Thinking the unthinkable: is Pastor Rick ... a liar?
Pastor Rick Warren is on Larry King right now, giving a post-op on his civil forum on Saturday. I turned the channel and TiVo didn't pick up the beginning of the interview, so somebody please email me and let me know if King asked him about the "cone of silence." A preliminary interview with Beliefnet suggests he won't be forthcoming.
But another aspect of the interview which I did catch is really bugging me. An emailer asked Warren when he did the "coin flip" to determine which candidate would go first. Warren stumbled around a bit, and then said that he did the coin toss "about a month ago," and that when he put the forum together, "we decided who would go first ... and the format."
He flipped the coin a month ago?
Meanwhile, Warren was on "Hannity and Colmes" in the half hour before he did CNN. Hannity asked him a "lightning round" of questions nearly identical to the ones he asked John McCain and Barack Obama on Saturday, including whether he believes life begins at conception (the answer: "of course," and which Supreme Court justices HE wouldn't have nominated. Warren hedged on this one, but then couched his answer with, "well I'm a conservative, so..."
Less than a half hour later, on CNN, Warren had an exchange with Larry King in which he declared that there are many Americans who agree with some parts of the Democratic agenda and some parts of the Republican agenda, and who are neither completely left nor completely right when it comes to issues. King asked if Warren would put himself in that category. Warren's answer sure wasn't "well I'm a conservative." Instead, he said "of course."
So he's a conservative, but also in the middle ... depending on which cable network he's on?
UPDATE: The transcript on the Larry King interview with Rick Warren is in. Here's the part I missed last night:
KING: From Lake Forest, California, we welcome -- it's always great to see him, a frequent visitor to this show. Not frequent enough, by the way. Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, best-selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life." and on Saturday, he conducted those interviews with Senators Obama and McCain at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.
Let's take care of one thing right away. You introduced Obama and said that Senator McCain and said he was in a cone of silence.
KING: Now, obviously, Rick Warren would never tell a mistruth.
Did you not know that he was in an automobile?
WARREN: I didn't know they had put -- hadn't put him into the Green Room yet. No, I didn't. When we walked in, I knew he hadn't been in about 10 minutes earlier. And I figured within the 10 minutes we got there, they had put him in.
The whole thing is really kind of bogus, Larry. The Supreme -- I mean, the Secret Service were with him the whole time. Then our facility's staff -- our security staff were with him. And he was put in a building completely separate from everybody else. And there's no way he could hear. I've been talking about this all day. There was a rumor going around that he watched the program on a monitor in the Green Room that we had him in.
Well, there's only one problem with it. My staff, Chuck Taylor, disconnected that thing two days before it happened. So if he -- if they had happened to turn it on, it would have been all just static.
And both Barack and John agreed to the terms that said we will not listen to the other's, we will not get the questions in advance.
Actually, what happened is I did give Obama one in advance that I didn't get to Senator McCain because he wasn't there. Right before we started, I wanted to tell them there's going to be one question that I'm going to ask you for a commitment on. And I didn't think that was fair to ask for a commitment publicly without setting them up. And it had to do with orphans.
And so I did get to tell Senator Obama about that question. But because Senator McCain wasn't there, he hadn't -- he didn't have that question yet.
KING: All right.
Well, could he have heard it in the car, though, if he was still arriving at the event?
WARREN: You know what, if -- not a chance. The Secret Service would have reported it. When he showed up, there were -- and he says he didn't. You know, I...
KING: All right.
WARREN: ...I just have to accept his integrity on that.
Was it a stacked deck against Obama in the fact that this was Orange County and an Evangelical audience?
WARREN: Yes. Well, there's no doubt about it. I mean it was Orange County. And you're going to have more of a conservative audience.
But if you listen to applause, it's pretty equal in a lot of the places. And we gave an equal number of tickets to both campaigns. So they both had their -- their partisans in there at the same time and they had the exact same number of people.
KING: We have an e-mail question from Jeff in Wheaton, Illinois: "Pastor Warren, you said Saturday that there had been a coin flip to determine who went first."
KING: "When did this coin flip occur? Where were the senators when it took place?"
WARREN: Well, they were certainly weren't around. I just did it with my staff about a month before we even started the program. I started collecting questions myself a month in advance. And right off the bat, I said well, somebody is going to have to go first.
When I created this idea, why don't we figure out a civil way to do this, where the guys can express their views and their opinions in a civil -- a civilized, non-rude, non-got you type of format?
And I just decided why don't we just do one hour at time...
KING: Well, you did it.
WARREN: ...and we'll do them back to back. And I'll ask the identical questions so there's no bias in it.
KING: Excellent way to do it.
Not that Larry is biased... And here's the video:
You be the judge... Meanwhile, Barry Lynn calls Obama's appearance at the forum a mistake:
This crowd was swarming toward McCain to begin with, and Rick Warren has quite conservative views on plenty of hot button issues. But Warren is still a man best known for his homey advice about putting God first (not a very controversial notion for a Christian), so many viewers probably thought he would play "fair and balanced." Well, Jay, he did not. He was clearly well-schooled on how to set up questions with well-tested right-wing talking points, so that Obama would have had to spend a great deal of time just correcting the questioner. (You and I understand that technique well, both as talk show guests and hosts of our own shows.)
Let me give you a few examples on core constitutional and human rights questions. Here was Warren's set up to his stem cell questions: "We've had this scientific breakthrough of creating these pluri-potent stem cells in adult cells..." as if everybody knows we don't need all those embryonic stem cells which create all the problems for "pro-lifers." That crowd would rather grow all these "frozen" embryos into "snowflake babies" (which will never happen) and refuse to admit that these embryos will eventually be discarded as medical waste. But Warren's setup is the problem: there was no great breakthrough that means that all research can be done with adult cells. That is the line of the Religious Right; it is not the scientific consensus. To the lay listener, however, it sounded like God's own truth, not Pastor Warren's spin. Senator Obama more or less fell into the presumption, too.