Cheers and Jeers: Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency

I caught bits of Rick Warren’s pastor’s forum with both John McCain and Barack Obama last night during Olympic commercial breaks. Cheers first of all to Pastor Rick Warren and his questions, which were both tough and fair, and delivered in a friendly, non-confrontational manner. They were broad enough to give the candidates room to answer them by either talking points (McCain scored big with evangelicals last night) or speaking from the heart (Obama is well-read on Christian theology). The questions were also unusual enough–“does evil exist and how should we deal with it?” (McCain: bin Laden) or “what’s your greatest moral failing?” (Obama: drug and alcohol abuse as a young man; McCain: failed first marriage)–to be revealing. Warren also gets props for avoiding the gotcha questions that some wanted him to deliver. The only mark I have against Warren was the “which current Supreme Court Justice would you NOT have nominated?” question, which was tacky, and unfortunately both candidates gleefully answered.

Cheers also for the people of Saddleback Church. The audience was obviously more sympathetic to the Republican, as you might expect from evangelicals, but they were respectful and received both candidates well.

Jeers to CNN’s post debate roundtable. Even after being shown up by an evangelical pastor in how to interview people, they still couldn’t resist talking about how the event affected the horse race, rather than anything actually said there. Were the candidates’ answers clear? Were they honest? Were they addressing peoples’ concerns? Of course, CNN doesn’t tell us these things. My personal favorite response was from CNN’s David Brody, on loan from the 700 Club, who said (from memory), “This was a huge night for John McCain. He set the bar low and cleared it.”

Imagine that as a slogan: “McCain ’08: Setting the bar low and clearing it.” Yikes.

Maybe the press should score these things on degree of difficulty like Olympic gymnastics. Is it too late to draft Nastia Liukin?


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