Fancy that. This doesn’t definitively clear Obama, only because Ma’ariv’s credibility is so thoroughly shot at this point that nothing they say can be trusted. What clears him is simple logic. Like I said yesterday, even if you think he’s scummy enough to publish the details of a secret prayer, he’s not stupid. If it’s true, it’s such an obvious net loss politically for him — like taping a campaign commercial in a confessional — and plays so easily into the McCain narrative that he’ll do anything for a photo op that for those very reasons it almost certainly isn’t true.

Something’s fishy with Ma’ariv, though. TNR notes that unnamed “spokesmen” pushing the “Obama approved it” line were quoted by three different Israeli papers last night. And today?

I just got off the phone with a Ma’ariv spokesman who says that the accusation is “completely false,” and that he has no idea who these papers were quoting from Ma’ariv. “No official spokesman for Ma’ariv told this to any of the papers.” I’ve got some calls in to these papers to find out where they got the quote. (I’ll update here when I hear back.) He told me definitively that “the Obama campaign did not give us a copy of the letter or approve it for printing.”

Presumably yesterday’s spin that Obama had put them up to it was someone’s panicky attempt to defuse the scandal, which only ended up drawing more heat. Exit question recycled from my last post about this: Ma’ariv initially claimed the note was approved by Team Barry even before he placed it in the wall. If so, did he give them an exclusive on it? Because no other Israeli paper ran it. And if it was an exclusive, why wasn’t that noted prominently in Ma’ariv’s original story?