Last night the Reverend Rick Warren questioned Barack Obama and John McCain at California's Saddleback Church. Post forum coverage at CNN was hosted by network chief national correspondent John King.
He began by asking CNN senior political analyst Candy Crowley and network congressional correspondent Dana Bash for their impressions. Crowley found McCain to have been "very direct" while Bash observed the GOP candidate addressed the audience rather than Warren. Both stated that Obama was "nuanced" in his answers.
When King asked Bill Schneider, another CNN senior political analyst, for his take on the event, the word of the day shifted from nuanced to thoughtful:
SCHNEIDER: Each candidate used the opportunity I think to showcase his strengths. Barack Obama's answers were complex, thoughtful, very subtle. He stretched the theme of unity. He wants to be a unifier. And he stood by his principles on issues like abortion and gay rights. But he was respectful of people who disagree with him and said he would listen to people on the other side.
King later addressed a question to another guest:
KING: Tony Perkins, there perhaps as much as any question, the stylistic difference between these two men. More of an assertive, defiant, I will get evil from John McCain, and a more thoughtful, subdued answer from Barack Obama. Is one right and one wrong or are they just different?
Then we heard from yet another CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen:
GERGEN: In some ways, John McCain's night -- I think this is one of the issues at this point that will trouble people on the progressive side of politics and even perhaps some in the middle -- is he too forward looking on the use of force and sort of going out and looking for and beating back trouble in the world? Do we need someone who is more thoughtful, wants to work with others, a little more humble, not quite as self-righteous. And I think that's going to be a big, big question for voters.
Minutes later, Gergen again described Obama as thoughtful, just in case we missed it.
Also participating in the discussion was Roland Martin. He was identified as a mere CNN political analyst, but demonstrated he's definitely ready to move up in the organization:
MARTIN: John McCain keep the personal stories going, also toe the line from appeal to evangelicals, but also be very mindful of independents. Senator Barack Obama cut the long winded questions. His best segment tonight frankly was the last one where he gave the short, snappier answers where he was much more clear. He was still thoughtful. But also emphasize character, his family, his children, drive that home. That's going to be critical as opposed to relying just on issues.
That Obama is just so darn thoughtful. This isn't just CNN's judgment. Over at MSNBC, political director Chuck Todd noted that "every Obama answer was certainly thoughtful enough. . . " San Francisco Chronicle political writer Carla Maninucci writes that Obama "appeared more thoughtful and comfortable discussing faith and domestic issues, exploring with relish the issues and moral dilemmas with Warren." Dan Glaister, Los Angeles correspondent of the UK Guardian, reports: "Where Obama was thoughtful and cautious, McCain was abrupt - so abrupt in fact that his short responses meant he got to answer more questions in his hour than his rival."
I watched the forum and would describe many of Obama's responses as vague. Thoughtfulness, like beauty, apparently is in the eye of the beholder. At CNN and in other mainstream media outlets, they all behold it the same way.