Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Michael Gerson is right:
No pleasure in writing that title. Gerson has been wrong on many counts, and helped promote the Iraq War. Up until now, I've disagreed with every essay he's written in the Washington Post. But his Op Ed
about Rev. Jeremiah Wright is correct on virtually all counts.
I write this as someone who would like to see Obama get the Democratic nomination and win the presidency. But I can't remain silent when a serious problem arises for any
As I see it, Obama is a fine candidate. This recent Wright flap has been a test for him, and as a test
, he's performed extremely well. But the fact remains that his past association with Wright is a serious demerit.
It's puzzling. It's disheartening. But it's a fact.
CODA: I'm sure this blog has pissed off lots of Obama-fans in the last couple of days. Sorry about that. But what's a blogger to do when a politician has done something that's worrysome? Remain silent and pretend it didn't happen? Play the spin game? Or be frank with the blog audience? I prefer the latter.
IN FOR A PENNY, IN FOR A POUND: As long as I'm riffing on this topic, get this comment
from Obama-supporter, and atheist
, Mark Kleiman: (emp add)
Those who have described Obama's failure to pre-emptively trash Wright as "political malpractice," and who have even compared Obama's decision not to leave Trinity to the decision of a white politician not to quit a racially-restricted country club, never seem to have considered the possibility that Obama might have scruples about holding up to national ridicule the man responsible for his conversion experience, or non-political reasons for staying in his home church.
A "conversion experience" is now an excuse for hanging with a rad dude. What is Wright, a 21st century Rasputin
? C'mon, can we get away from wishful thinking - up until now, a George Bush modality - and look at the world rationally? Take science seriously when it warns of climate change. Not fall for the Social Security privatization hokum. Allow religion to operate in the private sphere, but not become an excuse for this-or-that bizarreness? (by the right or the left)
Somewhat related: Remember the grief Mel Gibson was getting for being the son of holocaust-denier Hutton Gibson? Mel's was called upon to denounce his dad. He didn't
, and was pilloried as a result.
Perhaps Obama should have started his speech as follows:
"Eleven score and 1 year ago, ...."
Come on, the Gibson thing isn't related at all. The question with Gibson was whether he was an anti-semite himself- being arrested and blaming it on the "fucking Jews," making a movie that repeated the charge against Jews for killing Jesus.
Does anyone really think that Obama believes the things his minister says? Those who claim they do (Republicans) are using it as a pretense and will attack him about anything they can gin up (see the lapel controversy.) Those who claim they don't but are concerned about appearances (Clinton supporters) are just playing politics, trying to game "electability." No one who might vote for him in the first place (non-racists who don't already think all them blacks are the same) really believes he hates America.
I love this blog for its willingness to not sugar-coat difficult political situations--reminds me of a mini-Billmon...
Yet while Wright is a concern, I think you're overdetermining the problem a bit. Obama's speech is getting generally good play; most criticisms are either by people who would never vote for him anyway, or they're of the annoying "he didn't say precisely what i wanted to hear in the precise language" sort (Digby, I think, had a great riff on the this line of critique...)
At best, it neutralizes the race issue among the Democratic base, and I think this is a plausible result. At least, I think it might take "crazy pastors" off the table--McCain isn't really going to want to press him on this with Hagee and god knows who else in his pocket. In any case, Obama comes across as thoughtful, intelligent, and presidential--a reminder of what we want in a post-Bush presidency. Indeed, with the economy headed in the crapper after 8 years of Republicanism, I don't think issues like Wright are going to be so central this election season. I'm worried that a protracted fight with Hillary will blunt this, but on the whole I'm cautiously optimistic...
As someone who thinks of himself as a realist, I won't argue you're point. I've certainly entertained similar thoughts, but let's not fool ourselves into believing that Obama's stumble has somehow strengthened Hillary against right wing attacks in a general election. She's going to get torn to pieces (and as effectively as you believe Obama is now) and Republicans will flood to their polling places to vote against her regardless of how lukewarm they are about a McCain candidacy. I'm sticking with Obama because of a number of reasons (none of them having to do with rainbows and unicorns) and I'd rather back a wildcard than support a Clinton candidacy that I believe was doomed long before Rev. Wright rolled into town ... and is even more fragile now that she's been steadily bleeding Democrat support.
The basic problem is that much of the public doesn't understand that Obama is not a fundamentalist. It's absolutely OK to belong to a church if you disagree with the minister. Hell, my mother was very angry at our minister in the late '60s and early '70s for giving anti-Viet Nam sermons. While she wrote him a letter disagreeing with him, she didn't leave for another church. Some clergy use a sermon as a starting point for more discussion and consideration, not a tablet that you much adhere to or else!
By the way, I'm not condoning Wright, who seems like something of a jerk. But it's a Christian principle to love the jerk too.
Last night I told my wife in all sincerity, that I would much rather vote of an Obama destined to lose the general election than a Clinton who might squeak out a win. My reasoning is thus, as has been said by many, she will activate complacent and disaffected voters to come to the polls just to vote against her. That spells electoral doom for downticket races, especially since she has adopted a 16 states plus one electoral strategy which totally discards the Democratic surge in the Mountain West, among other things. With Obama, I think the Democratic Party will expand their margin in Congress even if he is not elected.
have you listened to wright's "audacity of hope" speech?
nightline ran a short clip of wright giving a sermon where he was soft spoken, counter to the bombastic image media has shaped of him.
which wright do you want to throw under the bus? the 5% radical one or the 95% mostly sane one. you can't split them in 2.
you don't know who wright is. rightwing punditry run around posturing as if they know the man. (just like they postured to be expert on iraq or how, despite never having served, are expert on all things military.)
they do not. obama does. you presume to know better than obama. you presume to have better judgment than obama. if you knew wright, you'd probably think differently.
you can't judge the full measure of a man in 30 second soundbites.
Mel's was called upon to denounce his dad. He didn't, and was pilloried as a result.
if obama had thrown wright under the bus, the rightwing would have pilloried obama for doing so. they would have said this is proof obama wasn't any different from the usual politician, willing to forsake principle for the sake of political expediency.
I wonder why we do not have 24/7 coverage of McCain's Pastor's hating on Catholics or saying god created America to destroy Islam?
The problem is the sound bite. When I hear where Wright is coming from, not so much the angry black America hating man, but a man wondering where the justice is/has been for his people living in America.