I've been looking into all this buzz that McCain somehow cheated — that he wasn't in a "cone of silence" — during Barack Obama's half of the Saddleback summit Saturday night. The talk got started on "Meet the Press" yesterday, when Andrea Mitchell said, "The Obama people must feel that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because that — what they're putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well prepared."
A few points. First of all, it appears that some commentators believe there was an actual "Get Smart"-style "cone of silence" at Saddleback. There wasn't. Pastor Rick Warren was making a little joke when he used that phrase. But he was assuring the crowd that McCain was not hearing any of the questioning of Barack Obama.
Next, McCain, like Obama, knew the first two questions that would be asked of him — the "three wisest people" question and the "greatest moral failure" questions. Both men knew exactly what was coming at the start of the appearance. This morning I talked to A. Larry Ross, who is the media representative for the Saddleback Church, and he told me that Warren "gave both candidates the first two questions because he didn't want them to be nervous…so they would be at ease." Ross says that in separate phone calls with the McCain and Obama, Warren also went through the four general categories of questions and said things like, "I'll probably ask you a question on this, or on that," but gave no specific wording.
In addition, according to Ross, Obama knew a third specific question that Warren would ask — the one about a "president's emergency plan for adoption." "[Warren] felt that since that was basically asking for a commitment, he felt that it was fair to tell them in advance that he was going to ask them that," Ross told me. So Warren told Obama, and planned to tell McCain when McCain arrived at Saddleback, but wasn't able to because of other distractions. So according to what Ross told me, Obama actually knew one more question in advance than did McCain.
So there is no doubt that Obama was better informed prior to his appearance than McCain. That makes it all the more infuriating that the MSM is still chasing the wrong story!