I missed Pastor Rick Warren’s forum with the candidates last night, but have reviewed the uncorrected transcripts posted here. The transcripts are worth a look. Warren’s questions were excellent and the answers are revealing. Warren addressed the same set of questions to both candidates in turn. Obama went first while McCain was enveloped in a “cone of silence,” bringing back memories of The $64,000 Question.
Virtually every question and answer warrants comment. One that won’t get much attention is Obama’s closing comment on what he would tell the American people if he knew there wouldn’t be any repercussions. Obama evoked memories of Jimmy Carter in his cardigan sweater. In a recent editorial Investor’s Business Daily took us back to Carter in 1979:
With oil prices rising out of control, Carter in June 1979 canceled his vacation and gathered dozens of mostly Democratic leaders at Camp David to discuss what to do. The address to Americans that resulted, made in July 1979, became known as the “malaise” speech.
In it, Carter suggested high oil prices weren’t the problem; just Americans’ tendency “to worship self-indulgence and consumption.” Further, he said Americans suffered a “crisis of confidence.”
He began, conspicuously, to wear a cardigan sweater. He put solar panels on the White House. He turned down the thermostat, and started burning wood in the fireplace.
In his “malaise” speech Carter framed the energy crisis as “the moral equivalent of war.” He commented:
We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence. We are the heirs of generations who survived threats much more powerful and awesome than those that challenge us now. Our fathers and mothers were strong men and women who shaped a new society during the Great Depression, who fought world wars and who carved out a new charter of peace for the world.
Carter’s purpose in invoking American sacrifice was applied to the question of energy:
Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.
Here was Obama last night harking back to “the moral equivalent of war” in response to the final question asking him what he would say if he could level with the American people without fear of repercussions:
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 II, you know they’ve confronted some challenges we can’t even imagine. If they were willing to make sacrificces on our behalf, we should be able told make some sacrifices on behalf of the next generation.
For a candidate whose mantra is change, Obama strikes a remarkably retro pose. When Obama says “Everybody’s going to have to get involved,” he reminds us of Michelle Obama’s advice:
“Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone . . . Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual – uninvolved, uninformed.”
Voters will not be able to say they weren’t warned.
When McCain was introduced, he confessed that he had been trying “to hear through the wall.” McCain’s turn with Warren has many highlights. One came in response to an inquiry regarding McCain’s most “gut-wrenching decision.” McCain answers:
It was long ago and far away in a prison camp in North Vietnam. My father was a high ranking admiral. The Vietnamese came and said that I could leave prison early. And we had a code of conduct that said you only leave by order of capture. I also had a dear and beloved friend who was from California by the name Ed Alvarez who had been shot down and captured a couple years before me but I wasn’t in good physical shape. In fact i was in rather bad physical shape. So i said no. Now, in full disclosure, I’m very happy i didn’t know the war was going to last for another three years or so.
McCain added that the “interrogator said go back to your cell it’s going to be very tough on you now. And it was….It took a lot of prayer.”
Even on the page, the contrast between Obama and McCain is striking. Compare, for example, the answers of Obama (a smooth talker) and McCain (an adoptive father) on the subject of adoption. For excellent commentary on particular items of interest, see Victor Davis Hanson, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Mark Levin, Glenn Reynolds, Ann Althouse, Allahpundit, Ace of Spades, Jaime Sneider, Jim Hoft, Roger Kimball, Scott Ott, Mark Hemingway, Byron York and Rich Lowry.
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