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McCain and Obama -- together at last

An Orange County pastor was able to do what no one else could this summer: bring together John McCain and Barack Obama for a joint campaign appearance before their parties’ conventions.

The presidential contenders will share the stage, if only briefly, at a forum Aug. 16 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest.

Rick Warren, pastor of the 20,000-member, four-campus mega-church, called the McCain and Obama campaigns to set up the event, said Whitney Kelley, a spokeswoman for the pastor.

Warren, author of the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life,” will interview each candidate for an hour, one after the other. But they will also appear on stage together for a few minutes.

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“The beauty of it is for them to be there at the same time, in front of the same people and questioned by the same person,” Kelley said.

The topic of the forum will be “compassion and leadership.” A recorded phone message at the church said that Warren “will ask questions that don’t often come up in political campaigns.”

Though Warren could not be reached for comment because he is out of the country, Kelley said he would most likely focus his questions on how each candidate arrives at his decisions, where they go for counsel and how they view issues of faith.

“I don’t think you’re going to see any ‘gotcha’ questions, but he’s going to ask them to be introspective,” Kelley said. “Questions that will require them to be a little more transparent than on the campaign trail.”

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Warren incited anger from conservatives in 2006 for inviting Obama, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, to speak at an AIDS conference held at the church. Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke there in November.

Once the McCain-Obama appearance was arranged, one more thing had to be decided: Who would speak first?

Warren settled that with a coin toss. The victor? Obama.

-- Tony Barboza


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