Did the Straight Talk Express Get Derailed? Did McCain Cheat Last Night

In the interest of providing a more rounded account please do not overlook additions to this story, including McCain campaign's reply.

Seems like there is good reason to suspect that John McCain either listened to Barack Obama and Rick Warren during the first hour of the Saddlebrook debate, despite assurances to the audience that he had been isolated in a "cone of silence," on the premises of the church.

The rules of the game were that both Obama and McCain would be asked to answer identical questions. After a coin flip Obama went first. McCain was not supposed to learn of Obama's answers in advance of his own appearance on stage.

It is now established that from 5 to 4:30 pacific time, McCain was not on the premises. When asked by Warren whether he had watched or heard the debate he said no, but even if you believe that John McCain would never tell a lie, Rick Warren did not ask whether anyone else in his entourage was listening to the debate; whether that putative individual had informed him of what was going on.

Linda Bergthold pulled the story together on Huffington Post.

I must admit that listening to McCain answer Pastor Rick Warren's questions so quickly and glibly last night at the Saddleback Faith Forum made me wonder if he somehow knew them in advance. He was so confident, so concise ...

snip

Daily Kos blogger Furiousxxgeorge wrote at 3:27 pm Pacific time the following blog: Pastor Warren, the host of last night's forum was just on CNN. The rules of the debate were that Obama and McCain would be asked to respond to the same questions from Warren.

In an interview with Rick Sanchez the pastor admitted McCain was not even at the Church for the first half hour of the event. This admission comes as a surprise to those of us who watched the event and were told many times that McCain was at the Church and in isolation. ...

snip

Pastor Warren states that McCain told him he did not "hear" the questions. He was in a motorcade from his hotel to the church, arriving about 30 minutes into the Obama interview hour. McCain did not say whether anyone else on his staff "heard" the questions, however.

Jbalazs raises the question McCain cheated? proof he knew the questions ahead of time? on Daily Kos and compares a transcript of Warren's Questions and Obama's answers during the first hour of the debate, with McCain's answers in the Q&A between him and Warren.There are times when McCain seems to be answering before Warren get's the question fully formulated. The transcript is well worth the time to check it out.

UPDATE

This is not later news, but I have found more information that I want to share.

It seems that questions about McCain's whereabouts were first raised by the Obama people during Meet the Press on Sunday. They apparently had learned that McCain was not in the broadcast studio at Saddleback Church, from 5-5:30. Andrea Mitchell discussed this on-air Monday, commenting that perhaps the Obama people were uncomfortable about his showing in the debate. Despite Mitchell's comment, the McCain campaign is "outraged" at her coverage:

We are extremely disappointed to see that the level of objectivity at NBC News has fallen so low that reporters are now giving voice to unsubstantiated, partisan claims in order to undercut John McCain.

The letter is quoted in full many placed on the web including here.

McCain's veracity is also being called into question with regard to the mawkish cross-in-the-sand story he retold during the debate about how on when occasion whe he was painfully tied down while he a Vietnamese prison-of-war his morale was lifted when a guard drew a cross in the sand in front of him. Apparently this "story" is similar to something rickrocket, another DKos correspondent found in Aleksandr Sozzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago apparently one of McCain's favorite books.

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why we are having a "presidential debate" in a church? This just seems ... words fail me ...

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