Obama says pointed abortion query “above his pay grade”

August 17, 2008

DALLAS – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama side-stepped a pointed query about abortion on Saturday by “mega-pastor” Rick Warren during a televised forum.


Asked at what point a baby gets “human rights,” Obama, who strongly supports abortion rights, said: “… whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question  with specificity … is above my pay grade.”

He went on to reiterate his view that it was important to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who followed Obama onto the stage of the nationally televised event, was more blunt and more emphatic.

He said a baby’s human rights began “at the moment of conception … I have a 25-year pro-life record.”

Both candidates were vying for the “faith vote,” in particular the one in four U.S. adults who count themselves as evangelical.

Obama took questions first from Warren and McCain followed. The two shared the stage together briefly.

Some centrist evangelicals have said they appreciate moves by the Democratic Party to “soften” the edges of its pro-choice stand by stressing the need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions — and by also working harder in areas like adoption.

But for many conservative evangelicals — a key part of the evangelical base — life begins at conception and the argument ends there.

The issue remains one of the most divisive and partisan in America — as Obama and McCain highlighted on Warren’s stage.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason)

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook, Files, USA)


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He doesn’t know, so he kills it. I’ll pass on BHO’s “judgement” and “character”, he is dangerous.

Posted by human | Report as abusive

Above his pay grade, what a fool. It’s quite likely that Barry, if he becomes president, will be faced with similar questions. What excuse will he use then?

Posted by cluelessinky | Report as abusive

So “answering that question with specificity … is above my pay grade” is it? And another Slick Willy emerges from the Democratic Party and the Daly Machine. He is using Miss Hillary’s line about making abortions “rare” while making them “safe and legal”

Clue Senator: The baby is still dead regardless of -safe-legal-rare==dead baby.
“mega-pastor” Rick Warren did not exactly cover him self in Glory with that one.

Posted by RobertG | Report as abusive

Obama is running for the highest office in the world and he can’t answer a simple question. Obama may be eligible to run for president but he is not qualified to be president.

Posted by Steve N | Report as abusive

You can not call yourself a true Christian and then vote for someone who supports abortion.

True Christians will vote for John McCain.

Posted by True Christian | Report as abusive

Great job- John McCain.
You had it all going in your faver.
Obaama look like a zomie & his answers were worse. he didn’t have his telepropter to polish his performance.
I hope the liberals can see what a fool OB made made of himself last night.

Posted by Patty Weikart | Report as abusive

So is the presidency.

Posted by Josh Carter | Report as abusive

If this question is above Obama’s paygrade, then he’s just admitted to being unqualified for the Presidency. He wants to be leader of the strongest country in the Free-World, so no question of national importance should be “above his paygrade”. Take a stand Obama. Be a leader.

What else is above his paygrade? Iraq? Russia? Iran? The economy? Take a look folks. Organizing communinty events in Chicago and 143 days as US Senator is not enough experience to lead our country in the most difficult time our country has experienced.

Try again in 2012, Obama, when you have reached a higher “paygrade” of experience.

Posted by Paygrade Flap | Report as abusive

It is quite obvious that the abortion question is not all that is “above his pay grade”. Throughout the campaign, Obama has shown he is helpless without the teleprompter. The great orator is only that! He voted in Illinois that even an aborted baby that lives has no right to life. Most people would not consider throwing a puppy in the river, but Obama would throw a newborn baby that survived an abortion in the river! You cannot call yourself a Christian and vote for this men!

Posted by Jack Sharp | Report as abusive

This man is not ready for prime time!!!!! He absolutely CANNOT (130 votes recorded at = “present”) commit to anything slightly controversial. Well, just let me say this: IT IS NOT ABOVE MY PAY GRADE to answer this question and I am on a very minimal monthly income.

I suppose the question was one of Obama’s famous “DISTRACTIONS”!!! Yupe…..a sincere and truthful answer just might “distract”, dissuade, deter, discourage, etc. some voters from pulling the lever for this poor, minimum-wage worker..Senator Obama!!!!

Posted by Axel | Report as abusive

Why is it so hard to stand up for what is right? It is wrong to abort babies, it is wrong to kill an innocent person. We only destroy our society by allowing abortion to continue. How many houses could have been bought or cars bought if we had allowed those babies to live, or what if we have killed the person who would have cured cancer. We must elect those who are willing to preserve life and not be manbe pambe about their position.

Obama is a spineless coward – can’t answer a simple straight forward question for fear of losing potential votes. For his it is all about winning the election and he’ll say anything he needs to – to anyone- to obtain his objectives.

Do you really think he can stand toe to toe with the Thugs of the world?

Posted by Bob New Bern NC | Report as abusive

Sooo, It’s above obama’s pay grade about when life begins. Must be this doubt just reciently sprang up since he voted twice against bills REQUIRING doctors, nurses and er staff to provide life-saving help to a baby born alive after an unsuccessful late term induced abortion. What a great guy!

Posted by Richard Brown | Report as abusive

Typical weasel answer. Choosing Obama was a BIG MISTAKE!

Posted by r. adams | Report as abusive

So Obama can answer an abortion question because it’s above his pay grade. In other words, he’s not qualified to be President. That’s above his pay grade also.

Posted by hhd | Report as abusive

Above his pay grade? Why does Obama need a “pay grade” raise to answer a question about human rights for a human baby? How about the fact that he is running for President of the United States? What other answers are above his pay grade, and what about more complicated decisions that come with the presedency? Are we going to hear that those answers, too, are above his pay grade? Shrill.

Posted by Sandy | Report as abusive

So is everything is that matters!

Posted by WRD | Report as abusive

cleaning sewers is above his paygrade

Posted by "typical white person" | Report as abusive

Mr. Obama is pro-abortion, and now demonstrates himself to be a coward and not admit it. Why? Because he knows most of the country now knows what abortion really is — murder of innocent children.

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

The most important issue in this campaign and in the United States right now, whether people realizes it or not, is the question of the protecting the rights of the marginalized, defenseless, voiceless sector of our society, which is the unborn.

We are appalled by the 3000+ U.S. Military casualty since the beginning of the Iraq war years back but continually to look away at the 4,000+ deaths of babies everyday in this country through genocide, through abortion.

4000+ babies are murdered everyday in this country. How can that not be the most important issue in the U.S. right now? Isn’t public safety the utmost important issue we should be focusing in.

And we have Obama, who thinks that killing babies is a right that should be protected. Talk about calling evil as good…and good as evil.

Posted by Nilo Cantonjos | Report as abusive

At least McCain remains true to his anti-abortion convictions. Obama is again playing the politician- he has supported termination of life even if a fetus is born alive (hence, a baby). Why can’t he simply be truthful instead of trying to conceal his long standing beliefs in this area (and others as well)?

Posted by Steve Cook | Report as abusive

White-haired-wrinkly-guy seemed emotionally unstable at times, especially when the talk turned to issues of war. His answers were terse and angry- not thoughtful. And there was no sense of thoughtful kindness or caring about him. He was jumpy and had a harshness about him that he tried to cover up with jokes and laughing. My father was a prisoner of war. The emotional scars last a lifetime and sometimes erupt in violence. McCain is scary. It’s very frightening to think of this man answering the proverbial 3:00 am phone call.

Posted by Kris | Report as abusive

Obama looked like a sleeze with his smirk and cool demeaner. His body language showed that most things he was saying was made up as he went and to me that says he was trying to say things to make who he was talking to happy.

Posted by Keith Dill | Report as abusive

“Above my pay grade?”?????

I found that to be a ridiculously horrible answer that demonstrated to me that Mr.Obama is a candidate who is afraid of making a stand on a very legitimate issue because of which voting block he might offend.

It now begs the question “what other decisions might this one day president side step because they are “above his pay grade.”"

I am very disappointed in how Mr. Obama answered this question and it has me now seriously questioning whether or not I can support him. A president must not only be willing to take tough stands and make tough decisions, he must understand that sometimes his decisions, and abortion is certainly one of them, have to be steered by his own moral compass and not by the ramifications those decisions have on his popularity.

By avoiding the question in this way Mr.Obama showed he either has not developed his own set of convictions on this issue or even worse, he is not willing to stand behind them.

Posted by Jeff Urban | Report as abusive

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. I suspect with a high degree of surety that God’s position on abortion is firm and leaves no room for moral debate. Therefore, this decision would be solely that of “Caesar’s”, or in this case Obama’s, who has elected to pass the buck rather than make a moral judgment. No, there’s nothing clever or coy about this remark . . . it’s simply a cowardly copout.

Posted by rplat | Report as abusive

ok, so the i think it is something like 40 million baby murders since Roe v Wade. If you are ok with baby killing, I mean “womens health issues”, then you must also demand immediate social security reform, after all when those hippies retire, the people that got murdered in the womb won’t be able to pay 15% of their income to FICA taxes. oh yeah abortions are linked to breast cancer, but most pro-baby killing types would argue church and wedding rings cause it. So a woman gets post-partum depression from giving birth, what does she get from an abortion. wait the sickos will argue nothing, they were cured of their sickness. now the offensive language…GOD BLESS YOU

Posted by jerry | Report as abusive

Weasel is as weasel does. He also slammed Clarence Thomas as being “not strong enough a jurist or legal thinker”. How would you know Mr 143 days of Senate experience?

Posted by Mick | Report as abusive

Obama, simply another elite wannabe president that is a member of the U.S. Congress.

Perhaps it is time to purge Congress.

To hell with these worthless, aimless, characters! I refuse to vote for either one of them! This Conservative Republian is writing in Newt Gingrich for President on my ballot. Newt is not a “none of the above” choice. Rather he is the only one for leadership and an administration with vision. The democrats view him with considerable disdain. They view anyone with fresh thinking as an idealogue. That is simple to understand when you consider that democrats have no fresh ideas of their own. John McCain is a good man. But the problem is that he is lacking in vision and leadership qualities. He alwsays pursues a strategy rather than a vision of his own.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

“Above my pay grade”, oh yea, this guy is ready to be President, scary.

Posted by James Mori | Report as abusive

Obama’s sidestepping the abortion question is to me such a cowardly response. After all he has the most anti-life record in the senate, and that is saying a lot. His statement at the beginning about how we treat the least among us (referring to the poor) was such an obvious opening for Rick to ask about his voting to keep from giving medical care for babies who survived an abortion. How cruel can you get? And he is for the poor? How ‘least’ can you get than a helpless baby who just happened to be concieved at the wrong time? I admire any man who stands up for the unborn, and of course their mothers who are usually forced or co-erced into abortion. Think how much easier John Edwards life would be right now if his girlfriend had ‘chosen’ abortion. I am praing for McCain, especiall concerning the Supreme Court.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive

The question was not about whether or not Obama was smart enough to answer it but whether or not he was wise and compassionate enough to wrestle with a very human problem. What a weasley and cowardly answer. At its best it was completely cerebral without any thought for the child at all, only about protecting himself. My God, what a self-centered idiot.

Posted by Susan Hanscom | Report as abusive

Of course Obama neatly side steps the “when does life begin” question; he’s supported late term abortions like no one else- there’s your answer on his views.

Posted by Cubber | Report as abusive

Obama doesn’t know when life begins, but he’s willing to allow abortions even when those children might already have human rights? Isn’t the intentional death of someone with human rights called “murder”? So Obama is willing to allow murder in his ignorance?

More proof that he’s willing to say anything, avoid any question, change his position as needed in order to win this election. Disgusting.

Posted by ken | Report as abusive

women who believe in choice …all womens rights to health benifits..equal pay and on and on now is the time to stand with obama.
men if you have a mother ..sister..or daughter..it is also a call for you!

Posted by h kendell | Report as abusive

WOW! How stupid can you get Obama? Above your pay grade??? Good job winning over the crowd there…my guess is there wasn’t a huge number of people fainting in the aisles when you uttered that bit of stupidity…

Posted by Cajun WBVMC | Report as abusive

Obama was all style and glib gibberish. McCain was all blunt substance, no equivocation!

Posted by Rebecca Lewis | Report as abusive

“Above his paygrade”? and he’s running for the highest office in the land? Guess he’s not up to the job.

If he’s unsure on life’s beginning and when an unborn human being should have “rights,” then he should feel morally compelled to err on the side of life.

So much for being an intellectual!! Obama isn’t nearly as smart as he and his cabal think.

Posted by Otis | Report as abusive

I don’t understand the term ‘above his pay grade’. I am confused. He is not going to tell us until we elect him president? Why would he duck that question! It was an easy question… I didnt have questions, but now I do…
And McCain, he needs to back off the ‘at conception’. This isn’t ireland, most evangelicals believe life begins at implantation. Otherwise, birth control would be just wrong. Besides, that wasn’t even the question.
Why can’t they just say what we all believe- human rights begin the moment the baby lives independantly from it’s mother. However, when life begins, thats a whole nuther ballgame.

What a difference! Obama was all about style and equivocating gibberish. McCain was all about blunt substance, experience and facts.

What a wishy washy non-answer from Obama. I’m just glad he admitted he’s not qualified to address issues like abortion with specifics, which I would conclude means inability to promore or oppose legislation or supreme court justices. When are people going to call him for specifics not empty “its a ethical issue” answers. No kidding its ethical and moral but where does he specifically stand? I can only assume from his “above my paygrade” answer that his choice is the unethical and immoral choice. Sad.

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

How many other issues are above Obama’s pay scale? When he is President, will his pay scale be high enough to give an honest answer to the full term, born alive question?

Posted by Cari | Report as abusive

Obama is a weasel, he is the most pro-abortion Senator in the Senate, he even voted against the rights of a child who survives a partial-birth abortion, he is trying to have it both ways and should not be able to get away with it. His radical pro-abortion views deserve no support from people of faith and his unwillingness to come clean about his views exhibit his untrustworthiness.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

we just watched a boxing match. A boxer who likes to bob and weave,,, and another came to fight…you guess which is which

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

He could have opted out for adoption and gotten more votes. Saying that it is up to God to decide is a cop out.

What a cowardly answer from Obama. He has voted THREE TIMES to deny life support to a child who survives an abortion. Man or monster? You decide.


Posted by John | Report as abusive

NObama knows when life begins, knows that a woman has a right to choose. BUT that the choice is made BEFORE the legs are spread. Once the child is alive it has more right to live than it’s MOTHER has to kill it.

I’m not even Christian, or religious for that matter.

Vote for real choice – revolver or semi-auto. yugo or SUV

Posted by obamanation | Report as abusive

Barry Houssain Obama is a phoney and an empty suit. Look at the latest pictures of him and John “The Waffle” Kerry. He has a look in his eyes like he has sold his soul and is on a runaway train with no control. Aside from that, it’s quite evident that the man cannot produce an original thought.

CHANGE…it’s ALL you’ll have left.


Posted by fred | Report as abusive

Most people would be in favor of saving the life of a baby born alive after an abortion. Obama voted against a bill that would save a baby born alive after an abortion which answers the question about when Obama would afford human rights to an unborn baby. Answer: never, making Obama an extremist when it comes to being pro abortion and out of sync with the majority of Americans, I would say even the world. Obama’s extremists views on abortion tells you a lot about Obama’s moral code and judgment. I would go so far to say that most Americans do not want someone in the White House who appears to be in favor of infanticide.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive

Please do not post my previous comment, I had it backwards.

I meant to say:

The fact that Obama will not vote for three different bills that prevent babies from dying of neglect after failed abortions tells me all I need to know about this monster.

Posted by Sue | Report as abusive