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Falwell's 'Champions for Christ' Debate Coach Schools McCain

During the 2000 presidential campaign, John McCain lumped Jerry Falwell in with the "agents of intolerance." Flash forward eight years and McCain has really changed his tune. So much so that he's using a disciple of the former Agent of Intolerance to prepare him for his first high-stakes presidential debate this Friday against Barack Obama.

McCain's chief debate coach is Brett O'Donnell, who molded Falwell's Liberty University debate team into a powerhouse national champion.

O'Donnell, according to a March 2006 New York Times profile of Liberty's debate team, is "an intensely competitive man." He works "80-hour weeks and spends half of every year away from his wife and two children on the road coaching, scouting and recruiting," the profile reads.

Falwell chose O'Donnell to make his school's debate team the best in the country to produce "champions for Christ." He may not be turning McCain into a champion for Christ, but he will try to create a champion nevertheless, just as he did with President Bush during the 2004 presidential debates.

Here is how O'Donnell described his debate theory in the Times profile:

"The trick is to persuade the audience. It's psychological, and it rests in Aristotle's theory of enthymeme. Aristotle saw that pure logic can't carry a public argument. You need to make the audience go along with you. You do that by leaving out a premise the audience will add itself.

"For example, if you are trying to convince senior citizens to invest in something, you emphasize the stability of the investment. You don't have to convince seniors that stability is in their interest. They already know that. When they connect what you are proposing to what they already know, you have them arguing with you instead of against you. That's what we teach our kids."

One senior McCain campaign insider tells the Sleuth that O'Donnell, 43, spends his down time listening to and critiquing past presidential debates on his iPod as he prepares McCain for this Friday's foreign policy debate against Obama at Ole

It sounds like O'Donnell means business. McCain's rapprochement with Falwell and other religious conservatives in 2006 may have paid off. (We'll see on Friday.)

While O'Donnell works on making McCain a champion debater, others will be role playing to get the Arizona senator fit for the ring. Former Maryland Lt. Gov and one-time Senate candidate Michael Steele, a prominent African-American Republican, will play Obama during practice sessions.

Former Clinton administration lawyer Greg Craig will play McCain for Obama. As the conservative-and-proud-of-it Washington Times points out, Obama "has chosen a famous Washington lawyer who defended the would-be assassin of President Reagan to play Sen. John McCain in preparations."

And while McCain, according to a Wall Street Journal story, plans to hit the hay and take a nap to mentally prepare for the first big showdown, Obama intends to do what he typically does to unwind: hit the basketball court and shoot some hoops.

"That's what he usually does," Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton told the Sleuth.

Though it being a full four days out from the debate, Burton couldn't confirm whether hoops will officially be on Obama's schedule Friday.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  September 23, 2008; 7:13 AM ET
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I think that all of the attention to "ad's" is a waste of time....

Since McCaint is the new "regulator" and the "cleaner" of the Washington Lobbyist Drugdealers....he should start by getting rid of these first....

AIG - Wayne Berman, National Finance Committee Co-Chair

Merrill Lynch - Charlie Black, McCain Campaign Senior Adviser

Merrill Lynch - Judy Black, Women for McCain Steering Committee

Merrill Lynch - Daniel Crippen, Senior Policy Adviser

Merrill Lynch - James Hyland, Virginia Steering Committee

Merrill Lynch - Peter Madigan, fundraiser

Merrill Lynch - Steve Phillips, fundraiser

Lehman Brothers - Charlie Black, McCain Campaign Senior Adviser

Lehman Brothers - Vicki Hart, Women for McCain Steering Committee

Bank of America - David Crane, Senior Policy Adviser

Fannie Mae - Kirsten Chadwick, fundraiser, Women for McCain Steering Committee

Fannie Mae - Arthur Culvahouse, head of McCain V-P search

Fannie Mae - Alison H. McSlarrow, Women for McCain Steering Committee

Fannie Mae - Aquiles Suarez, Economic Adviser

Freddie Mac - Juleanna Glover Weiss, Women for McCain Steering Committee

Cindy Fiorina- Fired Exec at Hewlett Packard with a 27 million dollar golden parachute

Rick Davis - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Lobbyist who received 30,000 a month...just because he was in McCaints Campaign in 2007....

...One who live in 7 glass mansions should not throw golden stones.....

Posted by: AlexP1 | September 23, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

none of mccain's people are current lobbyists, however, neither are obama's. many of his supporters are facing indictment or prison sentences. obama makes mccain look like a saint.

Posted by: monty | September 23, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

McCain has left honor and pride behind in his drive to the WH. He's embraced the "agents of intolerance" by picking an un-vetted Palin. He adopted the slimy campaign tactics of Rove and Co. by handing over his campaign to the Bush Team. McCain is morphing into Bush in front of our very eyes.

Bush/McCain. No More Years.

Posted by: thebob.bob | September 23, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

McCain is no longer driving towards the presidency, in "human mode"..He is the most desperate man I have ever seen, in the political circle, next to Nixon..With 9 houses and now 13 cars, what is his gain except ego, and to carry on for Bush..This is definately something we do not need!Look at us today! We all are holding our breaths and hoping the program to bail out all these crooks is honest and worth while...McCain, wnats to fire the wrong person, gets names mixed up, but his most profound act, was to deregulate! And, even now he would still do it, and he regrets none of the ones he already helped in passing! I pray the people of this country can see this man's potential, to flush us all down the drain, and whatever might be left, leave to some foreign nation with a bomb to do the rest!

Posted by: jane | September 23, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"Champs for christ"?

All those fine young christian students would be sunni muslims if they were born in Saudi Arabia - good wahabis standing against the crusaders.

If born in Rome they would overwhelmingly be catholics; in India Hindus.

Its all cultural claptrap.

These kids are wasting time learning that the earth is 7,000 years old, that man walked with dinasaurs and Adam and Eve walked in the garden.

If Adam and Eve only had sons, who did these sons mate with? Never mind.....

Might as well worship Zeus and read entrails.

Posted by: toritto | September 23, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

How many are your deeds,
46 though hidden from sight.
47 O sole God without equal !
48 You made the Earth as You desired, You alone.
49 With people, cattle, and all creatures.
50 With everything upon Earth that walks on legs,
51 and all that is on high and flies with its wings.

Bible verse? Psalms perhaps?


The Great Hymn of Aten - Pharoah Amenhotep and monotheism.

Posted by: toritto | September 23, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Steele to play Obama -- LOL. They got the only black guy left in the party to play Obama. I guess if Steele hadn't been available they would have been calling Don Cheadle to see what his going rate is.

Posted by: grace | September 23, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Poor "Toritto."
Whatever your point was, it was lost in your personal version of "cultural claptrap," which apparently finds truth discernment too tough to handle.

No matter how illusory and erroneous one's theology, one's religion may be wholly genuine and everlastingly true. Religion is primarily a pursuit of values. That religionists may believe so much that is false does not invalidate religion, because religion is founded on the recognition of values and is validated by the faith of personal religious experience; not some assertion of material doctrine.

The higher a civilization climbs, the more necessary it becomes to "seek first the realities of heaven" in all of our efforts to stabilize society and facilitate the solution of our material problems. But a lasting social system without a morality predicated on spiritual realities can no more be maintained than could the solar system without gravity.

Obama '08

Posted by: Saitia | September 23, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

That's all great.... just one thing though... now to figure out how he'll be able to remember what it is he is debating...

real challenge

Posted by: nerakami | September 23, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I used to have some respect for John McCain, but, after I saw him getting into bed with Falwell. I had to question his judgement and moral compass. Then I found out the truth about his Navy career, his womanizing and leaving his damaged wife for a prettier, younger, richer model, and last, but not least, his calling Cindy the c word. He has done some good things in his life, but they are trumped by the filth he wallows in, his disrespect for women and his using religion as a tool to get elected. I used to think he was an honorable man; now I know he's just another egotistical rich guy, who is only interested in power and prestige. He admitted that he only wants to be president to be president, not to help the country or anything so altruistic. I am anxious to see the debate and watch him fall on his face. He was laughable on the View, when asked about his lies and on the Daily Show, when called out about Falwell. Perhaps one of the kids from the debate team should be his proxy. Next to Obama, he looks like an angry, dirty old man; no amount of coaching can change that!

Posted by: childrenfirst | September 23, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

saitia: Its all claptrap. There is no god out there..never was..never has been.

After you die it will be like before you were born....tens of billions of years of nothingness.

I am little different from my cat. The only difference is that I know I am going to die and she doesn't.

Its really nice to think about how its gonna be on that beautiful shore when we see mom and dad again - its a fable just like Santa Clause is to kids.

If there was a god it is certainly not in the image of a King who demands that we "worship" it or suffer eternal punishment. Its all nonsense.

Half this country thinks the world is 7,000 years old and the other half thinks you can say some mumbojumbo over a cup of wine and it will transform into the blood of a long dead jew - while still appearing to be wine of course.

We will not progress to the stars until we put aside such nonsense.

Blame Amenhotep for monotheism - we are still doing what we did 5,000 years ago when whe didn't know what made the sun rise in the morning.

Live for today.

Posted by: toritto | September 23, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann,
You madam are an idiot.

Thank you and good nite.

Posted by: DCMOM | September 23, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

The article you have written suggests that O'Donnell Subscribes to Falwell's belief. Many readers will be fooled by the sleight of hand here as it appears that he is nothing more than a Debate Coach, a hired gun who is capable of prepping people to the highest level for debates. Where is your proof the O'Donnell is a Falwell follower?

Posted by: PA Independent | September 23, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Check this out if you want to see how McCain's vp is burnishing her foreign policy credentials:

Posted by: Did I mention I'm a LIAR??? | September 23, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

As a former LU debater, I can attest for you, PA Independent, that not only did O'Donnell profess the same beliefs (politically and religiously) as Falwell, but his beliefs came off as even more politically motivated (ie, he wanted power), than even Falwell. I don't know if he still feels that way, but back in the day, he certainly talked as if he believed like Falwell.

Posted by: Former Debater | September 23, 2008 7:18 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RICHARD NIXON (R) | September 23, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

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