When George W. Bush's faith-based initiative staffer David Kuo came out with a book whacking away at Bush, the media were enthralled (excerpted lovingly by Time magazine and interviewed on 60 Minutes). Now under Obama, they're helping former faith-based initiatives director Joshua Dubois sell his new book "The President's Devotional." In Saturday's Washington Post, religion reporter Elizabeth Tenety asked questions that made it sound like Dubois wrote his own questions: "Let’s talk about your work with the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. What are you most proud of from your time there?"
On the PBS NewsHour Wednesday, anchor Gwen Ifill danced politely around Obama's rare church attendance (especially compared to his golf course time), and raised Rev. Jeremiah Wright just as a time when prayer helped Obama, not as a time Dubois admitted in his book that he wanted to spin around the whole truth:
GWEN IFILL: You know, the president doesn't talk that much about his faith, at least not in front of public audiences. And I wonder if that's a balance that you had to strike.
JOSHUA DUBOIS: Yes. Well, you know, I would rather have a leader that lives a sermon, instead of preaches one. And I really think he seeks to live out his faith in a lot of different ways, in the way that he's a father and a husband and the quiet way he seeks to maintain his integrity and character.
But he also cultivates his faith behind the scenes, through reading these devotionals and praying with pastors in the Oval Office. He does a prayer call every year on his birthday, where some pastors pray over him for the year ahead. And he does goes to church every now and then at St. John's Episcopal, so...
So that's a lame answer. Presidents don't have to be inside a church every Sunday, but everyone can guess the Obamas are avoiding a regular church to avoid another Reverend Wright-type scandal. Ifill didn't seem to read the Dubois book at all:
IFILL: But, every now and then, you have to be -- you had to be in the position, especially when you worked in the White House, of being there for the bad news, too, like when -- even during the campaign, when his pastor, Reverend Wright, it emerged he had said some very harsh things from his pulpit in Chicago, and they had to -- he had to come up with some sort of a solution or at least some sort of way to speak to that.
JOSHUA DUBOIS: Yes. And I talk about this in the book. It was a very, very difficult moment. But it was also a time where I was able to see the president's integrity. I thought he addressed some really tough issues of race head on in his speech in Philadelphia, and tried to get the country to think about some things we actually haven't talked about in a full way in a very long time.
So it was a tough issue. I sort of walk through in the book what that was like. But we eventually made it to the other side.
Billy Hallowell at The Blaze found the Wright part that Ifill could have plumbed. Dubois knew Wright, and had spent time with him. So did he find Wright non-controversial?
"I had a short but intense history with Reverend Wright. Starting from the beginning of the campaign, I spent time in his private study and his church, getting to know him and his family. I knew he was very progressive, fiery even, with a heart for mentoring black pastors around the country. But I had no idea that he had spoken the specific statements from that famous video, and I knew that Senator Obama was not aware of those remarks either."
Dubois can't claim to be ignorant of black liberation theology, but Ifill wasn't asking. Ifill also failed to ask about Dubois admitting in his book that he wanted to tell less than the whole truth about Wright, but Obama allegedly said he'd rather tell the truth:
After two aides joined DuBois in writing up an explanation — one he admitted was initially crafted in an effort to gloss over the situation (he said it “didn’t tell the whole truth, but it didn’t lie”), Obama apparently read it and decided to re-write it himself, telling his aides that he’d rather tell the truth than spin the issue.
“The bottom line is, my pastor said some things I disagree with. I was a very busy man over the last few years, and I was not in church nearly as much as I should have been. I didn’t hear him say those things, but that doesn’t take away from what he said,” DuBois recalls the president saying.