Three Stooges in OC!

{Alongside Obama, and Pastor Rick Warren, Senator McCain reassures us that Jesus is his homeboy}

Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain made their first joint appearance of the 2008 campaign yesterday in the South Orange County city of Lake Forest. Pastor Rick Warren of “The Purpose-Driven Life” fame hosted a “civil forum” at his mega Saddleback church. The event, which promised beforehand to not be a debate, drew thousands inside the church and a broad political spectrum of protesters on the outside. Warren, who represents a “new” evangelism in a county that is a growing hotbed in the nation for practitioners of the faith, navigated through a two hour forum on “leadership,” and “character.” Indeed, by the end of this media spectacle, issues took a backseat to questions formed within the “moral” framework of the religious right. Therefore, the question begs, “What “purpose” was being “driven” here?

To offer a brief synopsis of yesterday’s forum the two candidates spoke of their own greatest moral failures, those of the nation, what faith in Jesus meant to them as well as their opinions on same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, and abortion. Obama, whose hour of questioning was first, responded to Pastor Warren’s relaxed interview style in a form typical of the liberal mindset, analytical and nuanced. The best Obama could do with the evening’s format and audience, was continue to dance to the right by opposing same-sex marriage, for which he received his loudest applause, and declaring that he “saw the light” in regards to Bill Clinton’s welfare reform. McCain, on the other hand, who said “my friends” so much it became nearly as disturbing as his mechanical smile, offered the conservative over-simplistic answers one might expect to resonate to the religious fundamentalist mindset. In Orange County with a mostly white audience, McCain drew the most raucous applause. Again, Warren’s questions were within the tired out “moral” framing of the religious right, so neither candidate had to face direct questions about our illegal and immoral war on Iraq. Call me Satan, but would Jesus really approve of a war based on avarice, lies, and of course, violence?

Given the format of the evening, which is deserving of much criticism, I do not know why Barrack Obama and his political campaign managers would agree to such an event. The appeal of the forum must have been the opportunity to sell Obama’s candidacy to a large pool of evangelical voters. Indeed, Obama spoke more eloquently about his Christian faith, while McCain’s “profound” spiritual reflection on his greatest moral failue was one sentence in length with no further elaboration! However, the key is in the name of the game. Warren’s forum was tagged as one about “leadership,” and “character.” A new Pew Research Center poll shows that the former is an important reason why McCain has made recent gains on Obama’s lead. Respondents, though in many cases ignorant of McCain’s actual policy positions, favored the Arizona Senator on notions of “leadership,” and “judgment.” The fact that policy ignorance correlates with such statistics proves Obama’s participation in the Saddleback Church’s forum to be a tactical mistake. And since the evening was so biblical, in conclusion I offer this advice in the form of the following passage from the Gospel According to Matthew to Obama before he thinks of participating in an event such as Warren’s again: “do not throw your pearls before swine!”

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