Don't you love verbatim transcripts? I know that I do, especially when I am trying to read about a subject that (a) the mainstream press doesn't care that much about and (b) hot-headed partisans in the media care too much about. Thus, you get these short incomplete reports about subjects that "aren't really news," only that to some people the events are symbolic and, thus, transcend news (so they tend to scream about them at advocacy sites online).
If you want to see what I am talking about, head to Google and/or Google News and search for "Obama" and "baby Jesus." Go ahead, take a minute or two and do it for yourself and see what's going on.
So, as you can see, President Barack Obama headed into my neighborhood here in Northeast Washington and visited with girls and boys at the Richard England Clubhouse and Community Center. The long and the short of it is that the separation of church and state tends to vanish if you ask a group of kids what Christmas is all about. Here is a chunk of the short, short Washington Post report:
The president, who frequently delivers a values message when interacting with children, asked the clubhouse members what they wanted for Christmas and exhorted them to remember that the holiday is about more than gifts. The president seemed surprised when the children told him they wanted electronics under the tree this year. ...
Obama told the children that Christmas represents not only the birth of Jesus but also "the possibility of peace" and people treating each other with respect. He related the biblical story of the three wise men and their visit to the manger to pay their respects to the infant Jesus.
Now you can kind of see how that plays in the too-hot-to-touch context of a short MSM report. When you place that into the Christmas Wars context, which some comics and commentators are sure to do, then all heckfire may break out.
This is why I love transcripts. I am thankful that there are people like David Brody of CBN News who, when push starts turning into shove, simply point people toward the actual videos and to transcripts thereof. The actual encounter between Obama and this children is rather interesting, with Obama hinting at his own liberal Christian faith while trying to stay as safely secular as possible.
THE PRESIDENT: I think one thing that's important to remember is that, even though there's a lot of fun at Christmas, you know, you got -- especially when it's snowy like this, so it's pretty outside, you got the Christmas tree, you got the Christmas cookies, you've got presents. You know, I think that the most important thing is just to remember why we celebrate Christmas.
CHILD: I know!
THE PRESIDENT: Do you know?
CHILD: The birth of baby Jesus.
THE PRESIDENT: The birth of baby Jesus, and what he symbolizes for people all around the world is the possibility of peace and people treating each other with respect. And so I just hope that spirit of giving that's so important at Christmas, I hope all of you guys remember that as well. You know, it's not just about getting gifts but it's also doing something for other people. So being nice to your mom and dad and grandma and aunties and showing respect to people -- that's really important too, that's part of the Christmas spirit, don't you think? Do you agree with me?
Actually, the children did that too, with the president then responding in kind.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you have an interesting observation?
CHILD: I know why we give gifts to other people.
THE PRESIDENT: Why is that?
CHILD: Because the three wise men gave gifts to baby Jesus.
THE PRESIDENT: That's exactly right. But the three wise men -- the reason -- (sign falls off wall) -- uh-oh, I thought that was the cookies going down. We couldn't have that. You know, the three wise men, if you think about it, here are these guys, they have all this money, they've got all this wealth and power, and yet they took a long trip to a manger just to see a little baby. And it just shows you that just because you're powerful or you're wealthy, that's not what's important. What's important is what's -- the kind of spirit you have. So I hope everybody has a spirit of kindness and thoughtfulness, and everybody is really thinking about how can they do for other people -- treating them well, because that's really the spirit of Christmas. Does everybody agree with that?
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that.
No Christmas Wars there, that I can see.
However, I will be interested if GetReligion readers see any interesting coverage or commentary about this exchange. I can see people on the left and the right getting a bit frazzled about it. Leave the URLs in comments, if you wish.