Updated below | An election season mailer linked to Focus on the Family and sent out to evangelical Christian voters in Iowa unfairly quoted President Obama out of context, CNN's Political Tracker blog complained this morning.
Yet in Peter Hamby's blog post -- Anti-Obama mail piece: ‘We are no longer a Christian nation’ -- the CNN.com staffer glossed over the fact that the other charges waged in the mailer are spot-on about areas in which the president is sharply to the left of religious conservatives on abortion, same-sex marriage, and a religious exemption for the contraception mandate (emphasis mine; see mailer photo below page break):
Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – The political arm of Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based social conservative organization founded by evangelical author and radio host James Dobson, is targeting Iowa voters with a mailing that quotes President Barack Obama as saying “we are no longer a Christian nation.”
The fold-out brochure, which landed in Iowa mailboxes last week and was provided to CNN by a Des Moines-area voter, draws a series of contrasts between Obama and Mitt Romney on the issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and insurance coverage for contraception.
The mailer - paid for by CitizenLink, a political affiliate of Focus on the Family - also includes a striking admission from the president.
“Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation,” Obama is quoted as saying.
The mailer does not explicitly endorse Romney, but the quote is clearly aimed at arousing the suspicions of Iowa’s vibrant Christian conservative community, a key voting bloc in the state and one that the Republican nominee will need behind him next Tuesday.
The quote, though, is cherry-picked from a speech Obama delivered in 2006, more than two years before he became president, at the Call to Renewal conference in Washington.
In 2008, during Obama’s first national campaign, the same out-of-context remark was circulated online as sinister evidence that the Democrat intended to curtail religious freedom in America. At the time, the spurious Internet chatter was debunked by FactCheck.org.
To his credit, Hamby links to photos of the mailer, which readers can peruse at their leisure. That being said, if you failed to check out the photos, you'd have the impression that the greatest charge of the mailer if that President Obama doesn't believe America is a Christian nation, when the factually-accurate charges about his stands on other social issues are the more damning charges.
The "Christian nation" charge by CitizenLink -- whether or not you think it's a fair one -- is more icing on the cake, not the cake itself, but it's precisely this sort of story which you can bet others in the media will run with as a cudgel to bludgeon conservatives, saying it's part and parcel of a campaign to castigate Obama as "the other."
It's just a matter of time before Chris Matthews, for example, cites this as a dog-whistle by conservatives to suggest that Obama is not a practicing Christian.
Update (14:50 EDT): My colleague Paul Wilson downloaded the Obama speech in question and brought to my attention a bit of fuzzy math by Hamby, who claimed in his CNN.com piece that President Obama said that "a large majority of Americans are 'committed Christians.'"
In fact, in that June 26, 2006 speech, then-Sen. Obama noted that only 38% of Americans describe themselves as "committed Christians," which is far short of a simple majority, much less a "large majority."