Saddleback Follies

I watched Rick Warren's back-to-back interviews with Obama and McCain at his Saddleback Church Saturday night. Three reactions:

First, it would have been nice to see some follow-up when the candidates dodged questions or gave nonsensical answers. The format had its advantages in asking the same questions of both Obama and McCain, but they were still able to wiggle out of some tough spots. For instance, McCain was quick to say that life begins at conception, but then admitted to support of embryonic stem-cell research. These things don't fit. If, by McCain's own definition, every fetus is human, why is it all right to kill some of them but not others?

Second, while McCain had the better night, I don't think it was quite the massive victory some commentators think it is. Republicans are supposed to do well in front of an Evangelical audience. Obama - repugnant though his positions are - at least showed up, talked about his faith, and got applause a few times. That's really all he needed.

Recall that in 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush had overwhelming support from Evangelicals and still barely won both times. In 2004 he was helped mightily by the presence of gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot in several states. Even so, John Kerry would be president today if a hundred thousand votes had gone the other way in a few key states.

Barack Obama doesn't need to get all the Evangelicals on his side. All he needs to do is peel off 5% or 10% of those who supported Bush four years ago. If those people vote for Obama, vote for a third party candidate, or don't vote at all, it is very bad news for McCain. Obama appears to be well on his way to achieving this goal. In that sense, the appearance at Saddleback was a big step in the right direction for him.

Third, McCain's answer that the United States must "defeat" evil makes me nervous. We must resist evil, of course, and sometimes fight it. But evil will not be defeated until Christ returns at the end of time. If defeating evil becomes our national policy, we will defeat only ourselves.

Nothing I heard at Saddleback makes me change my mind. I cannot vote for either Obama or McCain. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

No comments: