The world is not a simple, static place. We don’t need a simple, static president. Saturday evening, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain at down at church with Pastor Rick Warren, to answer questions about who they are as men, and what that means to the job they both want. The differences in their answers, both what they said and how they said it, spoke not only volumes about their lives to this point, but how they will perform should they attain the presidency. It also said a little bit about Pastor Warren, and the role of “faith and politics.”
The questions for Senator Obama were framed with biblical references, giving the candidate clear Judeo-Christian parameters within which to operate. One wonders whether Pastor Warren, a self-proclaimed “friend of both these men,” purposefully used his Civil Forum to combat the persistent, unfounded rumors that Senator Obama is a “secret” Muslim. The answers Senator Obama gave, while peppered with references to “god’s work”, appeared to be honest reflections on the questions asked. Like most honest reflections, there was some searching for words, looking for phrases, pauses for thought, and reframing of ideas until he answered the questions in a manner he was comfortable with. As such, he took longer, and didn’t give any sound-bite worthy answers until asked to sum up his presidential ambitions in one minute. Overall, he appeared well received by the audience, but unlike his campaign stops, not particularly overwhelming.
Senator McCain, on the other hand, appeared to be at a campaign stop. The questions, though allegedly identical, differed in slight ways that allowed the candidate to give great sound bites. Pastor Warren, though apparently sincere in his efforts to ask the same questions, failed to preface even one question to Senator McCain in biblical terms. Senator McCain answered each question almost before it was completed, giving the appearance of having been prepped (different from prepared, by the way) to answer the specific questions asked. While he appeared to be answering extemporaneously, his interview session had the feel of a rally, with two word answers accompanied by a hand-slap on the desk, followed by a quick sip of water while the crowd applauded his decisiveness.
In short, Senator Obama’s answers were complex and complete. They addressed the issues presented, not the issues that he wished he was asked about. He ably participated in a discussion, even if he did appear a bit professorial and aloof.
Senator McCain’s answers were simple and static, almost appearing scripted. And he appeared unable to deviate from his prepared remarks and stories, even when pressed. He looked like a wind-up toy, answering the questions before they were asked, going for applause instead of answering honestly, and smiling woodenly while waiting.
The world is not a simple, static place. We don’t need a simple, static president. I’m glad we got to see both men on the same stage. I can’t wait to see them up there together, without the Pastor and the sound-bite setups