JONATHAN CHAIT AUGUST 25, 2010
The other day, I pointed out Mitch McConnell's sneaky, dog whistle answer to the question of whether President Obama is Muslim:
To say that you "take him at his word" means two things. First of all, it suggests that the president's word is the only information we have to go on here. Of course, that is absurd. Second, if further suggests that, the evidence being weak or inconclusive, McConnell is taking the high road by accepting Obama's testimony.
Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto sticks up for McConnell:
Chait makes it look as if McConnell raised the question of the president's religion, when in fact the full context makes clear Gregory brought it up and McConnell tried his best to avoid the subject. [extensive quotes of McConnell refsing to address the question of whether Obama is a Muslim]...
At this point, McConnell states, "The president says he's a Christian, I take him at his word." What would Chait have had him say? "The president says he's a Christian. But don't take him at his word, look at the evidence . . ." Then what? Chait says it's "absurd" to think that "the president's word is the only information we have to go on here," but what other information is there?
If you want to put the question to rest, you answer, "Of course he is a Christian." Taranto seems to think the only way to answer the question is to begin your answer with the phrase, "The president says he's a Christian." The whole point is that you don't frame the answer this way.
Taranto also thinks Obama's say-so is the only information here. How about the fact that he converted to Christianity? And joined a church? And attended that church for years? Those facts are a matter of public record. McConnell's answer is a way of suggesting that the answer is unknown but he's generously giving Obama the benefit of the doubt.
The most hilarious part of Taranto's defense is his argument that interviewer David Gregory is the one who was playing a sneaky game:
It is clear that Gregory was trying to bait McConnell into making news by saying something embarrassing. McConnell, recognizing Gregory's not-so-sneaky little game, demurred. If Chait really objects to the propagation of the notion that Obama is Muslim, his quarrel is with Gregory, for bringing the subject up--and with himself, for discussing it further.
Right, so sneaky -- giving the leader of the GOP a chance to straightforwardly denounce the widespread belief among his base that the president is a Muslim.