Reporters are scouring old tapes and notebooks for evidence of Barack Obama in the pews during one of the Jeremiah Wright sermons he claims he never saw. Over the weekend Newsmax.com's Ronald Kessler claimed to find a nut:
In fact, Obama was present in the South Side Chicago church on July 22 last year when Jim Davis, a freelance correspondent for Newsmax, attended services along with Obama. [See: "Obama's Church: Cauldron of Division."]
In his sermon that day, Wright tore into America, referring to the "United States of White America" and lacing his sermon with expletives as Obama listened. Hearing Wright's attacks on his own country, Obama had the opportunity to walk out, but Davis said the senator sat in his pew and nodded in agreement.
The story's getting around, launched by Bill Kristol in the New York Times. The problem, according to March Ambinder: It's not true. Obama was headed to Miami during Wright's July 22 sermon. (And the July 22 wasn't even one that Obama denied attending. Very lawyerly, he's said "the statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach.") The whole affair put me in mind of another Ambinder post from November, about how Newsmax's chief Christopher Ruddy, a former Arkansas Project apparat, had mellowed on Bill Clinton and gotten a friendly interview from him for the magazine.
Ruddy himself conducted the interview. In an introduction, he writes that the ex-president is doing "exemplary" work.
To anyone familiar with the partisan wars of the 90s, the hair on the back of your neck just stood up.
November 2007 seems like such a different time. Hillary Clinton was winning the black vote; John Edwards was ahead in Iowa; the Clintons were so obviously going to reclaim the throne that the right was starting to adapt to them. For a few months the arrangement was shaken up, and conservatives seemed pleased that they'd finally be rid of the Clintons, but I think her George Romero-esque inability to stay dead has shifted the arrangement again. Organizations like Newsmax, which depend on checks from agitated conservatives, are hoping for a return of that 1990s dynamic tension. And personally, Scaife and Ruddy see Bill Clinton as a man they can do business with.
Another odd cultural quirk I've been paying attention to: the Hatfield-McCoy war between Clintonian and Obaman factions in the left-wing blogosphere. MyDD, the blog where Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas got his start, has mutated into a partisan pro-Clinton blog whose members post stuff like, uh, Newsmax stories. Daily Kos, which was actually dominated by Edwards supporters during his heroic bid for the big job, has become so pro-Obama that Clinton fans are boycotting it.