(Lake Forest, CA) Pastor Rick Warren convened his Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency to thunderous applause from a crowd that seemed to be mostly members of his church. After a few words to the crowd, Warren introduced Senator Barack Obama who was welcomed warmly by the audience.
Warren began with questions about leadership and worldviews, first asking Obama who he would listen to as President, to which the Senator wisely responded that his wife Michelle would be on the list.
Asked about his greatest moral failing, Obama talked of his drug and alcohol use as a young man.
Warren asked Obama which current Supreme Court Justice he wouldn't have appointed and was quickly met with "ooh's" from the audience. Obama quickly and carefully answered that Clarence Thomas didn't meet his idea of a qualified Justice and he wouldn't have appointed him. Though he said he respected his intellect, he added Antonin Scalia to the list as well as John Roberts. Before he could mention any others, Warren interrupted him and moved on to the next question.
Obama got in a zinger of his own when, asked by Warren to define "rich" answered "if you've got book sales of 25 million." The crowd roared with good natured laughter at the needling of their pastor.
At the end of the interview Obama had a bit of a Roger Mudd moment when he was asked by he wanted to be President and rambled about his Mother and how she felt about kids who were picked on.
Obama didn't make any major mistakes, and was well received by the crowd.
At the conclusion of the discussion, both men stood, came to the front of the table and Warren then welcomed Senator John McCain to the stage. The three men shook hands, hugged and posed for pictures before Obama left the stage and left McCain and Warren to themselves.
Asked who he would listen to McCain oddly left his wife (sitting in the front row) off of the list, mentioning General David Petraeus, EBay founder Meg Whitman and Congressman John Lewis.
Perhaps the most intense moment came when Warren asked McCain what his greatest moral failing was and after a moment's hesitation replied that it was the failure of his first marriage.
Warren served up the Supreme Court question again to McCain and he predictably listed Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens and Breyer but Warren again interrupted McCain and we will never know if he would have added Anthony Kennedy to the list.
Asked when a baby was entitled to human rights, McCain said it was at the moment of conception and added that he would be a "pro-life President" with a presidency of "pro-life policies." Obama had earlier answered that the question was above his pay grade.
On gay marriage, like Obama, McCain answered that marriage was between a man and a woman, but did not endorse Civil Unions.
Overall, neither candidate made major mistakes, but McCain, perhaps sensing a more receptive crowd, seemed more at ease, tossing out one-liners while Obama seemed sedate at times.