Rick Warren is the author of A Purpose Driven Life, which is a book I haven't read nor do I intend to read because I'm a bigger believer in the motivating nature of futility. But lots of people do buy what Rick Warren is selling, so Barack Obama and John McCain schlepped to his California megachurch this weekend for a little conversation witnessed by 5,000 people and a television audience of tens of tens. But that audience included the pundit class with little else to do — i.e., not Spencer Ackerman or me, who have totally busy lives we swear! Our lives were not so busy, however, that we couldn't read everything about the talks afterwards and cut it up like little pieces of meat for you to ingest with a gooey side of Sally Quinn's crazy and the delicious dessert of lobbyists living by the letter, if not remotely the spirit, of the lobbying reform. Yum!
MEGAN: Happy week-before-the-convention! When everyone in DC is on vacation or checked out anyway! SPENCER: How is it possible that I am still hungover from Saturday night's bout of drinking? MEGAN: Well, I assume you at least drank well into Sunday morning... Just say you're hungover from Sunday and keep pounding the water. SPENCER: Red Bull is powerless against the force of this hangover. Let's talk about something. MEGAN: Ok, not that this will resolve your headache, but we can talk about McCain and Obama's churchin' time. SPENCER: So neither of us actually saw the debate, but the mystical forces of the internet allow us to comment on it. Jonathan Martin has something that seems significant:
"I am saved and forgiven" [said McCain]
MEGAN: Well, good to know! I guess he got some time on the God phone from GWB. SPENCER: Where's everyone's bullshit detector? McCain is admirably reluctant to discuss his religion during the three years he doesn't run for president, and here he goes doing this kind of thing to the "agents of intolerance." You're Catholic (the Jewwiest of Christians) and I'm a Jew, so the question we probably can't answer: do evangelicals really fall for this kind of snake oil? MEGAN: I do not understand the whole "saved" thing, and everything I know about "saved" and that whole brand of Christian theology, I honestly have from Mrs. Chant's 10th grade English class when we discussed Calvinism in regards to The Scarlett Letter. But, yes, I think plenty of evangelicals do. They buy it from candidates because they buy it from their pastors. SPENCER: Times like these I want to play them "Leper Messiah" off Master of Puppets. I mean, these can't all be stupid people. I guess I like being pandered to as much as the next guy so maybe I shouldn't find it so inexplicable. But here's an idea that I'm stealing from a friend of mine on a secret journalist listserv: everyone figured McCain won, but didn't Obama win just by showing up in a forum that's de facto a base-vote for McCain? Like if McCain spoke before an antiwar crowd or a MoveOn audience, you'd have to say he won by proving he can interact with people who disagree. MEGAN: I don't think so, because it wasn't just watched by those people. I still don't understand why Obama gave a boost to Rick Warren, though. SPENCER: 'splain. MEGAN: Well, so, like if the only people who watched the thing were the evangelicals and the pundit class, then I would sort of agree with you. But it's ended up being like the first debate between the two, and most undecided people aren't going to view it in the way you suggest. They're going to view it as just another debate, and the relatively unfriendly audience — or the more enthusiastic support of McCain, say — is going to be viewed in that way. SPENCER: But in August, with the Olympics on, did anyone besides evangelicals and punditclassers watch it? I mean, you and i were too drunk/preoccupied to see it, and this is our job, you know? MEGAN: Hey, I wasn't drunk! I got drunk loooong after it ended. I was eating Thai food and putting away the dozen pairs of shoes that were under the coffee table. I can see the point about that he gets bonus points for showing up, I just don't see with whom. Like, maybe the evangelicals that vote against him won't hate him quite so much once he's in office? SPENCER: ok, well, one person the McCainvangelical magic worked on was... Sally Quinn. This is a column whose subtext rebels against its thesis.
When I was little, I had a recurrent dream that there was a terrible earthquake. My father, his body a horse with wings, swooped down from the sky, kneeled so I could jump on his back and flew away just as the earth cracked open beneath me. It was my most comforting dream. I want to live in that world again. I want to live in John McCain's world.
UMMM. Now, she says that she thinks we actually live in Obama's world, but still:
By the time McCain finished his interview with pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, Saturday night, part of a forum that also featured Barack Obama, I was curled up in a fetal position in my chair, wrapped in a mohair throw, practically sucking my thumb.
UMMMMMMMMM. MEGAN: Why does it matter that her throw was mohair? SPENCER: That's what they call 'color' in this business! she, she's a professional. Bloggers can't touch prose like this. MEGAN: Oh, see, so, like, I should say to you, "Why, Spencer, I feel so inspired to write Crappy Hour, sitting here cross-legged on my leather sofa with my fleece blanket on my lap!" tomorrow? Good to know. SPENCER: Give that woman a WP column! Also write about dreams involving your father. MEGAN: Most of my memorable dreams involve falling or losing my teeth. Yes, I am a control freak. Sally does seem to have managed to put one thing in relatively sharp relief that other writers have hinted and and no one came out and said:
He talked directly to Rick Warren as though they were having a real conversation, whereas McCain played to the audience, rarely looking at Warren.
Who's trying to be a great orator, now, John McCain? SPENCER: That goes back to your warren point, right? But I want you, Anonymous Lobbyist, to interpret all the lobbyist stuff that we'll check out next week in Denver at the Dem convention. MEGAN: Well, now, I actually kind of completely love this story. So, if you'll recall in those halcyon says of January 2007, Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues were going to "drain the swamp" that lobbyists had made of Washington by treating people to lunches, handing out coffee mugs and hosting lavish receptions and crap because several GOP Congressmen had taken actual bribes and most Americans viewed PAC and campaign donations as legalized bribery. So, they did nothing about campaign finance reform and wrote some very non-specific language about parties AND particularly about convention parties. Fast forward to Summer 2008 and in the rule-making process, most of the namby-pamby legislative language has been gutted and so, like in 2004, the biggest and best parties will still be hosted by lobbyists in Denver and Minneapolis. Presto-change-o, there goes the "reform." It looks a lot like the pre-reform days except lobbyists file their disclosures 4 times a year instead of 2. Doesn't the swamp look drained to you? SPENCER: Yeah, but this year, you & I are pigs at the trough! We benefit from the country's lamentable decline! Bring on the ice sculpture that urinates vodka. Yeah, well, Obama will magically change everything. MEGAN: But only if it's Grey Goose or better! SPENCER: You can totally have my ice-sculpture vodka, Ican't drink that stuff. MEGAN: More of a bourbon man? SPENCER: Exactly. Your grandfather didn't drink no vodka!