I didn't see Barack Obama's session with Rick Warren. Hey, I'm in China. Just now I saw that John McCain's session with Warren is being shown.
McCain looks comfortable and is doing well. How do I square saying this with my argument in this recent article that he is a poor public speaker who does not show up well in debates? Easy.
1) Although Obama and McCain appeared back to back, this was in no sense a debate. This was the Larry King show, minus the usual incisive follow-up. In 45 minutes or so I saw, Pastor Rick Warren did not once ask "what do you mean by?" or "but what about?" He served up topics and sat aside as the candidate gave his standard answers, which were subject to no examination. OK: that's one approach.
It is an approach basically similar to the "Town Hall" meeting format, where average citizens present questions -- often more barbed than Warren's -- and then the politician says what he wants, usually without rebuttal or followup. As I pointed out in my article, this is the one form of spoken discourse that McCain enjoys and often does well at:
In these circumstances, McCain's tactics against Obama are obvious. He will ask for as many debates as he can, starting with informal town halls before either he or Obama is officially nominated. The informal setting shows him off to his best advantage, with the affable bantering that has long made him a favorite with the press.
2) The candidates did not have to perform under pressure, which is what makes face-to-face debates different from every other form of political discourse.