Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Rick Warren responds to the flap over McCain and Saddleback questions

As it has turned out, John McCain was not entirely confined in the type of hermetically sealed environment that Rick Warren suggested when the pastor referred to the "cone of silence" surrounding the Republican before his appearance Saturday at Saddleback Church in Orange County.Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Pastor Rick Warren acknowledge the crowd at Saturday's candidate fourm at Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif

But Warren, in interview segments posted earlier today on the God-O-Meter at (yes, that's the blog's moniker), takes great umbrage to claims that McCain got tipped to some of the queries he would face when he followed Barack Obama onstage at the much-anticipated event.

McCain was headed to the church -- in a motorcade supervised by the Secret Service -- when Warren's interview with Obama began. Upon arriving at the church, he was taken to a so-called "green room" to await his turn.

God-O-Meter Editor Dan Gilgoff asked Warren (who is much in demand after his turn as candidate inquisitor) about assertions by Obama backers that McCain got the heads-up, meaning he wouldn't have to think as fast on his feet as his rival.

"They're dead wrong. That's just sour grapes..." Warren responds.

Gilgoff presses the matter, saying: "A source at the debate tells me that McCain had access to some communications devices in the few minutes before he went on stage with you and that there was a monitor in his green room, in violation of the debate rules."

Responds Warren: "That's absolutely a lie, absolutely a lie. That room was totally free, with no monitors -- a flat out lie."

Warren's answer, of course, doesn't cover the possibility that McCain got wind, while in his motorcade, of what.... 

...Obama was being asked. But his campaign sought today to scotch such speculation.

The Times' Maeve Reston reports that Brooke Buchanan, a McCain aide who was in the entourage, says the candidate was not privy to the interview during that period and did not receive any e-mails about it.

Rick Davis, McCain's increasingly feisty campaign manager, had already moved to put NBC on the defensive after journalist Andrea Mitchell, during Sunday's "Meet the Press" show, mentioned that some "Obama people" were insinuating that McCain had somehow gotten advance notice of specific questions Warren would be posing.

As Mike Allen of reported Sunday night, Davis fired off a letter to Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, objecting to Mitchell broaching the issue and portraying it as an indication that the network was "abandoning nonpartisan coverage of the presidential race." Davis asked for a meeting with Capus "to discuss our deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC."

Capus may be growing accustomed to such complaints (see here and here).

Our colleague Frank James offers this take at The Swamp on the flap over whether McCain, as the posting's headline puts it, cheated at Saddleback.

And the New York Times Caucus blog details that Warren, aside from outlining in advance for Obama and McCain general topics he would cover, also told each well before the forum convened that he would specifically pose these queries: What is your greatest moral failing? What is America’s greatest moral failing? And who are the three people you rely on most for wise advice?

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (168)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Rick Warren.....
"How was it like in the CONE OF SILENCE "
John McCain....
"I tried to put my head against the wall to see if I could hear any of the answers" Laugh Laugh

It's not the deed ... it's the cover up.... Why is the McCain camp all riled up ? He cheated.
Why wasn't his answer " You know Rick... I have to be honest.. I got here late and didn't make it to the CONE OF SILENCE when I needed to be, but I didn't hear anything.

Is this really what it has come to? Obama supporters are so flummoxed by the underwhelming performance of their candidate they accuse McCain of cheating! UNREAL.

Methinks the McCain loud protests just a little to loud. Warren stood right up there and claimed that McCain was in "a cone of silence" knowing darn well that he was not even in the building. That is plenty of reason to doubt that McCain didn't play by the rules. He probably did not cheat but it is not unreasonable to ask those questions, especially when you see Warren being defensive instead of apologetic.

Is this really what it has come to? Obama supporters are so flummoxed by the underwhelming performance of their candidate they accuse McCain of cheating! UNREAL.

I really thought that McCain seemed very rehearsed during the saddleback forum.... He would not answer questions instead, he told rehearsed stories. I think McCain would be the best candidate if you wanted WWIII.
Obama said confront evil, McCain said destroy it. Hmmm.
Sounds like more war is on the horizon for the McCain camp. America dont need old stories., we need new ideas.

Some of Huck's Army has gone rouge., theyve started a petition asking Huckabee to leave the GOP, and start a new party.

Romney cant be VP, if McCain wants to win.
He went too far durning the primary. Even
a video of romney calling McCain dishonest.

See McCain talk about in detail his failed first marriage. He Cheated? Cindy was a mistress?

McCain and Obama leaning to embrace the pickens energy plan.

It's pretty clear McCain knew what was coming. At one point, he says, " Are we going to get back to the importance of Supreme Court justices?" (That's directly from the transcript at Rick Warren's website). Funny thing is, he was NOT asked about Supreme Court justices or any other kind of justices, nor did he mention them earlier. That was a question asked of Obama.

The issue isn't McCain getting special treatment - it's that he's a man without much integrity, who would happily lie on national TV. Not the sort of person I want as president.

If McCain did get some advantage somehow, it didn't seem to me to make a difference. He clearly didn't know he was going to have to define what "rich" is and he did it with his usual stupefying unconsciousness of the relativities of the material experience. His first answers were stuffy, stilted and self-important. His closest advisors are who? Obama's answers might have been a little windy by comparison to McCain's terse crisp ones, allowing more time for him to answer more questions. But really, who cares. Warren was great. He kinda reminded me of Tim Russert. A sweet friendly smile and you are loving the guy while he is skewering you in the public interest. Great stuff.

Yeah really McAin had knowlege of every question ,that's why he is getting grilled on his answer about who is rich in America. You people are idiots!

How can Rick Warren know what McCain saw or heard when he was in the limo? I would be more inclined to believe both Warren and McCain if they both didn't protest too much.

How Pathetic... Obama gets wrecked in a fair debate again and cries like a little girl. The gold has truly lost some of its sparkle there kool-aid drinkers. No wonder he is afraid to debate John McCain. Oh man, this is getting good. Sen. Obama is going the way of Dukakis.

Obama got beat bad so his supporters feel the need to cry and call the other side cheaters. It just proves how bad Obama would be as President.

Damn, just when I started beliving in Rick, now we all know the truth. "CONE OF SILENCE " what a joke.

hypothetically speaking, let's suppose that McCain either had been given the Warren questions ahead of time or had overheard Obama's answers while waiting in The Green Room.
how did this make Obama do such a miserable job on his own??????

Sad...........The entire event was well done. Both candidates did very well. It will be, the only one, where we will have some vision of who both these men are as far as a real person. They simply were themselves.
Enough digging......the media is only jealous that they didn't come with the idea.

Here's what Rick Warren has to answer: How did he let the forum proceed when he knew (don't tell me he didn't know) that John McCain was NOT in the 'cone of silence'? Why did Rick Warren say that John McCain was in the 'cone of silence' when he knew (don't tell me he didn't know) that he wasn't? Whether McCain actually heard any of the questions or not, the forum was tainted -- and that is the salient point. McCain could very well have heard some of the questions by any variety of methods, and there is no way to prove that he didn't, since the entire premise was compromised. As to McCain being above such tacticts, pulleeeease.

Jesus Would be a Democrat (Overall)

I believe that Jesus Christ would be pro-life... I also believe that he would be against the death penalty, against initiating a war with Iraq, against the torturing and detaining of prisoners without due process, against spying on thy’s neighbors, against offshore drilling for more of the types of fuels that are destroying our (and his father’s) planet, for our duty to provide adequate social services for the least of us (old, poor, disabled) and opportunity for the disadvantaged, and that he would show nothing short of compassion for same-sex marriages.

I believe that he would also show compassion for the woman if child birth would be fatal, but that if a woman’s pregnancy had resulted from rape, he would still be pro-life and see the pregnancy as a blessing.

These are not necessarily my beliefs, but I do believe they would be Jesus’, and therefore, I believe that overall, he would be a Democrat.

What flap over comments to Rick Warren? Here goes the media again trying to make something about nothing. At the rate the media is going, by next week I fully expect to see press coverage regarding the number of potty breaks the candidates take. Could it be that one of the candidates is actually taking Pepto Bismo?

What parallel do you see between this preposterous accusation, "McCain must have had access to NoBama's answers beforehand", and "We went into Georgia to keep the peace"? A communist line is a communist line is a communist line......

In the interest of journalistic integrity, which most MSM news outlets do not honor, I would like to offer the following quote:
“I cheated a little bit. I looked into this.”
That was OBAMA, in response to a specific question on adoption! What's that? Was Obama revealing that he somehow received Warren’s questions in advance and had time to prepare answers while McCain did not?

So a guy goes to a Christian-values forum, gets the answers in advance and then lies about it. Yes, this is the person we want to be president.

A classic case of SORE LOSER!! Comeon, democrats, you can come up with something better than that!!!....oh, maybe not...

I think had Obama performed better than McCain we wouldn't be having this discussion.

I personally believe that McCain was not informed and that his answers were more efficient simply because he is more experienced and ready for the Presidency. I have always been a democrat, but I don't feel that Mr. Obama is ready. He has a lot of great ideas, but if he was more experienced he would know that a lot of what he wants to do will never work. I personally feel he will be a huge let down if he is elected. By not being able to deliver what he promises. He may even get this country into some trouble. This forum was great. It truly showed us that experience is very important for such a job as President of the U.S.A.. I wish Obama would have waited and ran in 2012 or 2016. He may be ready then. That is the opinion of this American.

Wow - look at the Dem's running for cover. "The One" couldn't keep up with McCain? What a surprise. Obama's not so hot without his teleprompter. All flash - no substance.

Of course McCain cheated. How else would an elderly man with dementia be able to sail through 90 minutes of questioning. Before this forum, the man had never got through an entire sentence without making a blunder or two.

Who's idea was it to have a political forum with a church in the first place? What happened to separation of church and state?

Dosen't matter at all the "truth" was on stage with Warren during both interviews.

McCain didn't need to get a heads up to pander to that crowd, Steve, Black, and others knew exactly what he needed to say to appease the majority of that crowd, nevermind how faith directs his life NOW, (not in Vietnam that I could imagine)

The question I would have asked is "Sen. Mccain is it ever ok to destroy a life?"

Answer: Yes, when protecting freedom and Liberty?

Response: OK, I got that, but Sen. the bible doesn't directly state that life begins with conception, that murder by one of his flock is warranted in defense of freedom, nor for mankinds measure of punishment for sin agaisnt a child of God? Now I agree that these are reasonable interpretations, but never the less they are still interpretations, so what makes these intepretations legitamate in comparison to other intepretations made by reasonable Christians like your opponent?

Answer: That consideration is above my pay grade.

Response: (Laugh) So Sen. do you think that this demonstrates a reasonable rationale for the separation between Chruch and state?

Answer: Possibly, quite possibly, but that would be a decision for the Justices I would appoint.

Response: But Sen. Wouldn't your appointments be based on your interpretation of christian morality and thus facilitate iyour decising making process?

Answer: Off course

Response: Well, that said answer me this, would that imply that you, according to your own understanding are in effect legislating from the oval office in violation of the U.S. Constitution, since you are appointting justices based on the similarity of their biblical interpretations in these matters with yours.

Response: I didn't hear the question?

Now that would have been equitable to asking Sen. Obama "when does a human life begin"

he should have answered: "Well depends on whom your pandering to?"

Where is the evidence that McCain cheated? There is none. Only speculation and accusation. Did you notice a significant difference in McCain's responses to questions that were asked while McCain was IN the cone of silence? I'm sure somebody has figured out about the time McCain actually went into it and which questions were presented to Obama during that time.

This isn't the first time Obama has shown his inability to "think on his feet". This is just the beginning of people finally waking up to Obama's lack of substance. It's going to be entertaining to see what kind of excuses Obama lovers come up with the next time he performs poorly in this type of venue, which is a certainty.

You want an even better example of how disengenuous McCain was? Warren has revealed that BOTH candidates were TOLD the first couple of questions in advance, and yet McCain dramatically feigned surprise at them and complained how tough they were. I used to respect the guy, but what a fraud. So he didn't admit he wasn't sequestered off stage (the honest thing to do) and then he faked his reaction to the questions. That's enough for me.

What does McCain's campaign statement that their candidate was in a motorcade "supervised by the Secret Service" have to do with anything? Is it to suggest that information (from what is turning out to be a pretty bogus forum) could not have made it to McCain and his entourage? Like the Secret Service confiscated all the Blackberries from everybody in McCain's car and at the forum?

This story is getting weirder the more Warren and McCain's people try to explain it.

A little truth here please, Pastor Warren.

And you people wonder why it's difficult to find good candidates for President or any office for that matter? They have to put up with this sheer nonsense and work to refute blatant lies from the liberal media and other 'sour' grapes.

Ever notice everytime Obama blunders or complains its his "camp" that protests, never Obama, and everytime the press refers to McCain, good bad or otherwise, its never his "Camp" its McCain personally?

Regardless, what is there to think about concerning your beliefs. You already know what your beliefs are before hand, I wouldn't think you need a forewarning about what they are, nor do I think McCain had to get forewarned to what his beliefs are.

It sounds like Obamas "camp" is somehow ashamed about Obamas believes, or his expression of what they are, and was more happy about McCains beliefs or they wouldnt be whining about them.

Interesting, that Obama claimed the hardest decision of his life was how he was going to vote on the war in Iraq.... What a load.

I find it hard to believe that a mega church would conspire with a Republican candidate. That's nonsense.

Just kidding. Of course they did. They're both crooked. Remember Bush? I hope so since he is still president. There was all sorts of colusion between his camp and evangelical leaders during his presidential elections. Why would things be different now?

A lot of word parsing on behalf of McCain and what he did and didn't have access to.

Kind of like "I didn't do your girlfriend a single time while you were gone."



Come on people. Listen to the interview. At one point, McCain asked if Warren was going to ask him the second part of the question, and her stated the second part of the question, verbatum. How did he know? Then midway in the interview, he answer questions before they were asked. Even Warren commented on that odd behavior. It's one thing to cheat, and even worse to lie about it.

How is it this Church group was not able to do the "Cone of Silence" that TV Game Shows, Reality TV Shows, and Beauty Contest Shows on TV have all been able to do?

We have to do better. Talk about evil and honor, and then this lowly flak. A man who had several affairs, which involved much lying, who applied for a marriage certificate before his divorce was final, who remarried 5 weeks after his divorce is used to lying and cheating, and not playing by the rules.

What an example to set for the kids. We have to do better.

We cannot begin to have an honest and respectful debate when the event moderator opens with A COMPLETE LIE. Why suggest McCain is in an isolation room when HE IS NOT EVEN IN THE BUILDING? When someone needlessly lies about something it reveals their true character and in some cases, something worse. Why did McCain GO ALONG WITH IT?

Unfortunately, this typifies what has partly frightened me away from the republican party since the days of Richard Nixon- win at any cost, rules be damned, find an advantage whenever one can be manipulated. No integrity, the modern Republicans, obviously Johnathan Mccain (and Pastor Warren) included.

I find it amazing, not that I should, that the media has so completely lost its soul to its far left agenda that it would have to attribute McCains solid and impressively sincere answers to cheating the process somehow. In light of the fact that their contender looked like an aimless schoolboy in search of an answer to a test he did'nt study for I suppose that is all they have left. Good luck with that.

How is this a "debate" if they never even saw each other face-to-face? Obama is scared of debating.

Did McCain hear part of the Obama interview before he went on? Not an important question to me. McCain repeatedly avoided questions, played to the audience and let me know he is more interested in pushing an agenda based decision than thinking through a tough problem. Of side note, what did McCain learn and what part did he play in his greatest moral failure? I commend Rick Warren for putting the event together, asking great questions and respecting both candidates.

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! Who could have anticipated such curve balls as "When do you believe life begins" or "What was your most difficult decision?"! Clearly the only way a candidate would have an answer for such off the wall questions was if they had advance knowledge....please.

I am noticing fundamentalist Christian leaders backing out of the political limelight this season as they and others get hammered because of statements made in church but then criticized in a public forum. It becomes easy for church leaders to make categorical statements in the presence of their uncritical followers but as many of the other commentors here note, Warren's absolute certainty of fairness are inappropriately overconfident. How does he know what happened in McCain's motorcade? So, fall out will be negative on Warren and he too will pull back.

Why are the Obama supporters now saying McCain must have known the questions in advance? Would Obama have answered questions differently, had he known them in advance? If so, which questions? These were not questions regarding undisputed facts. ALL the questions posed pertained to the candidates' opinions, viewpoint and beliefs. Any modern presidential candidate should be able to address these at the drop of a hat. Each viewer can judge the candidates' responses on the merits, according to their own viewpoint.

Reading some of he "posts" on this site reminds of what is wrong with democracy. A five minute conversation with the average voter reveals the problem.

It's funny how the McCainites all think this is about winning or losing, when really it's an issue of a man who will lie without a twitch of remorse on national television.

GWBush referred to the Russians war against Giorgia as unacceptable behavior in the 21st century he was right.
Here in America in the 21st century in the so called most powerful country on the planet Presidential candidates believe strongly in God and debate in public about God and his most powerful enemy Satan that s pretty difficult to swallow in the 21st century as well.
To me it is plain ridicule....That s why China today is the most powerful country on the planet not America.

As has been mentioned before, McCain and Warren should have come clean in the beginning. To have to have someone else bring it out and then have them get mad strongly points to cheating. Guilty/protesting too much/cover-up. But even so, Obama outshown the other guy.

wait a minute...are people saying that Obama didn't perform well in the forum and that McCain looked better? I watched the "debate" and I was far more impressed by Obama's knowledge, honesty, and humility. I had no idea that it was even possible for McCain to appear as the "winner". McCain was lame and talk about pandering! As far as the questions are concerned, I was under the impression that both of the candidates knew them beforehand. Perhaps that is why I was so disappointed in McCain's answers. If it's true that the candidates weren't given the list of questions prior to the sit-down then I'm even more impressed by Obama's answers.

white supremacists....

1 2 3 4 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
Democratic Politics



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: