Even as CNN is gushing over their product this evening, it is important to note that this was a staged event. It is also a microcosm of what is wrong with modern politics. Rick Warren had his questions and asked them evenly but what was missing is what has been missing for some time now, follow up. There simply was none. Thus the event turned into a stump speech for the candidates without questioning of the logic or even truth. Thus when McCain berated Congress for "going on vacation" instead of voting on off shore drilling, I was left screaming at the television for a follow up about how every expert has agreed that off shore drilling will have ZERO effect on gas prices. Instead of that follow up, McCain was allowed to continue to rant about Congress and then lambasted them as never missing an opportunity to "get a pay raise or take a vacation." Great sound bite but where was Warren on following up on the obvious, which is that McCain has been in Congress for 26 years!
So what we had was John McCain having the opportunity to restate his tired campaign lines. He said he would follow Osama bin Laden to the "gates of hell." He said that the war against Islamic Extremism was the transcendent struggle of the 21st century. He used the "I want to inspire people to a cause greater than themselves" a few times as well. Most of these were generally non-responsive but allowed by Pastor Warren because the format seemed to be set up to simply ask the questions and accept whatever the candidates said in response without critique. Additionally, some of the questions were beyond softballs designed to prop up McCain to the evangelical community and to make Obama look bad to them. The one that stood out to me was:
Does evil exist and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it, or defeat it?
Both obviously had to answer that evil certainly exists, but the choices provided were to set up Obama because he has consistently said that we need to back off of the cowboy diplomacy of George W. Bush. The question was also designed to allow McCain pound the tough-guy image he needs to run on. Obama tried to answer thoughtfully and intellectually and McCain relied upon stories from his life.
So, the Warren event was compelling in that it was new, but it was still hard to not notice the fact that it was slanted in McCain's favor, which can partially be explained by the nature of the event and who was hosting it. What is more disturbing though was the post-analysis on CNN, displaying the bias in the media today. The panel had four people, two moderates and two conservatives. As if that was not bad enough, one of the panelists, was Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; who clearly was not there to analyze as much as he was there to continue to sell John McCain to the evangelical base. How can anyone believe that there is a shred of fairness left when someone like Perkins is allowed to play analyst? The result was an hour of analysis which slammed Obama as being "nuanced" and praising McCain as having "connected" because he rambled on and on in anecdotes the entire night. At one point, one of the "analysts" said that McCain was effective because "America loves stories." What??? So these political analysts essentially insult the American people as being too stupid to understand Obama answering substantively and that they will like McCain because he tells them stories? What are we children in this country? The arrogance was overwhelming but so was the purpose and design. The hour analysis was to finish the sell-job to the viewers in case they had a stray thought of their own. Truly sad.
I hope that the evangelical base remembers the lessons of the last seven years. The hundreds of thousands dead for a war that has now been proven to be purposefully based on lies. The raping of the environment for big business. The impoverishing of a nation as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. John McCain actually said in an alleged joke tonight, that we should define rich as people making 5 million dollars or more. McCain has stated that he would be fine being in Iraq for 100 more years. He has JOKED about bombing Iran. He has embraced the Bush economics which have led to the downfall of this economy. He actually had the nerve to say tonight that taxes have nothing to do with the bad economy! Nothing! Billions upon billions handed back to the richest people in this country and the man who wants to run your economy for the next four years doesn't think it has any effect. Truly sad.
But beware evangelical community; the far right knows how to get you to compromise your own best interests and even the interest of Christ. They will wield the abortion issue like a sledge hammer to your head. And while you cast your vote for the "pro-life" guy, you also will be voting for the pro-war guy, the pro-rich guy, and the anti-environment guy. The sad truth is that neither candidate represents true Christian values and we should not expect that they would. Tonight's event accomplished what it set forth to do. It provided a forum for John McCain to look more appealing to a very disenchanted evangelical base. On that, he did very well tonight. Obama did as well as he could considering the deck was stacked against him. What did we learn however? Nothing we did not already know. And that is what made the supposedly "unique" event, so much part of the ordinary. This was not so much a political forum designed to inform voters as it was organized pandering.