As a bit of a wonk on Middle Eastern affairs, I admit to being struck by, and then obsessed by, the quotation from Christine O’Donnell’s appearance on Scarborough Country (23 March, 2004) that Kos posted in a Front Page story on Friday:
C. O‘DONNELL: I‘ll tell you, I just came back from the Middle East, and it was refreshing. With all that is going on, it was refreshing not to be constantly bombarded with smut all the time.
As entertaining as the quotation is, and the ample opportunities for mocking O’Donnell’s views on smut, self-love, et cetera, I was most intrigued by finding out more about O’Donnell’s trip to the Middle East. Where did she go? With whom? In what capacity? The answers are slowly emerging.
Let’s begin with the description of O’Donnell’s travels from her professionally cleaned web-site:
As part of a delegation of journalists, Christine toured the middle-eastern country of Jordan as a guest of the Royal Jordanian government. Having witnessed firsthand the oppression in the Middle East, Christine describes this journey as truly a life changing experience and says it deepened her commitment to the women’s movement.
Now, I don’t know about you, but my curriculum vitae tends to include details such as the dates, or at least the year, of travel relevant to my work experience. Personally, I also list the names of organizations with whom I am affiliated, or with whom I have traveled. In other words, my BS-meter is flickering over toward the red at this point.
After a few hours on Teh Google over the weekend, I was finally able to unearth some additional details regarding O’Donnell’s trip to Jordan.
From 2 March 2004 to 12 March 2004, Christine O’Donnell visited Jordan as a participant on a tour entitled "Jordan: a Biblical Land," sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board of North America and intended "to educate Americans about the less explored parts of the Holy Land, which extends beyond Israel to encompass all of the land of the Bible."
The cover-letter describing the tour is worth citing in full:
The part of the Holy Land that is on the eastern side of the Jordan River is blessed with the rich spiritual heritage of the full story of the history of salvation as recorded in the Bible. Abraham, Job, Moses, Ruth, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus were some of the figures of the Bible who performed pivotal elements of their divinely-ordained missions in this ancient landscape that is now within the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The very name of the country "Jordan" retains the unique baptismal aura of a holy river and a blessed land. It was here, in the waters of Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, where the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit first manifested itself explicitly when John baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17).
The southern Jordan River Valley, the Dead Sea plains, and the surrounding hills and mountains are the home to some of the most momentous events in the history of man’s relationship with God. Here Abraham arrived in the Holy Land; Jacob and Esau made their pact; God protected Lot while destroying Sodom and Gomorrah; Moses saw the Promised Land which he would never enter; Joshua crossed the Jordan River into Canaan; Elijah rode a "chariot of fire" into heaven; Elisha cured the leper in the waters of the river; John the Baptist preached, baptized Jesus and was killed by King Herod; and Jesus received the Holy Spirit and resisted the temptations of Satan.
God repeatedly designated Jordan as a land of peace and refuge, where Ruth, Elijah, David, Jesus, John the Baptist and the first Christian communities, among others, found safety and peace. Most of the great biblical prophets made their journeys of faith from the east bank of the Jordan River to the west, symbolically moving from the "wilderness" where men and women are tested, to the Promised Land.
Most of the holy sites in Jordan where the biblical prophets performed miracles or reached out to ordinary people are identified, excavated and easily accessible to visitors. New sites are being discovered every year. Visitors to Jordan can often visit archaeological excavations and share in the excitement of identifying ancient remains of places where Moses completed his mission from God; where Elijah lived by faith; where John the Baptist preached and heralded the arrival of the Messiah; and where Jesus performed miracles.
Come, experience biblical Jordan with Dean and Chuck.
A Bible tour... but one organized and funded (airfare; accommodation; ground transportation; guides; meals; entrance fees) by the Jordan Tourist Board of North America, so we can fill in some details regarding O'Donnell's claim that she "toured the middle-eastern country of Jordan as a guest of the Royal Jordanian government."
Now, what other "journalists" participated in the tour?
Giles Hudson - Christian-media specialist, contracted by JTBNA as tour-guide
Chuck Holton - Christian adventurer and video journalist
Dean Peters - specialist in "righteous" web-design
Brad Mering - Chuck's cameraman
Tom Neven - blogger, former editorial director of Focus on the Family's Youth Outreach department
Christine O'Donnell - writer, then associated with Catholic Exchange
Mike Hare - pastor, associated with Living Stones Associates, a Christian consulting service
Trevor Williams - I think he wrote for The Christian Online Magazine, but no further info available to me at this time
Caroline - no further info available to me at this time
Rebecca - no further info available to me at this time
Tara - no further info available to me at this time
According to Chuck and Dean, who retrospectively called this tour "Chuck's and Dean's Wild Adventure," Christine, Caroline, Rebecca and Tara were collectively known as "The Teen Girl Squad."
Now, thanks to blogs posted by two of the participants of this tour (Chuck and Dean), we can recreate their itinerary and note that while they managed a fairly typical (if high-end in terms of accommodation) tourist-circuit of Jordan, there were no "high-level" meetings with Jordanian officials. Nota bene: should their blog go off-line, rest assured that the relevant portions are archived.
So let's call this trip what it was: a Bible Tour.
A Bible Tour... A walk-in-the-footsteps-of-Jesus vacation... and why not? Heck, for O'Donnell, professional grifter, a free trip was certainly too good to pass up...
As part of a delegation of journalists, Christine toured the middle-eastern country of Jordan as a guest of the Royal Jordanian government.
How, then, to assess the above claim? True, or "truthy"? I myself vote for "technically true, but deliberately misleading." O'Donnell was among like-minded Christian journalists and media-types on a tour of Jordan, although "delegation" seems a bit of a stretch to describe their visit, implying as it does (at least to my mind) some formal communication in-country between host and delegation, certainly more formal than that between this tour-group and their local guide, Kemal. As for being "a guest of the Royal Jordanian Government"? Again, while strictly true in the sense that the Jordan Tourist Board appears to have funded the trip for the fundies, the language of her web-site duplicitously elevates the nature of the trip.
And then what of the following?
Having witnessed firsthand the oppression in the Middle East, Christine describes this journey as truly a life changing experience and says it deepened her commitment to the women’s movement.
Could O'Donnell be referring to the belly-dancing her group watched in the garden of the Mövenpick Resort in Aqaba on the evening of 9 March 2004?
I get it... we've all been known to pad our résumes a bit, making dull work seem somehow both a tad more interesting and a tad more relevant for whatever job we're currently submitting an application. Not all of us, however, are running for the office of United States Senator.
Just some food for thought...
UPDATE: after some consideration about "fair use," I elected to remove the two photographs.