Sunday, May 4, 2008

What it takes...

Senator Obama on Reverend Jeremiah Wright on March 18th:

“As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. … I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother...”

On April 29th

“Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He has built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministries reach beyond the church walls.

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st centuries, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.

They offend me. The rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Let me just close by saying this. We started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided, that in fact all across America people are hungry to get out of the old, divisive politics of the past.

I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country, that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together.

And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we have moved beyond these old arguments.

What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign. It is antithetical to what I am about. It is not what I think America stands for.

And I want to be very clear that, moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me. He does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say that I find these comments appalling, I mean it.

It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am. And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign is about, I think, will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point. I'm particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It's never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It's not about Reverend Wright.

People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be talking about.

And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me."

So, what changed in the span of approximately one month?? Did Reverend Wright come out with new declarations? Did he say or do anything different from what he has said and done for many years? Did Senator Obama learn anything new regarding Reverend Wright’s views that were not already known to him when he made the first of his two declarations, above?

The answer to each of these questions is an unequivocal “No. Reverend Wright’s apparent sin was in not keeping a low profile, thereby complicating Senator Obama’s quest for the Democratic nomination. He did this by his Bill Moyers interview, by speaking at a NAACP function, and then appearing before the National Press Club.

Senator Obama couched his denunciation in terms of a) Reverend Wright’s views, which he characterized as “ridiculous” and antithetical to his own beliefs, and, b) Reverend Wright causing a distraction from “what this campaign should be about, which is the American people…. People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be talking about.” Obama went on to express his anger “…that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate…”

However, these “ridiculous” views had not estranged them before, and in fact had not been an impediment to an extremely close relationship that lasted over many years. The change from ‘can’t disown’ to ‘disown’ shows that Wright was right about at least one thing, when he said re Obama “…he goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician…”

In fact some have argued that this shows that Senator Obama has the mettle to be president, that he can make the tough decisions when he has to! True, but this entire imbroglio also shows that this ‘agent of change’ who wants to ‘change the tone in Washington’ shares the same one-way notion of loyalty as did/do Reagan, the Bushes pere et fils, and the Clintons!

On a side note, it’s true that Reverend Wright’s comments were incendiary and not very artfully couched, especially for such an evidently erudite scholar with a great facility for language. However, while not a comfortable subject for polite dinner conversation, they were not all totally “ridiculous” and beyond the pale. For example, his comments re 9/11 were not as ridiculous as those of Pat Robertson (see below), and this blogger’s sense is that what he was saying was not that different from what Ron Paul said (and incidentally also was vilified for by very many) that while the responsibility for 9/11 lay entirely with the terrorists, it did not occur in a complete vacuum….

Pat Robertson, about the 9/11 attacks - "We have allowed rampant secularism and occult, et cetera, to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered in our society. We have a Court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said, 'We're going to legislate you out of the schools, we're going to take your Commandments from off the courthouse steps in various states, we're not going to let little children read the Commandments of God, we're not going to let the Bible be read -- no prayer in our schools.' We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And, then we say 'why does this happen?' Well, why its happening is that God Almighty is lifting His protection from us."

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