Gregory was asking McConnell about a recent Pew poll that shows increasing numbers of Americans, especially Republicans, who believe Obama is a Muslim. McConnell's response, which he repeated once more during the interview, is nearly identical to one that caused a firestorm during the 2008 presidential campaign. The real question, though, is why do Americans care?
Here's McConnell on Meet the Press, cleverly diverting the issue to "Obama's faith in the government," before dropping his quote-worthy equivocation:
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Hillary Clinton was widely pilloried for delivering an eerily similar response:
In either case, you could argue that it's technically impossible to bear witness to another's Christianity without being present for their conversion, but then again, this is a guy who is famous for sitting in a Christian church for 20 years. It's a little bit tough to have it both ways.
There are some who seek to blame President Obama for the persistence of these rumors, mainly because he reached out to the Muslim world in a speech last June, and somehow prevented Americans from reading anything but "Muslim roots" headlines about it.
The genesis of these rumors is a chain e-mail campaign that was so widespread, then-Senator Obama addressed it specifically, and quite clearly, in a February, 2008 speech:
If anyone is still puzzled about the facts, in fact I have never been a Muslim. We had to send CNN to look at the school that I attended in Indonesia where kids were wearing short pants and listening to ipods to indicate that this was not a madrassa but was a secular school in Indonesia. Where I attended for two year prior to coming back to Hawaii. If you look at Nicholas Kristof's article today it gives you an indication of where I got my name.
My grandfather who was Kenyan converted to Christianity then converted to Islam, my father never practiced he was basically agnostic and so other than my name and the fact that I lived in a populous Muslim country for 4 years when I was a child I have very little connection to the Islamic religion.
The Muslim rumors are not about some kind of honest confusion, but rather, an attempt by his opponents to capitalize on the post-9/11 suspicion of Muslims that has recently manifested itself in the controversy over the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque."
Of course, the 18% who believe he's a Muslim have also probably made up their minds whether or not to vote for him, and at least they don't think he's the Anti-Christ, right? Or, heaven forbid, a Mormon?
What I find more disturbing is the larger issue of Americans' misplaced emphasis on religion, and the media who go along with it. Sure, believe what you want, it's a free country, but don't you find it just a little bit silly that a prerequisite to holding the highest office in the land is that you must have a rock-solid plan for getting into Heaven? Why is this even part of the job interview? Maybe it would be a good thing to have a President who's not entirely sure where he's going after he dies.
Additionally, why is CNN putting Franklin Graham on the air to verify Obama's Christianity? Does he have some kind of special God-dar? To the extent that the President's religion matters, there's enough of a factual record to render this kind of expert testimony moot.
The original version of the story appears here.