On Saddleback Mountain
So what to make of the Barack Obama-John McCain appearances at Saddleback Church?
1. McCain was the smarter, shrewder politician tonight. His direct, even terse answers were effective - playing into our belief that complex problems have simple solutions if only we apply the right set of values. Obama's nuance might be intellectually satisfying, but is less attractive politically. Also, after McCain delivered a quick answer he then used the time to plug his talking points - Rick Warren was most obliging. Obama rarely got past the explanation to take control of the discussion.
2. In a contest between biography and thoughtfulness, biography wins every time. McCain, as one pundit on CNN put it, painted a compelling picture of who he is. Obama was thoughtful and adept in his answer but overly intellectual.
3. The election is shaping up to be a battle between force and caution. Do we want a decisive president, unafraid to act quickly and confidently? Or do we want a president who acts only after thoughtful contemplation, whose decisions are careful and calculating?
Force is an easier sell, as the last two elections have shown. We seem to admire decisiveness over contemplation. Obama is going to have an uphill climb to make caution look wise, shrewd and strong.
4. As of tonight, McCain, wants it more.