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The Cone of Silence

August 18, 2008
tags: ,

Did John McCain cheat at the Saddleback Church event on Saturday? The NYT heavily implies so:

Despite Assurances, McCain Wasn’t in a ‘Cone of Silence’ –

ORLANDO, Fla. — 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.

The Obama camp is complaining, and the McCain camp is pushing back, publishing this letter to NBC:

In analyzing last night’s presidential forum at Saddleback Church, [reporter Andrea] Mitchell expressed the Obama campaign spin that John McCain could only have done so well last night because he “may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.” Here are Andrea Mitchell’s comments in full:

Mitchell: “The Obama people must feel that he didn’t do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because what they are putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well-prepared.” (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” 8/17/08)

To me this seems like an explanation why McCain may have done well, but not why Obama did poorly. The McCain camp continues:

Make no mistake: This is a serious charge. Andrea Mitchell is repeating, uncritically, a completely unsubstantiated Obama campaign claim that John McCain somehow cheated in last night’s forum at Saddleback Church. Instead of trying to substantiate this blatant falsehood in any way, Andrea Mitchell felt that she needed to repeat it on air to millions of “Meet the Press” viewers with no indication that 1.) There’s not one shred of evidence that it’s true; 2.) In his official correspondence to both campaigns, Pastor Rick Warren provided both candidates with information regarding the topic areas to be covered, which Barack Obama acknowledged during the forum when asked about Pastor Warren’s idea of an emergency plan for orphans and Obama said, “I cheated a little bit. I actually looked at this idea ahead of time, and I think it is a great idea;” 3.) John McCain actually requested that he and Barack Obama do the forum together on stage at the same time, making these kinds of after-the-fact complaints moot.

I look forward to watching all of each candidates responses, but from what I’ve gleaned so far, Obama got his clock cleaned. I’m really looking forward to the fall debates.

Whether McCain cheated or not is obviously open to opinion. Whether that minor advantage could explain Saturday’s outcome is another matter. Personally, I think that by avoiding the cone of silence, McCain may once again have demonstrated his superior understanding of the relevant issues, as this video clearly demonstrates the dangers of the cone:

One Comment leave one →
  1. Timmy C. permalink
    August 19, 2008 7:41 pm

    Definitely the debates will be exciting.

    My favorite blogger reaction to the Saddleback forums, from Christian blogger Fred Clark:

    Lynn thinks the big news coming out of the forum was that the megachurch audience cheered wildly when John McCain gave the “right” answer to this question. But the bigger news was that the audience didn’t boo when Barack Obama gave the “wrong” answer.

    Part of the issue here, as Noam Scheiber points out, is that McCain had nothing to gain from telling this audience what they expected him to say. He drew some praise from audience members for answering this question so quickly and “decisively.” But everyone knew what was really going on. John McCain was being quizzed on the Republican catechism. He was able to provide the correct answers, but he did so with all the conviction of a student who had memorized those answers by rote.

    And what about Barack Obama? The Democratic senator wasn’t there to try to win evangelical votes by touting his support for abortion rights. Nor was he there hoping to persuade them to change their minds on that question. What he did instead was this: He disagreed with them. Here was a man, not a monster, respectfully disagreeing with them. He seemed reasonable, thoughtful. He was familiar with the scriptures and with the language of church people —familiar as in family. And yet he disagreed with them.

    Hunh. Imagine that. Devout members of the family supposedly never disagreed on this. The people who disagreed were supposedly never reasonable or thoughtful. The people who disagreed were supposedly monsters. This guy was none of that. I wonder if that means …

    That’s it. That’s all he could hope to accomplish there, before this audience, when he knew that he’d be confronted with this question. And that’s what I think he did accomplish. Not bad for a Saturday evening.

    The bottom line was that John McCain went to Saddleback to try to get white evangelical voters to like him; Barack Obama went to Saddleback to show white evangelical voters that he liked them.

    I think they both succeeded. As such, I think McCain achieved something easy and Obama achieved something important.

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