Wash. Times' Pruden repeated false allegation that Obama sent Western Wall prayer to media

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

The Washington Times' Wes Pruden repeated the debunked allegation that Sen. Barack Obama released the written prayer he placed on the Western Wall in Jerusalem to Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv. In fact, while a spokesman for Ma'ariv reportedly told other Israeli publications that the Obama campaign gave copies of the prayer to the media before he went to the Western Wall, The New Republic's Zvika Krieger wrote in a blog post: "I finally heard back from the Ma'ariv spokesman, who denied that the Obama campaign leaked the memo to them or gave them approval to print it, and who disavowed the alleged spokesman who gave quotes to at least four Israeli publications."

In his August 1 column (via Google cache), Washington Times editor emeritus Wes Pruden repeated the already debunked allegation that Sen. Barack Obama released the written prayer he placed on the Western Wall in Jerusalem to Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv. Pruden wrote: "Ma'ariv says that it was the Obama campaign that wanted to get the prayer to several Jerusalem newspapers, and wanted someone, anyone, everyone, to print it."

In fact, while a spokesman for the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reportedly told other Israeli publications that the Obama campaign approved the publication of the prayer and that Obama gave copies of it to the media before he went to the Western Wall, The New Republic's Zvika Krieger wrote in an update to a July 28 blog post at The Plank: "I finally heard back from the Ma'ariv spokesman, who denied that the Obama campaign leaked the memo to them or gave them approval to print it, and who disavowed the alleged spokesman who gave quotes to at least four Israeli publications." On July 29, Krieger wrote that a Ma'ariv spokesman "told me definitively that 'the Obama campaign did not give us a copy of the letter or approve it for printing.' " Additionally, ABC News' senior national correspondent Jake Tapper reported in July 28 post on his blog Political Punch that a yeshiva student "confess[ed] that he had taken the prayer note of Sen. Barack Obama" and went on Israeli television ask for Obama's forgiveness. Tapper quoted the yeshiva student stating, "I am asking for Obama's forgiveness," and, "If he was offended by it ... of course he was, this is not a nice thing to do. It was sort of a prank. I hope he will forgive us, and we hope that he will win the presidency."

Pruden went on to baselessly claim that the Obama campaign released a commercial containing the text of the prayer on YouTube. Pruden wrote:

Collusion with newspapers or not, the Obama campaign moved smartly to collude with everybody else, putting up a campaign commercial on YouTube.com, showing footage of the senator at the wall, a holy shrine of Judaism, then poetically framed against several images of the Cross, wreathed by doves (or maybe pigeons), with the text of the prayer flashed on screen twice before dissolving into frames of the usual admonitions to vote, and repeating the campaign mantra of promising "change to believe in." All this is accompanied by a slow, tinkling version of "Amazing Grace," the iconic hymn of evangelical Christianity.

A video containing all these elements was posted on YouTube on July 25 by user 1962verbodivino. Such a video does not appear on the Obama campaign's YouTube page.

From Pruden's August 1 column:

Barack Obama is not even Jewish, but he speaks fluent chutzpah, the Yiddish word to describe "nerve," as in, "he's got a lot of nerve." Chutzpah famously described the plea of the man who killed his parents and begged the court to show mercy on a poor orphan.

The senator himself played the race card this week and accused John McCain of raising the race issue. This follows the contretemps over his written prayer at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, which someone removed from a crevice in the wall and gave to the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, which printed it, raising a storm of angry scolding of the newspaper for "sacrilege" and "invasion of privacy" and demands for a criminal investigation of the editor.

Only now Ma'ariv says that it was the Obama campaign that wanted to get the prayer to several Jerusalem newspapers, and wanted someone, anyone, everyone, to print it. Only Ma'ariv did. It's a nice prayer, covering several points on which Mr. Obama has been criticized, written on the letterhead of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in a hand that might -- or might not -- have been Barack Obama's. The campaign won't confirm or deny that it was the work of the messiah from the South Side of Chicago.

"Lord," the prayer goes, "protect my family and me. Forgive my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."

Collusion with newspapers or not, the Obama campaign moved smartly to collude with everybody else, putting up a campaign commercial on YouTube.com, showing footage of the senator at the wall, a holy shrine of Judaism, then poetically framed against several images of the Cross, wreathed by doves (or maybe pigeons), with the text of the prayer flashed on screen twice before dissolving into frames of the usual admonitions to vote, and repeating the campaign mantra of promising "change to believe in." All this is accompanied by a slow, tinkling version of "Amazing Grace," the iconic hymn of evangelical Christianity. (Someone forgot to throw in a Koran.)

Race and religion were once the twin taboos of political campaigning, no more fit for the stump than for a polite dinner party. But in the wake of the '60s, with conventions, manners and decency in retreat, religion turned out to be good politics. Something to "cling to" (along with guns). The Republicans and the conservatives got there first, with "the Southern strategy" of the Nixon era, followed by the awakening of the Religious Right. The Democrats were content to mock and jeer until it occurred to some of the smarter ones, like Barack Obama, that it was foolish to write off a winning appeal to such a large, law-abiding segment of the American public.

A campaign commercial like "Obama's Big Adventure" is something a smart Republican wouldn't touch. The reporters and pundits following the campaign were shocked -- shocked! -- last spring when Mike Huckabee was filmed against a bookcase whose shelf arrangement reminded those of offended refinement of the Cross.

But Barack Obama thinks he can get by with a lot, and for now he may be right. His injection of race was hardly subtle, though if we lived in more grown-up times his remarks would hardly be worth remarking. "Nobody thinks [George W.] Bush and [John] McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face," the candidate told a Wednesday audience. "So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, 'He's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name.' You know, 'He doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.' "

This is nice work, if you can make it work -- equating criticism of a black candidate with racism and prejudice. The McCain campaign demurred, not so nicely. "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck," said Rick Davis, the manager of the McCain campaign. "It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong."

Oh, dear. The Obama campaign was shocked -- shocked! -- to think that anyone could think the senator's allusion to race was about race. "He was describing that he was new to the political scene," a spokesman explained. "He was referring to the fact that he didn't come into the race with the history of others. It is not about race."

Of course not. It's about chutzpah.

Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
Person
Wesley Pruden
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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