America ’slipping away’: Obama (Lead)

August 17th, 2008 - 3:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama
Los Angeles, Aug 17 (Xinhua) Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Barack Obama has said he believed America was “slipping away” and needed someone to get it back on track. Appearing onstage together for the first time with his Republican rival John McCain at Saddleback Church in southern California, Obama said: “We’ve got to make the big decisions but we keep putting them off.”

Washington is “broken,” but “I have the ability to build bridges. I hope I have the opportunity to do that,” Obama said.

Addressing the same function, hosted by the Reverend Rick Warren of the church, McCain said he also can bring the country together and that he can “move across the aisle” between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

He said he wants “to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves.”

“I’ve always put my country first,” McCain added. “I’ll be the president of every American.”

Wide-ranging issues including religious belief, values and politics were discussed in the campaign in which both attempted to convince Christian voters that they share their values.

Rev. Warren, who has been hailed as among the most important new leaders of evangelical Christians, interviewed each candidate separately.

The candidates differed most sharply over abortion, a ubiquitous issue in US elections and a key topic for typically conservative Christian voters.

When asked at which point the rights of an unborn child begin, Obama said: “I think whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a culture perspective, to answer it with that specificity is above my pay grade.”

McCain, on the other hand, stressed his party’s long-standing opposition to the practice, to loud applause.

The candidates were asked what Christianity means to them, a crucial issue for Obama, who though a Christian has faced rumours that he was actually a Muslim. He said he believes “Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him”.

The two candidates said they believe in the existence of evil and that it must be confronted. McCain named terrorist leader Osama bin Laden as an example of evil, saying he would defeat the Al Qaeda chief.

“If I have to go to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and I will bring him to justice,” he said, echoing language he has used before on the campaign trail.

Referring to marital issues, both candidates said they believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Obama, however said, he believed the issue of same sex marriage should be left up to individual states.

McCain said he would support a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, if a court ruled that one state would have to accept same-sex marriages from another state.

As the two candidates spoke, people against the Iraq war marched outside the event, demanding an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

The protesters caused no problems and no arrests were made, said Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The event took place under heavy security, with helicopters whirling above and sharpshooters on the roof.

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