As I said the other night, I think McCain won big in Saddleback. But there’s at least one area where I think I liked Obama’s answer better than McCain’s, even if McCain’s was better politics. When asked about evil, Obama gave a complex answer in which he said, basically, evil is everywhere including in us. McCain took it as a softball for talking about the war on terror. Good for McCain, but I think Obama’s answer was more appropriate given that he was talking to a pastor and it was more accurate generally speaking. But Charles Krauthammer dismissed the answer on Fox News as “postmodern” and Bill Kristol today applauds McCain’s answer essentially because it was tactically more advisable and because it confirmed that McCain is a war president, which is what Bill wants in a commander-in-chief. That’s all good and fine. But Obama is right that evil is everywhere. It’s not just a foreign policy category (recall David Frum and Richard Perle’s oddly named foreign policy book, “An End to Evil”?).
Obama is right that evil is within all of us and sometimes our good intentions do advance evil. Obama said, “a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.” And: “just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”
Personally, I seriously doubt Obama contemplates that his progressive good intentions can lead to evil. Rather, I think he was suggesting in somewhat coded terms that people who talk about evil are often the source of evil (take that moralists!). And, yes, I do think Obama is a postmodernist. But on the merits, I think Obama’s answer was the better one.