At the beginning of Saturday night’s faith forum at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, Warren announced:
Now what I’ve decided is, to allow for proper comparison, I’m going to ask identical questions to each of these candidates so you can compare apples to apples. Now, Senators Obama is going to go first. We flipped a coin. And we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence.
When McCain arrived on stage for his portion of the program, the two even joked about it, with McCain saying he had been “trying to hear through the wall.”
Obviously, since both candidates were going to be asked the exact same questions, there would be something of an advantage to the candidate going second, provided there was some way they could hear the questions in advance. Supposedly, that was what the “cone of silence” we meant to prevent. Of course, a “cone of silence” works best if the second candidate is actually in it:
Senator John McCain was not in a “cone of silence” on Saturday night while his rival, Senator Barack Obama, was being interviewed at the Saddleback Church in California.
Members of the McCain campaign staff, who flew here Sunday from California, said Mr. McCain was in his motorcade on the way to the church as Mr. Obama was being interviewed by the Rev. Rick Warren, the author of the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life.”
When asked about it, Nicolle Wallace, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, responded with incredulity:
“The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous,” Ms. Wallace said.
At the New York Times reports:
The matter is of interest because Mr. McCain, who followed Mr. Obama’s hourlong appearance in the forum, was asked virtually the same questions as Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain’s performance was well received, raising speculation among some viewers, especially supporters of Mr. Obama, that he was not as isolated during the Obama interview as Mr. Warren implied.
Of course, another explanation of why McCain’s answers might have been so smooth is because they were mostly the standard points he makes while on the campaign trail, such as his bogus claim that he opposed torture when asked to provide examples where he had bucked his own party, his vow to track Osama bin Laden to the “gates of hell,” and even going so far as to cite the need for offshore drilling when asked to identify a position on which his views have evolved. Likewise, his answers on questions regarding abortion, marriage and judges were the same as he’s been delivering throughout his campaign and he even trotted out his standard story about a prison guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand – a story which some are now questioning.
And predictably, right-wing leaders are praising McCain for “winning” the forum and saying he has finally “closed the deal with evangelicals”:
Bishop Harry Jackson, Sr., Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. and author of “The Black Contract with America on Moral Values,” added, “I think that Senator McCain closed the deal. I think he made a clear contract between himself and Barack Obama. Many evangelicals will vote for him.”
Bishop Jackson also chose McCain as the clear winner, “He got energy, he got obviously many more applauses from the people in the room…But, I say this with a caveat. I think he won – if he can continue with the kind of fervor and integration of issues and faith, I think that he may be on to a new high in his campaign. If he retreats to a place of not wanting to talk anymore about these kinds of things, I think it will not help him. So, tremendous win tonight. I think it’s a new chapter. I hope it continues.”
All of which raises the question: McCain didn’t say anything at the faith forum that he has not said repeatedly on the campaign trail and yet right-wing leaders and activists have been notoriously reluctant to support him, so why was simply repeating them in an event held in a church all that it took for him to finally “close the deal” with the Religious Right?