Did anyone see Rick Warren’s interviews with the Presidential candidates? The transcript is here if you are interested.
The forum was revealing on many counts:
The candidates: In the coming weeks, I think we will find that McCain did himself a lot of good with the so-called “evangelical” portion of the conservative base. Both candidates looked and sounded good, but I think McCain demonstrated a gravitas that far outweighed Obama. There was a definite contrast. Compare their answers to Pastor Rick’s question about the “most gut-wrenching decision you have ever had to make:”
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 Shia and the Sunni 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. You know, when you meet the troops, they’re 19, 20, 21-year-old kids, and you’re putting them into harm’s way. There is a solemn obligation that you do everything you can to get that decision right. And now, as the war went forward, there are difficult decisions about how long do you keep on funding the war, if you strongly believe that it’s not in America’s national interest. At the same time, you don’t want to have troops who are out there without the equipment they need.
So all those questions surrounding the war have been very difficult for me.
Nevermind that Barack Obama never had to cast a vote against the Iraq war in the Illinois State Senate. Compare this McCain’s answer:
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. It said you only leave by order of capture. I also had a dear and beloved friend, who was from California, named Ebb Alvarez, who had been shot down before me. But I wasn’t in good physical shape. In fact, I was in rather bad physical shape. So I said no. Now, in interest of full disclosure, I’m 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 in my last answer, and the high-ranking officer offered it, slammed the door and the interrogator said, “Go back to your cell. It’s going to be very tough on you now.” And it was. But not only the toughest decision I ever made, but I am most happy about that decision, than any decision I’ve ever made in my life. (APPLAUSE).
To his credit, Pastor Rick did ask one question about that thorny subject called abortion: “Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?”
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade. But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion, because this is something obviously the country wrestles with. One thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I think anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention. So that would be point number one.
But point number two, I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe v. Wade, and I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion, but because, ultimately, I don’t think women make these decisions casually. I think they — they wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or their spouses or their doctors or their family members. And so, for me, the goal right now should be — and this is where I think we can find common ground. And by the way, I’ve now inserted this into the Democratic party platform, is how do we reduce the number of abortions? The fact is that although we have had a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down and that is something we have to address.
Here is McCain:
MCCAIN: At the moment of conception. (APPLAUSE). 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. And this presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment. That’s my commitment to you.
Compared with Obama’s hemming and hawing, that is an outstanding answer. It is interesting that Obama talks about reducing the number of abortions, yet has opposed every effort to do so. Indeed, he has promised to reverse the Bush administration’s moratorium on federally funded abortions once he takes office. How will that reduce the number of abortions?
Finally, let’s talk about Pastor Rick for little bit. Do you think this was an appropriate thing for him to do as a pastor?
How the abortion issue was handled was revealing. I guess I should be thankful it was brought up at all, but isn’t there something unsettling with the fact that it was treated as just another issue, especially by this reknowned “evangelical pastor.” Obama’s equivocation on this point could be forgiven or overlooked if one agreed with his position on every other point? Right? He even noted how many abortions there have been since Roe v. Wade (though I think he underreported it a bit).
George Will wrote a column a while back in which he noted that we can no longer call abortion, the most common medical procedure, murder. This offended a lot of pro-lifers, but I wonder if he is right.
Have we lost our sense of outrage over abortion? Even in the pro-life community, abortion seems to have become one more of many “life issues.” If we really believe abortion to be murder, why aren’t we doing more about it? Maybe, the truth is that we no longer think it is murder and that is why accept so many accommodations with it. It is just another issue, to be balanced with all the others.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to suggest that abortion is not murder. Instead, I am questioning our commitment to that proposition and its consequences.
If that is so, what more can we do?