Monday, September 15, 2008


RICK WARREN, PASTOR, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: Welcome back to the "Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency."

And welcome, Senator John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good to be here.

WARREN: My first question, was the cone of silence comfortable you were in just now?

MCCAIN: I was trying to hear through the wall.

WARREN: This first set of questions deals with leadership and the personal life of leadership. The first question, who are the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration?

MCCAIN: First one, I think, would be General David Petraeus, one of the great military leaders in American history, who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq, one of the great leaders (inaudible).

Fourth of July a year ago, Senator Lindsay Graham and I were in Baghdad. Six hundred and eighty-eight brave young Americans, whose enlistment had expired, swore in reenlistment to stay and fight for freedom. Only someone like General David Petraeus could motivate someone like that.

I think John Lewis. John Lewis was at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, had his skull fractured, continued to serve, continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment to causes greater than our self- interest.

Meg Whitman, Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay. Meg Whitman, 12 years ago, there were five employees. Today, they're 1.5 million people that make a living off eBay in America, in the world. It's one of these great American success stories. And in these economic challenges times, we need to call on the wisdom and knowledge, the background of people like Meg Whitman, who have been able to make such a great success such as eBay part as the American folklore.

WARREN: OK, let me ask you this. This is a character question.

MCCAIN: I hope they get easier.

WARREN: Well, this one isn't any easier. We've had a lot of leaders, because of their weaknesses, character flaws, stumble, become ineffective, are not even serving anymore, serving our country. What's been your greatest moral failure, and what has been the great -- what do you think is the greatest moral failure of America?

MCCAIN: They don't get any easier.

WARREN: No, they don't get any easier.

MCCAIN: My greatest moral failing -- and I have been a very imperfect person -- is the failure of my first marriage. It's my greatest moral failure.

I think America's greatest moral failure has been. Throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest, although we've been at the best at it of everybody in the world.

I think after 9/11, my friends, instead of telling people to go shopping or take a trip, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, the military, expand our volunteers, expand what you're doing -- (APPLAUSE) -- expand what you're doing, expand the current missions that you are doing, that you are carrying out here in America and throughout the world, in Rwanda. And I hope we have a chance to talk about that later on.

And you know -- a little pandering here. The first words of your very successful book is "this is not about you." you know what that also means? Serve a cause greater than your self-interest.

WARREN: John, you know that a lot of good legislation dies because of partisan politics, and party loyalty keeps people from really getting forward on putting America's best first. Can you give me an example of where you led against your party's interests -- oh, this is hard -- (LAUGHTER) -- and really, maybe against your own best interests for the good of America?

MCCAIN: You know, by a strange coincidence -- (LAUGHTER) -- I was not elected Miss Congeniality again in the United States Senate. I don't know why. I don't know why. I don't know why.

Climate change, out of control spending, torture, the list goes on, on a large number of issues that I have put my country first and I've reached across the aisle. but I'd probably have to say that one of the times that probably was one of the most trying was,

when I was first a member of Congress, and I'm a new freshman in the House of Representatives and very loyal and dedicated to President Reagan, whom I still think is one of the great, great presidents in American history -- (APPLAUSE) -- who won the cold war without firing a shot, in the words of Margaret Thatcher.

He wanted to send troops to Beirut for a peacekeeping mission. My knowledge and my background told me that a few hundred Marines in a situation like that could not successfully carry out any kind of peacekeeping mission. And I thought they were going into harm's way. Tragically, as many of you recall, there was a bombing in the Marine barracks and well over 100 brave Marines gave their lives. But it was tough, that vote, because I went against the president I believed in, and the party that believed that maybe I was disloyal very early in my political career.