Thoughts on the Rick Warren Forum

Posted by Mike Merritt in Election 2008 on

Unfortunately, I came in late to the broadcast, and didn’t make it back in time for a couple questions, but I was able to see a majority of it and was able to twitter a few notes from my seat.  See you after the jump…

The Questions

The first thing I noticed was the wording of the “evil” question.  This wasn’t a question about the fight against good versus evil in a general sense.  Warren asked pretty clearly if you defeat or negotiate with evil, which I have to say, sounds like the debate that’s brewed between the candidates about whether you sit down and hold talks with Iran or whether you give them a raspberry and invade.  So, while I thought both answers to this question were good, I thought the while the question was perhaps not biased toward a specific candidate, it was pretty biased toward the current world situation.

Second, I thought Obama could have handled the hiring on faith-based initiatives question better.  McCain was much more direct with his answer, which really worked in this situation, and is going to resonate with an audience of that sort.  Obama beat around the bush, with hems and haws.

As for which justices they would have not nominated, here is one point where I thought Obama shined.  Explanation in great detail is necessary for this kind of question, since everybody is worried about what kind of judges both candidate would nominated during a presidency.  Obama gave names followed by a good argument to back them up, and I thought his explanation on why he would not have nominated John Roberts was very well done.  McCain, on the other hand, named names, and then kind of left it at that, and started on a spiel about judicial activism.  I thought that was a little weak.  Obama too spun off into executive power (the liberal version of ‘judicial activism’), but only after lengthy response to Warren’s question.

Finally, on the ‘what number do you define as rich’, I thought Obama was pretty upfront here, and I must congratulate him for it.  Anyone who’s paying attention should note that McCain’s “raise taxes on $40,000” thing is now blown out of the water.  He gave some straight talk (if I might borrow McCain’s moniker) on the issue.  McCain, meanwhile, beat around the issue, talking about, “even being rich doesn’t necessarily make you happy” and such.  Then he gives what sounds pretty much like an arbitrary number, to sound like he’s answering the question.  I thought this was McCain’s weakest answer tonight.

How They Answered Those Questions

Explanation wise, this was Obama’s night.  He gave long, often policy oriented explanations on his positions.  McCain often gave lots of stump-speech sounding answers, which are pretty sound-bitable.  Obama was simply more nuanced in his answers.  He often gave a position, and backed it up with a lengthy argument.  Of course, the con to this was that they didn’t get to as many answers.  More on that in a second.

Stylistically, this was McCain’s night.  He sounded a lot more energetic, and it showed when he answered a lot of his first answers quickly, and I applaud Warren for politely calling him on it.  McCain was also spoke more directly to the audience, which I think might resonate with the more than Obama’s 1-on-1 discussion style.  Obama also averted his eyes a lot more.  You could tell which answers he felt more comfortable asking because he was wide eyed and never averted his eyes on some of his best answers.  Even though McCain was stump-speechy, he never averted his eyes, and more so, kept them squared on the audience.

Finally, Warren jumped a couple questions during Obama’s portion for the sake of time.  I am a little disappointed that he jumped the question on privacy.  It would have been a lot better to hear something on that from him than the religious persecution question, which neither McCain nor Obama really answered.

So, who do I think won?  Well, McCain had some good answers, and so did Obama.  Likewise, Obama was better in explaining himself and becoming personal with the questions, but McCain was better stylistically, and sounded a lot more energetic and reached out to the viewing audience by looking at them.

I’m calling it a tie.

(Cross-posted from Poligazette)

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