Saturday night, Rev. Rick Warren hosted a forum at his mega Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," provided Americans their first taste of real questions and real answers, posed to both party presumptive nominees Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Warren asked Obama, "At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?"

Obama responded, "Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

Obama tried to be cute; he tried to say those decisions are best left to God. But Warren was not asking Obama to proclaim, as God's representative on earth, the point at which babies get human rights. He was just asking Obama his view, his opinion.

All of God's decisions are above Obama's pay grade: murder is wrong; rape is wrong; helping your neighbor is good; feeding the hungry is good. Those are God's decisions, based on His perfect nature. Still, Obama can have an opinion about those actions.

Maybe Obama hasn't made up his mind. Obama is young man, lacking the experience to develop a consistent record of achievement.

Warren asked McCain the same question and McCain responded without hesitation, "At the moment of conception. I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as President of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies. That's my commitment, that's my commitment to you."

Obama was right that there are scientific, historic, legal and Constitutional "specificities" concerning a baby's human rights.

Scientifically, upon conception, there is a new life form. The embryo is genetically different from both parents; it is not just a part of the mother. It is living; it is alive. It is at that moment a human in the most undeveloped stage.

Historically, man has treated this unborn life as something of value. Common law in various cultures provided for recompense at causing the death of that life.

Legally, we have statues that allow us to charge two crimes in the killing of a pregnant woman: a crime against the woman and a crime against the baby.

Constitutionally, our foundational governing document is silent on the rights of the unborn. We don't count them on the census; age requirements are based from birth, not conception; citizenship and other rights are specifically mentioned as occurring to those "born" - past tense. A strict constructionist judge should determine the framers of the Constitution had no intention in their words of securing rights for the unborn.

While there are no rights for the unborn; there also is no "right to privacy." But the Supreme Court created such a right and said through it that states can not pass laws to protect the unborn. Or in some circumstances, with certain qualifications, states may not protect the unborn. Privacy, it seems, is relative. Some day we may see the Supreme Court reject this intellectually dishonest policy and return regulation of abortion to each individual state. I would hope also for an amendment to the Constitution to guarantee the right to life to the unborn. Despite my pay grade being lower than Obama's, I can still offer my opinions.

Maybe Obama was telling the truth. Obama is a liberal and to him, determining human rights is above his pay grade because that is a decision for the international community. That is a decision for the United Nations, not the President of the United States.

In the same way, foreign policy would be above Obama's pay grade, too. When Russia invaded Georgia, an ally of the United States, Obama's advisors said he was not fully clear who was at fault and, in the words of Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jim Wooten, "Obama's initial reaction was to urge both the rapist and the victim to show restraint."

Is the economy above Obama's pay grade? Maybe he would just defer to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for those decisions. Is energy policy above his pay grade? Maybe he'll leave that to Saudi Arabia, Hugo Chavez, or the Sierra Club. What about environmental policy? I'm sure if God is concerned about every sparrow on the earth, He is concerned with the environment of the planet. I guess that puts climate change discussions above Obama's pay grade, too.

When you choose someone for President of the United States, you are voting for leadership. Leaders are not always right and they don't always have all the information. But leaders have a quality in their character that empowers them with the courage to make a decision. Obama demonstrated that leadership is above his pay grade.

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at