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CNN Larry King Live

Pastor Interview Under Scrutiny

Aired August 18, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Pastor Rick Warren -- his civil forum with Obama and McCain sparks a nasty backstage controversy.
Did the man some call America's most powerful religious leader know this was false when he said it?


RICK WARREN, PASTOR, INTERVIEWED OBAMA/MCCAIN: The first question was, was the cone of silence comfortable, that you were in just now?


KING: Did the Republican nominee have an unfair advantage in the Q&A or are Democratic complaints just sour grapes?

We know what happened during the compelling one-on-ones.

What went on before, after and during the breaks?


Pastor Warren will be joining us in a little while.

Joining us now from Milwaukee is Governor Tim Pawlenty. He's the Republican of Minnesota, a supporter, of course, of John McCain. He's appeared with the senator frequently. He's frequently served as campaign surrogate, as well.

And in St. Louis is Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, a supporter of Senator Obama. She and other top Missouri Democrats are on a week long R.V. tour of the state, touting the Obama candidacy.

Obama and McCain, guys, were asked virtually the same questions at Saturday night's forum. Because Obama went first, McCain was expected to be sequestered during the interview.

Pastor Rick Warren referenced this when he introduced Obama and again when McCain took the stage for a one-on-one.

Let's take a quick look.


WARREN: Senator Obama is going to go first. We flipped a coin and we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence. My first question was, was the cone of silence comfortable, that you were in just now?

MCCAIN: I was trying to hear through the wall.


KING: All right, Senator McCaskill, it now turns out that Senator McCain wasn't even at the church. He was in a car, where he could have heard it on the car radio.

What do you make of this?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, I think it's only an issue because Rick Warren -- Pastor Rick said that he had been in this room sequestered off. As it turned out, he wasn't.

I'm sure that Pastor Warren didn't know that, because I get the sense that he would have never have made that representation if he knew it.

But I don't think it's a big deal, Larry. The campaign doesn't think it's a big deal.

I think what's more important is who's ready to tackle the really, really serious problems in Washington -- that have been there for as long as John McCain has been there, whether we need a different kind of president...

KING: All right.

MCCASKILL: ...that's going to look after the middle instead of everybody else. I think this is, really, a lot of -- much adieu about something that's probably not that important.

KING: Governor Pawlenty, do you agree?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, Larry, I think that I do agree. But Senator Obama's campaign is the one that's raising this as a concern. I really would suggest that they not challenge the credibility of Pastor Rick Warren. He's one of the most universally respected and admired individuals in the country. And I don't think his credibility can be questioned.

Senator McCain has said, even though he was in the motorcade getting to this event, he did not hear the questions.

And, finally, Larry, the questions were pretty basic and predictable. And I think scrambling around trying to j making these accusations just because Senator Obama didn't perform all that well when the teleprompter was shut off and he had to actually speak, you know, off the cuff -- this is an issue that they're creating, I think, with not very good thinking and not very good strategy.

KING: Senator, how do you -- how do you assess Senator Obama's performance? MCCASKILL: I thought he did really well. First, of all, I think that he -- everyone understands this was an audience that was probably not as friendly toward Senator Obama. But that wasn't important to him. What was important was for him to come in and have an honest conversation. He wasn't there with a stump speech or talking points. And you could tell my his answers. They were very conversational, Larry.

He wanted to speak from his heart issues that are difficult, that we all wrestle with. And I think he didn't look at it as a debate, he looked at it as conversation. And I think it showed how comfortable he was having conversations even about the most difficult topics, knowing that the audience disagreed with him.

KING: How do you think, Governor, that it fared for Senator McCain, who constantly looked at the audience, calling -- you know, as he (INAUDIBLE) -- called them my friends and not looking a lot at the pastor?

Did that bother you at all or do you think that's the way he played it?

PAWLENTY: Well, it certainly didn't bother me, speaking to the pastor, in part, but also speaking to the audience who had assembled. I don't think that's an uncommon or odd reaction for Senator McCain.

But as to the responses, Senator McCain was crisp. He was decisive. His compass was set. He knew his values and he articulated those in his answers.

In contrast, Senator Obama's answers, even to basic things like when does life begin, he said that's above my pay grade. He cited as his big effort to work across the aisle ethics reform legislation. My goodness, that's the thing he bailed out on Senator McCain on and went back to vote with his party and left Senator McCain to write a letter that was quite heated to Senator Obama...


PAWLENTY: ...about the failure of the bipartisan work.

And I thought Senator Obama's performance overall was quite wandering and reflective of one of the few times we see when he doesn't actually have a teleprompter.

MCCASKILL: You know, Larry, that -- about the ethics reform, I was there. In fact, Barack Obama called all of the freshmen, after we got elected, and said I'm going to need you in January to really do some things on earmark reform, get rid of these inexpensive charter airplane trips that corporations were paying for people to take. We're not going to get this done unless you all join with us.

And I watched Barack Obama in January and February, when I first came to the Senate. I watched him work across the aisle. I watched him walk across and put his arm around Republicans. There were a lot of Republicans and, frankly, Democrats, that didn't want that bill. They didn't want to give up those charter airplane flights.

So to say that Barack Obama wasn't instrumental in getting that ethics reform through, that's somebody who wasn't in the United States Senate and who didn't watch it.

KING: But, governor...


KING: So you want to add something to that?

PAWLENTY: Just quickly, Larry. It's legendary that the -- Barack Obama -- Senator Obama bailed out, went back and voted straight party line on the package and bailed out from the effort with Senator McCain to (INAUDIBLE) bipartisan.

MCCASKILL: That's just not true. That's just not true.


All right, governor, do you think maybe -- we saw them hug. It's supposed to be a very civil campaign. There's a lot of very dirty things going on behind the scenes and in front of the scenes.

Do you think this is going to be an open, fair, issue-oriented campaign, governor?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think you have two individuals who I think want it to be that way. Inevitably, there's going to be some comparison and contrast on issues.

For example, one of the things that Senator McCain's campaign has been trying to draw out is does Senator Obama have the requisite experience and wisdom and judgment to be the president of the United States, commander-in-chief, and putative leader of the free world?

And I think some of the ads and back and forth on that, drawing that question out -- or is he a celebrity without the real substance underneath?

That's a legitimate question to ask. And so even though some of these ads or their pop culture references may be of interest, the question lying underneath that is pretty important.

KING: Senator, do you think it's going to be a fair campaign?

Do you think it's going to be issue-oriented?

MCCASKILL: I don't think it is right now. I think the same old game is being played. Clearly, a few weeks ago, Karl Rove's minions came into the campaign and took over at the helm. And since that time, Larry, we have seen a parade of negative character assassinations against Barack Obama. He doesn't appreciate or revere the troops. He is all selfish. He's a mere celebrity. All kinds -- I mean this ridiculous book that John McCain has not even dismissed as full of lies. I mean this is a guy writing this book that's full of lies about Barack Obama. It actually says our government was behind 9/11.

And John McCain says well, everybody ought to have a sense of humor about it.

Well, you know what, the American people don't think this kind of campaigning is funny. They don't think character assassinations are worthy of a presidential candidate. And, really, what we need to do is get back to the policy differences between these two candidates...

KING: Governor...

MCCASKILL: ...who has the economic policy that will help the middle class and who is going to continue the exact same economic policies of George Bush that have gotten us in this mess in the first place.

KING: Governor, I gather you're not going to tell us tonight. But the provincial thinking is that you're on the short list.

Have you had any discussion with Senator McCain about being his running mate?

PAWLENTY: You know, I just -- I don't address the vice presidential question or issue, Larry. It's not something I've discussed with him. It's not something I discuss anymore with anybody. But it just leads to more speculation. Much of it is misguided.

But just quickly, on that new book that the senator mentioned -- Senator McCaskill mentioned...

KING: Yes?

PAWLENTY: When Senator McCain was asked about it, he thought he was being asked about an ad. He said, oh, you've got to have a sense of humor about. He did not understand the question to be about that book. So I just wanted to correct the record on that fact.

MCCASKILL: Well, Larry, he has...

KING: Have you read the book, Senator -- governor?

PAWLENTY: I have not.

MCCASKILL: Has Senator McCain rejected the book?

Has he called out this man as a -- as the liar, the serial liar that he is about a number of issues in the book?

We're anxious to see John McCain reject this kind of journalism, that is all about an unfair...

KING: Governor, do you...

MCCASKILL: ...and untrue character assassination.

KING: Do you expect him to reject it?

PAWLENTY: I haven't read the book, Larry, so I can't make a judgment about the book or a reaction to it. I just don't have enough knowledge about the book to weigh in on it.


Thank you both very much.

We'll be calling on you a lot. Governor Tim Pawlenty, you'll be aboard in Minnesota.

And Senator McCaskill in Denver.

Coming up, Rick Warren -- and we'll hear him set the record straight.

That's in a little while.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

Rick Warren in a little while.

Joining us now here in Los Angeles, Tanya Acker, the Democratic analyst. She worked on the 2004 Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign and is a supporter of Barack Obama.

In Washington, Todd Harris. He was press secretary for John McCain's 2000 campaign. Great to see Todd again. He served as communications director for Fred Thompson's unsuccessful White House bid and he is a supporter of John McCain.

All right, Tanya, what do you make of the cone of silence?

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, SUPPORTS OBAMA: This is -- I think that Senator McCaskill made a very good point. It's not a huge issue. I think it's certainly the case that Senator Obama was trying to create converts and Senator McCain was preaching to his choir.

KING: Well, it was Orange County.

ACKER: Absolutely. It's Orange County. It's Evangelicals, who are traditionally Republican stalwarts. And so I applaud Senator Obama for doing this. I think that it was as important for him to do that outreach as it was for Senator McCain to speak at the NAACP. So I applaud him. I think that it was -- it was a magnificent effort.

KING: Todd, is it much adieu about nothing?

TODD HARRIS, FORMER MCCAIN PRESS SECRETARY, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Oh, it's even less to do about nothing. You know, the whole thing -- the arrogance of the -- of some people on the Obama side who just can't get their heads around the idea maybe John McCain had a better night than Barack Obama. And so instead of just acknowledging that -- because I give credit for Obama -- a lot of credit, actually, for showing up. But the fact is McCain had a better night.

And instead of just acknowledging that and moving on, the Obama campaign, you know, whispering to reporters, all these conspiracy theories about the cone of silence. It's a little silly.

KING: OK. McCain and Obama may have come together for Saturday, but they definitely parted ways on a lot of issues. And among them abortion and the quest of when life and human rights begin.

Take a look.


WARREN: At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?

OBAMA: I am pro-choice. I believe in "Roe v. Wade". And I come to that conclusion not because I'm pro-abortion, but because, ultimately, I don't think women make these decisions casually. I think they -- they wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or their spouses or their doctors and their family members.

WARREN: At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?

MCCAIN: At the moment of conception.


MCCAIN: I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies.


MCCAIN: That's my commitment...


MCCAIN: That's my commitment to you.


KING: Since the national average is 60 percent pro-choice, that audience was hardly a national audience.

ACKER: Well, I...

KING: But the question was fair.

ACKER: The question was loaded, but fair. I mean, I think that's a very loaded and biased way... KING: In that audience, though?

ACKER: I think that that's a very biased way of approaching the issue of how a candidate feels about the question of choice and abortion. But I think the more interesting point, frankly, is that, you know, look as we contemplate this conversation -- and certainly on that specific issue about abortion -- John McCain, he preached to his choir. That's exactly who they were. That's exactly what he did.

But if we dig behind the sound bite that he gave, which was absolutely calculated to get the reaction that it did. It played very well in that crowd. But if we dig behind that, John McCain essentially has said that he's against -- if we go...

KING: Yes, OK...

ACKER: ...if we take his reasoning to its logical conclusion, he's against all kinds of contraception that the country takes for granted. He would propose all sorts of impediments on women's reproductive choices.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) isn't that right...

ACKER: So we should look at that. Let's look at that.

KING: Isn't that right, Todd?

If you think it begins at conception, then you must be against all forms of that which would block conception?

HARRIS: Well, that's not at all what he said. And, you know, I think that question was a real microcosm of the campaign writ large because what you saw was the difference between a professor versus someone who was a leader who's ready to be president.

You know, watching Obama answer that question, it reminded me, Larry, of that famous scene in the 1988 presidential debates where Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis about a hypothetical rape and murder of his wife. And Dukakis responded by talking about the deterrent value of the death penalty.

You know, for a guy like Obama, whose whole campaign is fueled on this idea of his ability to inspire, he was very professorial. I don't think he had his best night.

ACKER: What he was, was presenting -- and I'm not going to disagree. I don't think it was the sharpest answer. And certainly in this forum, he should have expected to receive questions about choice and abortion. There's no question about that.

But to suggest that because he gave a nuanced answer to what is a complicated issue -- I know that many of the right-wing in this country like to present the abortion question as simply it's black and white, you know, it's simple and there are no other issues to be concerned but the issues that they put forward as important. It is a more complicated question than that. Could he have had a sharper answer?

Absolutely. But to suggest that because he's thinking through an issue. He's professorial and not a leader is simply -- I just think that that's a bad analogy.

KING: It is -- well, Todd, it is difficult issue, is it not?

HARRIS: There's no question that it's a difficult issue, which is why the country is so divided on this issue. And, yes, this was an Evangelical audience and Senator McCain certainly knew that the fact that he has a 100 percent pro-life voting record is going to help him with this audience.

But, you know, Senator Obama's views on this issue are no secret to the people in that crowd. And as I said before, I gave him credit for -- or I give him credit for just showing up.

KING: Thank you, guys.

We'll be hearing more from you.

HARRIS: Thank you.

KING: Tanya Acker and Todd Harris.

ACKER: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Rick Warren is next.

Don't go away.



WARREN: Let's go to the tough ones. Now, the most...


OBAMA: I thought that was pretty tough.

WARREN: No. That was a freebie. That was a gimme. That was a gimme.

Let me ask you this, this is a character question.

MCCAIN: I hope they get easier.


MCCAIN: They don't get any easier.

WARREN: No, they don't get any easier.


KING: From Lake Forest, California, we welcome -- it's always great to see him, a frequent visitor to this show. Not frequent enough, by the way. Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, best-selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life." and on Saturday, he conducted those interviews with Senators Obama and McCain at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.

Let's take care of one thing right away. You introduced Obama and said that Senator McCain and said he was in a cone of silence.


KING: Now, obviously, Rick Warren would never tell a mistruth.

Did you not know that he was in an automobile?

WARREN: I didn't know they had put -- hadn't put him into the Green Room yet. No, I didn't. When we walked in, I knew he hadn't been in about 10 minutes earlier. And I figured within the 10 minutes we got there, they had put him in.

The whole thing is really kind of bogus, Larry. The Supreme -- I mean, the Secret Service were with him the whole time. Then our facility's staff -- our security staff were with him. And he was put in a building completely separate from everybody else. And there's no way he could hear. I've been talking about this all day. There was a rumor going around that he watched the program on a monitor in the Green Room that we had him in.

Well, there's only one problem with it. My staff, Chuck Taylor, disconnected that thing two days before it happened. So if he -- if they had happened to turn it on, it would have been all just static.

And both Barack and John agreed to the terms that said we will not listen to the other's, we will not get the questions in advance.

Actually, what happened is I did give Obama one in advance that I didn't get to Senator McCain because he wasn't there. Right before we started, I wanted to tell them there's going to be one question that I'm going to ask you for a commitment on. And I didn't think that was fair to ask for a commitment publicly without setting them up. And it had to do with orphans.

And so I did get to tell Senator Obama about that question. But because Senator McCain wasn't there, he hadn't -- he didn't have that question yet.

KING: All right.

Well, could he have heard it in the car, though, if he was still arriving at the event?

WARREN: You know what, if -- not a chance. The Secret Service would have reported it. When he showed up, there were -- and he says he didn't. You know, I...

KING: All right.

WARREN: ...I just have to accept his integrity on that.

KING: Sure.

Was it a stacked deck against Obama in the fact that this was Orange County and an Evangelical audience?

WARREN: Yes. Well, there's no doubt about it. I mean it was Orange County. And you're going to have more of a conservative audience.

But if you listen to applause, it's pretty equal in a lot of the places. And we gave an equal number of tickets to both campaigns. So they both had their -- their partisans in there at the same time and they had the exact same number of people.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Jeff in Wheaton, Illinois: "Pastor Warren, you said Saturday that there had been a coin flip to determine who went first."


KING: "When did this coin flip occur? Where were the senators when it took place?"

WARREN: Well, they were certainly weren't around. I just did it with my staff about a month before we even started the program. I started collecting questions myself a month in advance. And right off the bat, I said well, somebody is going to have to go first.

When I created this idea, why don't we figure out a civil way to do this, where the guys can express their views and their opinions in a civil -- a civilized, non-rude, non-got you type of format?

And I just decided why don't we just do one hour at time...

KING: Well, you did it.

WARREN: ...and we'll do them back to back. And I'll ask the identical questions so there's no bias in it.

KING: Excellent way to do it.

Early in your one-on-ones, you asked each candidate what had been his greatest moral failure. You also asked about America's greatest moral failure.

Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WARREN: What would be, looking over your life -- everybody's got weaknesses because nobody's perfect -- would be the greatest moral failure in your life and what would be the greatest moral failure of America?

OBAMA: I had a difficult youth. My father wasn't in the house. I've written about this.


OBAMA: You know, there were times where I experimented with drugs and I drank, you know, in my teenage years. And what I trace this to is a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me and, you know, the reasons that I might be dissatisfied that I couldn't focus on other people.

I think America's greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.

WARREN: You do for me.

OBAMA: And that notion of...


OBAMA: That basic principle applies to poverty. It applies to racism and sexism. It applies to, you know, not having -- not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class.



MCCAIN: My greatest moral failing -- and I have been a very imperfect person -- is the failure of my first marriage. It's my greatest moral failure.

I think America's greatest moral failure has been throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest, although we've been the best at it of anybody in the world. I think after 9/11, my friends, instead of telling people to go shopping or take a trip, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, the military, expand our volunteers...


MCCAIN: ...expand...


MCCAIN: ...expand what we're doing...

(APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: ...expand the great missions that you are doing -- that you're carrying out not only here in America, but throughout the world, especially in Rwanda. And I hope we have a chance to talk a little bit about that later on.


MCCAIN: And, you know, I'm -- a little pandering here. The first words of your very successful book is, "This is not about you."


MCCAIN: And you know what that really also means?

Serve a cause greater than your self-interests.


KING: Are you surprised, Rick, that on America's major moral dilemma, slavery wasn't mentioned?

WARREN: Well, yes. Here's the interesting thing, Larry. Two things struck me about that initial encounter. In the first place, I threw him a hardball right up front, you know, what's your greatest moral failure.

KING: Yes.

WARREN: And, you know, I said it in a very polite way, but that's not really coming out of the chute very -- very easy. And there were three times that -- I don't know if you could see it on the camera, but there were three times that John McCain actually teared up in the forum.

The first time was when he talked about his -- the failure of his first marriage. And his eyes literally were glistening. I don't know if the cameras caught that.

The second time is when he talked about Russia invading Georgia. And he definitely teared up on that.

And the third time he teared up was actually when he was talking about -- oh, it just passed through my mind. Oh, when he was talking about Mother Teresa recommending that he have an orphan and adopt that orphan from Bangladesh and bring it back.

Those are the three moments in his life that he teared up on.

The interesting thing, as I looked at their answer to the second question, what is America's greatest moral failure, I think they were both thinking about contemporary, not throughout history.

KING: Yes, maybe.

WARREN: Certainly, slavery -- slavery would be the worst one of all of history. No doubt about that. And I think they would both agree on that.

KING: That's what I thought. Yes.

WARREN: But what...


WARREN: But what was interesting is that...

KING: Let me get...

WARREN: that...

KING: Let me have a break.

We'll pick right back up.

Hold it, Rick.


KING: We'll be right back.

Don't go away.


KING: Rick Warren is our guest. Rick, let me ask you a couple of Rick Warren questions. OK?


KING: Does a person have to believe in god to be president?

WARREN: I would say so. I couldn't vote for a person who was an atheist, because I would think -- I think the presidency is a job too big for one person. I would think there's a little arrogance that says, I don't need anybody else. I could vote for someone of different religions than mine, but I don't know that I could personally vote for somebody who denies that we need somebody greater than ourselves to help us.

KING: You also asked the candidates about the most gut wrenching questions they've ever had -- gut wrenching decisions they've ever had to make. Let's take a look.


WARREN: What's the most gut wrenching decision you ever had to make and how did you process that, to come to that decision?

OBAMA: Well, I think the opposition to the war in Iraq was as tough a decision I've had to make, not only because there were political consequences, but also because Saddam Hussein was a real bad person. There was no doubt that he meant America ill. But I was firmly convinced at the time that we did not have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and there were a lot of questions that, as I spoke to experts, kept on coming up; do we know how the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds are going to get along in a post-Saddam situation? What's our assessment as to how this will affect the battle against terrorists like al Qaeda? Have we finished the job in Afghanistan?

MCCAIN: It was long ago, and far away, in a prison camp in North Vietnam. My father was a high ranking admiral. The Vietnamese came and said that I could leave prison early. We had a code of conduct that said you only leave by order of capture. I also had a dear and beloved friend who was from California, by the name of Alvarez, who had been shot down and captured a couple years before me. But I wasn't in good physical shape. In fact, I was in rather bad physical shape. And so I said, no.

In interest of full disclosure, I'm very happy I didn't know the war was going to last for another three years or so, but I said no. I'll never forget sitting -- my last answer and the high ranking officer offered it, slammed the door and the interrogator said, go back to your cell. It's going to be very tough on you now. And it was.

But not only the toughest decision I ever made but I'm most happy about that decision than any other decision I ever made in my life.


KING: Rick, we have an i-ask question submitted via our website on this weekend's civil forum. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Michelle. I am from Spring Valley, California. My question is for Pastor Rick Warren: if you had the opportunity to ask the candidates one more question in a public forum, what would it be and why? Thanks.


KING: Rick?

WARREN: The question was, what other questions would I have asked?

KING: What one other question would you have asked that you didn't get in?

WARREN: I had a dozen other questions I wanted to ask. There were a number of questions that I wanted to ask personally that we ran out of time for. A lot of the things that I care about most had to deal with international issues, like poverty, disease, illiteracy, corruption. I had a question on climate change. I had a question on AIDS. I had a question on nuclear proliferation. There were a lot of questions that didn't get asked because they weren't as succinct as I had hoped they would be, and we actually ran out of time. So there were a number of questions. That and the fact that I wanted to ask follow-ups. There were so many questions I wanted to say, yes, but, yes, but.

KING: I know.

WARREN: I had to decide. I understand, Larry, the pain you go through all the time as a journalist, it was the question, am I going to go deep or am I going to go broad? I made this decision right at the start, when I realized they're going to take longer than I want them to take, and I'm going to go broad and not do all the follow-ups that I really wanted to do. I could have gone 30 minutes on any of those questions.

KING: How true. More answers from Pastor Rick Warren when we come back.


KING: Do discussion of religion have place in presidential elections? That's tonight's quick vote question. You go to and tell us. Our guest is Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church and author of the major best-seller "The Purpose Driven Life." You've got a book coming out Christmas. We'll have him back for that book. It's a book about Christmas, right?

WARREN: Yes, the purpose of Christmas.

KING: You also asked both candidates about taxation and defining who's rich. It was a very interesting moment. Let's watch.


WARREN: This is a real simple question. Define rich.

OBAMA: I would argue that if you're making more than 250,000, then you're in the top three, four percent of this country; you're doing well. Now these things are all relative. I'm not suggesting that everybody's who is making over 250,000 is living on easy street. But the question that I think we have to ask ourselves is, if we believe in good schools, if we believe in good roads, if we want to make sure that kids can go to college, if we don't want to leave a mountain of debt for the next generation, then we've got to pay for these things. They don't come for free.

MCCAIN: Some of the richest people I've ever known in my life are the most unhappy. I think that rich is -- should be defined by a home, a good job, an education, and the ability to hand to our children a more prosperous and safer world than the one that we inherited. I don't want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich.


KING: Did those answers satisfy you? WARREN: You know, Larry, the point I was trying to make is that it's so relative. What it takes to live in southern California is a whole different spectrum of economy than, say, Mule Shoe, Texas. I've traveled around the world a lot with the poorest of the poor. I would say everybody in America is rich. I was just trying to pin them down on a number, give me a number, because they keep saying we're going to tax the rich and it is going to be less on the middle class. Fine, tell me what is your definition of middle class. I would have liked it to be a little clearer, yes.

KING: How did you like it when Obama said, you made a lot of money, didn't you? How did he phrase it?

WARREN: I high-fived him on that. He came right back -- actually, it was great line, where he said, you know, anybody who sold 25, 30 million copies of their book, they're rich. They're rich. Of course, I give away 90 percent, as you know, but it was great line.

KING: You give away 90 percent of your income, right?

WARREN: Yes, I do. I do. One of the things I was trying to do is show that you can disagree without demonizing each other. These guys went an hour each without ever dissing the opposition. I believe we've lost the civility in our civilization. We have to stop being so rude with each other that we can disagree without being disagreeable. I wanted to provide a platform where you can literally hear the significant differences, not only in their personality and in their philosophy, but in their direction for America and all those things without it getting cantankerous. I thought that was a good deal.

KING: We'll be back with more of Rick Warren on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Bill Maher tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Rick Warren is our special guest. He hosted that major conclave last Saturday night, seen here on CNN. By the way, going to the break once with Obama, you leaned in and said, home run. What were you referring to? We picked it up.

WARREN: Sure. I actually said the same thing to McCain. It's just my way of saying, you're doing a good job. I thought both of them did a fantastic job. Larry, both of these men love America. They're good men. I said they're friends. They're exact opposite in their philosophy and personality. You could do a lot worse than both of these guys. I thought they both came out strong.

They played the character. They played the cast. I think America -- there's a significant number of people who are kind of in the middle. They're not red nor blue, who say, I'm not religious left, and I'm not secular left, and I'm not religious right, and I'm not secular right. I'm somewhere here in the middle. I have talked to so many people who say, I like this about Barack, but I don't like this. I like this about John, but I don't like this. I like this part of the Democratic platform, but I don't like that part. I like this part of the Republican platform, but don't like that. I'm trying to create a common ground for the common good right there in the middle. Neither of these guys are god. They're not saviors.

KING: Does that description there fit Rick Warren?

WARREN: Oh, yes, I'm right in the middle. That's why I get it from both sides. If I were just left, then all the right would attack me. If I were just right, all the left would attack me. When you're in the middle, it's kind of like the guy in the Civil War who got mixed up and he wore the blue top and the gray bottom, got shot out by both sides.

KING: The discussion discussed something you don't hear often in debates or discussions with political candidates, the word evil. Watch.


WARREN: Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, do we defeat it?

OBAMA: Evil does exist. I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. And I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely. And one of the things that I strongly believe is that, you know, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is god's task. But we can be soldiers in that process.

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that and I know how to do it. I will get that guy. No one -- no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives. Of course evil must be defeated.


KING: What do you think of -- do you think he took the political route there, did Senator McCain?

WARREN: You know, Larry, here's another case where both of them made a very good point. In the first place, Barack mentioned the fact that there's evil in America, not just overseas. It's not just something out there. We do have evil in America. We have racism. We have injustice. We have poverty. We have rape, and all of the things that happen in the inner city, as well as in the suburbs. And that was a good point.

On the other hand, John was very clear that you can't negotiate with evil. You have to defeat it. Honestly, I think he was thinking not just of Obama, I think really what was on his heart too was this interest of Russia recently invading Georgia. You know, just today I got a communication from the president of Georgia, who actually watched the Saddleback Civil Forum in Georgia. And I didn't get to talk to him, but his office communicated to me that he was near tears and said, thank you so much for bringing up Georgia in the forum, because we need to ask everybody in America to pray for our country.

KING: Wow.

WARREN: We don't want to see -- the bear is back, as they're saying. The bear is back and we don't want to start seeing satellite states again all over the borders of Russia.

KING: Well, Rick Warren has told us how he thinks the candidates did. We'll ask him to rate his own performance after this.


KING: A couple other things, Rick; how did you do?

WARREN: Well, Larry, I'll leave that to the people and the pundits. I certainly had a good time. I'm not going to leave my day job. I'm a pastor. If I could provide a service in this particular case -- and I wanted to showcase how you could do this civilly with people of both kinds of politics. I actually had a Bible verse in my pocket the entire time. It's Verse Samuel, Chapter Seven, where David says, "who I am, lord, and who is my family that you have brought me this far? You know who I am and it is your will and your word that has brought me to this success."

And so I was humbled that I was able to play a part in what is a historic time in America. We've got to choose the next president.

KING: You did quite, quite well.

WARREN: Thank you. You know what, I learned from the best. I've been on your show enough.

KING: We have an e-mail question --

WARREN: I've seen -- go ahead.

KING: We have an e-mail -- if you're going to compliment me, keep going.

WARREN: Well, let me say that. I've been on your show enough and I've watched you so long that I've watched you take people who I know you disagreed with, but you treat them with dignity. You treat them with courtesy. And you let them speak without interrupting them. And I just thought, that's what we need to be doing, instead of these stupid debates, where you get the 30 second rebuttal, and the five second rebuttal of the rebuttal, and the two second rebuttals and the five seconds, 30 seconds. It's stupid.

KING: Well said, thank you.

WARREN: It was a great job.

KING: E-mail question from Carla in Kansas city, Missouri: "I have become increasing worried about the level of involvement of the Evangelical church in politics. Doesn't this take attention away from learning to serve god and his true purpose? And given that so many politicians are dishonest, doesn't it pollute the body of Christ to invite them into our churches?"

WARREN: Yes. Well, I disagree with that. As I said when we started the forum, I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. I am not in favor of a theocracy. Everywhere you have state religion, it dies. I believe in just free market enterprise for religion, as well as for everything else. But I don't believe in the separation of faith and politics, because faith is simply a world view, Larry, and everybody has a world view. An atheist has a world view. A communist has a world view. A Buddhist, a Baptist, a secularist, a Jewish person, a Muslim, a Mormon, an Evangelical, everybody has a world view.

The person who says, well, I'm just going to put my world view on the shelf, and it won't affect my leadership style is either an idiot or they're lying, because you can't do it. Your world view is the values by which you draw to make your decisions. So I think it's entirely appropriate that we ask people what their world view is. We should not have a religious test for religion. And this was not a government sponsored event. This happened to be two friends of mine who I happened to invite and actually was quite fortunate that they said, we trust you enough to do this.

I actually said, I'll put together a panel and they can ask you the questions. And they said no, we will do it with two conditions. One, that you provide a free digital feed to everybody who wants to pick it up. And I said fine. And the other one was, Rick, you ask all the questions. And I think that was just evidence they knew I was trustworthy to do it.

KING: I salute you. Rick, I'm happy to have you as a friend. Thanks very much for being with us.

WARREN: You're a good friend, Larry. Thank you.

KING: Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, the best selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life." You still have time to answer tonight's quick vote: does religion have a race in presidential elections? Go to and tell us. While you're there, download our podcast. The latest is a king size tribute to the late Bernie Mac. Tomorrow, Emmy nominee Bill Maher will be here. You know he'll have a lot to say about politics, the presidency and the cone of silence, about religion too, I'll bet. He'll tell us about his new movie, which deals with that. That's LARRY KING LIVE, Tuesday night, Bill Maher.

Time now, Campbell Brown, sitting in for Anderson Cooper. She's one of my favorite people.