Obama, you're no John Paul II – UPDATED

In pondering the question of whether or not Team Obama released for publication his prayer at the Western Wall, I wondered if any other politician had done the same. John McCain apparently did not.

There has been a case where the text of a prayer left at the Western Wall was purposely released, but that was a very specific prayer, released for a specific reason. As part and parcel of a whole acknowledgment of wrongs against the Jewish people, John Paul II’s prayer at the Western Wall was made public. It was made public because it was pretty much a signed and stamped historical document, one that has been preserved at Yad Vashem.

God of our fathers,
you chose Abraham and his descendants
to bring Your name to the nations:
we are deeply saddened
by the behavior of those
who in the course of history
have caused these children of Yours to suffer
and asking Your forgiveness
we wish to commit ourselves
to genuine brotherhood
with the people of the Covenant
Jerusalem, 26 March 2000.
Joannnes Paulus II

We really need to know if Ma’ariv is telling it straight when they say that Obama released the prayer as he left his hotel and headed to the Western Wall. [UPDATE: Says TNR, "Yediot Aharonot, Israel's most popular daily, apparently also received a copy of the note in advance but decided not to print it.' - End Update]

I want to believe he did not…but it must be said that his team’s placement of “Obama” signs at the Kotel – which was pretty inappropriate in that holy place – may well indicate that the prayer was released intentionally.

To which I cannot help but think: Senator Obama, we knew John Paul II, and you are no John Paul II. The prayer – not being a historical document – should not have been released.

Meanwhile…we wait to see if the press will cover any of this.

I hate going here…it makes me feel dirty. But if the Obama team played this card, it needs an answer – a definitive one – and going here is now legitimate.

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  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    Releasing the text of John Paul’s prayer was an act of selflessness- and as you note, a historical document.

    Releasing/revealing the text of Obama’s prayer was an act of selfishness and nothing more.

    John Paul’s prayer was many things, none of which focused on himself. It would have been nice if the same could be said of Obama’s prayer, at least in part.

    The pope’s prayer was also a lesson in prayer- subtle, but real. If there was anything to take away from John Paul’s trip to Israel, it was that lesson.

    As for the press brouhaha and finger pointing, I noted in an email earlier today that ‘The fact that the Obama people gave the text of the message in no way mitigates what the kid did.

    The Obama people were crass, shallow and opportunist (to say the least!) in making sure the media received a copy of his prayer, while the kid was just plain wrong- and then some (as his apology denotes).

    The fact that the student openly admitted to be motivated in part by wanting to ‘help’ Obama get elected underscores a problem of a different kind. Since when are religious principles subjective? Since when can behavior that might otherwise be offensive be acceptable in the context of religious expression? Is Rabin’s murderer somehow less culpable because he was religiously motivated?

    Perhaps the most disturbing (and overlooked) aspect of all this is the admission by the student that he wanted to sell the note.

    I would expect that kind of behavior- and worse- from the Obama campaign. I would have expected more from the Yeshiva student.

  • dmd25

    “To which I cannot help but think: Senator Obama, we knew John Paul II, and you are no John Paul II.”

    :)–and so true!

    “I hate going here…it makes me feel dirty.”

    Which is part of the reason we love you!

    “But if the Obama team played this card, it needs an answer, and going here is now legitimate.”

    Amen. Keep pursuing!

  • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

    I now feel mildly sick.

    Obama used a white skullcap, too– I thought it was to make it show up better….

    What if he was trying to tap into JPII’s good will?

  • Klaire

    I went out for lunch and heard a little bit of Michael Medved on the radio, who was IN Israel (has been there all week) “not buying” it. He made two good points. One that no one (well, ok, maybe a Pope), makes a “copy” of a prayer and the other was the potential malfeasence of the press in not reporting it.

  • Hantchu

    I remember seeing shots of John Paul II’s visit to the Kotel and feeling a real pang of pity for the man. Here was this obviously spiritual guy at this very holy place, and nobody was about to let him ENJOY it, if that’s the right word. It takes a certain degree of self-sacrifice to live one’s life that way, and considering who John Paul II was and how he lived his own life, I am inclined to believe that his prayer was sincere and heartfelt; intended for public consumption, but in a spirit of collective contrition.

    His own record of courage and humanity during the Holocaust was worthy of note (Check out Yaffa Eliach’s “Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust”), and yet he came seeking forgiveness for the Church. It was hardly a self-aggrandizing visit.

  • rcareaga

    My dear Madame A: As one benignly disposed to your virtual person if not to many of your opinions I must tell you that your original, and generous, take on this episode will likely prove to have been the correct one (I write this in part on the basis of about half an hour’s online sifting of the reputation of Ma’ariv, which appears not without tarnish, not to say grime), and that you may not remember your eagerness to venture onto this limb, which I suspect you will find to taper as you advance, with quite the pride to which your first posted impression very properly entitles you.

    Hint: Should you be minded to embrace the Ma’ariv account with little more than the presumption of a vast and sinister MSM conspiracy of silence (“they’re in the tank for Obama”) to back up that stance, you might want to do a quick review of some of the left delusions you have disparaged times past that rely on similar imagined cabals.

    I post this without a trace of irony, A. I am positively seething with goodwill. Sound this note if you really want to, but I hope for your sake that you do not embarrass yourself after such a humane beginning.

    [There is NOTHING unfair in this post.

    Hint: Maybe I'm just in a really, really bad mood right now, but I am feeling really, really tired of the tone of your 'goodwill warnings' about my morals, which seem...really...really condescending to me, tonight. I post this without a trace of irony, Rand, (and how does one 'seeth with goodwill' - it sounds as slithery as a snake and reads that way, too). Thank you for your concerns, but please allow me to worry about whether I am embarrassing myself, or not. I am trying to puzzle something out in good faith, and I don't really need you to sit there like the Cheshire Cat - or something else - doing your 'benign tease' while I do it.

    Allow me to respectfully suggest that there are PLENTY of people on the left who are AT LEAST AS IN NEED (if not more so) of your admonishments to 'behave', and to 'be fair,' and maybe tonight would be a good night to visit them.

    I try to be fair all the time, and when I really haven't been I come clean about it. You may not mean to come off as insufferable right now, but that IS how you're coming off. So, excuse me if I tell you - with all due respect and seeeeeething with goodwill - (do you know how oily that sounds) to pedal it somewhere else tonight. I am in no mood. And I am sure that if you look really, really hard, you can find someone in need of your counseling, over in your own playground. Likely they'll be about as receptive to you as I'm feeling right now. And btw, please don't lecture me about the "delusions" about the media being "in the tank" for Obama. If you think they're not, then worry about your own "delusions." - admin]

  • Terrye


    You and Obama have something in common. You are both sanctimonious.

    [I'm not comfortable deleting comments, but if it gets too hot in here, I'll close the thread. Like the Bosox and the Yanks - the warning is understood as in place! :-) - admin]

  • Sadie

    The Obama campaign could issue a statement telling us that he provided copies of the prayer to media outlets because he anticipated that the written prayer he left at the Wall would be stolen and then possibly altered. This way, he can claim, he wanted to make sure that his “true” prayer was known and any alteration could be refuted. That way, it’s a win-win. He gets credit for the prayer and excused for allowing its contents to be revealed.

    Perhaps all this does is reinforce the suspicion we (I) always have that when politicians make a religious gesture it’s calculated and artificial, designed to appeal to some particular sect or another and not truly from the heart. They’re expected to do it and will be criticized if they don’t. Which probably says more about all of us than it does about them.

  • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

    My Host:
    I’d like to suggest that you take repeated goodwill warnings in the same manner as most folks take statements that start “with all due respect….”

    (feel free to delete after reading this)

    [I'm never comfortable deleting anyone, so the comments will stand unless specifically requested to close, but if it gets too hot in here, I'll just close the whole thread - admin]

  • Joe Odegaard

    Out of 37 words in Obama’s prayer, 7 were either the word me or my.

    [I have absolutely no intention of judging that prayer. We all pray with "me" and "mine". - admin]

  • Joseph

    You know, it helps in these affairs to go back as close as possible to the original source. So here is what the Jerusalem Post has to say about the matter:

    “In response, a Ma’ariv spokesman said that “Barack Obama’s note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put in the Kotel, a short time after he wrote it at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. In any case, since Obama is not a Jew, publishing the note does not constitute an infringement on his right to privacy.”

    Obama’s campaign has neither confirmed nor denied whether the prayer published by Ma’ariv was in fact written by Obama. A campaign spokesman, however, made clear that the campaign hadn’t approved the publication of any kind of prayer note.

    “Prayer notes at the Wall should remain private,” a campaign aide said.

    The paper added that is was “pleased” with its “journalistic accomplishment.” ”

    Now the first thing I think we can say is that the Jerusalem Post is hardly likely to be flacking for Obama, any more than the San Francisco Chronicle [say] would be flacking for Israeli Prime Minister Olbert. Why should they? Further, if the note was “approved for publication in the international media”, why did the Post not know this? Or the rest of the Israeli media? Or the many foreign correspondents in Israel, not all of whom are American, and not all of whom kowtow to the New York Times or Washington Post even when they are American? Did we hear anything about such an official release from Fox News, the New York Post, or the Washington Times? None of these outlets have a political interest of any kind in boosting Obama’s reputation.

    Even if the prayer was too private to publish responsibly in Israel, a public release of it by the Obama campaign would have been news–with a capital “N”–there. They take their prayers seriously in that country, as the whole uproar over the affair there indicates. There is absolutely no reason why the Jerusalem Post or any other Israeli paper, would not know of such an official “approval for publication” had it occured.

    So there we have the evidence. No one else but the “journalisticly accomplished” Ma’ariv has any testimony to give about the so-called official release of the prayer; the person who claimed responsibility for taking the prayer, and apologised for it, hmade no mention of such a release; and the Obama campaign flatly denies it when any such denial, if it were false, would not stand ten minutes scrutiny by any journalist in Israel, domestic or foreign.

    So I think you can retain your faith in the goodness of human nature over this one, Anchoress. And I really cannot resist pointing out that it took me about four minutes on the web to get to the primary source, and about ten minutes of careful reflection to evaluate what I found there. This is really far superior to the typical practice of citing blogs who quote blogs who cite still other blogs that publish “facts” without collecting and evaluating the supporting detail.

    [And yet, Joseph, the converse to your reasoning, and it is just as valid, is Big Lizard's question which I linked to here and excerpted in another post below. He asked, essentially, the same question you did, but also asked - Why did not the Post, or Fox News, or any of your other examples follow the Ma'ariv's claim with the perfectly respectable and responsible note that if the prayer had been authorized, none of them had heard about it? It's a good question. I am still waiting for a definitive answer - something more than "Obama's camp denies." You'll understand, that, I'm sure. As I said, I'm wanting to believe...but...it is not illegitimate to want more, and it is not illegitimate to suggest that campaign posters at the Kotel could indicate more. I'm not that unreasonable...but I do want something definitive.

    As to the rest, I'm glad you found the primary source so quickly - when I read them, I noticed immediately that a then-"unnamed" second paper (later revealed to be Yediot Aharonot) had also claimed to have received a copy, but did not publish it. And I'm also glad that you managed to reason things out within moments. I always knew you were a smart guy, and never could figure out why you would slum about here, because I am not very smart at all. The internet is a wonderful thing, isn't it? - admin]

  • Terrye

    I wondered if you let that go by. I promise that will be the closest thing to an insult I will attempt. It just needed to be said. Or so I thought.

  • Terrye

    Have you ever noticed how much disagreement and discord Obama seems to leave in his wake? First of all, he tried to “unite” the Democratic Party. And now he is getting into unnecessary and silly disagreements with allies like Columbia and Canada and Israel. For a guy who is supposed to be so smooth, he sure leaves a rocky trail.

  • lsheldon

    “Obama used a white skullcap, too– I thought it was to make it show up better….”

    He picked up a paper one from the stack provided for tourists.

  • Joseph

    I am in no doubt whatever about the quality of your intellect Anchoress. It is why enjoy commenting here when health and circumstances permit. But I must say that you are running up against one of the genuine limits of this vale of tears in the request for definitiveness. The assertion that something didn’t happen is logically unprovable.

    Except in the case of my own private actions [and not even there without fear of delusion, which in my case is a genuine possibility], I can’t definitively know that something didn’t happen. Only God could know that because it would require omniscience–the capacity to see every possible contingency and eliminate it. This is actually a very good thing, since a good deal of light adventure literature is built on the plausibility of shenanigans going on that we don’t know about. Who would want to give up the pleasure of that?

    The only question that can reasonably be asked is, Is there any plausible reason to believe it actually did occur? One of the marvelous Father Brown stories has the good father pointing out that if you told him you saw the ghost of Queen Victoria he would have to remain agnostic about the matter, but if you told him that, during an official audience with the Queen, someone walked up, slapped her on the back and offered her a cigar, he had no reason whatever to believe you. The second case is not impossible, but it is wildly implausible given everything else we know about the Queen.

    This is precisely the case here. Now had Ma’arav asserted “a confidential disclosure made to us by a high placed source in the Obama campaign” [highfalutin journalese for an approved, but secret, "leak"] that would be perfectly plausible and no denial by the campaign could be completely trusted. But they didn’t say this. What they actually asserted is that a general, approved, release of the information occurred at the hotel before Obama had even reached the Wall. This is wildly implausible based on how reporting the news anywhere about anything works. Journalists worldwide are always hungry for good copy and an official clearance beforehand to publish the prayer could not possibly have been overlooked.

    This is why the Jerusalem Post treats the announcement with the deadpan comedy about “journalistic accomplishment”, and why anyone in the news business would regard it as ridiculously implausible and not worth space in the news hole. Now even then it is not definitively impossible that it happened, that the campaign released it that way and nobody but Ma’arav and Yedoit noticed the fact. But the overwhelmingly more likely possibility is that it was taken by a private thief who peddled it to the first paper he found that would pay for an exclusive story–which is exactly what all the testimony besides that of the Ma’arav spokesperson points to.

  • lsheldon

    There are several questions of morality (for want of a better term) here. The only one that interests me is this:

    Who but God has a right to _analyze_ a prayer?

    I give no one else that right. No newspaper pundit, not blogger or blog commenter, not priest, not anybody on this Earth.

    The questions of right to publish and the other questions are interesting and perhaps open to debate (if the rules are against publishing, then why was the Pope’s an exception [I suspect it is a custom, not a rule]) but only God can judge the adequacy of a prayer.

  • Sensible Mom

    Hi Anchoress!

    I have to say that when I saw the headline claiming that Obama’s prayer had been taken from the wall and published without his okay I thought “yeah, right.” My gut told me he wanted it published. Especially the way it was written to ask for forgiveness for one of his perceived faults – a lack of humility. But then all the inital news stories and reports seemed to indicate that is was published without his knowledge or consent so I thought I was wrong.

    But now I read this and realize that I’ve gotta go with my gut with Obama. Everything with him is contrived and if it doesn’t work out as planned it’s always someone else’s fault.

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  • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

    lsheldon -
    I looked for pictures of others in the paper yarmulkes, and they’re clearly different from the one that Obama has. (Good sense to bring your own, if you’re going for a photo op– there’s nothing dignified about walking around holding on a hat) Also, he wore the same skullcap for the wreath thing at the Holocaust Memorial.

  • Klaire

    Look, I’m just going to say it. I think Obama is being run by the devil! IF I’m right, this confusion and division shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has at least a half clue about the spiritual life. I’d even go so far as to say it’s “genius”, the way it has played out, again being “duplicitous”, and accommodating, for EVERYONE; however EACH side wants to see, spin, believe , not believe, rationalize, or , in some cases, REPENT for the “misjudgment.”

    Isn’t it interesting that “given the nature”, we have to “tip toe” around, the unforbidden(and rightfully so), of judging another’s heart (via prayer discernment).

    It’s genius because, if it were anything BUT real prayer, one would have to ask, how a man who says the first thing he is going to do as President is to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, isn’t a slave to the god of women for choice; consequently, CANNOT be serving two masters.

    Don’t you see, we “can’t know”, consequently, all can be “rationalized.” BRILLIANT ANGLE OF LIGHT, BRILLIANT!

  • Hantchu


    Come again? I know Israeli law has more than a few ideosyncracies and inconsistancies, but both common sense and courtesy surely echo the sentiments of the Prophets, “For My house shall be a house of prayer to all people”.

    Even if those individuals seek to have those prayers published in the international media. Pope John Paul II did so for reasons of spiritual reconciliation and the glory of G-d. We can be less sure of the motives of lesser men.

  • cathyf

    Over at Volokh, a commenter printed this link to Zvika Krieger on The New Republic blog:

    Yesterday, I posted an item about an accusation from Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv that the Obama campaign had leaked a copy of his Western Wall note to the foreign press (rather than Ma’ariv having bought it from some yeshiva kid who stole it out of the wall). After some additional reporting last night, I noted that the story sounded a bit fishy–not only has Ma’ariv not offered any tangible evidence to supprot this claim, but they also have only made the claim via a spokesman to various Israeli papers rather than printing the accusation in their own paper.

    I just got off the phone with a Ma’ariv spokesman who says that the accusation is “completely false,” and that he has no idea who these papers were quoting from Ma’ariv. “No official spokesman for Ma’ariv told this to any of the papers.” I’ve got some calls in to these papers to find out where they got the quote. (I’ll update here when I hear back.) He told me definitively that “the Obama campaign did not give us a copy of the letter or approve it for printing.”

    Then there is why the blame-it-on-Obama story sounded fishy to me — what Ma’ariv printed is an image of Obama’s handwritten prayer on hotel stationary. In the 21st century, who makes multiple handwritten copies? To say that the campaign gave out copies to the press is essentially claiming that Obama made multiple handwritten copies and took one to the wall and gave others to the media. Or he popped down to the hotel copy machine and ran off a few copies before he left the hotel. These are both pretty outlandish claims on their face!

    The volokh commenters who are Israelis say that Ma’ariv is a sleazy tabloid paper, that Israelis are outraged over the notion of filching Obama’s prayer from the wall, and that this really does sound like some very lame excuse. Or that, in the rough and tumble of tabloid journalism, somebody else is passing around this story about the Obama campaign to look like Ma’ariv is obviously lying and to make them look like sleazeballs. (The comment about gentiles not having any expectation of privacy in the wailing wall prayers is apparently generating quite a bit of outrage among observant Jews.)

    [The Volokh post is really good, and I will link to it. But...the whole question may be academic, now, if the the Obama campaign is behind this ad which - essentially, pimps the prayer. Which pretty much speaks for itself, IF the campaign released it. It seems amateurish to me...but you know, politics is so freaking cynical at this point, who the hell knows what's real and what is not, anymore. - admin]

  • cathyf

    (Sorry if this is a double — we’re having a thunderstorm and my internet has slown to a crawl and there was a timeout error message. If you already got this, just delete this one.)

    I’m sorry, that commercial is downright creepy. If the prayer was really stolen and publicised, and now the campaign thinks that this is a way to capitalize on the event, that’s even more creepy than if they press-released the prayer in the first place. It’s like if Obama had been photographed with his fly down and something showing, and then the campaign made a commercial featuring multiple close-ups of it.

    No matter what the circumstances of the prayer becoming public, the notion that Obama thinks that any of us should be interested in the contents of his prayers is just utterly cluelessly creepy.

  • cathyf

    The folks over at volokh argue quite convincingly that the commercial is the work of some amateur Obama groupie who has nothing to do with the campaign. It is basically a slideshow, much lower quality than the real thing, and the “paid for by the Obama for president campaign” at the end appears to be a simple screenshot from a real ad.

    I’m relieved — as I said, the “commercial” really creeped me out.

  • Joseph

    I must say that looking over the comments has once again reinforced my chronic astonishment at how morally corrupting the wrong political opinions can be.

    As the followers always reflect the leaders, I confidently look forward to the crowd at Obama’s acceptance speech being one of the greatest aggregations of self centered oafs, libertine cads, canting religious hypocrites, poisonous and power-hungry macciavellian she-wolves, corrupt creeps-in-office, devil worshipers, and baby killers that America can provide us with. Not to mention the moral squalor of the love that dare not speak its name sailing under banners with all the colors of the rainbow when it does not hide behind the brazen lies of professed love for the red, white, and blue.

    Sad to say, having been among them, I must confess that the worst of people are far too frequently the best of company.

  • igout

    I’m not up on the Book of Revelations and maybe this is the wrong place to pose the question, because maybe Catholics aren’t either, but might he be Mr 666? OK, I’m being half-facetious, but he does seriously creep me out.

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