Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Purpose-Driven Candidates

It won't be a debate or even a town hall, but John McCain and Barack Obama will be on the same stage tomorrow night at Rick Warren's mega-church in California and on the world stage through CNN. The air could be filled with piety and platitudes.

After appearing together briefly, they will be questioned separately by the author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," who promises to bypass the gotcha questions by interviewers who "pounce on every misstatement, every partial statement” and give the candidates a “ten-per-cent grace factor.” If one of them misspeaks, Warren says “I always think, Aw, he didn’t mean that.”

This kind of gentle grilling may be a relief to those who were turned off by the infamous ABC debate in April when Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos badgered and interrupted Obama and Hillary Clinton to widespread criticism and disgust.

But the "Aw, he didn't mean that" approach could result only in professions of faith without substance unless the best-selling Evangelist described by Time as "a suprapolitical, supracreedal arbiter of public virtues and religious responsibilities" finds a way to use his medically diagnosed adrenaline overdrive to get Obama and McCain past self-puffery.

The event will test not only the candidates but the preacher-social activist who is being seen as a 21st century combination of Billy Graham and Albert Schweitzer.

"I want," he says, "to know how they handle a crisis, because a lot of the things in the presidency often deal with things you don't know are going to happen."

Amen to that.

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