Barack catches a break [but Ambinder and Sully need to give me a break - see below] - the NewsMax reporter who claimed Obama was in the church nodding in agreement during yet another of Jeremiah Wright's speeches has a space-time problem. From NewsMax:
Contrary to Senator Barack Obama’s claim that he never heard his pastor Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. preach hatred of America, Obama was in the pews last July 22 when the minister blamed the “white arrogance” of America’s Caucasian majority for the world’s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks.
This does not resolve Obama's central problem - he is telling the nation that
"We’ve got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. But what I continue to believe in is that this country wants to move beyond these kinds of divisions."
but there is no evidence that, over the course of twenty years, he has moved his own minister past anger and bitterness.
However, if Obama was not attending church the specific day NewsMax claims he was, this gotcha is gone, and Obama's ludicrous claim that he was unaware of Wright's incendiary black separatism has not yet been disproven.
Props to Mickey Kaus for this.
MORE: Planes, trains, and automobiles? From Chicago to Miami for a 1:30 scheduled speech? I could believe Obama flew in Sunday morning, but to have time to go to church first? Per NewsMax, it was a Sunday morning sermon. And there is a one hour time difference between Chicago, so even the 7AM service would be a tight schedule. Hmm, in by 8 AM (Eastern time), out by 9 (C'mon, don't tell an old Catholic that the early service isn't the quick one), private plane for three hours to Miami - EZ! Or at least, not utterly implausible. Pretty high level of energy and commitment from Obama, though. Show us some plane ticket receipts!
[Or don't - Obama was in Chicago Sunday AM and did have an event scheduled, but that event was not a church appearance. Or so the Obama people say.]
FWIW, Obama spoke to a rally in Manchester, NH on Friday, July 20. Chicago is an air hub, so he may have gone home that night. But geez, playing "Where's Obama?" is absurd - Wright delivered twenty years of this stuff.
GIVE ME A BREAK: Marc Ambinder and Andrew Sullivan go off on William Kristol, who recited the NewsMax reporting in his own column. Ambinder:
Bill Kristol's New York Times column about Barack Obama this morning contains a major, prejudicial error.
But Ronald Kessler, a journalist who has written about Wright’s ministry, claims that Obama was in fact in the pews at Trinity last July 22. That’s when Wright blamed the “arrogance” of the “United States of White America” for much of the world’s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks. In any case, given the apparent frequency of such statements in Wright’s preaching and their centrality to his worldview, the pretense that over all these years Obama had no idea that Wright was saying such things is hard to sustain.
Let give some praise to Ambinder, who has the honor to present the Kristol's NewsMax cite in context. Reading the full paragraph (my emphasis added), it is clear that Kristol quite reasonably believes that one swallow does not a springtime make, and that trying to demonstrate whether Obama was in attendance for specific inflamatory sermon is a mug's game.
Did Kristol bow it? Apparently. Was it a "major" error? He could have easily submitted the column with the NewsMax cite omitted and changed almost nothing else.
This is what Kristol makes of the Wright connection:
This doesn’t mean that Obama agrees with Wright’s thoroughgoing and conspiracy-heavy anti-Americanism. Rather, Obama seems to have seen, early in his career, the utility of joining a prominent church that would help him establish political roots in the community in which he lives. Now he sees the utility of distancing himself from that church. Obama’s behavior in dealing with Wright is consistent with that of a politician who often voted “present” in the Illinois State Legislature for the sake of his future political viability.
That is essentially the Matt Yglesias "defense"; if Ambinder has offered an interpretation I can't find it.
THE NEWSMAX NON-DEFENSE: Groan - NewsMax has a clarification:
...Our writer, Jim Davis, says he attended several services at Senator Obama's church during the month of July, including July 22. The church holds services three times every Sunday at 7:30 and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time. While both the early morning and evening service allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami, Mr. Davis stands by his story that during one of the services he attended during the month of July, Senator Obama was present and sat through the sermon given by Rev. Wright as described in the story. Mr. Davis said Secret Service were also present in the church during Senator Obama's attendance.
First, the original story is written as though the writer attended just one service. But more importantly, if the best the Mr. Davis could come up with after attending "several" services was one "United States of White America" moment, maybe Obama really did sleep through or miss the worst of Wright.
Now, maybe he went to a service, saw Obama wasn't there, and skipped out. And on the other side, both church service tapes I sat through have objectionable moments.
Well, I have an idea for NewsMax - get it right the first time, 'kay? We want drip, drip, drip from Obama, but thanks for sharing.
All of this is a helpful reminder of why I use NewsMax for transcripts and not much else.