J Walking

Snapshots from the forum that might not have been seen on TV:

– Spontaneous and sustained applause for Elizabeth Edwards when she walked into the auditorium. She was mobbed by people all around her – mobbed not for autographs but mobbed to show love. It was beautiful.

– A single African-American man jumping up and down with frenetic joy and love for Sen. Obama. His love for Obama was so intense, so personal. I wonder how deep that passion runs in the African-American community.

– Camera shutter clicks that sounded like distant, frenetic woodpeckers throughout Obama’s speech. Suffice it to say that not every candidate was so photographed.

– The big, gross signs outside the Lisner Auditorium depicting aborted babies and the young white men who were holding them. I’m fairly sure that isn’t the best way to make the case that unborn children should be protected.

Thoughts on the forum:

The overall “winner” was Sen. Clinton. Hands down. She was in total and complete control. Her people handed out a list of her faith-based accomplishments in the media box. She used some of the old Christian “code words” Republican candidates have long used to sprinkle their speeches – “witness” and “prayer warriors” and she talked about prayer and faith the same way most Christian I know talk about it. She talked about that struggle between prayers of great significance – for people who are sick, or people suffering – and prayers of great selfishness – to lose weight for instance. It was as if she was running not just for the nomination but already for the general election where she knows she will have a staggering amount of work to do among moderate and center right voters who equate “Clinton” with “scandal” and remember her disparaging remarks about stay-at-home moms and baking cookies.

Then there was her answer to the question about how she responded to President Clinton’s infidelity. “I wouldn’t have gotten through it without my faith.” She seemed a bit vulnerable, very human, very much a woman who struggled with what to do in a violated marriage. But most powerfully, she said that faith and her prayer warrior friends gave her the strength to do what seemed right to her regardless of what the world thought.

What a powerful statement. The world wanted her to leave him. It would be just. He deserved it. She would be free of him, free of his baggage, free of the accusations that she was just in it for the power. But no, she said last night at the forum. No, her faith lead her to stay.

As strong as Sen. Clinton was Sen. Obama was pondering. He has gravitas, he is smart, but last night he was boring. He gave some powerful answers about evil and about how important it was for a country to always examine itself to make sure it wasn’t doing evil in pursuit of conquering evil. But there’s not too much more to say.

Sen. Edwards talked a lot about Jesus. He talked about his personal faith and said pretty much the same things he said to me in the interview he gave to Beliefnet.

Where Edwards shown, however, was when it came to talking about poverty. Unique among the candidates, he spoke of his passion for the poor and his history working with and for the poor. It is a powerful and moving resume of help – from taking 700 college kids to help rebuild New Orleans to working with inner city youth programs to working with anti-poverty groups overseas. Fighting poverty, he said, was the his life’s calling and there can be little doubt of that truth.

His only problem is that few seem to care about the passion for fighting poverty. Even at last night’s forum, talk of fighting poverty hardly dominated the discussion. And that is too bad because if this faith movement on the left doesn’t manifest itself in powerful action for the poor then what will it have gained?

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