First Joint Appearance: Rick Warren To Moderate "Non-Debate"

Here it is, folks. Showtime. On 16 August, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama "will end the primary season by making their first joint appearance of the 2008 campaign at Saddleback Church on Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion."

They'll be "back-to-back," not together. One after the other.

Says Pastor Rick Warren, in a press release:

"This is a critical time for our nation and the American people deserve to hear both candidates speak from the heart -- without interruption -- in a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan 'gotcha' questions that typically produce heat instead of light.

"The primaries proved that Americans care deeply about the faith, values, character and leadership convictions of candidates as much as they do about the issues. While I know both men as friends and they recognize I will be frank, but fair, they also know I will be raising questions in these four areas beyond what political reporters typically ask. This includes pressing issues that are bridging divides in our nation, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate and human rights."

[Reporters haven't asked about poverty and climate? And didn't Barack Obama speak to your church about HIV/AIDS two years ago, prompting plenty of questions?]

Warren confirmed that, at the candidates' request, this two-hour event from 5-7 p.m. (PDT) will be held in a non-debate format and open to all media. Both candidates also requested that questions be posed exclusively by Warren, instead of a panel or members of the audience. Each will converse separately with Warren for approximately one-hour, beginning with Sen. Obama as determined by a coin toss. This historic forum will be the only joint campaign event prior to each party's national convention.