[Guest post by DRJ]
Did John McCain know beforehand the questions Rick Warren planned to ask? I don’t know but we can identify which questions are involved.
The Saddleback Church Civil Forum unofficial transcript has been posted in MS Word and text formats. Each Q&A period lasted 1 hour and there are 6 links — 3 for Obama and 3 for McCain. Thus, it’s likely that each transcript link covers approximately 1/3 of an hour or 20 minutes.
According to ABC News, Rick Warren’s spokesman, the McCain campaign, and other sources indicate John McCain arrived at the Forum at 5:20-5:30 PM PST. Rick Warren would have been about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through his Q&A session with Barack Obama. Here’s a link to a transcript of the first 1/3 of Obama’s Q&A session, and the following are the questions (in order) from the transcript:
Question No. 1.
(5:04 PM PST/7:04 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
“THESE FIRST SET OF QUESTIONS DEAL WITH YOUR PERSONAL LIFE AS A LEADER AND I’M NOT GOING TO DO THIS WITH ANY OTHER SEGMENT, BUT AS PASTOR I’VE GOT SOME VERSES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH LEADERSHIP. THE FIRST ISSUE IS THE AREA OF LISTENING. THERE IS A VERSUS IN PROVERBS THAT SAYS FOOLS THINK THEY NEED NO ADVICE BUT WISE LISTEN TO OTHER PEOPLE. WHO ARE THE THREE WISEST PEOPLE YOU KNOW IN YOUR LIFE AND WHO ARE YOU GOING TO RELY ON HEAVILY IN YOUR ADMINISTRATION?”
Question No. 2.
(5:07 PM PST/7:07 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
“LET’S TALK ABOUT PERSONAL LIFE. THE BIBLE SAYS THAT INTEGRITY AND LOVE ARE THE BASIS FOR LEADERSHIP. THIS IS A TOUGH QUESTION, WHAT WOULD BE LOOKING OVER YOUR LIFE, EVERYBODY’S GOT WINGS, NOBODY’S PERFECT, WOULD BE THE GREATEST MORAL FAILURE IN YOUR LIFE AND WHAT WOULD BE THE GREATEST MORAL FAILURE OF AMERICA?”
ABC News reported Rick Warren’s spokesman said both candidates were given questions 1 and 2 in advance. Based on the transcript, it appears the introduction and first 2 questions-and-answers lasted 10 minutes according to the live-blog posted by Ann Althouse, so it’s possible that the most McCain could have heard regarding the questions and answers were the first 2 questions he had already been given by Rick Warren.
The following questions asked between 5:10 PM PST and 5:30 PM PST are – in theory – questions Obama did not know in advance but McCain could have heard from someone who heard the broadcast.
Here are the “questionable” questions:
Question No. 3.
(5:11 PM PST/7:11 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
“ABOUT THE COMMON GOOD, THE COMMON GROUND AND COMMON GOOD. CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF A TIME YOU KNOW A LOT — I’VE SEEN A LOT OF GOOD LEGISLATIONS GETS KILLED BECAUSE OF PARTY LOYALTY. CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF WHERE YOU WIN AGAINST PARTY LOYALTY AND MAYBE EVEN WIN AGAINST YOUR OWN BEST INTEREST FOR THE GOOD OF AMERICA?”
[Obama answered and Warren asked this follow-up question:]
“LET ME ASK IT THIS WAY: A LOT OF TIMES CANDIDATES ARE ACCUSED OF FLIP FLOPPING, BUT ACTUALLY SOMETIMES FLIP FLOPPING IS SMART BECAUSE YOU HAVE DECIDED A BETTER POSITION BASED ON KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE?
WHAT’S THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POSITION YOU HELD TEN YEARS AGO THAT YOU NO LONGER HOLD TODAY, THAT YOU FLIPPED ON, YOU CHANGED ON BECAUSE YOU ACTUALLY SEE IT DIFFERENTLY?”
Question No. 4.
(5:14 PM PST/7:14 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
“WHAT’S THE MOST SIGNIFICANT — LET ME ASK IT THIS WAY: WHAT’S THE MOST GUT WRENCHING DECISION YOU’VE EVER HAD TO MAKE AND HOW DID YOU PROCESS THAT, COME TO THAT DECISION?”
The point of this post is not to address the candidates’ answers but I think it’s appropriate to do so here. This was an unusual question that elicited impressive answers from both candidates. It would be relevant to know if one candidate had prior knowledge of the question but, in my opinion, both answers were consistent with statements they’ve made on prior occasions.
Specifically, Obama answered this question by referring to his opposition to the Iraq War, a topic that he has addressed many times. McCain’s answer involved his decision as a POW to refuse the chance to go home early, an answer that is not surprising given the question. Thus, I don’t think John McCain’s answer was surprising or suggested prior knowledge of the question.
Moving to the second section of the transcript covering the middle third of Obama’s Q&A:
Question No. 5.
(5:19 PM PST/7:19 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
[NOTE: Democrat Taylor Marsh also live-blogged part of the Forum, including questions Warren asked Obama from 5:20-5:30 PM PST. Taylor Marsh's live-blog timeframe is consistent with Ann Althouse's. Althouse recorded question no. 5 began at 5:19 PM PST; Taylor Marsh lists it at 5:20 PM PST.]
“SOMEBODY IS NOT GOING TO LIKE THEM BECAUSE WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF WORLDVIEWS IN AMERICA, BUT PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOUR WORLDVIEW IS SO AS WE GO THROUGH IT. THESE MINDFIELDS. LET’S KIND OF TIC THEM OFF. THE MINDFIELDS OF AMERICA. THE FIRST ONE IS CHRISTIANTY. NOW YOU’VE MADE NO DOUBT ABOUT YOUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO TRUST IN CHRIST AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN ON A DAILY BASIS? I MEAN, WHAT DOES THAT REALLY LOOK LIKE?”
Question No. 6.
(5:21 PM PST/7:21 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
“NOW, LET’S DEAL WITH ABORTION. 40 MILLION ABORTIONS SINCE ROE V. WADE. YOU KNOW, AS A PASTOR I HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS ALL OF THE TIME. ALL OF THE PAIN AND ALL OF THE CONFLICTS. I KNOW THIS IS A VERY COMPLEX ISSUE. 40 MILLION ABORTIONS. AT WHAT POINT DOES A BABY GET HUMAN RIGHTS IN YOUR VIEW?”
Question No. 7.
(5:25 PM PST/7:25 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
Question No. 8.
(5:28 PM PST/7:28 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
“HOW ABOUT THIS, WHAT ABOUT STEM CELLS. NOW WE’VE HAD THIS SCIENTIFIC BREAK THROUGH OF CREATING THESE PLURY POTENT STEM CELLS IN ADULT CELLS. DO WE STILL NEED FEDERAL FUNDING FOR RESEARCH? WOULD YOU STILL SUPPORT THAT FOR EMBRYO STEM CELLS?”
This is the most McCain could have possibly been briefed on and I think it’s unlikely there would have been time to cover the 7th and especially the 8th questions – if McCain even heard the questions beforehand.
So what does this tell us?
Questions 3-8 involve subjects Obama and McCain have addressed many times and would expect to be questioned on at a religious/Christian forum. The most controversial questions regarding abortion and stem cells are questions that McCain has answered similarly on many occasions.
The more interesting and revealing questions and answers occurred in the last half hour when McCain was, by all reports, beyond any possibility of hearing or learning about the questions. For instance, here is the 9th question:
Question No. 9.
(5:31 PM PST/7:31 PM CST per Ann Althouse)
“DOES EVIL EXIST AND IF IT DOES DO WE IGNORE IT, DO WE NEGOTIATE WITH IT, DO WE CONTAIN IT OR DO WE DEFEAT IT?”
This was a defining moment and the candidates’ answers were dramatically different. Much of the criticism of Obama has centered on his answer to this question that McCain could not have heard and to the first and second questions – questions that both candidates knew about in advance.
Thus, all things considered, I agree with the Althouse poll results that “the Obama campaign has started this meme to distract us from Obama’s bad performance.”