Magazine article The New Yorker

Purpose-Driven Hype

Magazine article The New Yorker

Purpose-Driven Hype

Article excerpt

Go-betweens can attract as much attention as the factions they seek to reconcile: see Squanto (Pilgrims and Indians), Jimmy Carter (Egypt and Israel), Tookie Williams (Bloods and Crips), and the producers of the newly revived "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty). The most prominent mediator of late is Pastor Rick Warren, who has wrangled John McCain and Barack Obama for their first joint appearance, to be held on August 16th at Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, California. This is a coup, Warren acknowledged, speaking by phone the other day from Sao Paulo, Brazil, but he was circumspect about all the fuss. "I like to leave town when the news is about me," he said. "Usually when I'm overseas, somebody kills a judge and something happens like the hostage reads my book and turns himself in." Warren was referring to the fact that in 2005, while he was in Rwanda, a man who had shot three people in an Atlanta courthouse surrendered after taking a captive, who steered him to Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life." (Later, she admitted that she also gave him crystal meth.)

Still, like any party promoter, Warren knows that a successful get-together needs a little hype. Billed as a "Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion," the McCain/Obama event will occupy a prime slot: five to seven on a Saturday night. Dominating the church's Web site is a pop-up ad in the style of an old-timey woodcut poster, the type you might see announcing a Willie Nelson stand at the Ryman. McCain and Obama face off in three-quarter profile, as if tuning up for a battle of the bands. Warren plans to introduce the presumptive nominees together and then to interview each for an hour. He determined who will go first--Obama--with a coin toss.

The idea for the summit goes back to April, when Messiah College, in Grantham, Pennsylvania, invited the Presidential candidates to campus for a discussion of moral issues. Obama and Hillary Clinton showed up. McCain bagged it. "Along about June, they asked, 'Would you be interested in helping to host a second forum?' " Warren recalled. "Over the next month, it became clear that there was a stalemate between the campaigns. It was pretty much dead in the water." Warren, who doesn't make endorsements, called McCain and Obama--"good friends," both--on their cell phones. "I just went straight to the principals," he said. …

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