Did anybody besides Republicans watch that ‘debate’ Saturday night?


You may have noticed that I write more lately about what various pundits are saying, comparing and contrasting and noting trends. That’s because I inherited one of the main tasks that Mike Fitts used to take care of — choosing syndicated columnists for our op-ed page. Therefore every day, I’m more conscious than usual of what all the major writers are saying, as opposed to just the ones that happened to grab my attention that day.

And I notice things. For instance, last week I was noticing that the columnists most eager to write about what the Soviets — dang, Russians (there I go again) — are doing in Georgia were the "conservatives." (Since then, Paul Krugman and Trudy Rubin have weighed in.)

I should pause at this point to explain the unfortunate fact that pretty much all major columnists are labeled — either by their syndicates, by the papers that run them or by themselves — as "liberal" or "conservative." Many are marketed this way (which is one reason you’ll never see me syndicated — I have no niche). There are some who resist this nobly. David Broder, for instance, has so much of the reporter in him still that his writing is remarkably even-handed. He is "moderate" in pretty much every sense. But hold a gun to an editor’s head and force him to choose, and he will describe him as "center-left" Similarly, Robert Samuelson approaches his subjects with such an academic detachment (I say "academic," although it is my rough impression that these days such detachment as Samuelson’s is rare in academia), particularly with regard to economics, that he does not fit comfortably in one camp or the other. But force it, and I suppose he is "center-right." Maureen Dowd is an equal-opportunity insulter, but would you ever call her "conservative?" No.

Anyway, this week I’m noticing that those who either lean right or are unabashedly "conservative" and/or Republican keep bringing up this forum that John McCain and Barack Obama participated in at Saddleback Church Saturday night. I gotta tell you I missed it. My wife and I did a rare thing that night — we got dressed up and went out. Specifically, we went to the Cap City Club’s 20th Anniversary Gala, but for us it was an excuse to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary, which was on Sunday. When we got home, I watched a little bit of the Olympics, and saw Michael Phelps make sports history (although not in high definition).

Apparently, most of America was doing the same, including all left-leaning pundits. I say that because I’ve seen the following three descriptions of the event, all of them saying both that the event was well-run, and that McCain came off looking better than Obama did:

  1. William Kristol’s column in the NYT Monday:

        While normal people were out having fun Saturday night, I was home in front of the TV. But I wasn’t enjoying the Olympics. Your diligent columnist was dutifully watching Barack Obama and John McCain answer the Rev. Rick Warren’s questions at Saddleback Church. Virtue is sometimes rewarded. The event was worth watching — and for me yielded three conclusions.
        First, Rick Warren should moderate one of the fall presidential debates….
        Second, it was McCain’s night….

  2. This typical piece in the WSJ today, which essentially trashed what was revealed about Obama during the event:

    On Saturday night at the Saddleback Church in Southern California, Rick
    Warren showed Jim, Gwen, Tom, Bob and Co. what a presidential moderator
    can accomplish when he makes the debate about the candidates and not

  3. A column by Cal Thomas, meant for Tuesday publication:

       The "civil forum” featuring presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain may not have been as exciting as Michael Phelps winning his eighth Olympic gold medal, but it was civil and it was a forum from which emerged useful information.
       McCain had the most to gain. Judging by the applause, he won the night among evangelical voters….

So my question now is this: Did any Democrats or liberals watch this event? Did they, too, think Rick Warren did a great job? Did they think their guy did better than McCain, or do they think the less said, the better? So far, I have no indication.

Any of y’all who saw it, help us out here.

35 thoughts on “Did anybody besides Republicans watch that ‘debate’ Saturday night?

  1. Susanna K.

    I called my parents in California on Saturday night, and they said they were watching the forum. They are both definitely Democrats. I am probably what you’d call left-leaning, and I would’ve watched it except that my husband had programmed the TiVo to record the Olympics (yes, all 5 hours), so I couldn’t change the channel.

  2. Richard L. Wolfes

    Brad, I watched it but it was prolife crowd so naturally McCain won. If the event were held before NARAL Obama would have won. You did the right thing by going out. As a baseball fan this was a softball event.

  3. Lee Muller

    No, but every person who did said it was a more objective format than any of the phony debates put on by the TV news media, and it asked the exact same question to each candidate in private, where they did not know what the other said.
    Obama was caught lying several times, about not voting for bills, etc.

  4. Karen McLeod

    I watched it. I disagree that Obama was “worse” than McCain. He probably came off as flippant when he answered the question of when human life begins, by saying it was “above his paygrade”. But at least he had enough guts not to claim to know the unknowable. Science cannot tell us when human ensoulment happens. Some may believe it happens at conception, some may believe when the fetus quickens, some believe at birth, and some may (and actually have) believe it happens some days after birth, but no one (except God) can say with factual certainty. Senator McCain responded with “at conception.” Not “I believe,” “I trust,” or even “I’m willing to bet my life on,” but with a phraseology that indicated that he considered that fact (by the way, I think the question was, “Do you know when life begins,” not “When do you believe life begins?”). We have had 8 years of a president who gets belief confused with fact; we don’t need more. Of course the crowd he was talking to preferred McCain’s answer (and, Brad, you probably do, too).
    Another major problem I had concerned the economy. I suspect both of them are using ‘sunny’ figures when talking about the economy, but McCain projects that he can continue the Iraq war indefinitely, and still, via tax cuts, improve the economy and rid us of the deficits. Obama, on the other hand, plans raise taxes on the richest (he gave an approximate annual income of $250,000 a year as the basement for tax increases). And of course, he wants us to get out of Iraq, which will certainly decrease our spending there. But he had the honesty to state that we have a massive debt to China, and that the next years were going to be hard (well, duh!).
    When asked about belief in evil, Obama listed many evils, which he said that we could and should fight, but that only God could win the ultimate battle against evil.
    McCain, on the other hand, said that we can win the battle against evil, and when asked to name evil(s), he named bin Laden and again swore to follow him to the gates of Hell to capture him. All very rousing, but a little short of actual, factual methodology.
    It seems to me that McCain was strong on emotional ‘umph’ (including several war prisoner related stories) but short on thought and reason; Obama was reasoned, and tried to answer the questions honestly, but reason just does not have the machismo of emotional appeal. But then, at least when it comes to the airwaves, machismo emotional appeal seems to be the standard for the conservative talkers on both TV and radio.

  5. Herb Brasher

    I agree with much of what you write, but I would suggest that both Brad and yourself, as well as anyone else interested in an evangelical critique of the forum go to getreligion.org for a balanced view of things.
    Also, we both know that we disagree on the subject of abortion, but please note that Rick Warren did not ask about when the baby gets a soul. What he asked was, when does a baby get basic human rights. The former is a theological question. The latter is not, as T. Matt explains:

    This is a crucial issue in the coverage. Let me stress, this has nothing to do with whether one agrees or disagrees with Obama on this issue. Please do not click “comment” to argue about that. What I am trying to underline is an actual question linked to the facts in the news story, the facts about the question that Warren asked and why he asked it.
    The question again: In politics, in law, in legislation, in public life, when does a baby get basic human rights?
    Forget theology for a moment. This is a political question, the way Warren asked it. It should have been possible to give a political answer. Right? If Obama gives a political answer, then reporters can quote that answer and people can debate those views in a political context. There’s no reason to pump up the theological fog in this case.

    There are several relelvant postings there that are all worth reading, but see especially Obama, Andrew, Ross and “Ensoulment”.

  6. Herb Brasher

    Getreligion.org is a superb blog for good journalism, by the way. That is evident in the fact that if someone makes comments like Lee often does (Obama is a Marxist, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseaum), they are immediately deleted.

  7. Richard L. Wolfe

    Karen, You claim to be a Christian. Where would Christ stand on the abortion issue. Science doesn’t know everything? Not the tune you were whistling on the smoking bans.
    Herb has this one right.

  8. Doug Ross

    Since Richard wants to ask hypotheticals about What Would Jesus Do? let me ask the pro-life crowd a similar hypothetical –
    assuming we could define human rights to begin at the time of conception, what difference would you see in the way society treats unwanted pregnancies?
    There will still be abortions. There will still be babies left in dumpsters. There may be fewer abortions but the number will be dependent on just how severe the punishment pro-life crowd is able to enact on mothers and/or doctors.

  9. Lee Muller

    Herb, I am not surprised that you like your news to be censored.
    I don’t know if Obama is a Marxist – no ersatz journalist has asked him any direct questions. But Obama comes from a family of communists, and has surrounded himself with Marxists, socialists, enemies of the US, sympathizers with terrorists, and terrorists themselves.
    What do you think Obama is – just innocently stupid, like John Kerry was when the KGB was funding his anti-war group?

  10. Norm

    I’m independent, but am decidedly left in this election cycle. The biggest difference I observed was that Obama seemed to consider his responses, and McCain fired machine-gun rapid answers. I was particularly intrigued by the question about evil (does it exist and do we ignore, negotiate, contain or defeat it?). McCain’s response was defeat it. Obama’s answer offered an additional possibility–confront it. We cannot defeat all evil, no matter how much we wish we could, and Obama’s response revealed his wisdom. Obama’s responses also (for me) showed a leader who understands the need for compromise (liberals and conservatives are opponents on issues, not enemies). Obama thinks more than McCain. I’d rather have a thinking man in the office than one who responds reflexively.
    I thought Pastor Warren did an excellent job moderating the forum. He was fair and friendly to both gentlemen. That said, I think McCain was the crowd favorite because of his anecdotes and quick responses.
    One additional comment about the “above my pay grade” response from Obama about when life begins. For me, that was a response acknowledging only God can answer that question. It seems to me the more responsible response.

  11. Herb Brasher

    Come on, Lee. Don’t make me have to go back and link to your own comments where you call Obama a Marxist. I get called a “socialist,” which I am not, etc. etc. Everyone gets pigeonholed in your comments, as far as I can see.
    It isn’t a matter of news, it’s a matter of common human decency and respect. “So and so” is “so,” automatically precludes all discussion. He or she is already condemned. I’ll freely admit to stooping to that at times, for which I try to go back and apologize every time it happens. But you don’t seem to mind labeling anybody.

  12. Lee Muller

    At least some of you recognize that there is a stigma to being a Marxist or socialist, after they murdered 400,000,000 people in the 20th century. Good for you.
    So how do you defend Obama’s lifelong association with communists and terrorists?
    How do you explain Obama’s socialist positions calling for higher graduated income and estate taxes, punishing businesses, socialized medicine, central planning of industries, support for world government, etc?
    Or do you just slough them off and pretend to not see the warts of treason?

  13. Lee Muller

    Herb, I am trying to START a discussion on the socialist ideas and socialist friends of Obama. Why is that off-limits?

  14. Herb Brasher

    Doug, this was not a thread on abortion, but on the candidates’ position on it (at least part of it was).
    Still, what are you suggesting? That respect for human life just means that we capitulate to what is. After all, it’s that way. Can’t do anything about it, it will always be there.
    Maybe. When I see the guys standing on the street corner with their sandwich signs, or whatever you call those things, protesting abortion, churning on the “culture wars.” it does make me want to leave the subject alone forever.
    I just wonder what we’ve come to, I really do. I wonder if William Wilberforce would respect our capitulation. I wonder if God does.

  15. Brad Warthen

    Herb draws a good distinction — between talking about when there is a soul and talking about when legal rights are granted.
    Folks on the pro”choice” side like to try to shut up the rest of us by saying we’re trying to legislative theology. But the fact is that a legal distinction WILL be made — it always has been, and always will be. The line will always be drawn SOMEWHERE, and the debate is over where to draw it.
    On that subject, I’m always been intrigued by the communitarian critique of the way we discuss this issue. Communitarians note that in Europe, the abortion issue isn’t decided by choosing between and absolute right to life vs. some absolute right to “privacy.” The interest of the society at large come into play, with third parties making decisions that are as disinterested as possible. Sort of chilling, but once you get beyond the “rights” talk that is so instinctive to Americans, it becomes more possible to find answers.
    As long as I’m digressing… Y’all know I’m for single-payer, but I’m not on board with the people who talk about a “right” to health care. They’re barking up the wrong tree. We don’t need to provide universal health care because anybody has a right to it, but because it’s the most practical and rational way to do the job, to the benefit of the society. It cuts out the profit-making middlemen, it creates the largest possible risk pool and biggest possible negotiating unit, and frees up everyone to take risks in their work lives, thereby unleashing creativity in our economy (instead of people clinging to dead-end jobs for the bennies). It just makes sense, and when you’re making policy, you’re supposed to think about what makes sense. It’s not about anybody being entitled to it.

  16. Doug Ross

    You have frequently commented that it is the Bible that we are to obey our government leaders. So which is it – respect the laws our government leaders have created or not?
    If you want to stop abortions, pray to God to stop abortions. Don’t ask the government to do His job.
    As for Brad’s sidetrip into the fantasy world of single payer healthcare:
    >but because it’s the most practical and
    >rational way to do the job
    You state that as if it is a fact. You have yet to offer any evidence to support that opinion nor any rational explanation of how to deal with the cost, the rationing of healthcare, promoting research and development in a price fixed model, and preventing the best doctors from dropping out of the system.
    Other than that, it’s the most practical way, I guess. Oh, and John McCain thinks your idea is completely wrong. So I guess it’s just him being irrational and impractical, right? I mean he doesn’t have any staff members who might have done the research on the subject, right?
    >It cuts out the profit-making middlemen,
    And replaces them with unmotivated bureaucrats and politicians who will tweak the system to reward their own best interests. The amount of pork in a national healthcare system would make Maurice Bessinger weep.
    >it creates the largest possible risk pool >and biggest possible negotiating unit,
    to negotiate with what entity??? There won’t be anyone to negotiate with in your scheme… there’s only Uncle Sam’s Club… where the price you pay for healthcare is based on how much money you make, not how much you need it.
    Can you guarantee every current insurance holder the same level of service at the same price we currently pay? Just because it would be a good deal for you doesn’t mean it would be a good deal for everyone.

  17. Herb Brasher

    Thanks for your condescending attitude, and abrupt dismissal of the topic. Of course I never said that Christians don’t have a moral obligation to work toward changing government, nor is Romans 13 the last word in the NT on the subject, though it has to be taken seriously.
    But I’ll refrain from addressing the subject any further, since 1) you evidently think I’m a fool and have nothing to say, and 2) we’ve all been over this territory before, and I doubt it will get us very far.
    It still hurts to see the subject dismissed with callous disregard, it appears, of human life, as though Dachau were just another natural occurrence in history, or Rwanda just another thing to be expected. “Babies in the dumpster” — yes, let’s just turn away to the next topic and laugh about it, or about the idiot like me who brings it up.
    Sorry, but you make me want to weep. Karen’s approach to it, and others, is at least one that engaged the topic and the issues.

  18. Herb Brasher

    P.S. I get so frustrated with the attitude, “pray to God about it.” I believe in prayer, yes. But it makes me want to scream when somebody tells me to sit down and shut up and be a good little Christian and don’t rock the boat.
    Which is why I keep coming back to this blog, and why I won’t shut up, even if know-it-alls like Mr. Ross tell me to. Why can’t a baby at least have some human rights in the third tri-mester? At least there? Why?

  19. Lee Muller

    Ask Obama – he’s the one who voted to keep funding partial-birth abortion infanticides, and his wife said he will continue to do so.
    Herb just left the room.
    Any other Obama apologists want to explain his lifelong association with communists and terrorists?

  20. Doug Ross

    You miss the point as usual. There is no legal definition of when life begins that will ever satisfy a majority of Americans. None.
    Instead of trying to change laws, we should be trying to change hearts and minds.
    Rather than being a know-it-all when it comes to abortion, I fully admit to being a know-nothing. But I won’t pretend to think that some piece of paper signed by the President of the United States will make any difference in the public’s view of abortion.
    And no amount of shaming, blaming, persecuting, or prosecuting women is going to make our society a better place for unwanted children.
    Don’t blame me for the logical hoops you have to jump through to reconcile your interpretation of the Bible and how it justifies changing laws in one case but not another. That’s for you to deal with.

  21. Mike of Toronto, formerly of Columbia

    Lee, why do you ask questions when you’re completely, totally and utterly uninterested in any answers and instead just want to ride your hobbyhorse all the way from Camden to Cayce?

  22. p.m.

    “Above my pay grade” was a blatant copout. Obama equivocated, diddled, daddled, hemmed and hawed.
    McCain SCORCHED him and showed Obama to be a ponderous pretender even when McCain didn’t know what Obama said.
    McCain can lead. Obama can think about it.

  23. Herb Brasher

    I don’t recall advocating the Spanish Inquisition, or any kind of church-state mixture to develop laws punishing women having abortions. I realize that a lot of settlers came to this country in order to escape a heavy-handed church hierarchy that dictated their choices in every area of life.
    But I do recall asking why, if we can save babies born in the third trimester of pregnancy, it is on the other hand legal to throw them in the dumpster? Do me a favor, and go to getreligion.org, and read the thread on “Obama: Folks are Lying.” And when you are finished, tell me please what is so complicated about this? Why the theological fog? I would have thought that common sense would have some role to play here.
    I recall that William Wilberforce was faced with similar arguments: “that’s your interpretation of Scripture, but God intends blacks to be slaves,” etc. etc. Keep the status quo, don’t rock the boat. Good thing he didn’t listen to that.
    Yes, I suppose my interpretation of Scripture influences me. So do the five grandbabies that we have (three of which are no longer babies). So do the friends who want children, can’t have them, and can’t adopt.
    But doesn’t common sense have anything to do with this? Anything at all? What am I missing?

  24. Lee Muller

    Mike of Toronto,
    I doubt you really want an answer from me, but I am trying to ask big questions about the core beliefs and character of the candidates.
    There is no argument about Obama having lifelong relationships with communists, from his family to terrorists like Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorn.
    The question is how anyone can support a man like Obama? Do they just put their personal greed for more welfare and their hope for punishing the achievers ahead of the issue of treason which surrounds Obama?

  25. Karen McLeod

    Herb, If you consider the question to be “When does a fetus have the same legal status afforded a post-birth child?” that question has been even more widely interpreted than ‘ensoulment.’ Any good Roman living in Jesus’ time would have told you that, legally speaking, unborn, born, the mothers, and slaves had no rights. The master of the house could kill any of them by right. He essentially owned them all. To me it really boils down to an essential parallel. If a fetus is legally a human being, then one cannot kill the fetus to save the mother, even if the fetus will die as well, because you cannot legally kill one innocent person to save another for whatever reason. Therefore if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, one must let that situation proceed to its natural resolution. I can’t go there. Therefore, I must conclude that I do not consider an embryo to be the equal to a human being. Having said that, I am all in favor of reducing the cruel circumstances that cause (most) mothers to abort their fetuses, be those circumstances medical, emotional, cultural, or financial. And Herb, I appreciate you irritation with Lee; his repetitions regarding Obama’s “communistic” relations have been refuted so many times. He is of the ilk that,knowing a statement is a lie, repeat it anyway, hoping that if it is repeated often enough people will believe it is true (wasn’t it Goebbels that first said that?).

  26. Herb Brasher

    I have indeed noticed that Lee uses Goebbels’ smear tactics, and the statement he made to me “I will use you as a sounding board” of course sums things up. I am a “thing” that he wants to use, not a person to exchange with. He is not interested in discourse, but in propaganda, whether through proper sources (for which he rarely provides links–I almost think he is too lazy to provide them, or he wishes to hide his sources), or fraudulent ones (like the Dowd article), it does not matter. We will not change Lee, but perhaps if from time to time someone else gets a bit wiser, it is worth arguing. I hope so. But I’ve had my bit for now; I’ll let others argue. It’s tiring. I’m not sure why Brad allows him on the blog, but it’s Brad’s blog. As Paul Demarco pointed out, though, it does tend to chase serious commenters off.
    Thanks for the good reply; again we agree to disagree. You seem to me to be arguing from a rare ethical situation to a general one, and that is for me very shaky ground. Relatively rare situations are not, I think a good basis for general ethical or political view. Even the phrase “mother’s life is in danger” is, I understand, a loaded term that comes up a lot less often than many would like to think. Certainly a mother’s life has “more value,” in a sense, though I have never known a mother personally who would say that.
    I am thankful for the Saddleback forum, because it, and the coverage connected with it, showed me that Obama is indeed extremely liberal on this issue to the point of almost sanctioning infanticide, it would seem. I can’t go there, I know that now, even though the foreign policy of John McCain makes me very apprehensive. But it will be a choice between the lesser of two evils, I am afraid, unless the one who is elected surprises me with leadership ability.
    The argument from Roman background doesn’t really wash with me; I’m thinking that we have had a better moral background in this country than that of ancient Rome, but I’m not sure if we are sliding downhill, back down to that, or even worse.
    I am still not sure if Wilberforce should not be a model for us today, but I am not in Congress, so I don’t think I can be a Wilberforce. Which may be a cop out, I don’t know.
    Still, thanks for your thoughtful and respectful reply; my emotions tend to get out of hand, I realize. We had just had our 10 month old grandson for a visit a few days, and when I see the life and intelligence that babies have–well I won’t go there.

  27. Karen McLeod

    Herb, I could not agree with you more when I say that I do not think that abortion is a good choice. I simply think it is the best choice that some women see, and I’m not willing to deny them in many cases (certainly I don’t agree with abortion as a form of sex selection or other frivolous choices!). To me, I am not walking in the shoes of the woman who makes this desperate choice, and I don’t know the despair that feeds it. The only reason I use the “rare ethical situation” is that it does clarify whether or not I consider a fetus to have the same value as an ‘already here’ human life. Having come up with my answer to that, my choice is to work on eliminating those other evil forces that make a woman so desperate as to be willing to destroy the life she is carrying. I just don’t see burdening someone who is all too often lost in a morass of dysfunctional thinking induced by a dysfunctional environment and a lack of fundamental mentoring with a ‘moral’ imperative which she cannot, at that point, understand. And I certainly have no wish to drive abortion underground again. Meanwhile, please ignore the Lee’s et. al. and keep talking with those of us who want to discuss matters sanely. By the way, you did hear Obama say that he would like to limit 3rd term abortions?

  28. Lee Muller

    Under socialized medicine, you had better get used to forced sterilization (Sweden) abortion, late-term abortion, killing of newborns with birth defects (Holland), and killing of the elderly and terminally ill by forcible lethal injection and removal from life-sustaining equipment (Holland and England)

  29. Doug Ross

    The nurse who started the whole issue regarding “infanticide” has an article published titled “Michael J. Fox is a cannibal”. It goes downhill from there…
    “The future Fox wants to create for his three daughters looks bleak. No longer will only hens lay eggs for human consumption if Fox has his way. His daughters will be exploited for their eggs, too, because the only source of these pre-embryos is women. It is foolish to think technology will be sated by the availability of today’s orphaned embryos, as is now the spin. ”

  30. bud

    Herb, you and I seem to generally disagree on the abortion issue. However, I find your arguments compelling and thought provoking. That is quite refreshing in a world filled with smears and false innuendo. Hopefully we can entice Dr. Demarco back to the blog. I really enjoyed his comments.

  31. Herb Brasher

    Thanks for your encouragement. I’m glad that we can help one another; and I’m especially glad because what I write generally gets written in a hurry, so nothing is as well thought out as it should be. I certainly have been encouraged to think by much that you have written in the past, even when we disagree.
    I will continue to monitor what the Obama campaign is putting out, but I’m wary of the direction things are going, and of the people he might appoint. We shall see. I agree that dealing with specific situations is always different from theory. Even the little experience I have as a pastor tells me that there are all sorts of factors that come into play that need to be considered in specific situations. But I can’t help but be convinced that, if we can keep an infant alive at 6 months, we ought not to be aborting them in that stage. It just defies imagination for a civilized society to do that.
    Thanks for the tip; I’ll keep my eye out.

  32. zzazzeefrazzee

    Herr Müller, it’s a bit late for you to get a brain transplant. I’ve noticed that you’ve laid off the “Obama is a Muslim” lie, and instead trumpet how he’s a Socialist ( I guess in your view, he’s no longer a Communist?). So I’ll ask you point-black; do you still think he’s a Muslim?

  33. Lee Muller

    All of Obama’s platform is recycled socialism from FDR, the fascists of the 1930s and Europe of the 1970s. Since he steps like a socialist and quacks like a socialist…
    I don’t know if Obama is a Muslim.
    He was raised Muslim, and educated in a Muslim Wahabe school.
    His father was a communist and Muslim.
    His brother and uncle are radical Muslims, and ardent supporters of socialism in Africa.
    Most of Obama’s campaign staff are socialists, Muslim sympathizers, and some are even admitted terrorists whose gangs bombed the US Capitol and killed policemen.

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