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John McCain (R-AZ), Pastor Rick Warren and Barack Obama (D-IL) greet each other at the start of the Civil Forum on the Presidency at the Saddleback Church in Southern California.
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Though he counts both John McCain and Barack Obama as friends, Rick Warren — the influential evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church — told NPR's Farai Chideya, "I have no aspirations to be a political consultant in any sense of the word."
Some have suggested Warren could one day become a presidential spiritual adviser, in the mold of Billy Graham.
On Saturday, Warren moderated the two-hour Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, speaking separately with both presidential candidates on an array of faith and values issues.
Speaking with Chideya, Warren shared his thoughts on the event and addressed rumors of McCain having an unfair advantage. What follows are highlights of their conversation:
On what he sees as the forum's greatest success: "I loved the fact that Americans saw not just the political differences between these two guys but also the personality differences. ... Barack was exactly who he is, and John McCain was exactly who he is. They were exactly who I know them to be. They are both friends of mine; I've known them for some time. With their answers, Barack is the thoughtful, consensus builder. He likes to nuance things. He likes to talk things through. You know, he's a constitutional attorney. John McCain is a straightforward, happy commander who says, 'Yes, yes. No. Let's get it over. Let's do it.' By asking the same questions to each candidate, it allowed America to compare apples to apples, and I liked that."
On rumors that McCain may have heard the questions asked of Obama, who appeared first: "I'm afraid that that rumor might hurt the Obama campaign. I've talked to a number of people about this; they say, 'An anonymous source told me that John McCain was watching a monitor in his green room.' It's flat out impossible. In the first place, there were Secret Service staff and Saddleback [Church] staff with McCain the entire time he was there. There was no way he could have listened to anything without being seen. If he had heard anything, believe me, I would have heard about it."
On advising the next president: "This is not my day job. My day job is I'm a pastor of a large church in California, and I'm extremely involved in humanitarian efforts around the world. ... All my time is taken up by that. ... I have no aspirations to be a political consultant in any sense of the word."
On hosting similar political forums in the future: "What I hope will be copied is the format. I don't have to be doing it. But I do think that the debate format of the 30-second rebuttal and the five second rebuttal to the rebuttal ... is an artificial "gotcha" kind of format that doesn't play to either man's strengths, doesn't allow their personality or character or commitment to actually shine, and I'm hoping if anything happens, it will add a little civility to the dialogue."