Postscript and comment, August 17, the morning after
It's now history and CNN will run the footage day and night til viewers have a chance to commit every question and answer to memory. And the usual talking heads will be there as well, spin machines at work day and night, like Tibetan prayer wheels saying the same things repeatedly.
I was impressed with both men. I can see where McCain resonates with the crowd at Rick Warren's church better than Barack Obama, but to everyone's credit the whole event played out with civility and good will and Warren did an excellent job of being a neutral moderator.
Obama found words, more than once, to speak well of both McCain and George Bush. He was not blowing smoke. In both instances he found common ground and said so in plain language. McCain may have said something positive about Obama but if so I didn't catch it.
My overall impression is that John McCain is solid as a church, but with a smaller view of most issues than Barack Obama. His quick, soundbite responses came across to me as the pocket change of all experienced politicians. That tendency to pat answers to complex questions set him apart from Obama whose responses were almost too cerebral for ordinary people to hear.
If the election were a surgical procedure and the candidates were surgeons, one would be reassuring the patient that he's good at what he does and he doesn't need to worry, and the other would be telling the patient more about medicine and science than he ever cared to know. In the end the entire operating team will make the difference and the outcome of the operation could turn on what each man might do in the face of some unexpected turn of events.
It's impossible to predict the future, but given these two alternatives, I pick the man whose past performance shows him to be more circumspect, better informed about details and more willing to listen to critics and others with whom he does not agree. Like someone going into court, I want a judge and jury who have not already made up their minds about my case and are willing to be open to new information. Barack Obama more nearly fits that description than John McCain.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's events at Rick Warren's church.
How did the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency come about?
On July 2nd, after efforts by another organization failed to get the two candidates together, Dr. Rick Warren personally contacted the candidates out of his relationship with both men, and invited them to Saddleback's Civil Forum for August. Both agreed to participate on two conditions: 1) that Dr. Warren ask all the questions -- instead of a panel, or from the audience -- and 2) that it be open for all national media to cover as news or carry via live video feed from Saddleback, as opposed to co-sponsorship by any one network or outlet, as was done during the primary campaigns.
After so many debates among candidates throughout the primaries, what makes this event unique?
This will be the first joint appearance of the two presumptive nominees of both parties for President, and one of only four joint appearances of the campaigns, including three debates planned for later this fall. It is also the final general appearance by either candidate before they go into hiatus prior to their respective conventions. And, as far as we know, it is the first time that a church pastor has ever moderated an event, in a local church, featuring the two major candidates for President.
What will be the format of the Forum on the Presidency?
The two-hour format will be held in a non-debate format, from 5 pm to 7 pm PDT. There will be commercial breaks every ten minutes, enabling Dr. Warren to have a separate long-form conversation with each candidate for 50 minutes.
To avoid bias, and give America a true and fair comparison the questions to both candidates will be identical to provide a fair comparison, although the follow-up questions may differ, based on their response.
Sen. Barack Obama will be interviewed first, as determined by the flip of a coin. To insure fairness, Sen. McCain will not hear the questions of the first hour. Between the two interviews, the candidates will appear together on stage for photographs.
Young Evangelicals Up for Grabs
While older white evangelicals vote Republican automatically, younger ones are openly questioning the idea that all Jesus cares about is abortion and homosexuality. Many of them, inspired by Rick Warren (author of the best-selling The Purpose Driven Life), are beginning to see global poverty, AIDs, and climate change as moral issues. This could spell enormous trouble for John McCain in this election and Republicans generally in the years to come since about a third of the Republican base consists of evangelicals. While Barack Obama hasn't sealed the deal with the young evangelicals, he is working very hard to convince them that the Bible instructs people to love and serve others and be good stewards of the earth. Both Obama and McCain will visit Warren's Saddleback church tomorrow. If Obama can convince large numbers of young evangelicals that his message is closer to Scripture than the Republicans', the GOP has a big problem.