grandmother. He also mentioned former Sen. Sam Nunn and Sen. Dick Lugar, a Republican.

In contrast, McCain said he'd rely on Gen. David Petraeus, a "great military leader who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq;" Rep. John Lewis, the black Congressman who "had his skull fractured" in the Selma march who "can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment; and Meg Whitman, CEO of E-Bay, which began with five employees and now involves 1.5 million people "that make a living off e-mail, one of the great American success stories."

Warren asked, what "would be the greatest moral failure in your life and what would be the greatest moral failure of America?"

Obama acknowledged he "experimented with drugs" during his teen years, and said America's greatest failure is that "We still don't abide by that basic concept in Matthew that `Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.' He felt America is "not providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class."

To me that answer is incredible. When I was in my teens, virtually all blacks were the poorest of the poor. Today, most blacks are in the middle class and one is running for president.

McCain confessed, "My greatest moral the failure of my first marriage."  As for the nation, he said, "Perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than ourselves - although we have been the best at it of anybody in the world."

Asked what was "the most gut-wrenching decision you've ever had to make," McCain replied that when he was in a prison camp, because his dad was a high-ranking admiral, "The Vietnamese said that I could leave prison early." However, "we had a code of conduct that said you leave by order of capture," and a friend has served two years longer. Therefore, he declined which resulted in being imprisoned three more years with very harsh abuse.

Obama said his decision to oppose entering a war in Iraq was difficult because he was running for Senate, the President had high approval ratings and advisors said he could end up losing the election as a consequence.   

Warren asked, "At what point does a baby get human rights?"

Obama's answer was stunning: "Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade."

How could a man aspiring to be President be unable to answer this simple question?

By contrast, McCain answered crisply: "At the moment of conception. I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate and as President of the United States, I will be a pro-life President with pro-life policies. That's my commitment."

Warren asked each to "define marriage."

Obama responded, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me, as a Christian, it is also a sacred union."

Warren asked, "Would you support a Constitutional Amendment with that definition?"

"No, I would not...Historically, we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It's been a matter of state law."  He said some want an amendment to oppose same-sex marriage. "I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions."

Civil same-sex unions are same-sex marriages in all but name.

By contrast, McCain defined marriage as a: "union between a man and a woman." Warren noted that California's Supreme Court overturned "this definition of marriage," and asked if the decision was wrong.  McCain replied it was "wrong," adding, "If a federal court decided that my State of Arizona" had to recognize same-sex "marriages" blessed by Massachusetts, "then I would favor a Constitutional Amendment."

McCain's answers were direct and persuasive. Obama's were obscure or merely politically correct.

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