by Deb Cupples | You know it's silly season when a satirical concept (actually a gag) from the 1970s TV show Get Smart makes it into heated discussions about our nation's presidential race.
Apparently, Pastor Rick Warren held a Q&A (the "Saddleback forum") over the weekend, during which he separately asked Barack Obama and John McCain the same questions. So as not to disadvantage either candidate, Mr. Warren reportedly withheld all but two questions from both candidates. While the first candidate (Obama) answered the questions, McCain was relegated to a room with no TV -- which someone dubbed the "Cone of Silence."
I hope it wasn't the forum's planners who chose that name, because doing so would be a blatant tempting of fate, God, or the Gods to intervene in counter-productive ways. In the Get Smart series, when Max and The Chief were inside the transparent "Cone of Silence," they couldn't hear each other without shouting, but anyone outside the cone could hear them just fine.
I didn't watch the forum. Instead, I read The Hill's article about it, which blandly indicated where Obama and McCain had given different answers and where they'd given similar answers. I also read CNN's coverage, which took a different tone and focused on different aspects.
For me, that was more than enough mixing of religion and politics for one night -- given my agreement with Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine about the importance of keeping an indestructible firewall between church and state.
After "Saddleback," some people apparently mis-perceived the forum as an actual debate and proclaimed John McCain the winner. People not so fond of Sen. McCain reportedly (albeit "privately," according to media personality Andrea Mitchell) accused McCain of cheating -- i.e., getting a hold of the questions in advance, because he arrived at the "Cone of Silence" a tad tardily.
First, how private could the accusations have been if Ms. Mitchell (again, a media personality) had heard them and was free to broadcast them on a Sunday political talk show?
Second, aren't there more important issues for our national press to focus on?
Third, don't the media powers-that-be grasp that most Americans don't give a damn what any religious leader says about politics? Seriously.
I can't help wondering why heads of religious organizations that enjoy tax-exempt status in our nation are so hell-bent on publicly involving themselves in national politics.
Doesn't such involvement threaten their tax-exempt status? If not, then any Joe or Jane off the street could start an organization, collect money from well-meaning people, call it "church," but actually use it as a political outfit.
Correction: The New York Times' Ms. Katharine Q. Seelye (the same reporter who either selectively omitted fact or was ignorant of crucial details about Florida Democrats' skirmish with the DNC during this year's primaries) reported that McCain's staff said that he was in his motorcade when the world thought he was the "Cone of Silence."
Ms. Seelye has not demonstrated a commitment to due diligence in the research department, she has demonstrated a stellar ability to simply repeat what other people say.
Thus, she may, in fact, have stumbled upon accurate facts regarding McCain and his absence from the "Cone of Silence." Lacking the time to do a "fact check," I cannot comment either way.
I will say that it is an abominable shame that the credibility of any journalist working for one of our nation's most respected newspapers is so questionable.
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