By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Election '08: Last weekend's McCain-Obama protodebate made it clear why Obama won't keep his promise to debate McCain "anywhere, anytime." McCain, with a robust resume and details at his fingertips, won big.
It was only in May that Sen. Barack Obama cockily proclaimed he would debate Sen. John McCain "anywhere, anytime." But in June, Obama said no to McCain's challenge to have 10 one-on-one town hall meetings.
After what happened at Lake Forest, Calif.'s evangelical Saddleback megachurch Saturday evening, we may have found that debating is Obama's Achilles' heel. Whether or not you like the idea of such events being held in religious venues, the plain-and-simple method of questioning used by Saddleback pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren revealed fundamental differences between these two men.
"It's one of those situations where the devil is in the details," Obama said at one point. He could have been referring to his own oratorical shortcomings when a teleprompter is unavailable. We learned a lot more about the real Obama at Saddleback than we will next week as he delivers his acceptance speech in Denver before a massive stadium crowd.
The stark differences between the two came through the most on the question of whether there is evil in the world. Obama spoke of evil within America, "in parents who have viciously abused their children." According to the Democrat, we can't really erase evil in the world because "that is God's task." And we have to "have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil."
For McCain, with a global war on terror raging, there was no equivocating: We must "defeat" evil. If al-Qaida's placing of suicide vests on mentally-disabled women and then blowing them up by remote control in a Baghdad market isn't evil, he asked: "You have to tell me what is."
Asked to name figures he would rely on for advice, Obama gave the stock answer of family members. McCain pointed to Gen. David Petraeus, Iraq's scourge of the surge; Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who "had his skull fractured" by white racists while protesting for civil rights in the 60s; plus Internet entrepreneur Meg Whitman, the innovative former CEO of eBay.
When Warren inquired into changes of mind on big issues, Obama fretted about welfare reform; McCain unashamedly said "drilling" — for reasons of national security and economic need.
On taxes, Obama waxed political: "What I'm trying to do is create a sense of balance and fairness in our tax code." McCain showed an understanding of what drives a free economy: "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."
To any honest observer, the differences between John McCain and Barack Obama have been evident all along. What we saw last weekend was Obama's shallowness juxtaposed with McCain's depth, the product of his extraordinary life experience.
It may not have been a debate, but it was one of the most lopsided political contests in memory. No wonder Obama wants to keep debate formats boring and predictable.