2008 U.S. Presidential Election Transcripts
|Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency|
Rick Warren’s Interview of Senators Obama and McCain.
Date: Saturday, August 16, 2008
Time: 8:00-10:00 P.M. ET
Side-by-Side Comparison of Questions & Answers only
Pastor Rick Warren
Edited and posted by Thirty-Thousand.org.
Rick Warren’s Questions:
The order in which the questions were asked is indicated by the numbers in brackets (below).
|Senator Obama’s responses||Senator McCain’s Responses|
Three Wisest People
Senator McCain. Senator McCain, thank you again for being with us.
You were at ground zero today with Senator Obama.
WOODRUFF: That day, 9/11, is still very fresh in the minds of people here in New York City and Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. But there’s evidence that it’s receding in the memory of many, many Americans. What are one or two of the most important things that you two you think should be done to keep this an enduring memory for America?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think commemoration on days like today are very important. I must say that both in Pennsylvania and I understand in Washington D.C., but I was in Pennsylvania earlier today, and the ceremonies that went on today, I think, serve to remind all Americans. But I think the best way to commemorate and the best way to show our appreciation for — and love and sympathy for their families, for those who have sacrificed, is to serve our country. That’s what this — that’s what this forum is all about, serving our country. That way, we can assure their families it will never happen again. That way, I think we can honor their service and sacrifice to our nation and remarkable acts of courage and compassion and love. And that’s probably the best way to not only prevent a reoccurrence but keep their memory alive by protecting the lives of those fellow citizens who were unable to experience this first hand, but are in danger.
STENGEL: Senator, as recently as this past Sunday, you talked very openly about the fact that Americans should have been asked to do more than go shopping or traveling. What would you have done as president in those circumstances, to make people aware of what they should do as Americans, after 9/11?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I would have called them to serve. I would have created organizations ranging from neighborhood block watch to making sure that our nuclear power plants are secure, to immediately proposing to Congress legislation, such as Senator Evan Bayh and I proposed, service to country, to create additional organizations, to expand AmeriCorps, expand the Peace Corps, expand the military.
Obviously, we were facing a new threat. Obviously, we needed to, at that time, take advantage of the unity in the United States of America. We weren’t Republicans on September 11th, we weren’t Democrats, we were Americans. And I think that if we had asked for a concrete plan of action, both on the part of federal, state and local governments as well as by the Congress of the United States as well as, frankly, talking directly to the American people, on the need for us all to serve this nation, I think perhaps we — but, you know, I have to tell you something, Rick. When I travel around this country, that spirit is still there in America. Today, we’ve seen Americans respond in a way that only Americans do. And I don’t say that with any sense of superiority over any other group of people. I do believe we’re a unique nation, and blessed with certain in alienable rights that we want to extend to the rest of the world. But I think that we probably still have that opportunity.
And when I say this, I don’t want you to take it the wrong way. But Americans are so frustrated now with our government — 84 percent of the American people think the country’s headed in the wrong direction. The approval rating of Congress is down to 9 percent, I believe, down to blood relatives and paid staffers.
MCCAIN: And this is an opportunity, this is an opportunity to lead the nation and talk to the American people and reform our government and ask for more service.
WOODRUFF: Senator, do you — what are there — what are the obligations of citizenship, other than paying taxes? Should there be — do you see service connected to what you’re talking about in Washington and should there be something compulsory?
MCCAIN: I don’t think so, Judy. I don’t think — because I think when you compel someone to do something, then you basically are in contradictions to the fundamental principle of having people wanting to serve and willing and eager to serve.
Americans are still eager to serve. Americans, when we look at all of the programs that we made available, almost all of them, in fact, all of them are oversubscribed by people who are volunteering. What’s the most — probably one of the lead organizations in America today?
MCCAIN: It’s Teach for America. Where vastly — thousands more are seeking to be part of that program, to go in the inner cities of America and teach children.
We’re doing well in our military recruitment, could do better. We’ve got to do better on retention. But we have to expand the military.
So I believe Americans at this point, if you’re digging for the pony, as I clearly am, are ready now to be inspired, they’re ready to go. They understand the challenges that we have in this world. They see the Russian invasion of the little country called Georgia. They see the problems in Afghanistan growing larger.
They see a whole lot of things happening in the world that’s going to require us to serve, and that opportunity has to be provided to them.
STENGEL: I want to touch on something you said in an earlier answer, that Americans have a very low self-regard for Washington right now. How is it though that we can try to inspire people into public service and even go to Washington at the same time candidates are running against Washington and dissing Washington at every opportunity?
MCCAIN: Because we have to reform government. We have to reform the way we’re doing business. Look at Congress’s activities since they came off their five-week vacation. They never miss a pay raise or a vacation or a recess.
And the point is that they see this gridlock, they want it reformed and they want it changed and they’re ready for change. And I think they’re ready to turn a page at the beginning of January. I think they’re ready to say, OK.
And one thing we politicians crave, it’s approval. And I think that if they saw us working together, the way that we did for a period of time after 9/11. Look, we presided over the biggest reorganization of government since the creation of the Defense Department, in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
We did do a lot of things right after 9/11. But it gradually eroded and now I think the American people are ready. They’re ready to rally behind — frankly, a new page to be turned in America’s history. WOODRUFF: Senator, we have less than a minute in this block. But do you think the length of your service in Washington gives you a unique understanding of the changes that need to be made? Help us understand how that is.
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I wasn’t elected “Miss Congeniality” again this year.
And the fact is, I fought them and fought them and fought them. And we have achieved some reforms. With Russ Feingold we achieved a landmark campaign finance reform bill. We did a number of things.
We enacted ethics and lobbying reform that wasn’t nearly enough. I have fought against them. And there are allies there. We’re not all the go-along-to-get-along crowd. And I know how it works and I know how to fix it and I know where the problems are. And so I’m confident we can fix it.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Senator.
We’ll be right back after this short break.
STENGEL: Senator, even as we sit here tonight, Hurricane Ike is bearing down on the Texas coast. What are the lessons that we learn from Hurricane Katrina, where we had the largest voluntary outpouring in American history? Aren’t emergencies and disasters like this exactly why government needs to exist? What is the role of the private sector and what is the role of government?
MCCAIN: The role of government obviously is the primary role, and to protect our citizens and help them in times of emergency and distress. But also, I think there’s a great role for faith-based organizations, volunteer organizations and the private sector.
I think we’ve got to involve more businesses and industries that routinely provide goods and services rather than rely on the federal government to do it. I don’t think, frankly, if FedEx or Target or one of these organizations had been in charge, we wouldn’t have had a truck full of ice ending up in Maine. They know where everything is. So we need to have — we need to have that partnership.
But I also want to point out that faith-based organizations, as well as other volunteer organizations, did a magnificent job. There’s a place called the Resurrection Baptist Church down in New Orleans. Thousands of volunteers from churches all over the country came and are still working in New Orleans, as we speak.
So the primary role is government, but we also need to have citizen involvement in a way which, as — and to say the least, we all know, you need a better level of cooperation between federal, state and local government.
We saw that. We saw a dramatic improvement in this last threat we had. And our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Texas and the area that’s threatened now. We pray God that it’s minimal and we’re ready to help. That’s the primary responsibility of government.
WOODRUFF: Senator, it’s been pointed out that for many people, to be able to do volunteer work, they are often people of some means, that can take a leave from their job or they may not need to work. Often, volunteer work, service is left to those who are more comfortable, whereas other people, especially young people, who want to do service, may graduate from college with a huge education debt. How do you balance it?
MCCAIN: First of all, my experience has not been that the wealthiest people do the most volunteering. In fact, I think it is average citizens that do the most, in all due respect to rich people.
But the point — it seems to me it’s the average citizen that’s the first to respond.
But I agree with you. We should provide, especially from a business standpoint — if someone graduates from a fine institution or university, then we hope that the people that hire them would give them additional time to maybe go down and volunteer in a Habitat for Humanity or some other worthwhile cause.
But honestly, you know what I found? The busiest people are the busiest, and the busier they get, the busier they get, and the more time they find to help their neighborhood, their community and their fellow citizens.
WOODRUFF: So there’s no need…
MCCAIN: … I’m very pleased at the volunteer effort in America. I’m very pleased at what we’ve seen around this country, particularly as we’re in difficult times. I think we can be proud of Americans.
And obviously, if we need to take some steps to encourage that or make it easier for them, I’m all for it.
STENGEL: Would you encourage corporations to give paid leave for service, which some companies are doing, like Timberland?
MCCAIN: If they want to, but I wouldn’t force them to. If they want to do that, I would praise them, I would cite them as an example, but I don’t think we can force that kind of thing.
STENGEL: Let’s go to a different subject, a subject that’s close to your heart. In “Faith of my Fathers,” you write about how there has been a McCain who has fought in pretty much every American conflict going back 200 years. That’s a huge legacy that was thrust on you. You talk about it being a little bit intimidating. What I wonder is, if you can talk personally about how that was conveyed to you as a boy and then how you conveyed that to your own children.
MCCAIN: Well, you know, a lot of times I don’t talk too much publicly because I’m not a hero. I had the great honor of serving in the company of heroes. And in Hanoi I observed a thousand acts of courage compassion and love.
But I’d like to tell you that one day as a child, I said, gee, I’m going to be in military service. But it was just sort of something that was part of our tradition. And I rebelled against it.
I chronicled that, perhaps in too much detail. But it sort of was something that evolved. But then it was like a lot of young Americans, a lot of that glory was all about me. And it wasn’t until I had the experience that I had that I realized that I belonged to my country and that my country saved me.
And I owed my country a great deal. And that change made me appreciate the fact that it’s not about the individual, it’s about the cause we serve. WOODRUFF: Senator, still on the subject of military, in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we know that recruiting has gotten harder. The qualifications for joining the Army have been lowered today. Thirty percent of new enlistees don’t have high school diplomas. That’s the highest percentage ever.
The percentage of young people who are either black, Hispanic, or who come from a lower income household is disproportionately high in the military. All this, while the sons and daughters of privilege, for the most part, your sons excluded, don’t have to consider military service.
We have the greatest fighting army in the world, I think everyone would agree. But is there something about this picture that you think needs to change, this social imbalance?
MCCAIN: Well, I would remind you in the days of the draft that it was then most unfair because the lowest income Americans served and the wealthiest found ways of avoiding draft. I think the all- volunteer force is having difficulties recruiting and retaining because we’re too small and we need to expand the size of our military and we need to do it as rapidly as possible.
And there are — we have got to perhaps offer additional incentives. For a long time, years ago, the Navy and Air Force were losing pilots. So we paid them more and we had more of them stay in. Their first reason for serving is patriotism, but also, you have got to offer them incentives in order to do so.
And frankly, we’re here in a wonderful institution. I’m proud that my daughter graduated from this school. But do you know that this school will not allow ROTC on this campus? I don’t think that’s right. Shouldn’t the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?
So maybe — maybe the — I would hope that these universities…
MCCAIN: … would re-examine — I would hope that these universities would re-examine that policy of not even allowing people who come here to represent the military and other Ivy League schools and then maybe they will be able to attract some more.
Now that’s not the heart of the problem. But I believe that we have the best-trained, most professional, best-equipped, bravest military we’ve ever had in our history today.
WOODRUFF: And we’ll come back to this. We’ll be right back after this break.
STENGEL: Let’s stay on the subject of military. You authorized a really interesting military policy, and it was started out as a bill that you mentioned you and Evan Bayh co-sponsored and then you inserted in the Defense Appropriations Act that blends military and civilian service, the 18-24-18 policy, which I won’t explain. But it’s leading me to a larger question. Why wouldn’t we have compulsory military service in America that has a civilian component? That if someone wants to opt out of military service, they can do their civilian service, like in your bill, and that it would become a unifying thing for America?
MCCAIN: Rick, first of all, I think that as much as I treasure our military service, there’s lots of ways to serve our country, too. And I want to emphasize that. I know we’re talking a lot about the military. But there’s so many ways to serve this country and there’s so many ways that are noble and wonderful, both at home and abroad. So I want to make that perfectly clear.
I think that it’s very clear AmeriCorps has been one of the astonishing successes. Peace Corps, we’ve seen the success for a long time, because Jack Kennedy obviously originated it.
But we have seen these volunteer organizations succeed. And if we need to, whether it’s connected to the military or not, provide them with sufficient reward and sufficient recognition.
You know, a lot of these young people are more proud of the fact that we recognize the ones walking around with the red jacket that say “City Year” than they are about the money.
MCCAIN: You know? I mean, that’s what they’re all about.
So I’d be glad to reward them as much as possible. But you want to be careful that the reason is not the reward of financial or other reasons, but the reward is the satisfaction of serving a cause greater than yourself. That would be fine with me. Finding new ways to serve. That’s what this next few years should be all about.
WOODRUFF: Senator McCain, Senator Obama has put forward a national service plan to do some of the things you talked about, the two of you agree. But his has a price tag of around $3.5 billion. Is that an amount of money you’d be willing to spend? More, less? I mean, is that in the ballpark?
MCCAIN: I’d be glad to spend money. I don’t think that should be the first priority in the kinds of benefits that are reaped from the kind of thing we’re trying to seek.
I haven’t agreed with all of what Senator Obama has proposed, but I think they’re very good proposals there. Some of them are new, some of them are obviously not.
But I also want to emphasize there, it doesn’t always have to be run by the government. That’s why we also ought to understand that faith-based organizations, other volunteer organizations that are completely separate from the government, have nothing to do with the government, are amongst the most successful.
So let’s not get entrapped by the idea that the government has to run these voluntary organizations and volunteer kinds of programs, because a lot of times the job can be done better with our encouragement.
WOODRUFF: So you’re not in favor necessarily of a distinct government role?
MCCAIN: Oh, we have a distinct government role — the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, all of these other organizations. But I want to be careful about expanding it when — my philosophy is let’s not have government do things that the private sector can do, or other organizations can do. That’s just my theory of government.
So, look, I applaud Senator Obama’s commitment to national service. And he makes a very strong case. And I look forward to joining him no matter what happens in November. This is a cause a lot bigger than anything to do with partisanship. STENGEL: Actually, speaking of that, I was going to ask an Internet question. We’ll get back to that.
Governor Schwarzenegger in California has made service, the service czar in California a Cabinet-level appointment. If you were president, would you do the same and make service a Cabinet-level appointment, and would you perhaps ask Senator Obama to be a member of your Cabinet for national service?
Right now, as you know, there’s an office in the White House, Freedom Corps Office. That office coordinates all these different organizations, which, rightly or wrongly, fall many times under different departments. I think if you have that person right down the hall from the Oval Office and you’re working with that person on a daily basis, that’s probably the most effective way to do it.
You know, every time we see a problem, we sort of let’s create another Cabinet post. Now we have got so many members of the Cabinet that the Cabinet never meets, as you well know. So I’d rather see a powerful, influential, outstanding person sitting in that office who I could literally deal with every day.
WOODRUFF: Senator, at the Republican convention, a couple of speakers, most notably your running mate, vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, made somewhat derisive comments about Senator Obama’s experience as a community organizer. I’ve heard you say you haven’t taken that tone. So I guess my question is, are you saying to others in your campaign and your supporters that that’s not the kind of language you want to hear?
MCCAIN: Well …
WOODRUFF: How do you — how are you approaching that?
MCCAIN: First of all, this is a tough business. Second of all, I think the tone of this whole campaign would have been very different if Senator Obama had accepted my request for us to appear in town hall meetings all over America, the same way Jack Kennedy and Barry Goldwater had agreed to do so. I know that, because I’ve been in enough campaigns.
Look, Governor Palin was responding to the criticism of her inexperience and her job as a mayor in a small town. That’s what she was responding to.
Of course I respect community organizers. Of course I respect people who serve their community. And Senator Obama’s record there is outstanding. And so I praise anyone who serves this nation in capacities that, frankly, we all know that could have been far more financially rewarding to individuals, rather than doing what they did.
WOODRUFF: Less significant than the work of a small-town mayor?
MCCAIN: I think a small-town mayor has very great responsibilities. They have a responsibility for the budget. They have hiring and firing of people. They have great responsibilities. They have to stand for election. I admire mayors.
I’m — listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It’s easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.
MCCAIN: So I admire mayors. I admire anyone who is willing to serve their community and their country. And that’s what this is all about. And this is what today’s all about. And we should set aside this partisanship, at least for this day, praise one another for our dedication to this country. That’s what I do to Senator Obama.
(APPLAUSE) STENGEL: We have a less than a minute left in this segment. Here’s a specific question about setting aside partisanship. Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch, two old friends in the Senate, have sponsored a bipartisan bill on national service that I think among other things would triple the size of AmeriCorps and really put a lot of the strength of the federal government behind national service. As president, would you sign that bill?
MCCAIN: Of course. Our prayers are always with Ted Kennedy. I understand he’s coming back in January. I greet that with mixed emotions. I love him.
I’m so happy, seriously, that Senator Kennedy is on the road to recovery. He’s a lion of the Senate.
Look, I would sign that legislation. But I also want to caution again, government can’t do it all. The essence of volunteerism starts at the grassroots level, does not start necessarily at the federal government level. So let’s make sure we maintain the balance between federal involvement and encouragement of volunteerism and service to the nation, but also, let’s not in any way stifle what already is going on and is very, very successful in America. And that’s organizations that have no dependence whatsoever on our federal government and do such a great job for all of our citizens.
WOODRUFF: All right, Senator, we’re going to take another break. We’ll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Senator McCain, there’s so much emphasis, of course, today on the younger generation giving. What about Baby Boomers and older folks? What should we be doing?
MCCAIN: Well, I think there are obviously organizations that we have in place for ability to serve, but we ought to really probably do a more and more effective job of utilizing the talents and experience of people who have had very successful lives and careers, and continue to motivate them to serve.
I think that’s part of the proposals that have been made. And we do have the Senior Corps and other organizations. But the fact is that people are living longer and they’re more active and vigorous. And I’m here to tell you that’s a fact. And…
(MAKES SNORING NOISE) (LAUGHTER)
And so I — Judy, I really believe that that is one of the under- utilized aspects of community service in America. And I think that would be one of the areas of emphasis really.
WOODRUFF: If I could just quickly follow-up. I asked partly because we got a number of online questions, and a woman named Giselle (ph) from Brooklyn, New York, she says: “With the staggering economy, how can people commit time to community service and still make ends meet?”
I know you said earlier, people of all income brackets, but what about those people who really do have to work to make…
MCCAIN: Our economy is broken. People are sitting around not worrying about volunteering but staying in their homes, keeping their job, affording to fill up their gas tank, we know that. Americans are hurting very badly. We have got to reform government. We’ve got to fix the economy. We have got to create jobs. But right now, we have to restore trust and confidence in government. If people don’t trust the government, then they’re not going to be as eager and willing to frankly be part of these programs that we are proposing and that we are hoping that people will volunteer and serve in.
So obviously, we have to fix our economy and get it going again and create jobs for Americans. But I think honestly that there are also Americans who are willing to volunteer their services no matter what.
But when people have a reasonable income and a reasonable future, obviously, they’re going to volunteer more.
STENGEL: Let’s talk about some folks who don’t trust us. And that’s a lot of countries overseas. You’ve talked about expanding the Peace Corps. You’ve also said, we shouldn’t be sending money to countries that don’t like us.
But should we be sending people, sending members of the Peace Corps to countries that don’t like us, to help our esteem in the world, which of course has suffered since 9/11?
MCCAIN: Yes. And that’s the best thing we can do…
… is expose the people in these countries to things we value, the things we stand for, the things we believe in. And there’s no better representative of all that than Americans.
But also, I want to add, let’s also have more people come here and be educated and trained and be exposed to the United States of America. We have found throughout the world, people that come and get educated here and return to the countries they came from as leaders, it’s amazing.
And it establishes a base relationship that I think can also change the policies of a number of these countries that don’t like us very much.
STENGEL: Would you give a green card to everybody, every foreign national who graduates with a Ph.D. in the sciences to stay in America?
MCCAIN: I certainly would do everything I can to keep those people in this country. I don’t know if it would be an automatic green card, but I guarantee you that we’d love to have so many of these highly trained people stay in this country and ask any corporate executive in America, particularly those in the information technology business.
WOODRUFF: Senator, I want to come back to something you said earlier, I think you used the word exceptional and unique about being an American. On this 9/11, this special day, what — help us understand what you think it means to be an American. And I don’t mean that in the obvious way.
I mean, people who live in Canada, who live in Mexico, around the world feel special about their country, so what is it that’s different about being in America? Are Americans better than people in some of these other countries? We hear the term “exceptionalism” about the United States.
MCCAIN: I do believe in American exceptionalism.
MCCAIN: And I think it was best articulated by our founding fathers. But I also think that my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, expressed it very well, and other leaders throughout our history.
We’re the only nation I know in the world that really is deeply concerned about adhering to the principle that all of us are created equal and endowed by our creators with certain rights. And those we have tried to bring to the world. And we have not so much militarily, but through example, through leadership, through economic assistance.
Look at what we did for Europe after World War II, look at the continuous efforts we make throughout the world. Look at the efforts we’re making to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. There’s a lot more America can do.
And I love these other countries, and I’m not trying to denigrate them. But I know of no other country in the world with the generosity of spirit and the concern for fellow human beings than the United States of America, and I think that goes back to our very beginnings.
WOODRUFF: Does that make America better than these other…?
MCCAIN: I think it makes us exceptional. I think it makes us exceptional in the kind of citizenry we have and the kind of service and sacrifice that we are capable of.
And I mean that in no disrespect to any other nation, our close and unique relationship with the British. I have — I’m not trying to in any way denigrate any other nation, but it doesn’t in any way diminish my pride in the history of this nation, which has literally shed our blood in all four corners of the earth many times in defense of someone else’s freedom and have tried to further the principles of freedom and democracy everywhere in the world. I think we’re dedicated to that proposition. And, frankly, I think we’ve done a pretty good job.
STENGEL: Now, let’s talk about the framers for a second, because one of the things that they distrusted and disliked — they called it faction, which they meant political parties. The framers didn’t want to have political parties. George Washington hated the idea of political parties.
But now, we’re in the midst of a campaign between two parties. And the tone of the campaign has gotten pretty ugly. You’ve talked from the beginning about running a different kind of campaign. So has Senator Obama. You both talked about a high-minded campaign.
What does this do to people who are interested in public service? I mean, there are lots of people who think, man, I can’t run for office when this kind of thing is happening. What does that do? If we’re here for service and what does that campaign tell us about that?
MCCAIN: First of all, I have said repeatedly, I think Senator Obama has inspired millions of Americans who otherwise wouldn’t have been involved in the political process. That’s just a fact.
And I believe that my record of service and my vision for the future has attracted people. I think you are going to see the biggest voter turnout in history in this election.
Has it been rough? Of course. And again, it isn’t the final recipe or the only answer. I think Americans would be helped enormously if we stood on the stage together tonight and talked about national service, all four of us, rather than three and one going on and then the other.
And again, I hope that Senator Obama will accept my request. Let’s go around America. Let’s listen to hopes and dreams and aspirations of the American people and respond to them. I think that’s the best and most effective way of getting everybody involved in this campaign.
WOODRUFF: Do you think it’s naive of people to expect that politics could be a little less rough and tumble and even nasty?
MCCAIN: The people make the final judgment with their votes. They make the final judgment about campaigns and how we present ourselves to the American people. And I think that that will be the ultimate test of what kind of campaigns do we run.
I, again, think that it’s very important that we focus on issues, we focus on challenges that America faces today, both domestically and national security wise. And I intend to do that. And there’s 54 more days left. Who’s counting?
STENGEL: By 2042, the United States of America will no longer be a majority white nation.
STENGEL: Robert Putnam, the sociologist, has written about how in communities that are diverse, there’s actually less social capital, less trust. What can national service do to knit up America? And I’m sorry, we only have one minute left for such a complicated question.
MCCAIN: National service can do a great deal. National service can unite us, just as the military unite us, as we meet people and interface with people from all over the world.
But also let me say, look, the greatest thing that makes America exceptional is we have had wave after wave of people come to this country for the same reason — they want to build a better life, they wanted freedom and they want to be part of America. So I don’t accept that premise that somehow — some of the most patriotic Americans that I’ve ever seen and the hardest working and most ready to serve this country and go in harm’s way are those who just came here.
MCCAIN: I’ll never forget being at a ceremony in Baghdad last Fourth of July, where 160 some people who were green card holders got their citizenship, and they had been willing to serve in the military for an accelerated path to citizenship. That’s how much they wanted to be part of this country. That was an exhilarating experience.
WOODRUFF: Senator John McCain, thank you very, very much.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
STENGEL: Thank you.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: As we — as we thank — as we thank Senator McCain very much for his participation, we want to welcome now the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.
MCCAIN: Good being with you today.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Senator, thank you very much.
(APPLAUSE) WOODRUFF: We’ll be right back after a short break.
STENGEL: Senator Obama, welcome again. You must have some affiliation here.
OBAMA: Yes, I’ve got a slight home-court advantage here. This is my alma mater. And I want to thank…
I was saying, though, the neighborhood has changed. When I came here in 1980, you know, some of the apartments around here didn’t look quite what they look like now. And I could afford them then. I don’t think I can now.
STENGEL: Faculty housing is still great.
Today is 9/11. You were down at Ground Zero with Senator McCain. And we’re going to ask a lot of the same similar questions that we asked of Senator McCain. And the first one we asked was, what does 9/11 mean to you? What’s the significance of it? Where were you when it happened, for example?
OBAMA: Well, I was in Chicago. I was in the state legislature at the time. I still remember driving down Lake Shore Drive on my way to a committee hearing, downtown, and hearing the initial report. And there was still confusion whether it was an accident, what had happened.
By the time I got downtown, we started evacuating the buildings and then we all watched in horror on television. And like I think for most people, it is indelible. And it is a reminder not only of the terrible potential for evil in the world, but it’s also a reminder of what America does at the toughest times, which is to come together.
And when I think of 9/11, I think of that spirit after the tragedy had occurred, how the outpouring of patriotism, emotion, volunteerism, the desire for service was in the minds of everyone.
And that was also a moment when the petty bickering and partisanship that comes to characterize our public life was set aside. And so the question is, how do we recreate that spirit, not just during times of tragedy, not just during 9/11, but how do we honor those who died, those who sacrificed, the firefighters, the police officers, how do we honor them everyday?
How does it reflect itself in our government? How does it reflect ourselves in how we conduct our own civic life? And my sense is that the country yearns for that. It’s hungry for it. And what has been missing is a president in the White House that taps into that yearning in a serious way.
WOODRUFF: Well, Senator McCain actually agreed with that a few minutes ago. He said that if he had been president, he would have used that opportunity to ask the country to serve, to ask people to serve.
What’s different about what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Well, I’m not sure there is anything different. What I know is that had I been president at the time, and I have to say that the president did rally the nation in a speech at Ground Zero and subsequently.
We went after those who had attacked us, appropriately. But rather than tell the American people to shop, what I would have done is to say, now is the time for us to meet some great challenges.
We’ve been tested. And yet we have survived it. And we are going to be stronger than we were. And the way we’re going to be stronger than we were is to tap into the feeling that everybody has been caught up in.
We’re going to have a bold energy plan that says that we are going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 20 or 30 percent over the course of a decade or two.
We are going to ask all citizens to participate in that process, not just government, but each and every one of us are going to have — are going to make commitments in terms of increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and homes, and the government is going to be in partnership with citizens to make that happen.
We are going to tap into this desire when it comes to first responders. One of the striking things, as you travel around the country, is the number of small towns and medium-sized towns that rely exclusively on volunteer firefighters.
OBAMA: And think about what we could have done all across the country as part of a homeland security initiative to organize groups around the country that could serve in those common ways.
And I would have asked very explicitly for young people to engage in community service and military service. I was listening earlier of the discussion about who serves in our military. I think that had the president very clearly said, this is not just going to be a war of a few of us, this is going to be an effort that mobilizes all of us, I think we would have had a different result.
STENGEL: What are, Senator Obama, the obligations of citizenship in a democracy? Basically, in America now, people vote, only about half of them, and they pay their taxes. And that’s about where the bar is. What would you ask of people in what you call, I believe, active citizenship? How is that different than what we see now?
OBAMA: America is the greatest country on earth. But it didn’t just happen on its own. It’s not a gift only, although it is a great blessing that we’ve received. It is also a responsibility. Part of what makes America work is the fact that we believe in individual responsibility and self-reliance, but we also believe in mutual responsibility, in neighborliness, in a sense that we are committed to something larger than ourselves.
Now, that can express itself in a whole range of ways, but what has built this country is people sense, through voluntary associations, but also through public service in government, that we have commitments that extend beyond our immediate self-interest, that aren’t always motivated by profit, that aren’t simply short-term, that we’re thinking long-term, to the next generation.
Every bit of progress that we’ve made historically is because of that kind of active citizenship.
And as president, what I want to do is restore that sense of common mutual responsibility. And I think the American people are ready for it.
WOODRUFF: Give us some examples, specific examples of how you would do that. Because people listening will say, oh, it all sounds well and good, but how would you do that?
OBAMA: Well, let’s talk very specifically about…
WOODRUFF: And we just have a minute left. OBAMA: OK. Well, it will carry over. But I put forward a very specific national service plan. And I’m glad to see that my dear friend, Senator Kennedy, as well as a fine senator, Senator Hatch, have come together and taken many of the similar elements — they’re going to be introducing it tomorrow.
One way of making sure that we encourage this kind of citizenship is to start early, to make sure that our young people in high school have community service opportunities. Making sure that our university students, in exchange for making college affordable, are giving something back.
In underserved communities, that they are teaching, that they are working in hospitals that need help.
I’ve got all kinds of other stuff, Judy, but I’ll wait until after the break.
WOODRUFF: We are going to take a break. Thank you for announcing that. And we’ll be right back.
STENGEL: Senator Obama, you do indeed have a comprehensive national service plan. It’s mentioned in our magazine this week on national service.
But here’s my question. Bill Clinton also had a very comprehensive national service plan. And he had to tailor a lot of what he had proposed with AmeriCorps and other policies because of the unions, because of teachers unions, because of public unions. Wouldn’t you have to kind of cut back the scale of some of what you have done, or have you done that already to make sure that the unions will go for it?
OBAMA: I don’t think so. Look, the spirit of unions is coming together because we are stronger together than we are individually. That’s the idea behind the union movement.
And I think the times have changed since 1992. I think that people recognize, for example, that we can’t continue an education system that fails so many of our young people. And we need an all hands on deck approach.
And I think not only teachers’ unions, but teachers themselves recognize that if there are volunteers, if we have got retirees who are scientists and mathematicians, who are willing to come in the classrooms and provide additional help to young people and inspire them into different careers, I think that they’re going to welcome it.
So, look, do I expect that my national service plan gets passed exactly as I proposed? Of course not. That’s not the way legislation works. But I believe we’re in one of those special moments, one of those defining moments, where the American people recognize that we are not on the right track. That our government is not working the way it should. That our economy is not working the way it should. And they expect leadership from Washington, but they understand that they have to be a part of the solution as well.
And I think that’s why we have to seize this moment. And the next president is going to have to actively pursue these issues of service.
WOODRUFF: When we asked Senator McCain some of these questions, he said several times — he said there is a government role in all of this, but he said we should be careful about how much we scale up and increase the role of government. I want to come back to something we raised with him. And that is, that those young people who are interested in the Peace Corps, Teach for America, not all of them can afford, frankly, to come out of school and take a very low-paying job, no matter how much they want to serve. What would be the responsibility of the government and others to make it easier?
Obama: ???? Well, first of all, I think Senator McCain is right, that income does not determine whether or not people serve. You can go into small rural towns and people are really scraping by, and yet they are helping each other in all sorts of ways.
But what I agree is that the choices that we provide young people right now are too constrained.
OBAMA: You know, when I graduated from Columbia, I had a choice. I could pursue a lucrative career on Wall Street or go immediately to law school, or I could follow through on the inspiration that I had drawn from the civil rights movement and from the Kennedy era, and try to work in the community.
And I chose the latter, but it was tough. I made $12,000 a year plus car expenses in Chicago, working with churches, to set up job training programs for the unemployed and after-school programs for youth, trying to make the community better.
It was the best education I ever had. But ironically, it was harder for me to find that job than it was for me to find a job on Wall Street. And I think there are a lot of young people out there who are interested in making that same choice, and we should be encouraging them. The government’s going to have a role.
Look, young people can’t afford college right now. And one of my central platforms in this campaign is we’re going to provide a $4,000 tuition credit every student, every year, but in exchange for giving something back. And so, young people of modest means, who are interested in going to college, this gives them an opportunity to serve and at the same time, pay for their college education. I think there are a lot of creative ways where we can provide opportunities than exist right now.
STENGEL: Now the role of government is something we talked a little bit about with Senator McCain. Republicans have traditionally said, and I’m thinking for example, of Newt Gingrich, who I know is not one of your advisers…
… but said that the problem with big government is it gets in this way of private initiative. And as government grew over generations, that in fact, it repressed public service and it repressed national service because there was no room for it anymore. Some Republicans worry, well, he’s going to make such a big government, that won’t even leave room for private initiative.
OBAMA: I think those are old arguments. Let’s look to the future.
The fact is that we have to have government. When a hurricane strikes, as it did with Katrina, we have to have a FEMA that works, which by the way, means that we should be encouraging young people, the best and the brightest, to get involved as civil servants, to pursue careers of public service so we’ve got people who are trained in federal emergency management who are able to take on the job.
Now, that does not crowd out the Red Cross. That doesn’t crowd out the thousands of church groups that went down there. What it means is that each area has a role to play.
The Peace Corps does not crowd out opportunities for service overseas. You’ve got churches and synagogues and mosques all across the country that are deeply involved in efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS and malaria and all sorts of public health issues. Yet, this is an area George Bush appropriately said, we’re going to make a commitment as the wealthiest nation on earth to deal with the devastation of AIDS, and his PEPFAR program has been highly successful, working with not-for-profits, working with governments, working with both public and private in order to solve the problems.
So there are more than enough problems out there to deal with. And what is true is we don’t need to set up bureaucracy. See, I would distinguish between a government assist in providing people avenues for service and a government bureaucracy in which the notion is that the only way you can serve is through some defined government program.
WOODRUFF: And I do want to pick up on that just briefly, because as we said earlier, tonight is not a night to focus on contrast between you and Senator McCain. But help us understand how you see the role of government in all of this differently from the way he does.
OBAMA: Well, you know, listening to his presentation, it sounds like he’s interested in the AmeriCorps program and Peace Corps. I think it is terrific that we can garner some bipartisan support. That was not always the case.
I believe firmly that government should expand avenues of opportunity. I want to create an energy corps, a clean energy corps that can mobilize individual citizens to help create greater energy efficiency in our country. I want to mobilize seniors to get involved with their schools or their local hospital or health clinic.
So there are going to be a whole range of ways that we can do it. Some of that is going to cost money, but mostly it requires government providing these opportunities and these avenues and a president who is willing to inspire people to get involved and get outside of themselves. That’s something we’re doing in this campaign, and that’s something I think I can do as president.
WOODRUFF: Senator Obama, we’ll be right back after this break.
WOODRUFF: Senator Obama, one of the, of course, enormous consequences of 9/11 were the wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq. In the wake of those wars, today, the United States military is facing enormous challenges. Junior officers are leaving the Army in record numbers. The recent graduates of West Point leaving the Army.
What would you do as president to make serving and staying in the military more attractive to young men and women?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, as commander-in-chief, my job is to keep America safe. And that means insuring that we’ve got the best military on Earth. And that means having the best persons in uniform on Earth. We have that right now, but as a consequence of these wars, they have been strained incredibly. I think it’s important for us to increase the size of our Army and our Marines so we can reduce the pace of tours that our young men and women are on.
I think it’s important to work towards increasing military pay. I think the passage of the G.I. bill was extraordinarily important as a message to our men and women in uniform that when you serve our country, we will stand by you.
I think about my grandfather, who served in Patton’s army in World War II. He joined after Pearl Harbor. And we were talking off- camera about where did I get this sense of service. I think about my grandparents’ generation.
My grandfather, after Pearl Harbor, joined the military. My grandmother, who had just had a baby at Fort Leavenworth, stayed back and worked on a bomber assembly line. There was a total mobilization.
OBAMA: And when my grandfather came back, he came back to a G.I. bill that was going to pay for his college education and FHA loans that would help them purchase a home. There was that sense of sacred obligation that, frankly, we have lost during these last two wars.
I want to restore that.
But it’s also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many. You know, I traveled, obviously, a lot over the last 19 months. And if you go to small towns, throughout the Midwest or the Southwest or the South, every town has tons of young people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s not always the case in other parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it’s important for the president to say, this is an important obligation. If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.
STENGEL: To that end, to get the best and brightest into the military, this university, your alma mater, invited President Ahmadinejad of Iran to be here last year, but they haven’t invited ROTC to be on campus since 1969. Should Columbia and elite universities that have excluded ROTC invite them back on campus?
OBAMA: Yes. I think we’ve made a mistake on that.
I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy. But the notion that young people here at Columbia or anywhere, in any university, aren’t offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake.
That does not mean we disregard any potential differences in various issues that are raised by the students here, but it does mean that we should have an honest debate while still offering opportunities for everybody to serve, and that’s something that I’m pretty clear about. WOODRUFF: You were saying a moment ago that you think there should be more young people serving in the military; we need a broader demographic cross-section. How do you do that short of a draft?
OBAMA: Again, I think that inspiring young people to serve is something that the president is uniquely positioned to do.
Now, it doesn’t always have to be service in uniform. One of the things, that if you talk to our generals, they are desperate for, is a civilian counterpart to our military forces.
Our military is the best in the world, but they are asked to do so many different things because our civilian operations, our State Department, USAID have been underfunded, have atrophied.
And for us to say, serve in the military, but if that’s not where you want to serve, learn a foreign language and go into the foreign service. And by the way, we will deploy you in some difficult areas, but that’s part of what it means to be an American and to serve and to sacrifice.
We need agricultural specialists in places like Afghanistan. We need civil engineers that can do some of the work that currently our military officers are doing.
And so, I think a president who is consistently asking for young people to reach for something higher, something bigger than themselves, I think, will get enormous response.
STENGEL: We have only a couple minutes left in this segment. You mentioned last week on George Stephanopoulos’ show that you’d actually considered signing up for the military yourself. And you seemed to imply that if there was a war going on, you might have been more inclined. Is there anything more important about serving in the military during wartime than peacetime?
OBAMA: Well, there’s no doubt that if there are wars going on and some are being asked to sacrifice their lives, that I think you have to ask yourself, why them instead of you? And so I think there are special obligations during wartime.
But we need military — we always have potential conflicts around the world, and our military has to remain strong and ready. And so I want to encourage military service, as well as other ways of serving, regardless of whether there’s war or not.
But I do think that over the last several years, the fact that the burden has been shouldered by such a narrow group is a problem. And how we treat those young people, by the way, when they come home, continues to be a problem.
One of my components in terms of national service is having a veterans corps, where we are mobilizing citizens to pair up and provide support to our veterans who are coming home, making sure we have resources, making sure employers are reaching out to them, giving them opportunities to transition into civilian life much more effectively than they’re getting right now.
WOODRUFF: Brief question, because I think we just have a minute.
WOODRUFF: This is from an online question from Gina (ph) in Bloomfield, Michigan. She says, “How possible would it be to give military-style benefits to non-military citizens who do national service work full-time?”
OBAMA: I think it depends on the kind of service that’s being provided. As I said, if we are building the kind of foreign service and — that is expeditionary, that is going into very difficult, dangerous areas, to carry out the civilian side of the work of helping a country like Afghanistan rebuild, then we should think about what are the benefits of that service? Oftentimes, those people are putting themselves at great harm. They are being deployed and are undergoing — their families are undergoing similar sacrifices to the sacrifices that those serving in the military are.
But I do think that we have a special obligation for those who have put their lives at risk, who are risking life and limb on behalf of the security of America.
That does not mean that we can’t provide other avenues of service. For example, I’ve said we desperately need teachers, math and science teachers in particular.
And so, for us to provide full scholarships for those who are willing to get their teaching certificate, get educated in these fields, and then be placed in some of the most underserved communities in the country, that’s something that we should be willing to pay for, so that people who want to serve anyway at least can afford it.
WOODRUFF: We’ll be right back with our last segment.
WOODRUFF: Senator Obama, this question of whether or not national service would be elevated to cabinet level position, among other things, Senator McCain said that if it were that, he would ask you to be his secretary. Would you ask him, if you were elected president, to run the national service…
OBAMA: Well, I mean, if this is the deal he wants to make right now, I…
… I am committed to appointing him to my cabinet of national service. Look, Senator…
WOODRUFF: Would you be willing to serve in his cabinet?
OBAMA: We’ve got a little work to do before we get to that point.
Senator McCain’s service is legendary. And one of the wonderful things about this campaign, I think, is his ability to share that story and himself inspire a whole generation of young people to model what he did for this country.
And so I think that one of the primary objectives of my presidency would be to lift up the opportunities for service in a bipartisan fashion so that we take it out of politics.
Just very briefly, I want to give an example. There’s a young man in Montana that I met named Matt Kuntz, who had been an infantry officer in the Army, was injured, was honorably discharged, got a law degree and was working in corporate law.
His half-brother served in the National Guard in Iraq, came back with post-traumatic stress disorder, was unable to get the counseling he needed and ended up committing suicide.
And Matt, having watched this painful process and trying to intervene, decided to quit his corporate law job, and decided that he was going to take it upon himself to create an advocacy group in Montana just around post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans.
And now Montana has the best post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programs for National Guardsmen. And Matt has continued now in the not-for-profit sector. I make this point because I never asked Matt whether he was Democrat or Republican. I never asked Matt whether he was liberal or conservative.
What I knew was that he had seen a wrong and was inspired to take action. And that kind of message, I think, is what has to be communicated each and every day by our president, by our political culture. And that’s one of the reasons I’m running for president.
STENGEL: We asked Senator McCain the same question about Governor Palin’s belittling being a community organizer. Did the Democrats in return belittle being a small-town mayor? Was she being unfair or was it hypocritical because Republicans actually say, hey, what people do in their private life is more important than public service?
OBAMA: Well, listen, we had an awful lot of small-town mayors at the Democratic Convention, I assure you. I meet them all the time. And I have — the mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country, because that’s where the rubber hits the road. We yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away.
So, I was surprised by the several remarks around community organizing and belittling it. You know, when I think about the choice I made as a 23-, 24-year-old, to spend three years working with churches, to help people help themselves, no insult to the president of this fine institution, but it was the best education I ever had because it taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they’re given a chance and when they’re brought together.
And that’s something I want to encourage for every young person. I want every young person around this country to recognize they will not fulfill their full potential until they hitch their wagon to something bigger.
Now that’s not to say that we need talent in the private sector, we want talent in the private sector, but there are so many ways of serving voluntarily. You don’t have to take the same path I did.
But that’s something that — that’s a message I think everyone should want to encourage and I hope the Republicans want to encourage that as well.
WOODRUFF: Senator, picking up on this tone in the political campaigns, so much is said that’s critical about people who are in Washington, the way Washington works, bureaucrats in Washington, how much responsibility do you think you and other presidential candidates this year — though just the two of you major party candidates, have to change the rhetoric so that people who work in government, work in public service are respected?
OBAMA: I think you make an important point. Look, Washington is broken. My whole campaign has been premised from the start on the idea that we have to fundamentally change how Washington works. That the domination of special interests, the domination of lobbyists, the loss of a civic culture in Washington among public service has led to not only well-known disasters, like the mismanagement of the Katrina situation, but quiet disasters, where you’ve got entire agencies that have been hollowed out and you’ve got political appointees who aren’t concerned with the mission of those organizations.
So we’ve got to transform Washington. And we’ve got to do some house cleaning. But what we also want to do is to remind young people that if it weren’t for government, then we wouldn’t have a Civil Rights Act. If it weren’t for government, we would not have the interstate highway system. If it weren’t for government, we would not have some of our parks and natural wilderness areas that are so precious to America.
And so part of my job, I think, as president, is to make government cool again.
And to say to young people, to say to young people, even as we’re transforming Washington, come on, we want you. We want you to get involved at every level. And by the way, you don’t even have to join government. Part of what we’re going to do is create transparency and accountability in how government works so that you can be an active citizen holding your public servants and elected officials accountable. That’s one other aspect of citizenship is paying attention to what’s taking place. And part of what I’ve been thrilled about during the course of this campaign is how energized people have been, how interested people are. I mean, the viewership, both for the Democratic and Republican convention, broke all records. We have seen the kinds of volunteerism in our own campaign, in which by the way, we’re channeling not just to work on our own campaign, we’ve had 1,000 hours of community service by our volunteers, not organized by us but organized by themselves. And that’s the kind of opportunity that I think we have to tap into.
STENGEL: Now, you mentioned civic participation is at an all- time high. Basically, you mentioned voluntary associations before. Back in the 19th century, the famous French scholar…
OBAMA: De Tocqueville.
STENGEL: … de Tocqueville came here and said, you know, America’s voluntary associations make it unique and special.
STENGEL: Is volunteerism, is national service part of American exceptionalism? Is it part of what makes America special?
OBAMA: Yes. We have always balanced the tradition of individual responsibility and self-reliance with notions of community and love for country, in part because of voluntary associations. What it’s done is it allowed people to exercise the freedom to determine the direction of their communities, but still recognizing that we are part of a common project, of creating a better life for the next generation. And that’s something that’s been lost.
But what we’re seeing in this campaign is it’s something people want to restore. It requires responsibilities.
Part of what is interesting about our campaign, for example, is that when young people come in, we work them like dogs. I mean, and they are given big responsibilities. One of the striking things, when you visit our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, you’ve got 22-, 23-year- old, platoon leaders who are taking on life-and-death responsibilities and decision-making.
We sell too many of our citizens short. They want to be involved.
But we’ve got to start early. We’ve got — and that’s part of the reason why I want to make sure that we’ve got opportunities in high school, we’ve got opportunities in college, that we help schools create a civic education system that involves community service so that these values are transmitted to the next generation.
I would think parents would be thrilled to have their kids turn off the video game and get out there and do something. And you know what, it turns out the kids would appreciate it as well. WOODRUFF: Is there a president or administration that would be a model for you? Everybody talks about what John Kennedy asked the country to do. But John Kennedy or any other president?
OBAMA: Look, I think what Kennedy did at a time of enormous change was to look out into the horizon and say, this is where America needs to go.
OBAMA: Not just to the moon, but all sorts of new frontiers. And then he created structures like the Peace Corps to channel the idealism that he tapped.
I think Bill Clinton, in setting up AmeriCorps, again, created structures that tapped into idealism that was already there. I think it is right below the surface. And so my…
WOODRUFF: Any Republican president come to mind?
OBAMA: Well, Teddy Roosevelt, I think, was an activist president who understood how we mobilize our citizens. Means that we hold all our institutions accountable, public and private. And that’s why, you know, one of the premises of our campaign from the start has been that change happens from the bottom up. It doesn’t happen from the top down. It happens because the American people look up and they say, we imagine a world not as it is but as it should be, and we are willing to roll up our sleeves and put in the hard work to change this country, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, state by state. And that, I think, is the kind of president I would like to be is one that inspires more of that feeling and provides the avenues to express it.
WOODRUFF: Senator Barack Obama, thank you very much for joining us for this presidential candidate ServiceNation forum.
We appreciate it. Thank you very much.
OBAMA: Thank you so much.
|Warren: the first issue is the area of listening. There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, "fools think they need no advice, but wise listen to other people." Who are the three wisest people you know in your life? And who are you going to rely on heavily in your administration?||Warren: Who were the three wisest people that you know, that you would rely on heavily in an administration?|
Obama: I love the ministries that are taking place here at Saddleback. This is the second time I’ve been here. The first time we had a wonderful time.
I was going to say, you know, there are so many people that are constantly helping to shape my views and my opinions. You mentioned one person I’d be listening to, and that’s Michelle, my wife, ... who is not only wise but she’s honest. And one of the things you need — I think any leader needs — is somebody who can get up in your face and say: 'boy, you really screwed that one up; you really blew that.'
[Warren: Your wife’s like that, too?]
Yes, she is. So that’s very helpful.
Another person in that category is my grandmother, who is an extraordinary woman. She ... never went to college. She worked on a bomber assembly line — during World War II when my grandfather was away — came back, got a job as a secretary and worked her way up to become a bank vice president before she retired. And she’s just a very grounded, common-sense, no-fuss, no-frills kind of person. And when I’ve got big decisions, I often check in with her.
Now, in terms of the administration, or how I would approach the Presidency, I don’t think I’d restrict myself to three people. There are people like Sam Nunn, a Democrat, or Dick Lugar, a Republican, who I’d listen to on foreign policy.
On domestic policy ... I’ve got friends ranging from Ted Kennedy to Tom Colbert, who don’t necessarily agree on a lot of things, but... who both, I think, have a sincere desire to see this country improve.
What I’ve found is very helpful to me is to have a table where a lot of different points of view are represented, and where I can sit and poke and prod and ask them questions, so that ... any blind spots I have or predispositions that I have, that my assumptions are challenged; and I think that that’s extraordinarily important.
McCain: First one, I think, would be General David Petraeus — one of great military leaders in America history — who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq; one of the great leaders and I’m so proud to know him. Fourth of July a year ago— Senator Lindsey Graham and I were in Baghdad. 688 brave young Americans, whose enlistment had expired, swore an oath of re-enlistment to stay and fight for freedom. Only someone like David Petraeus could motivate someone like that.
I think, John Lewis — John lewis was at the Edmund Pettus Bridge — had his skull fractured; continued to serve, continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meanings of courage and commitment to causes greater than our self-interest.Meg Whitman. Meg Whitman, the CEO of E-Bay. Meg Whitman, 12 years ago there were five employees. Today there are one and a half million people that make a living off eBay in America [and] in the world. It’s one of these great American success stories. And in these economic challenging times we need to call on the wisdom and knowledge, background of people like Meg Whitman who have been able to make such a great America success story part of the world’s folklore.
The greatest moral failure in your life
|Warren: Let’s talk about personal life. The Bible says that integrity and love are the basis of leadership. This is a tough question. What would be, looking over your life ... would be the greatest moral failure in your life? And what would be the greatest moral failure of America?||Warren: We’ve had a lot of leaders because of their weaknesses, character flaws, stumbled become ineffective, are not even serving our country anymore. What’s been your greatest moral failure and what has been the — what do you think is the greatest moral failure of America?|
Obama: Well, in my own life, I’d break it up in stages. I had a difficult youth. My father wasn’t in the house. I’ve written about this. There were times where I experimented with drugs and I drank in my teenage years. And what I trace this to is a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me and, you know, the reasons that I might be dissatisfied that I couldn’t focus on other people. And you know, I think the process for me of growing up was to recognize that it’s not about me. It’s about —
[Warren: I like that. I like that.]
It’s about ... absolutely ... but look, you know, when I find myself taking the wrong step, I think a lot of times it’s because I’m trying to protect myself instead of trying to do God’s work.
[Warren: Yeah, fundamental selfishness.]
|McCain: My greatest moral failing — and I have been a very imperfect person — is the failure of my first marriage. It’s my greatest moral failure.|
The greatest moral failure of America
I mean, there’s a pervasive sense, I think, that this country, as wealthy and powerful as we are, still don’t spend enough time thinking about the least of these.
I think after 9/11, my friends, instead of telling people to go shopping or take a trip we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, Americorps, the military, expand our volunteers, expand what you [Saddleback Ministries] are doing; expand the — create missions that you are doing, that you are carrying out not only here in America but throughout the world, especially in Rwanda, and I hope we have a chance to talk about that a little later on.And, you know, a little pandering here; the first words of your very successful book is “this is not about you”. And you know that really also means? Serve a cause greater than your self-interest.
Example of where you went against party loyalty,
and maybe even went against your own best interest,
for the good of America?
Warren: Can you give me an example of a time ... I’ve seen that a lot of good legislation gets killed because of party loyalty.
Can you give me a good example of where you went against party loyalty and maybe even went against your own best interest for the good of America?
Warren: A lot of good legislation dies because of partisan politics and party loyalty keeps people from really ... putting America’s best first.
Could you give me an example of where you led against your party’s interest ... and really maybe against your own best interest, for the good of America?
Obama: Well, you know, I’ll give you an example that, in fact, I worked with John McCain on; and that was the issue of campaign ethics reform and finance reform. That wasn’t probably in my interest or his, for that matter, because the truth was that both Democrats and Republicans sort of like the status quo. And I was new to the Senate, and it didn’t necessarily then engender a lot of popularity when I started saying, you know, we’re going to eliminate meals and gifts from corporate lobbyists.
I remember one of my colleagues — whose name will be unmentioned — who said: 'well, where do you expect us to eat, McDonald’s?' And I thought: 'well, actually, a lot of your constituents probably do eat at McDonald’s, so that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.' But I think that we were able to get a bill passed that hasn’t made Washington perfect but at least ... has started moving things forward.
And, I guess the other example where — I’m not sure that this was more of a partisan issue but it was something that I felt very deeply — was when I opposed the initial decision to go into war in Iraq. That was ... not a popular view at the time. And I was just starting my campaign for the United State Senate. And I think there were a lot of people who advised me: 'you should be cautious.' This is going to be successful, the President has a very high approval rating, and you could end up — you could end up losing the election as a consequence of this.
McCain: You know by a strange coincidence I was not elected Miss Congeniality in the United States Senate this year. I don’t know why. ... I don’t know why.
Climate change, out of control spending, torture. The list goes on — on a large number of issues — that I’ve put my country first and I’ve reached across the aisle.
But I probably have to say that one of the times that probably was one of the most trying was when I was first a member of Congress, and a new freshman in the House of Representatives. And [I was] very loyal and dedicated to President Reagan; who I still think is one of the great great Presidents in American history; who won the Cold War without firing a shot, in the words of Margaret Thatcher.
He wanted to send troops to Beirut for a peacekeeping mission. My knowledge and my background told me that a few hundred marines in a situation like that could not successfully carry out any kind of peacekeeping mission and I thought they were going into harm’s way.
Tragically, as many of you recall, there was a bombing in the marine barracks and well over a hundred brave marines gave their lives.
What’s the most significant position you held ten years ago
that you no longer hold today?
Warren: A lot of times candidates are accused of flip-flopping, but actually sometimes flip-flopping is smart because you actually have decided a better position based on knowledge that you didn’t have.
What’s the most significant position you held 10 years ago that you no longer hold today; that you’ve flipped on, you’ve changed on because you actually see it differently?
Warren: What’s the most significant position that you’ve held 10 years ago that you no longer hold today?
I think the point I’m trying to make is that leaders are not stubborn; they do change their mind with additional information. So give me a good example of something that was ten years ago you said "that’s the way I feel about it" and now, 10 years later, it’s different. That’s not flip flopping; it’s just, sometimes, growing in wisdom.
Obama: Because I actually changed my mind.
[Warren: You change your mind, exactly.]
Well, you know, I’m trying to think back ten years ago. I think that a good example would be the issue of welfare reform where I always believed that welfare had to be changed. I was much more concerned ten years ago, when President Clinton initially signed the bill, that this could have disastrous results.
I worked in the Illinois legislature to make sure that we were providing child care, health care and other support services for the women who ... were going to be kicked off the rolls after a certain time. It had ... it worked better than, I think, a lot of people anticipated.
And ... one of the things that I am absolutely convinced of is that we have to have work as a centerpiece of any social policy. Not only because ... ultimately people who work are going to get more income, but the intrinsic dignity of work, the sense of purpose ... and the sense that you are part of a community because you are making a contribution — no matter how small — to the well being of the country as a whole. That is something that Democrats generally, I think, have made a significant shift on.
|McCain: Offshore drilling. We’ve got to drill now and we’ve got to
drill here and we’ve got to become independent of foreign oil. I know that there’s some here in
Could I also mention, very seriously, about this issue my friends, you know that this is a national security issue. We’re sending $700 billions dollars a year to countries that don’t like us very much, that some of that money is ending up in the hands of terrorists organizations. We cannot allow this greatest transfer of wealth in history and our national security to continue to be threatened.
And Rick, I know we’ve got a lot of issues to cover but let me just say, at the town hall meetings that I have every day, the issue on people’s mind is energy.
So I think if I could just take one — 30 seconds. One, we’ve got to do everything. We’ve got to do wind, tide, solar, natural gas, hydrogen cars, hybrid cars, electric cars. And we have to have nuclear power in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save on our energy costs.
And, by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed it the French, 80% — we love to imitate the French — but 80% of their electricity is generated by nuclear power. If they can do it, and reprocess, we can too, my friends.
And by the way, if you hadn’t notice we now have a pro-American President of France, which shows that, you live long enough, anything can happen in America.
The most gut-wrenching decision you’ve ever had to make
|Warren: What’s the most gut-wrenching decision you’ve ever had to make? And how did you process that to come to that decision?||Warren: What’s the most gut-wrenching decision you’ve ever had to make and what was the process that you used to make it?|
Well, you know, I think the opposition to the war in Iraq was as tough a decision as I’ve had to make, not only because there were political consequences, but also because Saddam Hussein was a real bad person and there was no doubt that he meant America ill. But I was firmly convinced at the time that we did not have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
And there were a lot of questions that, as I spoke to experts, kept on coming up. Do we know how the Shiites and the Sunni and the Kurds are going to get along in a post-Saddam situation? You know, what’s our assessment as to how this will affect the battle against terrorists like Al-Qaeda? Have we finished the job in Afghanistan? So I agonized ... over that.
And I think that questions of war and peace generally are so profound. You know, when you meet the troops, they’re 19, 20, 21-year-old kids, and you’re putting them into harms way. There is a solemn obligation that you do everything you can to get that decision right.
Now, as the war went forward, there were difficult decisions about, you know, how long do you keep on funding the war if you strongly believe that it’s not in America’s national interest? At the same time, you don’t want to have troops who are out there without the equipment they need. So all those questions surrounding the war have been very difficult for me.
|McCain: It was long ago and far
away in a prison camp in
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
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m very happy I didn’t know the war was going to last for another three years or so. But I said no, and I’ll never forget sitting and my last answer, and the high-ranking officer who offered it slammed the door, and the interrogator said "go back to your cell, it’s going to be very tough on you now." And it was. But [it was] not only the toughest decision I ever made, but I’m most happy about that decision than any decision I’ve ever made in my life.
Could I finally say: it took a lot of prayer; it took a lot of prayer.
What does it mean to you to be a follower of Christ?
|Warren: ... Now, you’ve made no doubt about your faith in Jesus Christ. What does that mean to you? What does that mean to you to trust in Christ? What does that mean on a daily basis? I mean, what does that really look like?||Warren: You’ve made no doubt about the fact that you are a Christian. You publicly say you are a follower of Christ. What does that mean to you and how does faith work out in your life on a daily basis? What does it mean to you?|
Obama: Well, as a starting point, it means I believe in — that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that I am redeemed through Him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don’t walk alone. And I know that if I can get myself out of the way that, you know, I can maybe carry out in some small way what — what He intends. And it means that those sins that I have, on a fairly regular basis, hopefully will be washed away.
But what it also means, I think, is a sense of obligation to embrace not just words but, through deeds, the expectations, I think, that God has for us. And that means thinking about the least of these. It means acting, well, acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God. And that, I think, trying to apply those lessons on a daily basis, knowing that you’re going to fall a little bit short each day, and being able to kind of take note and saying: 'well, that didn’t quite work out the way I think it should have, but maybe I can get a little bit better'.
It gives me the confidence to try things, including things like running for President that — where you are going to screw up once in a while.
McCain: It means I’m saved and forgiven. And we’re talking about the world. Our faith encompasses not just the United States of America, but the world.
Can I tell you another story real quick?
The Vietnamese kept us imprisoned in conditions of solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. They did that because they knew they could break down our resistance. One of the techniques that they used to get information was to take ropes and tie them around your biceps, pull your biceps behind you, loop the rope around your head, pull your head down between your knees, and leave you in that position. You can imagine, it was very uncomfortable.
One night I was being punished in that fashion. All of a sudden the door of the cell opened and the guard came in; a guy who was just what we called a gun guard. He just walked around the camp with a gun on his shoulder. He went like this and then he loosened the ropes. He came back about four hours later; he tightened them up again and left.
The following Christmas, because it was Christmas Day, we were allowed to stand outside of our cell for a few minutes. In those days, we were not allowed to see or communicate with each other, although we certainly did. And I was standing outside for my few minutes outside of my cell. He came walking up. He stood there for a minute, and with his sandal on the dirt in the courtyard, he drew a cross. And he stood there, and a minute later he rubbed it out and walked away. For a minute there, there was just two Christians worshiping together. I’ll never forget that moment...
At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?
Warren: Let’s deal with abortion. Forty million abortions since Roe v. Wade. You know, as a pastor, I have to deal with this all the time, all of the pain and all of the conflicts. I know this is a very complex issue. Forty million abortions.
At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?
Warren: Let’s deal with abortion. I, as a pastor, have to deal with this all the time, every different angle, every different pain, all the decisions and all of that. 40 million abortions since Roe v Wade. Some people who — people who believe that life begins at conception — would say that’s a holocaust for many people.
At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?
Obama: Well, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade. But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion because this is something I — obviously, the country wrestles with.
One thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I think anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention. So that would be point number one.
But point number two: I am — I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe v. Wade. And I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion but because, ultimately, I don’t think women make these decisions casually. I think they wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors, or their spouses, or their doctors [and] their family members.
And, so for me, the goal right now should be — and this is where I think we can find common ground — and by the way, I’ve now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform — is: how do we reduce the number of abortions? Because the fact is is that, although we’ve had a President who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down. And that, I think, is something that we have to ...
[Warren: Have you ever voted to limit or reduce abortions?]
Well, I am in favor, for example, of limits on late-term abortions if there is an exception for the mother’s health. Now, from the perspective of those who, you know, are pro-life, I think they would consider that inadequate, and I respect their views. I mean, one of the things that I’ve always said is is that on this particular issue, if you believe that life begins at conception — and you are consistent in that belief — then I can’t argue with you on that because that is a core issue of faith for you.
What I can do is say, are there ways that we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies so that we actually are reducing the sense that women are seeking out abortions? And as an example of that, one of the things that I’ve talked about is, how do we provide the resources that allow women to make the choice to keep a child? You know, have we given them the health care that they need? Have we given them the support services they need? Have we given them the options of adoption that are necessary? That, I think, can make a genuine difference.
McCain: At the moment of conception.
I have a 25-year pro-life record in the
That’s my commitment; that’s my commitment to you.
|Warren: Define marriage.||Warren: Define Marriage.|
Obama: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian ... it’s also a sacred union. You know, God’s in the mix.. But...
[Warren: Would you support a constitutional amendment with that definition?]
No, I would not.
[Warren: Why not?]
Because historically ... we have not defined marriage in our Constitution. It’s been a matter of state law that has been our tradition. Now, I mean, let’s break it down. The reason that people think there needs to be a Constitutional amendment — some people believe — is because of the concern ... about same-sex marriage.
I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not — that for gay partners to want to visit each other in a hospital, for the state to say, you know what, that’s all right — I don’t think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or a different view.
McCain: A union between man and woman — between one man and one woman. That’s my definition of marriage.
Are we going to get back to the importance of Supreme Court Justices, or should I mention it?
[Warren: We’ll get to that.]
All right. Okay.[Warren: Man, you’re jumping ahead. You know all my questions.]
When we speak of the issues of the rights of the unborn, we need to talk about judges. But, anyway, go ahead.
Warren: Let me just ask you a question related to that. We’ve got a bill right here in California, Proposition 8, that’s going on because the court overturned this definition of marriage. Was the Supreme Court of California wrong?
McCain: I believe they were wrong. And I strongly support preserving
the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And I’m a federalist; I believe that states should make those
decisions. In my state, I hope we will
make that decision, and other states — they have to
... That doesn’t mean that people can’t enter into legal agreements. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have the rights of all citizens. I’m not saying that. I am saying that we should preserve the unique status of marriage between one man and one woman.
And if a federal court — if a federal court decided that my state of Arizona had to observe what the state of Massachusetts decided, then I would favor a Constitutional amendment. Until then, I believe the state should make the decisions within their own states.
Would you favor or oppose the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research?
|plury potent stem cells in adult cells. Do we still need federal funding for research? Would you still support that for embryo stem cells?Warren: What about stem cells? Now we’ve had this scientific break through of creating these||plury potent stem cells through adult stem cells. So would you favor or oppose the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research since we have this other breakthrough?Warren: Another issue: stem cells. Now, we’ve had this scientific breakthrough of creating|
Obama: Well, keep in mind the way the stem cell legislation, that was vetoed by the president, was structured: what it said was you could only use embryos that were about to be discarded, that had been created as a consequence of attempts at in vitro fertilization. So there were very tightly circumscribed mechanisms that were permitted.
I think that that is a legitimate, moral approach to take. If we’re going to discard those embryos and we know that there’s potential research that could lead to curing debilitating diseases — Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease — you know, if that possibility presents itself, then I think that we should, in a careful way, go ahead and pursue that research.
Now, if in fact, adult stem cell lines are working just as well, then, of course, we should try to avoid any kind of moral arguments that may be in place.
But I want to make a broader point, Pastor Rick, on an issue like stem cell research. I mean, it’s not like people who are in favor of stem cell research are going around thinking to themselves: 'you know, boy, let’s go destroy some embryos.' Right? I mean, that’s not the perspective that I think people come to that issue on.
I think what they say is: we would not tolerate a situation in which, you know, we’re encouraging human cloning or in some ways diminishing the sacredness of human life and what it means to be human. But that in narrow circumstances, you know, there is nothing inappropriate with us pursuing scientific research that could lead to cures so long as, you know, we’re not designing embryos for that purpose.
McCain: For those of us in the pro-life community, this has been a great struggle, and a terrible dilemma, because we’re also taught other obligations that we have as well.
I’ve come down on the side of stem cell research, but I am wildly optimistic that skin cell research, which is coming more and more into focus and practicability, will make this debate an academic one.
Does evil exist and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?
|Warren: Does evil exist? And if it does do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it or do we defeat it?||Warren: How about the issue of evil? I asked this of your rival in the previous thing. Does evil exist and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?|
Obama: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. And I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely.
And one of the things that I strongly believe is that, you know, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world; that is God’s task. But we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.
Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil because, you know, a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.
[Warren: In the name of good?]
In the name of good.
And I think, you know, one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that, you know, just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.
McCain: Defeat it.
Couple points: one, if I’m President of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that and I know how to do it. I will get that done. No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American — innocent American lives. Of course, evil must be defeated.
My friends, we are facing the transcendent challenge of the 21-century: radical Islamic extremism. Not long ago in Baghdad, al-Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn’t evil, you have to tell me what is — and we’re going to defeat this evil.
And the central battleground, according to David Petraeus and Osama Bin Laden, is the battles — is Baghdad, Mozil and Iraq. And we are winning and we are succeeding, and our troops will come home with honor and with victory, and not in defeat. And that’s what’s happening.
We have — and we face this threat throughout the world. It’s not just in Iraq. It’s not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us Al-Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America.
My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge and we must totally defeat it. And we’re in a long struggle, but when I’m around the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubts. None.
Which existing Supreme Court Justices would you not have nominated?
|Warren: The courts. Let me ask it this way: which existing Supreme Court Justices would you not have nominated?||Warren: Which existing Supreme Court Justices would you not have nominated?|
Obama: That’s good. That’s a good one.
I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don’t think that he ... I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker, at the time, for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations of a lot of the Constitution.
I would not nominate Justice Scalia — although I don’t think there’s any doubt about his intellectual brilliance — because he and I just disagree. You know, he taught at University of Chicago, as did I, in the law school.
[Warren: How about John Roberts?]
John Roberts, I have to say, was a tougher question only because I find him to be a very compelling person, you know, in conversation individually. He’s clearly smart, very thoughtful. I will tell you that how I’ve seen him operate since he went to the bench confirms the suspicions that I had, and the reason that I voted against him. And I’ll give you one very specific instance and this is not a stump speech. I think one of the ... most important jobs of, I believe, the Supreme Court is to guard against the encroachment of the Executive Branch on the power of the other branches. And I think that he has been a little bit too willing and eager to give an administration — whether it’s mine or George Bush’s — more power than I think the Constitution originally intended.
McCain: With all due respect, [I would you not have nominated] Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and Justice Stevens.
[Warren: Why? Tell me why?]
Well, I think that the President of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court. They are lifetime positions, as well as the federal bench.
There will be two maybe three vacancies. This nomination should be based on the criteria of [a] proven record of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America, and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench.
And by the way, Justices Alito and Roberts are two of my most recent favorites, by the way. They really are. They are very fine and I’m proud of President Bush for nominating them.
Would you insist that faith-based organizations forfeit the right
to hire people with compatible beliefs in order to access federal funds?
Warren: The role of faith-based organizations. A recent poll says 80% of Americans think faith-based organizations do a better job at community services than the government — helping addictions — you know — prisoner reentry, you know, all the different homelessness, poverty, things like that. And the Civil Rights Act of ’64 says that faith-based organizations have a right to hire people who believe like they do.
Would you insist that faith-based organizations forfeit that right to access federal funds?
Warren: Let’s talk about the role of faith-based organizations. There was a recent poll that came out, said over 70% of Americans believe that faith-based organizations do a better job at community services ... than the government.
McCain: [those] Americans are right.
Warren: You know, addictions, homelessness, poverty all of these — prisoner rehab, things like that. Now the civil rights act of 1964 allows religious organizations, not just churches, but faith-based organizations, to keep and hire the people that they believe share common beliefs with.
Would you insist that faith-based organizations forfeit that right to access federal funds?
Obama: Well, first of all, I think you’re aware, Pastor Rick, that I gave a speech earlier this summer promoting faith-based initiatives.
I think that we should have an all-hands-on-deck approach when it comes to issues like poverty and substance abuse. And as somebody who got my start out of college working with churches — who were trying to deal with the devastation of steel plants closing in the south side of Chicago. I know the power of faith-based institutions to get stuff done.
What I have said is that when it comes, first of all, to funding faith-based organizations: they are always free to hire whoever they want when it comes to their own mission — who their pastor is, various ministries that they want to set up —but, and this has been a long-standing rule...
[Warren: Like on Christian college, Christian university?]
Absolutely. When it comes to the programs that are federally funded, then we do have to be careful to make sure that we are not creating a situation where people are being discriminated against using federal money. That’s not new. That’s a concept that was true under the Clinton administration. That was true under the Bush administration. There are — in 95% of the circumstances — it’s not an issue because people are careful about how they use the funds.
There are some tough issues — 5% of the situations — where people might say, you know, 'I want to hire somebody of my faith for a program that is fully funded by the federal government and we’re offering services to the public'. And my —
[Warren: For instance, like in relief, like in Katrina. If I took people to Katrina and I wanted to hire some people to do relief, if I took federal money to help in that relief, I wouldn’t be able to say: 'I only want people who believe like we do.'
Well, you know, it’s one of those situations where the devil is in the details. I think generally speaking, faith-based organizations should not be advantaged or disadvantaged when it comes to getting federal funds by virtue of the fact that they are faith-based organizations. They just want a level playing field.
But what we do want to make sure of is that, as a general principle, we’re not using federal funding to discriminate. But that is only when it comes to the narrow program that is being funded by the federal government. That does not affect any of the other ministries that are taking place.
McCain: Absolutely not. And if you do, it would mean a severe crippling of faith-based organizations and their abilities to do the things that they have done so successfully.
Life is full of anecdotes. ...and I’m sorry to tell you so many anecdotes, but I went to New Orleans after Katrina. The Resurrection Baptist Church was doing tremendous work with thousands of volunteers, I’m sure probably from here at saddleback, coordinating the efforts of thousands of volunteers, including [from] my own church, the North Phoenix Baptist Church, who came from all over America.
And various authorities off the record told me, off the record, that they were doing so much more good than the government organizations. They said it was incredible and New Orleans could not have been on the path — and they’ve got a long way to go — on the path to recovery if it hadn’t been for the faith-based organizations who are still operating in New Orleans much to their great credit. Thank God.
Do you think better teachers should be paid better?
Warren: Okay let’s go to education. America right now ranks 19th in high school graduation. We’re first in incarcerations. Eighty percent of Americans, a recent poll said, ... believe in merit pay for teachers. Now, I’m not asking do you think all teachers should get a raise.
Do you think better teachers should be paid better, they should be paid more than poor teachers?
Warren: Let’s talk about education. America ranks 19th in high school graduations, but we’re first in incarceration. Everybody says they want more accountability in schools.
About 80% of America says they support merit pay for the best teachers. Now, I don’t want to hear your stump speech on education.
Obama: I think that we should — and I’ve said this publicly — that we should set up a system of performance pay for teachers — negotiated with teachers. Work with the teachers, to figure out the assessment so they feel like they are being judged fairly, that it is not at the whim of the principal, that is it not based on a single high-stakes standardized test.
But the basic notion that teaching is a profession, that teachers are underpaid so we need to pay them all more and create a higher baseline, but then we should also reward excellence.
I think that is a concept that all of us should embrace.
McCain: Yes. Yes. And find bad teachers another line of work.
Can I just say choice and competition, choice and competition — home schooling, charter school, vouchers — all the choice and competition.
I want — look, I want every American family to have the same
choice that Cindy and I made — and Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama made as well
— and that was: we wanted to send our children to the school of our choice. And charter schools work, my friends. Home schooling
works, vouchers in our nation’s capital works. We’ve got thousands of people in
I go back to New Orleans. They were — as we know — the tragedy devastated them. They now have over 30 charter schools in the city of New Orleans and guess what? It’s all coming up. It’s all coming up. It’s a simple principle, but it’s going to take dedicated men and women, particularly in the teaching profession, to make it happen.
And by the way, here in — I won’t go any further — but the point is it’s all based, and it’s being proven that choice in competition for every American family. And it is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, because every citizens’ child now has an opportunity to go to school. But what kind of opportunity is it if you send them to a failing school? That’s why we got to give everybody the same opportunity and choice.
Define "rich". Give me a specific number.
Warren: Taxes. This is a real simple question: define "rich". I mean, give me a number. Is it [$]50,000, [$]100,000, [$]200,000? Everybody keeps talking about how we’re going to tax. How do you define that?
Warren: On taxes, define rich. Everybody talks about, you know, taxing the rich and — but not the poor, the middle class. At what point — give me a number, give me a specific number where do you move from middle class to rich? Is it [$]100 thousand, is it [$]50 thousand, [$]200 hundred thousand? How does anybody know if we don’t know what the standards are?
Obama: You know, if you’ve got book sales of 25 million and you qualify. I just want to...
[Warren: Okay. All right. I’m not asking about me.]
Look, here is how I think about it. Here is how I think about it, and this is reflected in my tax plan. If you are making $150 thousand a year or less, as a family, then are you middle class ... or you may be poor. But [$]150,000 down, you are basically middle class. Obviously it depends on [the] region where you are living.
[Warren: In this region, you’re poor.]
Yeah. Well, depends. I don’t know what housing prices have been doing lately. I would argue that if you are making more than [$]250,000 then are you in the top 3-4 percent of this country. You’re doing well.
Now, these things are all relative. And I’m not suggesting that everybody that is making over $250,000 is living on Easy Street. But the question that I think we have to ask ourselves is: if we believe in good schools, if we believe in good roads, if we want to make sure that kids can go to college, if we don’t want to leave a mountain of debt for the next generation, then we’ve got to pay for these things. They don’t come for free.
And it is irresponsible ... I believe it is irresponsible, inter-generationally, for us to invest or for us to spend $10 billion a month on a war and not have a way of paying for it. That, I think, is unacceptable.
So nobody likes to pay taxes. I haven’t sold 25 million books, but I’ve been selling some books lately. So I write a pretty big check to Uncle Sam. Nobody likes it.
What I can say is that under the approach I’m taking, if you make $150,000 or less, you will see a tax cut. If you’re making $250,000 a year or more, you’re going to see a modest increase. What I’m trying to do is create a sense of balance and fairness in our tax code.
One thing I think we can all agree on is that it should be simpler so that you don’t have all these loopholes, and big stacks of stuff that you’ve got to comb through, which wastes a huge amount of money and allows special interests to take advantage of things that ordinary people cannot take advantage of.
McCain: Some of the richest people I’ve ever known in my life are the most unhappy.
I think that rich is – should be defined by a home, a good job and education and the ability to hand to our children a more prosperous and safer world than the one that we inherited. I don’t want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich. I don’t believe in class warfare or redistribution of the wealth.
But I can tell you, for example, there are small businessmen and women — who are working 16 hours a day, seven days a week — that some people would classify as, quote "rich", my friends, who want to raise their taxes and raise their payroll taxes.
Let’s have — keep taxes low. Let’s give every family in America a $7,000 tax credit for every child they have. Let’s give them a $5,000 refundable tax credit to go out and get the health insurance of their choice. Let’s not have the government take over the health care system in America.
So — so I think if you’re just talking about income, how about [$]5 million? So, no — but seriously, I don’t think you can — I don’t think, seriously that — the point is that I’m trying to make here seriously — and I’m sure that comment will be distorted, but the point is — the point is — the point is that we want to keep people’s taxes low and increase revenues.
And my friend, it was not taxes that mattered in
the last several years; it was
spending. Spending got completely out
of control. We spent money in ways
that mortgaged our kids’ futures. My friends, we spent $3 million of your
money to study the DNA of bears in
So what did they just do in the middle of an energy crisis when in California we are paying $4 a gallon for gas? Went on vacation for five weeks. I guarantee you two things: they [Congress] never miss a pay raise and a vacation. And we should stop that and call them back and not raise your taxes. We should not and cannot raise taxes in tough economic times.
So it doesn’t matter really what my definition of "rich" is because I don’t want to raise anybody’s taxes; I really don’t. In fact, I want to give working Americans a better shot at having a better life. And we all know the challenges, my friends.
If I could be serious, Americans tonight in California and all over America are sitting at the kitchen table, recently and suddenly lost a job, can’t afford to stay in their home, education for their kids, affordable health care, these are tough problems. These are tough problems. You talk to them ... every day.
Right to privacy vs. right to national security
|[Not asked of Senator Obama.]||
Warren: Now, we got a couple minutes left in this section. Here is a security question I didn’t get to with Senator Obama. We didn’t have enough time.
When ... our right to privacy and our right to national security collide, how do you decide what takes precedent?
|McCain: It does collide and there
are always competing priorities. We
must preserve the privacy of all of our citizens as much possible because
that’s one of the fundamental and basic rights we have; and, by the way, including a secret ballot
for union organizers — a secret ballot — not a ballot that someone comes around
and signs you up. That’s a different
But the point is: we have now had technological advances over the last 20 or 30 years in communications that are remarkable. It’s a remarkable ability that our enemies have to communicate, so we have to keep up with that capability. I mean, there is too many ways and — through cyberspace and through other ways — that people are able to communicate with one another. So we are going to have to step up our capabilities to monitor those.
Sometimes there are calls from outside the United States. Inside the United States there is all kinds of communications of every different kind. So you need Congress to work together. You need a judiciary that will review these laws that we pass.
And, at the same time, it’s just an example of our failure to sit down, Republican and Democrat, and work these things out together — for the good of the nation’s security — instead of this constant fighting; which, according to our Director of National Intelligence — until we finally reached an agreement not long ago — was compromising our ability to keep America from attack. And so there is a constant tension. It is changing with changes in technology and we have to stay up with it.
What’s worth sacrificing American lives for?
Warren: I want us to talk about America ’s responsibility to the rest of the world. We are the most blessed nation in the world ...
First thing, let’s just talk about war. As an American, what’s worth dying for? What’s worth ... sacrificing American lives for?
Warren: Let’s first talk about freedom and war. As an American, what is worth dying for and what is worth committing American lives for?
Obama: Well, obviously American freedom, American lives, America’s national interests.
You know, I was just with my family on vacation in Hawaii; visited the place where my grandfather is laid to rest — the Punchbowl National Cemetery — and then went out to the Arizona, out in Pearl Harbor. And you know, you’re reminded of ... the sacrifices that had been made on behalf of our freedom; and I think that is a solemn obligation that we all have.
I think we also have forged alliances with countries, NATO being a prime example, where we have pledged to act militarily for the common defense. That is in our national interest and that is something I think we have to abide by.
Warren: What would be the criteria that you would commit troops — to end the genocide for instance — like what’s going on in Darfur or could happen in Georgia or anywhere else? A mass killing.
Obama: You know, I don’t think that there is a hard-and-fast line at which you say: 'okay, we are going in'. I think it is always a judgment call. I think that the basic principle has to be that if we have it within our power to prevent mass killing and genocide — and we can work in concert with the international community to prevent it — then we should act.
Now, we have to do so — we have to do so — I think that international component is very critical. We’re not — we may not get 100% agreement, but...
[Warren: ... go to war without U.N. approval?]
Oh, yes, absolutely. Yeah. But I — but I — you know, I think you take an example like Bosnia, when we went in and undoubtedly saved lives. We did not have U.N. approval, but there was a strong international case that had been made that ethnic cleansing was taking place. And under those circumstances — when we have it within our power — we should ... we should take action.
McCain: Freedom. Our national security. Our security as a nation.
Wars have started in obscure places that have enveloped us. We also must temper that with the ability to effectively and beneficially cause the outcome that we want. In other words, there’s tyranny and there is tragedy throughout the world, and we can’t right every wrong, But we can do what America has done throughout our history, and that is: be a beacon of hope and liberty and freedom for everyone in the world; as Ronald Reagan used to quote: "a shining city on a hill."
So there are conflicts that we can’t settle. The most precious asset we have is American blood and throughout our history Americans have gone to all four corners of the world and shed that blood in defense of someone else’s freedom. No other nation on earth has ever done that.
But we’ve also succeeded in other ways. We won the cold war, as I mentioned earlier, without firing a shot because of our ideology; and that communism is wrong and evil, and we can defeat it just like we can defeat radical Islamic extremism.
Can we talk ... about the latest in Georgia ?
[Warren: Let me ask you this: what would be the criteria for which you would commit troops?]
American national security interests are threatened.
[Warren: I understand that. What about genocide in Darfur or the mass killings took place in Georgia?]
Our obligation is to stop genocide wherever we can. We all know about Rwanda. No one knows that better than you and the Saddleback Church, who have been so active.
By the way, Cindy was just there with Mike Huckabee and Dr. Bill Frist, and have seen what the women of Rwanda are doing. The women are taking charge of the future of Rwanda, because they are saying "never again". And they are doing an incredible job.
Darfur — our most respected former Secretary of State, Collin Powell, called genocide some years ago. The question is: how can we effectively stop it? And obviously we’ve got to do more and we’ve got to try to marshal the forces all over the world to join us.
I think one of the things we ought to explore more carefully is us supplying the logistics and equipment and the aid — and the African countries step forward with the personnel — to enforce a genuine cease fire. It’s a very complicated situation as you know, but we’ve got to be committed to never saying "never again" again. Never.
[Warren: What about … Russia reasserting itself in Georgia and maybe now Poland. What’s happening?]
I’m very saddened here to be with you and talk about a Russian reemergence in the centuries-old ambition of the Russian empire to dominate that part of the world; killings, murder, villages are being burned. People are being wantonly ejected from their homes; the latest figure is — from a human rights organization — 118,000 people from that small country. It [Georgia] was one of the earliest Christian nations. The king of then Georgia — in the third century — converted to Christianity. You go to Georgia and you see these old churches that go back to the fourth and fifth century.
My friends, the President — the President, Saakashviliis — is a man who is educated in the United States of America on a scholarship. He went back to Georgia and, with other young people who had also received an education, they achieved a revolution. They had democracy, prosperity and a great little nation.
And now the Russians are coming in there in an act of aggression and we have to not only bring about cease fire, but we have to have honored one of the most fundamental rights of any nation, and that is territorial integrity. ... the Russians must respect the entire territorial integrity of Georgia and there’s only 4 million people in Georgia, my friends. I’ve been there. It’s a beautiful little country they are wonderful people. They are suffering terribly now.
And there’s two other aspects of this.... One of them: don’t think it was an accident that the ... Presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine flew to Tbilisi to show their solidarity with the President of Georgia, because they all have something in common with Georgia: they lived under Russian domination for a long period of time.
Second of all, of course, it is about energy. There’s an oil pipeline that goes across Georgia that, up to now, had not been controlled by the Russians. And, my friend, energy, the Russians are using is a tremendous lever against the Europeans.
Would you be willing to consider doing some kind of emergency plan for orphans?
Warren: This one is dear to my heart. Most people don’t know that there are 148 million orphans in the world. One hundred forty-eight million kids growing up without mommies and dads. They don’t need to be in an orphanage, they need to be in families, but a lot of families can’t afford to take these kids in.
Would you be willing to consider and even commit to doing some kind of an emergency plan for orphans like President Bush did with AIDS, almost a President’s emergency plan for orphans to deal with this issue?
Warren: Most people don’t know that there are 148 million orphans in the world growing up without parents. What should we do about this and would you be willing to consider or even commit to something similar to the President’s emergency plan for AIDS which, he said, AIDS is an emergency at PEPFAR. Could we do a PEPFAR for the emergency plan for 148 million orphans? Most of these, they don’t need to grow up in orphanages, they need to be in families and many of those families could take them in if they had some kind of assistance.
Obama: I cheated a little bit. I actually looked at this idea ahead of time, and I think it is a — I think it’s a great idea.
I think it’s something that we should sit down and figure out — working between non-governmental organizations, international institutions, the U.S. government — and try to figure out: what can we do?
I think that part of our plan, though, has to be: how do we prevent more orphans in the first place? And that means that we’re helping to build the public health infrastructure around the world; that we are, you know, building on the great work that you and, by the way, this President, has done when it comes to AIDS funding around the world.
McCain: Well I think we have to make adoption a lot easier in this country. That’s why so many people go to other countries to ... be able to adopt children.
My great hero and role model, Teddy Roosevelt, was the first modern American President to talk about adoption and how important it was.
And I promise you this is my last story: 17 years ago Cindy was in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She went to Mother Teresa’s orphanage. The nuns brought her two little babies that were not going to live. Cindy came home; I met her at the airplane. She showed me this 5-week old baby and said: "meet your new daughter". She’s 17 and our life is blessed. And that’s what adoption is all about.
What do you think the US should do to end religious persecution around the world?
Warren: Religious persecution — what do you think the US should do to end religious persecution? For instance, in China, in Iraq and in many of our supposed allies? I’m not just talking about persecution of Christianity particularly, with the persecution around the world that persecutes millions of people.
Warren: What would you do in your administration to end, to put pressure on the Chinese and Iraq and all the other ... so-called allies of ours that ... will not allow religious freedom whether it is Christian or any other faith?
Obama: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is to bear witness and speak out and not pretend that it’s not taking place.
You know our relationship with China, for example, is a very complicated one. You know, we’re trading partners. Unfortunately, they are now lenders to us because we haven’t been taking care of our economy the way we need to be.
I don’t think any of us want to see military conflict with China; so we want to manage this relationship and move them into the world community as a full partner, but we can’t purchase that by ignoring the very real ... persecutions that are taking place. And so having administration that’s speaking out, joining in international forums where we can point out human rights abuses and the absence of religious freedom, that, I think, is absolutely critical.
Over time, what we are doing is setting up new norms and creating a universal principle that people’s faith and people’s beliefs have to be protected. And, as you said, it’s not just Christians.
We’ve got to make sure — you know, one thing that I think is very important for us to do on all these issues is to lead by example. That’s why I think it’s so important for us to have religious tolerance here in the United States. That’s why it’s so important for us when we are criticizing other countries, about rule of law, to make sure that we’re abiding by rule of law and habeas corpus and we’re not engaging in torture, because that gives us a moral standard to talk about these other issues.
McCain: The President of the
... greatest asset is the bully pulpit. The President of the
United States —
and I go back again to Ronald Reagan; he went to the
Our Judeo-Christian principles dictate that we do what we can to help people who are oppressed throughout the world. And I would like to tell you that I still think that even in the worst places in the world today, in the darkest corners — little countries like Belarus — they still harbor this hope and dream: some day to be like us and have freedom and democracy.
And we have our flaws and we have our failings, and we talk about them all the time; and we should. But we remain, my friends, the most unusual experiment in history and I’m privileged to spend every day of my life in it. I know what it is like to be without it.
How do we speak out and what do you plan to do about slavery?
Warren: The third largest and the fastest growing criminal industry in the world is human trafficking: $32 billion a year. A lot of people don’t know that there are about 27 million people living in slavery right now, many them in sex traffic, but in others. How do we speak out and how do you plan to do something about that?
|[Not asked of Senator McCain.]|
Obama: This has to be a top priority. And this is an area where we’ve already seen bipartisan agreement on this issue.
What we have to do is to create better, more effective tools for prosecuting those who are engaging in human trafficking. And we have to do that within our country. Sadly, there are thousands who are trapped in various forms of enslavement here in our country; oftentimes, young women who are caught up in prostitution. So we’ve got to give prosecutors the tools to crack down on these human-trafficking networks.
Internationally, we’ve got to speak out, and we’ve got to forge alliances with other countries to share intelligence, to roll up the financing networks that are involved in them. It is a debasement of our common humanity whenever we see something like that taking place.
Tell me in a minute why you want to be President?
Warren: Tell me in a minute why you want to be President?
Warren: You’ve got one minute to answer this one, that is: why do you want to be President?
Obama: You know, I remember what my mother used to tell me. I was talking to somebody a while back and I said: 'the one time that she’d get really angry with me is if she ever thought that I was being mean to somebody or unfair to somebody.' She said: 'imagine standing in their shoes, imagine looking through their eyes'; that basic idea of empathy.
And that I think is what has made America special, is that notion, that everybody’s got a shot. If we see somebody down and out, if we see a kid who’s — who can’t afford college, that we care for them too.
And I want to be President because that’s the America I believe in, and I feel like that American dream is slipping away. I think we are at a critical juncture economically. I think we are at a critical juncture internationally. We’ve got to make some big decisions not just for us but for the next generation, and we keep on putting it off.
And unfortunately our politics is so broken and Washington is so broken that we can’t seem to bring together people of goodwill to solve these common problems.
I think I have the ability to build bridges — across partisan, racial, regional lines — to get people to work on some common-sense solutions to critical issues. And I hope that I have the opportunity to do that.
McCain: I want to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest. I believe that America’s best days are ahead of us, but I also believe that we face enormous challenges, both national security and domestic, as we have found out in the last few days in the case of Georgia. And I want to ... make sure that everybody understands that this is a time for us to come together.
Throughout my life — from the time I was 17 and raised my hand and was sworn in as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy — I’ve always put my country first. I put my country first when I had the honor of serving in the military and I had the honor of putting my country first as a member of the House of Representatives and in the United States Senate.
America wants hope. America wants optimism. America wants us to sit down together. I have a record of reaching across the aisle and working with the other party — and I want to do that.
And I believe, as I said, that Americans feel it’s time for us to put our country first; and we may disagree on a specific issue — and I won’t review them now — but I want every American to know that when I go to Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and meet the African-American women there who are so wonderful and lovely — an experience I’ll never forget. And when I go to places where I know they probably won’t vote for me; I know that my job is to tell them that I’ll be the President of every American and I’ll always put my country first.
What would you say to people who oppose me asking you these questions in a church?
Warren: What do you say to people who oppose me asking you these questions?
Warren: What would you say to people who oppose me asking you these questions in a church?
Obama: These are the kinds of forums we need, where we have a conversation.
And I think based on ... these conversations the American people can make a good judgment. I mean, one of the things — if you are a person of faith like me — I believe that things will work out and we will get the President that we need.
What you want, though, is just to make sure that people have good information; that they’re not just consuming negative ads or the kind of nasty tit-for-tat that has become so common in politics.
I want people to know me well. And I want people — I’m sure John McCain feels the same way in that — if we are both known, and people know where we stand on issues, you know, I trust in the American people. They are going to make a good decision and we are going to be able to solve the big problems that we face.
McCain: I say to them: that I’d like to be in every venue in America. This is an important — this is a very important election.
Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values and principles. I’m happy to be here in a church. I’m happy to be here in a place that, with your program such as PEACE, such as your help throughout the world, such as your outreach to so many thousands of Americans. I’m honored to be here and I thank you.
What would you tell the American public if there wouldn’t be any repercussions?
Warren: What would you tell the American public if you knew there wouldn’t be any repercussions?
[Not asked of Senator McCain]
Obama: Well, 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.
And 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 the Depression, fighting World War II. 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 make some sacrifices on behalf of the next generation.
Note 1: This transcript was derived from the “Certified Final Transcript” provided by the Saddleback Church and the transcript provided by Federal News Service. Discrepancies identified between these two transcripts were corrected by listening to the broadcast itself.
The transcript above includes all substantive text relevant to the questions and answers only. For a complete transcript, including introductory comments and incidental interjections, see one of the transcripts indicated above.
Note 2: This transcript was edited and posted by Thirty-Thousand.org as a public service.
Thirty-Thousand.org (“TTO”) is a non-partisan and non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which is not affiliated with the Saddleback Church or any political organization.
27-August-2008 correction: changed "told" to "to" in last sentence of Senator Obama’s answer #21
[Thanks to P.M.]