"Thank you so much. I extend greetings from my pastor. Hes like my priest. His name is Jeremiah Wright."
With those words, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama introduced himself at a Christian church in northern Israel. No one in attendance had ever heard of the Rev. Wright or his race-baiting and America-bashing comments. Few people even recognized Barack Obama.
That is because it was January 2006, not July 2008.
It was during Mr. Obamas first political pilgrimage to the Middle East that he delivered a warm message from his pastor in Chicago.
I was 10 feet from Obama when he mentioned Rev. Wright that day in Fassouta near the Lebanese border, but I hadnt heard of him either and since forgot that Obama had carried such a greeting 6,500 miles from his Chicago pastor.
It was only while researching for Obamas second trip Israel that the quote jumped at me like a squirrel walking over hot coals.
As Mr. Obama jetted around the Middle East and Europe last week looking worldly and presidential, he talked about the next phase of tearing down walls between the United States and its allies, just as the Berlin Wall once tumbled.
The Rev. Wright flap, Obamas financial dealings and his relationship with Tony Rezko were all forgotten, almost as if the campaign had built a wall in the middle of the Atlantic to keep them at bay.
Even as the Obama campaign plane flew by convicted, corrupt businessman and political fundraiser Tony Rezkos birthplace in Syria, it was unlikely anyone noticed or cared.
There is only one message intended when your candidate meets with American military commanders running the Iraq war and with heads of state and is photographed arm in arm with the French president and standing in front of 200,000 Germans at a historic landmark: This person has moved on from parochial questions about personal faith and finances. In the new math of presidential political campaigns, time and distance equal memory loss.
As Mr. Obama returns to the domestic campaign trail this week, it seems unlikely that he will face a homecoming of old questions. Unless a new fissure occurs, the half-life of his whirlwind tour imagery will be well beyond the Democratic Coronation and maybe even Election Day.
Despite the great wall that now seems to cordon off Mr. Obamas past from the present, the quote delivered in Israel in 2006 should be evocative. No amount of denunciation will change the fact that Mr. Obama …