You may have noticed that I write more lately about what various pundits are saying, comparing and contrasting and noting trends. That’s because I inherited one of the main tasks that Mike Fitts used to take care of — choosing syndicated columnists for our op-ed page. Therefore every day, I’m more conscious than usual of what all the major writers are saying, as opposed to just the ones that happened to grab my attention that day.
And I notice things. For instance, last week I was noticing that the columnists most eager to write about what the Soviets — dang, Russians (there I go again) — are doing in Georgia were the "conservatives." (Since then, Paul Krugman and Trudy Rubin have weighed in.)
I should pause at this point to explain the unfortunate fact that pretty much all major columnists are labeled — either by their syndicates, by the papers that run them or by themselves — as "liberal" or "conservative." Many are marketed this way (which is one reason you’ll never see me syndicated — I have no niche). There are some who resist this nobly. David Broder, for instance, has so much of the reporter in him still that his writing is remarkably even-handed. He is "moderate" in pretty much every sense. But hold a gun to an editor’s head and force him to choose, and he will describe him as "center-left" Similarly, Robert Samuelson approaches his subjects with such an academic detachment (I say "academic," although it is my rough impression that these days such detachment as Samuelson’s is rare in academia), particularly with regard to economics, that he does not fit comfortably in one camp or the other. But force it, and I suppose he is "center-right." Maureen Dowd is an equal-opportunity insulter, but would you ever call her "conservative?" No.
Anyway, this week I’m noticing that those who either lean right or are unabashedly "conservative" and/or Republican keep bringing up this forum that John McCain and Barack Obama participated in at Saddleback Church Saturday night. I gotta tell you I missed it. My wife and I did a rare thing that night — we got dressed up and went out. Specifically, we went to the Cap City Club’s 20th Anniversary Gala, but for us it was an excuse to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary, which was on Sunday. When we got home, I watched a little bit of the Olympics, and saw Michael Phelps make sports history (although not in high definition).
Apparently, most of America was doing the same, including all left-leaning pundits. I say that because I’ve seen the following three descriptions of the event, all of them saying both that the event was well-run, and that McCain came off looking better than Obama did:
- William Kristol’s column in the NYT Monday:
While normal people were out having fun Saturday night, I was home in front of the TV. But I wasn’t enjoying the Olympics. Your diligent columnist was dutifully watching Barack Obama and John McCain answer the Rev. Rick Warren’s questions at Saddleback Church. Virtue is sometimes rewarded. The event was worth watching — and for me yielded three conclusions.
First, Rick Warren should moderate one of the fall presidential debates….
Second, it was McCain’s night….
- This typical piece in the WSJ today, which essentially trashed what was revealed about Obama during the event:
On Saturday night at the Saddleback Church in Southern California, Rick
Warren showed Jim, Gwen, Tom, Bob and Co. what a presidential moderator
can accomplish when he makes the debate about the candidates and not
- A column by Cal Thomas, meant for Tuesday publication:
The "civil forum” featuring presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain may not have been as exciting as Michael Phelps winning his eighth Olympic gold medal, but it was civil and it was a forum from which emerged useful information.
McCain had the most to gain. Judging by the applause, he won the night among evangelical voters….
So my question now is this: Did any Democrats or liberals watch this event? Did they, too, think Rick Warren did a great job? Did they think their guy did better than McCain, or do they think the less said, the better? So far, I have no indication.
Any of y’all who saw it, help us out here.