Tonight's debate may be one of the most anticipated of the year. Somehow I sense there will be a let-down in terms of theatrics since that's probably what both sides are seeking. However, what we will be looking for this evening will be religious questions and answers. Needless to say, last week's debate between Presidential candidates Barack Obama, the Democrat, and John McCain, the Republican, was a bit of a let-down in terms of religious talk. Whether or not this evening's debate will also be a let down is yet to be seen.
To set the scene in terms of religion, neither candidate has said much about religion during the campaign. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., has used a lot of Catholic social doctrine language in his stump speeches since being selected Vice President, while Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been surprisingly and unfortunately quiet on the subject (also quiet in general).
In terms of issues that have varying degrees of religious tilt, it will be interesting to see what the candidates have to say on the subject of greed, torture, abortion, Supreme Court nominees, teaching evolution in public schools, sex education, the church-state divide, and many others (feel free to add to this list in the comments). While it is the "official position" that a candidate holds that maters most, any of these issues could be informed by a candidate's personal faith and it is important for voters to understand the source of those views.
With that, check back at this post later tonight for updates on how religion plays a role in this evening's debate. Enjoy.
9:03 PM: "Can I call you Joe?" asks Palin at the shaking of hands. My wife says that Sen. Joe will still call her Gov. Palin.
9:10 PM: Palin talks about the sin of greed and corruption on Wall Street.
9:10 PM: Palin calls on Americans to not live outside their means.
9:11 PM: Biden on the same question as Palin's question above talks about regulation, deregulation, free markets, banking industry, debt, middle class tax relief, but nothing on the sin of greed.
9:13 PM: Biden accuses Palin of misconstruing Obama's record.
9:14 PM: Palin comes right back at Biden and says she's talking "straight to the American people."
9:15: PM Biden talks about "simple fairness" and how the middle class is struggling. Is there a sense of basic morality behind Biden's call for "simple fairness." To have a concept of "simple fairness" (he just said it again), there must be a baseline by which one can measure "simple fairness"
9:17 PM: Biden talks about in the same sentence as above about values and how one's principles on taxes is informed by their sense of values.
9:17 PM: Palin comes back at Biden about how more taxes are not patriotic. She doesn't say anything about values. It's all about basic economics for her.
9:20 PM: We're onto the issue of health care. Health care used to be administered generally by religious organizations like churches. A lot of Indianapolis's best health care providers were started by churches. The hospital my father and I were both born in was started by a church that barely exists today. Now we're talking about employers, insurance companies and tax credits.
9:21 PM: The candidates are asked what promises they won't be able to keep once elected. Good question!
9:22 PM: Biden says they won't slow up spending on education. (Oh and who's stumbling over his words now?)
9:23 PM: Palin tells us that John McCain doesn't tell one thing to one group and another thing to another group. In other words, he's a truth teller.
9:24 PM: Palin says there's nothing she has promised that she would be willing to take off the table. Same for McCain.
9:30 PM: Climate change has a religious element. Will anyone mention it and the Biblical call to care for the Earth?
9:36 PM: Same-sex benefits. Biden says absolutely positively.
9:36 PM: Biden says that same sex couples should have the same constitutional and legal rights as heterosexual couples. He's just endorsed same-sex marriage under the United States Constitution.
9:37 PM: Palin doesn't want to re-define the traditional definition of marriage. However, Palin is at the same time a tolerant person and is tolerant toward people deciding these things for themselves. Just look at her family, she says. "Within that tolerance...." no one within the McCain-Palin administration would ever consider prohibiting hospital visits. Last time I checked, the White House doesn't decide hospital visit policies.
However, Palin doesn't support defining marriage as anything but one man and one woman. That's some of an inconsistent answer. If you want to treat the couples the same, you have to call it marriage.
9:38 PM: From a civil side, Obama and Biden don't support re-defining marriage. That's inconsistent with his first answer above from a legal perspective. As I noted above, if you want to treat the couples the same, you have to call it marriage. To have the same rights as a male-female relationships, homosexual relationships would have to be defined as a marriage.
9:42 PM: In summary, Palin and Biden both managed to contradict themselves in their answer on their refusal to endorse gay marriage, but to somehow support the rights and interests of gay couples. Go figure.
9:45: Nuclear weapons, the Middle East, danger, policy on terror instability, the War on Terror, Iraq. Somehow a religion issue will get mentioned here.
9:48 PM: Palin says nukes in the hands of the Iranians would be very bad. As usual, the portrayal of the police system in Iran is botched and misconstrued.
9:49 PM: Iran hates America's tolerance, woman's rights, and we cannot be friends with them, says Palin. Talking to Iran would take a lot of work.
9:50 PM: Biden is my hero. He clarifies that the president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't really control the country's foreign policy. It's the religious leaders. He's right.
9:51 PM: Palin says a two-state solution is the solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palin says Israel is our best alley in the Middle East.
9:56 PM: Use of nuclear weapons is used as a deterrent, says Palin. Only the United States is allowed to have them and all of the countries who don't like us can't have them, Palin says. Nuclear weapons have a rather significant moral issue behind them (as do all weapons that kill lots of people to a lesser extent).
10:01 PM: Biden says regarding putting troops on the ground in Darfur that he still supports the idea. Compares the situation to Bosnia and Kosovo.
10:02 PM: "I don't have the stomach for genocide in Darfur," says Biden.
10:05 PM: Palin says that we should do all that we can to "end those atrocities" in the Darfur region, says Palin.
10:09 PM: Palin likes to wink on occasion at the camera. She's done it several times this evening. There's a Bible verse on winking with one's eyes.
10:15 PM: I think I missed something earlier regarding Palin's comment on Biden's wife's reward for teaching being in heaven. Waiting for transcript....
10:22 PM: Biden seems to choke up a bit talking about the challenges he faced during his family's car accident tragedy in 1972 when his wife and baby daughter died. Biden says he knows what it is like to be a single parent.
9:25 PM: Biden says that he changed on his judicial philosophy. He is proud of his opposition to Robert Bork's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
9:30 PM: Palin wraps up with words of "Thank God" and "blessed."
9:32 PM: Biden wraps up with little religious language other than "May God bless all of you, and most of all for both of us, selfishly, may God protect our troops."
And that's a wrap folks.