Last night CNN broadcast the “Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency,” live from the church of Pastor Rick Warren (of Purpose-Driven Life fame). Here is the CNN story that contains links to the video (in four parts). And here is a link to the written transcript, now available on Rick Warren’s website.
The whole forum–back to back interviews of the two candidates separately, but on the same tough questions–was really well done. It seems this format is really effective at helping the public really get to know how the candidates think on the issues–I mean how they really think and deeply feel about the issues, and not just how they debate with their opponent about them.
Two highlights for me: (i) the question on “who is rich”–i.e., at what income level does the candidate consider a family “rich”–and I believe it was asked with reference to taxes, or at least was answered that way by both; and (ii) Obama’s response to the very last question on what he would tell the American public if he “knew there wouldn’t be any repercussions.”
On the question of who’s rich regarding taxes, the candidates answered very differently, as to be expected. Obama made reference to his $250,000+ standard. McCain began with a flippant mention of $5 million, but eventually got to his supply-side (really, Laffer Curve) claim that you have to cut taxes to raise revenue, and that the deficit problem was due to spending, not to tax cuts. (This AP story by Charles Babington and Beth Fouhy highlights part of that McCain response.)
I was moved by Obama’s answer to Pastor Rick’s last question, on what he would tell the American public (in 30 seconds) if he knew there wouldn’t be any “repercussions.” In his response, Obama made reference to shared sacrifice and fiscal responsibility–the (moral) issue of what we leave for future generations (I’m cutting and pasting from the all-caps text and then editing/correcting here, so sorry this isn’t very pretty):
YOU KNOW, WHAT I WOULD TELL THEM IS THAT SOLVING BIG PROBLEMS LIKE FOR EXAMPLE ENERGY IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY AND EVERYBODY’S GOING TO HAVE TO GET INVOLVED AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO ALL THINK ABOUT HOW ARE WE USING ENERGY MORE EFFICIENTLY AND THERE IS GOING TO BE A PRICE TO PAY IN TRANSITIONING TO A MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT ECONOMY AND DEALING WITH ISSUES LIKE CLIMate CHANGE. IF WE PRETEND LIKE EVERYTHING IS FREE AND THERE IS NO SACRIFICE INVOLVED THEN WE ARE BETRAYING THE TRADITION OF AMERICA.
I THINK ABOUT MY GRANDPARENT’S GENERATION COMING OUT OF A DEPRESSION, FIGHTING WORLD WAR TWO; YOU KNOW THEY’VE CONFRONTED SOME CHALLENGES WE CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE. IF THEY WERE WILLING TO MAKE SACRIFICES ON OUR BEHALF, WE SHOULD BE ABLE to be TOLD to MAKE SOME SACRIFICES ON BEHALF OF THE NEXT GENERATION.