Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama Elevates Race to the Forefront of the Presidential Campaign; but, Has YOUR Minister Ever Made Comments Like Jeremiah Wright?

I listed to Barack Obama's much-anticipated speech on the radio this morning. No one ever said he couldn't give a great oratory. But, will it be enough to stop his slide in the polls and convince people that he does not espouse the views of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, or at least, that he has not done enough to repudiate them?

While it was a great speech as speeches go, I don't think it will get Obama out of dutch with the majority of America voters. First, while Obama did the right thing in confronting his relationship with Wright head-on, instead of dancing around it, his strategy was to embrace the person of Wright but state that he, Obama, strongly disagreed with some of his political views.

In what might be the crucial quote, Obama suggests that many of us in America have heard remarks from our minister, priests or rabbis with which we have strongly disagreed. That's where he lost me. I have NEVER heard the kind of pure venom come out of any religious leader that I would want to associate with. Wright's statements, which have been played in an endless loop since last Friday on the Internet and the news, are not the kind of statements that the vast majority of America is going to brush off as a disagreeable remark that can be forgiven in the overall scheme of a pastor's mission.

Obama also suggested that the visceral reaction that he believes many people had to Wright's remarks on the video are due, in some part, to the notion that the majority of America is not used to religious services of the nature of many black churches. Again, I don't think this holds up. People are not upset because they watched a video of a religious service with music, clapping, dancing and soaring oratory; they are upset because of the words that came out of Wright's mouth; words that no circumstances or "context" can excuse. On the one hand, Obama seems to want to say he is not making excuses, but the subtext of his speech is that Wright has a reason for spewing his hateful words, and that therefore it's OK for Obama to have been associated with this man, and to continue his association.

The other part of this is that Obama seems to be implying that the issue of racial injustice must be confronted in this country, which most people would probably agree with. However, even though Obama almost came right out and said that the success of confronting the problems of race in this country did not depend on supporting him as President, I think the subtext of the speech said exactly that: If we don't elect Barack Obama, the problems of race in this society will continue to get buried and never be solved. That's pretty arrogant.

I don't think Obama had much choice but to make this speech, but the problem in confronting this issue head-on is that now, many people not familiar with Obama already are going to see his candidacy through the prism of race and the struggle against racial injustice, which I think Obama was working very hard to avoid up until now. In other words, Obama has now become a "black" candidate, whereas before now, he had done a masterful job of transcending race and not allowing it to define his campaign. If the campaign survives, I think it's now been defined as such, which is regrettable on many levels, but appears to be a political reality--and one that was self-inflicted due to his tight and unrepentant association with Wright.

More on this later as the dust settles, but for now, consider this an Obama speech open thread.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I had EVER been present in a church where such disgustingly hateful things were said, I would have immediately rounded up my family and we would have left that instant. I certainly would NOT have that official OR that church handle my wedding or my childrens' baptisms, or proclaim that the pastor was my "spiritual leader".

Anonymous said...

TA,

Excellent commentary. People are not racist for questioning the relationship. As the previous post said, if that happened in my church I would have left.

Anonymous said...

Obama gave over $10,000 to Rev. Wright

just a girl said...

All I can say is imagine a white candidate for President attending a church that has as its spiritual leader a man that promotes hatred of the black community or hatred of the United States. Imagine the white candidate for President asking that spiritual leader to marry he and his wife. Imagine the white candidate for President asking that spiritual leader to baptize his children.

Now imagine if the media approve? Ask yourselves if the media would be apologists for the candidate?

It is now more understandable why Michele Obama poured out the words, "this is the first time in my adult life I have been proud of my Country."

It is now more understandable why racism continues to exist in this country. It exists because individuals like Reverend Wright promote racism. And to everyone who supports individuals like Reverend Wright - well, you will never feel like an American if you continue to listen to so-called spiritual leaders spread their poison in your minds and those of your innocent children.

Anonymous said...

As usual, good speech, poor judgement over a 20 year period.

Anonymous said...

I differ with you, TA on calling his speech great oratory. What I heard and watched sickened me as I listened to Obama trying to justify the man he still refers to as his friend. He failed to mention the trips to Libya with his pal, Louis Farrakhan, that Mr. Wright has made. No, TA, this guy is NOT a man who can unite this country as long as he continues to believe that the great strides all minorities have made over the past 50 years is not significant. As long as Obama continues to feel that there's more wrong than right, he's not the man who can lead this country. And I have never heard anything close to the viciousness and anti-American venom coming from my spiritual leaders over the years. Something is terribly wrong when a guy like Barack Obama can get up and deliver the kind of speech he gave this morning. And he calls himself the man who will bring CHANGE. God help us if he succeeds.

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama has done more to bring black and white people together than any Presidential candidate in U.S. history.

I've seen them working together on Obama's campaign.

And people who know Wright only from the YouTube excerpts forget the humanitarian work he has done and the esteem in which he's held by theological colleagues. Wright's comments in the excerpts are way over the line, but they offer only a brief glimpse of his life's work.

And I'm not sure I'm comfortable with those that dismiss any criticism whatsoever of the U.S.

Wright's comments were definitely out of bounds (as are those of a whole host of fundamentalist preachers), but we should as a nation be able to look at ourselves honestly and not think that all is well in America.

I don't agree with what Wright said in the YouTube excerpts, but I share his belief that America can and must do a lot better on a whole host of issues.

That's why I support Obama.

Anonymous said...

Obama buys houses with crooks - Rezko.

Obama goes to church led by Rev. Wright, an extremist.

Obama wants to meet with Iran's President as he declares a trade war with Canada.

That is why I do not support Senator Obama.

Team America said...

Anon 3:08- It was a great speech because it sounded good on the surface and will fool a lot of peoplem unless they actually take time to think about what Obama did and did not say. I offer into evidence as Exhibit 1, the comment by Anon 3:30.

Anon 3:30, you were suckered in, just as Obama intended, by trying to frame the issue of what we in this country must do to address racial injustice, which according to Obama has been in existence since 1776 but has never had a chance of being truly addressed until his candidacy.

The only issue that we really ought to be analyzing when talking about Obama's candidacy and his speech is whether or not he is being truthful with the electorate. His whole candidacy has been based on transcending race, and movoing beyond what he would characterize as the hatreds of the past, only to have us find out that he has been a member of an organization whose leader has been steeped in this hatred for the past 20 years. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have nothing on Wright when it comes to playing the race card.

Obama's success has been his ability to become an icon, on whom people can project their own personalities and viewpoints to see him as an Everyman. Now that his association with Wright has gotten the undivided attention of the American public, he is no longer an icon, but a candidate. As a candidate, he has given us no reason to vote for him, as he failed in his promise to be a uniter (how can he, having been associated with Wright for 20 years and refusing to disavow him), and every reason to vote against him (same rationale). Read the absolutely brilliant analysis by black conservative commentor Shelby Steele in this morning's Wall Street Journal to truly understand what I'm talking about.

moder8 said...

You may not like Obama, think he has made bad decisions and was brought to the Lord by the wrong person, but at least he's not afraid to challenge us to think. I think this will eventually be known as one of the Great American Speeches, and I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Kirk would appreciate it, because he's not an idiot and he's a student of history.

But probably the faxed talking points, pompous bloggers and 24-hour news channel chatter will minimize the simple strength of this speech and we'll just go back to sleep.

I love all the people who are afraid they might get their white shoes dirty if they heard a strong statement from someone. They obviously are going to a church that doesn't challenge them.

Race and anger at the policies of the US are very important issues for this country...it would be great if Hillary and McCain would provide their thoughts. Obviously, Obama would have avoided this conversation if he could, but now it's out there. It's messy, but I think we will be better for it.

Team America said...

Moder8, I'm not sure if you are an Obama shill, or you are simply an honest person that needs to be directed back to the issue. The issue is NOT whether racial injustice and discrimination is a topic worthy of discussion in America--clearly it is, and clearly, there is still much work to be done in terms of racial equality. The issue, and the only issue we are talking about, is whether Barack Obama can be trusted and is worthy to lead the country in that discussion.

moder8 said...

Sorry. I apologize for having an opinion.

Anonymous said...

"I will not disown Rev. Wright..."

Sen. Obama.

'Nuff said. Wrong and not fit as Commander-in-Chief.

Anonymous said...

Moder8- you should not be sorry for having an opinion, the point of a blog is so everyone can be heard.
I think the real issue here is not race, it's the fact that we need to demand that our leaders do the right thing. Senator Obama should have never been quiet but instead used his influence with Wright to set him straight and help him understand that sort of rhetoric is not and should not be tolerated. The fact that Obama only spoke when challenged with this issue disturbs me the most.

Anonymous said...

When did Obama give $10k to Wright?

Anonymous said...

Kirk featured in the New York Times. Dan Seals eat your heart out!

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/19/washington/19diplo.html?_r=1&ref=world&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

moder8 said...

I don't know, Anon 8:03. Has anyone on this blog ever successfully convinced a priest, rabbi, preacher, pastor, bishop, pope or other religious leader that he was wrong?

Anonymous said...

1. Obama has not brought this country closer together on race, unless you mean giving us the left version of Bob Jones is a good thing.

2. We have now had 2 black secretaries of state as the face of our country at a time when foreign policy has been at the front of our national agenda. That has not changed world opinion in our favor, and it's high time we realized that nations and terrorist organizations are not going to change their self interest because of the color of a Presidents skin. The liberal east coast media is not expected to see this.

3. Any "GOP Operatives" in this state existing today need to be ashamed of themselves and question their ability to do their jobs that they couldn't find this Wright fellow and hit Obama with it hard in 2004.

4. I'm thrilled we can count on the clintons to continue to do our dirty work for the next 6 months against this guy, since our state and national apparatus clearly can't do it alone.

5. Wright's proximity to Obama is a moderate republicans nightmare come true.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled that race and religion have inserted themselves into the contest for President of the United States of America. I am appalled over the "analysis" both pro and con on Obama's speech.

Obama's attempt at a response will be further picked apart by the various talking heads from the left and from the right.

I am appalled that the Clinton campaign has raised and spread this issue and will profit from it.

The dumbing down of American politics to its lowest denominator is rapidly approaching. With all the problems facing this country, the debate is over some black minister with some obviously politically incorrect views on life. All compliments of the Clintons. As I have stated elsewhere in the past, we Republicans have a lot to learn from those Democrats who are masters of the mudslinging. The Clinton Democrats.

Red telephones. Race baiting. Fearmongering in the worst possible fashion. How sickening.

And I say this in all sincerity as a Republican.

Louis G. Atsaves

Anonymous said...

I'm more concerned about the hateful comments of
McCain supporter John Hagee than Jeremiah Wright.

Wright's YouTube/Fox News comments were way over the line, but Hagee's theology is genuinely scary.

And Obama has denounced Wright's controversial speech much more forcefully than McCain has denounced Hagee.

Plus, I just don't think Wright is going to factor that much into Obama's campaign.

On the other hand, Hagee will be working like crazy for McCain. I don't want someone like Hagee anywhere near the Oval office--which is exactly where he would be if McCain were elected.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:31, that's pure nonsense. John Hagee is not an influence on McCain, not ever. Let's get back to the issue at hand. Barack Obama had 20 years of listening to his pastor, hearing the kind of anti-American rubbish that should have forced him to have some serious discussions. It didn't. That's the mistake in all of this. He and his advisors knew that it could easily be proven how often Obama and his family were subjected to the filth spewed by this hate-filled excuse for a leader. And why is there no mention of Obama KNOWING that the pastor and his other buddy, Louis Farakkhan, went to Libya to have coffee and conversation with another horrific excuse for a human being, Kadaffi.

I can not HEAR what Mr. Obama says, because his ACTIONS speak too loudly. He's a very charismatic speaker and preacher. Perhaps that's his real calling in life. Neither he nor his pastor want to acknolwedge all the progress made in this country towards all minorities over the past 50 years. Mr. and Mrs. Obama should look in the mirror and see if they like the reflections they see.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:31, that's pure nonsense. John Hagee is not an influence on McCain, not ever. Let's get back to the issue at hand. Barack Obama had 20 years of listening to his pastor, hearing the kind of anti-American rubbish that should have forced him to have some serious discussions. It didn't. That's the mistake in all of this. He and his advisors knew that it could easily be proven how often Obama and his family were subjected to the filth spewed by this hate-filled excuse for a leader. And why is there no mention of Obama KNOWING that the pastor and his other buddy, Louis Farakkhan, went to Libya to have coffee and conversation with another horrific excuse for a human being, Kadaffi.

I can not HEAR what Mr. Obama says, because his ACTIONS speak too loudly. He's a very charismatic speaker and preacher. Perhaps that's his real calling in life. Neither he nor his pastor want to acknolwedge all the progress made in this country towards all minorities over the past 50 years. Mr. and Mrs. Obama should look in the mirror and see if they like the reflections they see.

biggus dickus said...

Anon 3:30:

Hitler had a dog.

BD

Anonymous said...

You should judge Barack Obama on his own words.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:10 Your point is well made. The point some of us are trying to make is why he was silent until he was forced to say something. He has still not gone far enough and surely not soon enough in letting us hear his words. Mr. Obama knew better. He remained silent until he had no other choice.

Anonymous said...

"I will not disown Rev. Wright."

-- Barack Obama
(his own words)

Anonymous said...

Making Wright the issue is fundamentally dishonest. Obama's on the ballot, not Wright.

Anonymous said...

Just a few weeks ago, McCain stood at a press conference with John Hagee and said "I am proud to have his support."

McCain ONLY distanced himself from SOME of Hagee's crazy views when he had to.

And don't think for a minute that Hagee won't have access to McCain if McCain wins in November.
I'm sure McCain will gladly take Hagee's calls.

I don't want a nut like Hagee having access to anything in government.

Go Obama!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Anon, 2:24 a.m. Go OBAMA. Go right to the vicious anti-American church where you feel obliged to stay. Go OBAMA to those who feel that we in this country deserved what happened on 9/11/01. As a matter of fact, JUST GO, MR. OBAMA, JUST GO. Far Away.