Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Let the mainstream media take note – please.

Posted by sanityinjection on August 18, 2008

 A political event took place on Saturday that probably escaped the notice of all but political junkies and evangelical Christians. Yet it was an important one.

For the first time since becoming their party’s presumptive nominees, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama shared a stage, albeit briefly. The venue was the Saddleback megachurch in California. The church’s pastor, Rick Warren, a major figure in the evangelical community, invited both candidates to come and answer questions that would be of interest to evangelical voters. Obama answered the questions first, followed by McCain, but the two candidates had an opportunity to shake hands and greet each other in between, a nice photo-op.

What was striking about this event was how much better it was than any of the debates I’ve seen sponsored by the major media. First of all, the questions were excellent and covered areas that would be of interest to any voter, not just Christians. They were not “softball” questions or attempts to skewer either candidate, nor were they tied to recent events like the war in Georgia. The questions focused on the candidates’ lives and worldviews. In short, they were designed not to enable the candidates to “score points”, but to help the audience get to know and understand them better. What an amazing thing. Warren, who asked the questions, treated both candidates with respect but also did not let them get away with avoiding direct answers. And how did the candidates respond? Both rose to the level of expectations and for the most part, gave thoughtful and serious answers.

If I were a major news organization, I would be asking myself why a religious leader was able to do a better job of organizing a political forum than experienced journalists. I think the answer, somewhat surprisingly, is that Warren allowed the event to be about the candidates and not about himself, unlike some journalists who moderate debates who seem to want to show off how much more clever and knowledgeable they are than either candidate.  For Warren, having both candidates respond to his summons and appear with him on stage was sufficient to gratify his ego, so he didn’t feel the need to show them up.

I hope that the major media outlets, as well as the Commission on Presidential Debates, were paying attention and learned some valuable lessons from being out performed by an amateur.

Highlights here: http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=D5D90E26-18FE-70B2-A89540608BB56A29

Full transcript here: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0808/17/se.01.html

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