Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama and Jeremiah Wright's Racism: Just Words?

That was mighty courageous of Barack Obama to repudiate his pastor of more than two decades after the old man became a political liability. In his much-heralded speech on race in America Tuesday, Obama denounced his pastor’s racism in no uncertain terms. In doing so, he established himself as the truly post-racial candidate. The New York Times breathlessly ranked the speech with the inaugural addresses of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt and crowned it a “profile in courage.”
I’ve lifted a few of my favorite quotes.

“[T]here's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group.”

"He didn't just cross the line," Obama said. "He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America”

"What we've been seeing around this country is this constant ratcheting up of a coarsening of the culture that all of have to think about," Obama said.

“[W]e really have to do some soul-searching to think about what kind of toxic information are we feeding our kids," he concluded.

Oops! My bad. I messed up here. Those quotes weren’t from Obama’s speech on race during which he addressed his spiritual advisor’s incendiary rhetoric. Those were from last year, when Barack Obama demanded that NBC fire Don Imus for racially insensitive remarks. Time flies when you’re having fun.

No, what Obama had to say about his pastor of more than two decades was that his incitements should be forgiven as he was formed by experiences in the 1950’s and his attitudes should be considered in that context. I believe that Don Imus is about the same age, but I’m certain that there’s a post-racial explanation for why a white radio shock jock cracking sophomoric jokes should be held to a higher standard than the man Obama trusted with the spiritual formation of his children.

One point that did not get as much attention as it deserved was Obama’s admission that, after many months of denials, he indeed had been in the congregation when Jeremiah Wright spewed hateful rhetoric. Obama insisted that he had never heard, or even heard of, Jeremiah Wright’s paranoid and racially adversarial oratory. After ABC and Fox played segments of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons on the television and after other clips showed up on YouTube, Obama claimed that it was all news to him. But although they were willing, not even his most slavish admirers in the press corps could suspend disbelief and swallow that howler. And so Obama admitted Tuesday that he had heard sermons that “could be considered controversial.”

Obama’s reluctant candor deserves no more credit than Bill Clinton’s admission that he indeed did have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, after his DNA had been detected on her blue dress. Nevertheless, Obama’s shifting story was a change that the New York Times believed in.

Of course, if Obama had wanted to learn what was going on inside his church, he only had to visit the website. There he would have learned that Jeremiah Wright was an adherent to “Black Liberation Theology” and follower of its founder, James Cone.
James Cone explains: “Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.”

Just words? As Obama recently plagiarized: “Don’t tell me words don’t matter.” And considering that Obama recently, although briefly, associated himself with the Black Panthers, this is really about poor judgment.

He really didn’t know? Are these really words we can believe in?

Is this guilt by association as some Obama defenders have claimed? Well, this is an association he has chosen. Obama did not hesitate to disparage John McCain: “He has made some bad choices about the company he keeps.”

Obama insists that supposedly superior judgment more than compensates for his lack of experience. But was it wise to imply that the “typical white person” is racist? The Jeremiah Wright affair brought into bold relief that Obama’s substance really is “just words.”

No comments: