Saddleback Civil Forum I — Obama is very good at this
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, is right now hosting a live forum with Barack Obama and John McCain on their candidacies for the presidency. Warren is asking each candidate the same questions, Obama just went first while McCain was off-stage and out of hearing.

Many of my Republican friends keep telling me that the country won’t elect Barack Obama. To them I have a recommendation: Watch the replay of Warren’s interview tonight with Obama. This man is a very, very serious candidate and he is making a very, very studied appeal to the people of this country.

Saddleback Forum II — Obama’s big lapses
I think Obama made two big errors tonight.

First, when asked when an unborn child becomes entitled to human rights, he resonded that the question was “above my pay grade.” Pro-lifers in this country will not give him the benefit of that dodge. It’s at the very heart of what the man believes about whether abortion is the taking of life or not.

Second, when asked about evil, Obama focused on Darfur, the streets of America and child abuse. No one doubts the evils of any of the three examples. But what about the great evil of our day, the evil of Islamic terrorists blowing people up because we do not believe the way they do? Shouldn’t the next president have pretty strong views on that topic?

Saddleback Forum III — McCain talking straight
Half way through Rick Warren’s live inteview with John McCain tonight, I am struck by how forthright McCain is in handling the questions and issues raised in the interview. Agree or disagree with the man, and so far I’ve mostly agreed with him, there is no doubt about where he stands on any issue presented so far.

It’s been my experience that the voters honor that sort of candor from a candidate.

Saddleback Forum IV — McCain got wonkish only once
John McCain was solid throughout his conversation with Rick Warren tonight. The one time I thought he lapsed into Beltway-Speak is in his answer about how the US should deal with genocide in the world.

He gave a clear and strong answer at first, arguing that we have the duty to stop genocide wherever it occurs. But he was not at his strongest when he then started talking about the details of the Russian invasion of Georgia, and the response of the presidents of the other Balkan countries to that invasion.

The American people know the invasion is wrong both by instinct and from contemporary evidence, and the geography lesson surely lost some folks along the way.

Saddleback Forum V — A remarkable event
Rick Warren is the pastor at Saddleback Church in California and the author of multi-million selling books The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life. He is one of the real leaders and spokesmen among the nation’s evangelicals.

Tonight’s forum was one of the most amazing events I’ve seen in politics in a long time. For the first event of the campaign at which John McCain and Barack Obama appeared together on the same stage to have been held in a church, hosted by a pastor, and focused on issues of faith, human rights and the battle between good and evil is just remarkable.

Warren’s closing comments were compelling, too. He made a point that needs to be made regularly. We are a free nation where free speech is an essential component of our national culture. But we can disagree in civil fashion.

His forum tonight set a high curve in pursuit of that standard.

Rick Warren
I missed the live Obama/McCain interrogation at Saddleback Church, but I take it as a hopeful sign for our country that Rick Warren hosted this event as opposed to a member of the James Dobson/Pat Robertson/Ralph Reed church.

The Rick Warren Event
Having now watched a rerun of the two presidential candidates, I tend to agree with Andy that Obama flubbed the abortion question (scientists generally agree when the embryo takes on human characteristics while different religions have their own different definitions) and Obama should have included Islamic extremists in his list, but overall (and it is generally the overall impression that the average voter is left with after these sorts of events and which motivates them) Obama clearly came off more genuine and at ease in talking about all the issues Warren raised. McCain seemed more coached and prone to use clichés. I also agree with Andy in his appraisal of Warren’s closing comments.