I just wanted to check in with a few words about tonight's scheduled "forum" for Obama and McCain at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church. What most amazes me isn't the fact that Rick Warren was able to get both of the candidates to agree to let him interview them, or the fact that CNN was willing to put the event on tv in prime time. [Given the drivel CNN is routinely willing to put on tv in prime time, that latter fact wasn't surprising in any way.] What I find astonishing is that Obama and McCain agreed to the format. Which is described as follows on page 37 of the 8/18/08 issue of Time, in an article about Rick Warren:
"And on Aug. 16, he will play the role of national inquisitor in a 'civil forum' featuring (consecutively, not in debate format) the two presumptive nominees for President, who will fly to Orange County, Calif., to be civilly grilled for an hour apiece."
According to David Van Biema, who wrote the story titled "The Global Ambition of Rick Warren" where that quote appears, the Bible verse that Warren will "take into the forum" is the question David asked after he had become King of Israel: "Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me so far?"
[On page 42]
I would have thought that both Obama and McCain would have flatly refused to accept that format. It doesn't let Obama give a speech; it doesn't let McCain take questions from an assortment of people; it doesn't let either one demonstrate his debating skills; it doesn't let McCain -- who goes second -- hear the answers Obama gives to Warren's questions; it puts both men at Warren's mercy, with no graceful escape possible.
CNN, until just the last day or two, tiptoed around the format, using as its lead line that the forum would be "McCain and Obama on the same stage for the first time" and calling Warren a "moderator," which gave the impression that the two senators were going to do a debate. I suspect that a lot of people who tune in tonight are going to be startled when they discover what's really going to happen.