On this day of remembrance the candidates took a a break from campaigning and pledged a "truce", then proceeded to participate in a "9/11 Service Forum" held at Columbia University and hosted by Judy Woodruff and Richard Stengle, the later being the editor for Time magazine while the former is a Sr. Correspondent for Newshour. I watched only for the anticipation of being able to comment on Sen Obama's answers for a blog I'd previously planned to right today,which will now get shelved until later this week that I will be dedicating to my liberal friends and associates. But after watching the entire exchange I've decided to shift my focus for this day to the Forum itself as it became clear to me throughout the evening that Liberals don't know what the word volunteer means.
First and foremost this "forum" was supposed to highlight the need for greater community service, not to be confused with community organization, which I'll get to in a moment. It was a forum so I imagined it would be similar to one held at Saddleback which I found to be honestly persuasive and a fair comparison of the two candidates, answer the same questions without knowing what the other candidate's response. I've blogged previously about my change in heart watching Saddleback, so I was encouraged.
As John McCain began answering questions it didn't take long to figure out that the hosts were playing for the other team. Each question revolved around why McCain would not support Government funding programs, while he defended the strength of the American people and that increasing government control was not the answer to every social issue. He spoke of a government that encouraged volunteerism but would not force it on a free nation. He spoke of the strength of grass roots organizations and faith based groups and their success in the aftermath of every major tragedy around the world.
McCain's trust and understanding of the American people was only highlighted by his response to one of the many leading questions asked by Judy Woodruff. When she asserted that most volunteers and members of service organizations were wealthy thus making it easier to volunteer their time, then posed what would McCain do to make it possible for others to participate? McCain rejected the premise of her question and clearly stated that he believed that most of the volunteers and service members were not wealthy but just average citizens who cared enough to step up and help out. I am telling you this was a foreign concept to the "hosts". For what seemed like days they kept coming back to government funded programs specifically those that would pay citizens to well be better citizens.
It wasn't until McCain was asked what he could or would do to improve recruitment and retention numbers for the Military that things got a little more interesting. He blasted Columbia university policy that bans R.O.T.C. from campus and has since 1968. He suggested that Columbia and other Ivy League schools should encourage their brilliant students to research a career in the Military especially the opportunities as an officer. This was a brilliant answer and I'm not alone in thinking that, but again more on that later. McCain then went on to defend The United States All Volunteer Military. As the host asked questions about how the poor kids had to join the military while the rich kids had other options, I kid you not the woman asked McCain, whose two sons are currently serving this question/comment. I think even he was a bit surprised by the lunacy of her premise. It's a volunteer military, no one makes them sign up. She then hinted at the 'fairness' of a draft. McCain quickly retorted that those who want to serve sign up to serve, and during a draft those who can afford to avoid the draft. The idea that men and women would sign up to serve their country as part of the Military voluntarily was obviously something she'd never considered.
Then out of nowhere Judy Woodruff who had introduced the program as one of focus on service, blurts out something about Sarah Palin calling Obama a community organizer. After a gracious answer by Sen McCain where he extols the importance of community activity and that Govern Palin's remarks were in response to the Obama campaign's comments on her experience as Mayor of a small town, but that in no way diminished the role of community organizers. Woodruff couldn't contain herself, as he finished she followed up with a barely audible remark about small town mayors. The loose tie for the purpose of this question to the theme of the 'forum' was that all service no matter how small was important...I think.
Honestly I can't even remember the answer to one of my favorite questions and I use that term loosely, but it came near the end of McCain's segment. Richard Stengle , editor of Time magazine said " Our esteem in the world , of course has suffered since 9/11..." Well of course. I can think of at least 55 million free Iraqi's and Afghan's that would disagree with you. I'm not saying I'm just saying, the day I worry about what the "world" thinks America should do I will never come. The "World" is usually wrong. The "world" looks to us for leadership but then hates it when we take the lead and get the job done. This ultimately ends up with the "world" having American-Envy. Which leads me directly to the next fascinating exchange.
The hosts took turns grilling John McCain on whether or not America was better than other countries, because he called America Exceptional. He then proceeded to give them a history lesson and explained in small words they could understand how many times Americans have proved how Exceptional we are. How we were the first democracy of our kind and how we've used our strength to help those not strong enough to fight on their own. Yet they continued to press him on whether or not that made America better than other countries and in not as many words, he told them the cold hard truth: America is Exceptional. America is an exceptional country filled with exceptional people. This just seemed to confuse them further.
After a few wrap up questions it was time for the main event I know this because the hosts danced around on stage as though they needed a potty break when Sen Obama took the stage. They started out with similar questions to those they'd asked Sen McCain. In true Obama fashion he meandered through some staple answers about service at his Alma mater, his basic response to the questions about government programs (funding) for service organizations seemed to be more in line with what the hosts were looking for in terms of answers, mostly revolving around and reusing the line "Mutual responsibility". He implied that he would support more government programs (funded by the tax payer, that would be you.) not limited to just inspiring those to follow him, although that would be his admitted first option, but seemed to lead to the path of paid volunteers. So are they really volunteers anymore? Or are they just like the people who work at the DMV, Government Employees? Woodruff, "well that sounds all well and good but..." Stop. That sounds all well and good? Really? Well it doesn't sound like a good idea to me. It's just one more step towards socialism.
His idea of energy policy somehow made it into the "forum on service" I'm still trying to find the direct connection between the two. (and by all means e-mail or post your suggestions) However the topic came up he explained citizens will (be forced to) make a "commitment" to using less energy in our homes, citizens will commit to driving fuel efficient cars. Citizens will have to commit to something greater than ourselves. Again that sounds so familiar...why is that? Oh yes, when the government tells citizens how warm they can keep their homes or what kind of car they can drive not only does that take away citizens rights it demolishes the free market. Hmmm....ten points if you can see where I'm going with this one....If you guess socialism you are correct.
I did learn something from Sen Obama tonight, apparently it's difficult to find low paying jobs after you've graduated from Columbia. Who knew? According to Obama Wall Street will call you and you can go to Law School but it's hard to find minimum wage gigs. Good To know. I picked up this little tidbit while he expounded on his virtues as 23 year old who choose to work as a community organizer rather than do the other two. At least for three years, then he of course went to Harvard Law. So much for the joys of helping your fellow man....back to the old capitalist grind I guess.
While on the topic of education, Sen Obama took this opportunity to put forth this lovely thought, "We need to get to them earlier", he followed up with comments about developing a civic program as part of the standard ciriculum. This got me thinking, didn't someone else try to take control of the nation's youth through government sponsored "youth programs" a few years back? Oh yes now I remember that little organization called "Hitler's Youth".
About three quarters of the way through the Obama fan club meeting, the Sen has a moment of honesty and comment on something McCain said earlier. It was then and only then that I realized the candidates had not been sequestered as they had during Saddleback, so Obama was able to listen to all of McCain's answers and respond accordingly. He then launched into some talk about supporting our troops and our military including the line " When you serve our Country I will stand by You." Oh Really? Your voting record would seem to disagree. Did you not vote against funding for our troops serving overseas, instead choosing to use them as a political pawn in your campaign.
The remainder of his discussion on the military involved subtle suggestions of a draft, while never actually saying he would institute a draft he did seem to have the same confusion as the host about the term volunteer. Obama identifying with those that did not sign up for the military, suggested that some wealthy civilians would wonder "Why them and not me?" when watching the casualties of war. I have an answer to that question: Because you didn't sign up. Assume the following to be true: If more wealthy people signed up for the Military there would be more wealthy people in the Military.
Telling moment of the night however came when an earlier comment from John McCain was rephrased in the form of a question for Barrack H. Obama. Should Columbia University reverse the ban on R.O.T.C. on campus? Obama was then able to condemn this policy, I believe his exact words were "We made a mistake on that", even though the school held that policy while he was a student and has for many years been an esteemed alumni , Are we to believe this was his first opportunity to speak out on the matter? As I stated previously McCain gave a brilliant answer and the left leaning hosts wanted to make sure Barrack was able to try and take some of the credit.
An in a classic Barrack Obama moment after saying in no uncertain terms that his goal is to create new government programs and to increase government spending on existing programs for the sole purpose of increasing the level of "Service" in this country, he then closed by saying that "Real Change happens from the bottom up", the complete opposite of what he had just spent the last 30 minutes preaching.
Slow moving at times this Liberal grandstanding event still had some quality moments and was worth watching. I enjoy watching the candidates speak freely on how they would really approach the issues, not that any of that really happened tonight, but once again I feel that the more Obama speaks the more he shows who he really is and Thankfully for us, So does John McCain.