Thursday, March 20, 2008

The mighty Barry has struck out

There isn't much that I can add to the commentary on Barack Obama's speech on Jeremiah Wright and race. It was a well-crafted speech with some astute observations but, at least for those who are not staunch left-liberals, it confirmed rather than dispelled the questions raised by his association with Wright.

Certainly he disavowed Wright's comments but that was to be expected and was never the question. The burden upon him was to explain why he attended a church at which the pastor was given to hateful race-baiting and crackpot theories of racial injury. Why did use that church as a political base? How could he have this pastor as a spiritual father?

His initial response was to deny that he had ever heard such things but, upon reflection, seems to have recognized that he had to back away from that. It seems likely that someone will place him in the congregation during one of Wright's inflammatory sermons. He must, in any event, know that it's possible for someone to do so.

So he tried to explain why a good man could say the things that Wright did, but the burden upon him was greater than that. The problem is not that Wright is angry but that he counsels anger. It is not that he was formed in a more racist America. It's not even, as Obama says, that he makes the mistake of seeing the country as static and unable to change. It's that he sees it as having not changed. For Wright, the Man's foot is still firmly on the neck of the oppressed and some type of subtantial intervention is required.

And, it turns out, so does Obama. He doesn't want to phrase it in racial terms (although he seems committed to substantial race-based policy)but his America is, despite being the only place that his story is possible, a fundamentally unjust place in which millions are shortchanged. White people who fail to understand that are, he thinks, manipulated by talk radio and conservative spin.

The upshot here seems to be that Obama doesn't share Wright's harsher views (or at least wouldn't put them in the same way) but can understand them because they are rooted in what he sees as a fundamental truth about the country.

His claim to be willing to have a conversation about race seems completely disingenuous. His equation of Geraldine Ferraro to Jeremiah Wright (and his creepy invocation of his grandmother)obscures rather than clarifies. One of the reasons that we don't talk about race in this country is that we have adotped an elaborate etiquette designed to assuage white guilt and black suspicion that makes anything approaching candor impossible. Obama has been more than willing to enforce that etiquette.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

brilliant...just brilliant. Seth Z not on the computer today? slacker.

Anonymous said...

This certainly goes to his judgment and decision making ability.

Good post!

Seth Zlotocha said...

The problem is not that Wright is angry but that he counsels anger.

Can you explain this a little more? This seems to be the crux of your complaint; that is, not only has Wright preached in angry terms, but those angry terms somehow translate into angry activity on the part of the people who hear him preach, Obama included. But I'm failing to see the transition between expressing anger and promoting angry activity on the part of parishoners; while I don't have any interest in defending what Wright said in this outrageous statements, I didn't hear him explicitly preaching some action or policy. You seem to feel that the former (angry expression) inevitably leads to the latter (angry action), but I don't see that as true, especially w/o consideration for the rest of these sermons -- which I haven't seen anyone do -- that are typically around an hour in length.

As I asked in response to your last post, do you see the tone and ideas presented in these statements by Wright having a place in an Obama presidency, in spite of the fact that Obama denounced them? If so, is there any evidence in anything that Obama has said or done to suggest that they will in spite of that denouncement? That seems to be the bottom line in all of this.

His initial response was to deny that he had ever heard such things but, upon reflection, seems to have recognized that he had to back away from that.

He never backed away from his claim that he didn't hear, while in the pews, the outraegous statements that started this controversy. In fact, he reiterated that he did not. What he said he heard were statements that could be considered controversial, and he explained that "the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial." In other words, these remarks were beyond anything he ever heard while in the pews at Trinity.

Obama has been more than willing to enforce that etiquette.

How so? What part of the speech are you using to justify the argument that Obama is trying to "assuage white guilt and black suspicion"?

And you don't need to be a "left-liberal" to think the speech was, in the words of Charles Murray, "just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America. It is so far above the standard we're used to from our pols."

3rd Way said...

for those who are not staunch left-liberals, it confirmed rather than dispelled the questions raised

You are starting to sound like a Gableman ad.

His speech was widely accepted as great. Only the stuanchest hardliners on the right are characterizing it as a strike-out.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

There is going to be a minority of irreconcilable cynics that are going to be unwilling to discuss any other subject besides this one in the coming months. I hope you aren't one of them Rick.

Anonymous said...

3rd way said -

"His speech was widely accepted as great."

I do not know what his cheerleaders are saying, but those who are making up there own minds didn't see it that way.

His decisions will be made on his friendships, personal preferences and not what is good for the country. His world view is not compatible with many. The "progressive savior" has been exposed for what he really is.

Anonymous said...

If I were you, Shark, I'd be more concerned about McCain--seems he can't even get straight who's doing what in the Middle East. And, who McCain gets his spiritual guidance from!

Anonymous said...

McCain--seems he can't even get straight who's doing what in the Middle East

Standard bilge from the left-liberal noise machine. McCain was right. In any event, Obama says he wants to leave Iraq because he discerns no evidence of AQ's presence. Whose gaffe, assuming McCain's is one, is worse?

3rd Way said...

His world view is not compatible with many.

His world view is compatible with the majority of the world and the majority of Americans. It is only non-combatible with right leaning republicans.

Right leaning Republicans are a significant minority, but they are a big part of the voting population.

If you don't think that this speech was well recieved you are delusional.

Dad29 said...

One of the better political men (Roeser of Chicago) suggested that Obama blew it big-time.

He should have denounced the pastor's statements AND publicly quit the church right then and there. What does he lose by doing so? Only a tiny minority: people who agree with Wright.

Instead, Obama emplaced race into the game, where before, he had never had that problem, despite HRC's furious attempts to insert it as an issue.

Oh, well.

Seth Zlotocha said...

He should have denounced the pastor's statements AND publicly quit the church right then and there. What does he lose by doing so?

He'd lose supporters like me who are attracted to the fact that he opts for explanation, honesty, and nuance rather than evasion, distancing, and parsing.

The latter is exactly what the Clintons and most other politicians would do, and the fact that Obama didn't reinforces his promise to practice a different kind of politics (not to mention, as David Kuo points out, a different kind of Christianity, although that's based on a commitment Obama made to his church, not a promise he made to the electorate), a kind that doesn't succumb to superficial guilt-by-association accusations.

If that decision ends up costing him the election, then so be it. I don't think it will, I'd rather see him go down by sticking to his message than by abandoning it.

Anonymous said...

He'd lose supporters like me who are attracted to the fact that he opts for explanation, honesty, and nuance rather than evasion, distancing, and parsing.

Sure, if his denying knowledge of something he'd imbibed for decades is your idea of honesty; and if his throwing grandmomma from the train is your idea of honesty and nuance. But I especially like the idea that if the new Honest Abe would lose your vote if he went so far as to denounce the hate-filled crank.

Seth Zlotocha said...

He denounced the hate-filled words, Anon; he didn't need to denounce the man, too. That's the nuance part. (And pretty Christian, too.)

Most politicians would've dropped Wright in a heartbeat, regardless of whether they actually thought it was justifiable; all it would need to be for them is politically expedient, looking to the polls for answers in the same "how many votes would I lose?" terms described by Dad29. Obama opted for the refreshing course of explaining to the American public why denouncing Wright, in addition to his words, wasn't justifiable or productive, in spite of the fact that the polls told him it was a risky move in a selfishly electoral sense.

And he's never been dishonest about what he heard from Wright. As I noted above, he said he heard statements that could be considered controversial, and he explained that "the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial." In other words, these remarks were beyond anything he ever heard while in the pews at Trinity. Something that's controversial can still be reasonable; Obama's point here is that the statements that caused this outrage aren't reasonable.

As for his grandmother, that he "threw her under the bus" is nothing more than a trumped up line by the right to make him appear unloyal (which is different than dishonest; in fact, it could be considered in some cases to be the opposite). But the fact is, for all anyone knows, they spoke about it prior to the speech, and I haven't seen anything to suggest they didn't. I also wouldn't doubt that you'd find some similar comments in one of Obama's two books.

And the point he was making there is a very honest and nuanced one. He was saying that you don't need to be a bad person to have impulses -- ingrained via the racial history of our society -- that manifest themselves in seemingly racist ways, such as his grandmother becoming frightened when she sees a black man on the street. In other words, our racial past still affects even good people today. I'd say that characterizes a good chunk of the US population, cutting across all races.

Anonymous said...

Obama took no responsibility for anything. He's speaking out of both sides of his mouth. I believe he is just as bad as Wright, maybe worse, and we do not need to flag that around the world.

Seth Zlotocha said...

What was he responsible for?

Seth Zlotocha said...

What was he responsible for?...aside from denouncing the statements and explaining to the public his relationship with Wright, which is exactly what he did.

Anonymous said...

Seth, Mr. Nuance, go back to this comment:

He should have denounced the pastor's statements AND publicly quit the church right then and there. What does he lose by doing so? ... (Denounced the statements: got it? Now review your response:)

He'd lose supporters like me .... (And compare that exchange to what you now say:)

He denounced the hate-filled words, Anon; he didn't need to denounce the man, too. That's the nuance part.

Well, the nuance part is that you originally said you couldn't support The Ineffable One if he denounced crackpot statements, and now you're saying you couldn't support him if he denounced the crackpot. That is nuanced!

By the way, I said he'd thrown Grandmomma from the train, not under the bus. (More nuance!) So long as it's mass transit I suppose it doesn't matter. But go ahead and nominate The Racial Healer. I look forward to an election filled with nuanced discussions about granny's racism and the loonie pastor's "controversial" statements about the government plan to infect blacks with AIDs; not to say how Israel is a "dirty" word. (Israel as code for "Jews": still more nuance!)

Seth Zlotocha said...

Obama did denounce the statements, and did so on more than one occasion. Everyone knows that. Dad29 was saying that he should've also left Trinity, hence the capitalized AND in his sentence.

Well, the nuance part is that you originally said you couldn't support The Ineffable One if he denounced crackpot statements

Huh? I never said that. Again, everyone knows he already denounced the statements. I said he would lose me as a supporter if he denounced the statements and denounced Wright or left Trinity solely b/c of those comments made by Wright (in other words, for nothing more than political expediency).

Where's the contradiction in that?

Anonymous said...

seth -

you must be one of those "typical whites" that Obama talks about.

Anonymous said...

Obama did denounce the statements, and did so on more than one occasion. Everyone knows that.

Never mind that "everyone" knows he "did renounce," except those few of us who remain skeptical of The Redeemer. No matter. There's now unnuanced clarification that Seth accepts renunciation of the looney-toon statements but would recoil at renunciation of the looney-toon himself. Fine. Crackpot guiding light pastor, loving caretaking grandmother: what's the diff?

I do like the idea that any reaction directed toward Wright or Trinity would have been "for nothing more than political expediency." Really? And The Healer's dilatory denunciation (if that's what it was) of the statements wasn't itself compelled by "political expediency"? Nuance! I think I'm starting to get it.

All fair enough: the Dems are going to nominate someone who refuses to denounce a hate-filled venom-spewer. It's the nuanced way to get on with racial healing.

Anonymous said...

More evidence that Rev. Wright is the Dems' gift-that-keeps-on-giving to the Republicans:

Not everybody knows that The Healer denounced the statements.

More push-back from The Healer's camp, and it ain't pretty, especially for devotees of nuance.

And the fall-out? "He's clearly weaker than Clinton in some states that Democrats think they need to carry."

Seth Zlotocha said...

I do like the idea that any reaction directed toward Wright or Trinity would have been "for nothing more than political expediency." Really? And The Healer's dilatory denunciation (if that's what it was) of the statements wasn't itself compelled by "political expediency"?

If you can find me any evidence that Obama personally supports the content and tone of these particular remarks by Wright, then I might be able to buy your line that he only denounced them now for political expediency. On the other hand, his support for Trinity and Wright as a person is well-documented, however, so to ditch them now in light of these comments could only be considered an act of political expediency. That's not nuance, Anon, that's just logical.

And I'm glad you think the Wright flap is going to hand the GOP a victory over Obama in November should he be the Dem nominee. GOPers in WI thought that same thing about Georgia Thompson and Jim Doyle about 6-8 months before the election, too.

Anonymous said...

That's not nuance, Anon, that's just logical.

It's logical that Obama sat through decades' worth of sermons and assorted rites-of-passage with the race-bating huckster and didn't have a fricking clue? OK. Good luck convincing the electorate that a clueless ingenue should be president.

I'm glad you think the Wright flap is going to hand the GOP a victory over Obama in November should he be the Dem nominee

Nah, it's not so much me as the Dems themselves. Or perhaps Rev. Sabotage himself. That's not nuance, Seth, it's the iron logic of identity politics.

Seth Zlotocha said...

It's logical that Obama sat through decades' worth of sermons and assorted rites-of-passage with the race-bating huckster and didn't have a fricking clue?

Do you have evidence that the handful of soundbites that made YouTube and the cable news channels are somehow characteristic of the thousands of sermons Wright gave over his twenty year career? Have you even listened to any of the full sermons from which these handful of comments were taken? (Here they are, along with some others, if you're interested.) Something tells me, though, you could care less about investigating whether Wright is truly nothing more than a "race-bating huckster" as long as you have your soundbites to use to define his life's work and try to take down Obama.

Nah, it's not so much me as the Dems themselves.

You should really check to make sure your links support your points. That poll you cite doesn't say anything about Wright, much less about whether Dems think he'd take down Obama's campaign in the general. This poll is one that actually addresses your point, and it shows that only 24% of Americans (36% of GOPers, 20% of Indies, and 17% of Dems) actually think Obama shares the views expressed in Wright's comments, and only a quarter of Indies and Dems say that his relationship with Wright has caused them to have "doubts" about him as the nominee. We're a long way from the general for the "doubts" of a quarter of Indies and Dems to realistically have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.

Or perhaps Rev. Sabotage himself.

Sorry; the pure speculations of a conservative columnist don't even amount to even the tiniest shred of evidence.

Anonymous said...

only a quarter of Indies and Dems say that his relationship with Wright has caused them to have "doubts" about him as the nominee.

Whistling past the graveyard.

LOL:

Well they say that time loves a hero
But only time will tell
If he`s real he`s a legend from heaven
If he ain`t he was sent here from hell

Hear me well
Seeing ain`t always believing
Just make sure it`s the truth that you`re seeing
Eyes sometimes lie, eyes sometimes lie
They can be real deceiving

Seth Zlotocha said...

Whistling past the graveyard.

If you say so. But the fact remains that even at the height of this flap with Wright, Obama is still running statistically even with McCain in the polls. And that comes after over a month of McCain essentially running without an opponent.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Here's an even more recent poll from CBS. On the question, "HAVE THESE EVENTS MADE YOU MORE OR LESS LIKELY TO VOTE FOR OBAMA?":

More Likely: 14% (Dems 22%, Indies 11%)
Less Likely: 14% (Dems 8%, Indies 13%)
No Difference: 80% (Dems 68%, Indies 75%)

Publius said...

SZ says: "If you can find me any evidence that Obama personally supports the content and tone of these particular remarks by Wright, then I might be able to buy your line that he only denounced them now for political expediency."

Does 20 years in the pews count? Does his admission that he heard this kind of rhetoric matter?

I will cede to you that these snippets available on YouTube and for sale from the church's website may not be indicative of the body of Wright's work.

However, considering the severity of his remarks, that should be enough for Obama to reconsider his affiliations with the man.

The fact is, we are all judged by the people we keep company with - rightly or wrongly. It's a fact of politics; so much so that the consensus out of Chicago seems to be that Obama was well-aware of that when he began attending that particular church. Surely, to be accepted in that southside(?) community he represented in the IL Senate, he needed the support of the local activists, preachers, and pols.

Now he finds himself being judged in the same manner with which he sought their support. Live by the sword, die by the sword, as it were...

The reality is that Obama's pedigree does not match the rest of the congregants or the community he represented. He recognized that and now that calculated embedding is being scrutinized.

He can suggest that I'm not outraged enough at the subtle racism of his grandmother and flower his language all day long, but peel back the curtain, and he's just another politician that promises hope and change.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Does his admission that he heard this kind of rhetoric matter?

Except he didn't say he heard that kind of rhetoric. He said he heard controversial statements, but "the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial." And he further explained today that while he heard Wright criticize US domestic and foreign policies, he never heard Wright's remarks about AIDS (which Obama called "out of line and off the wall") nor did he ever hear him use the phrase "God Damn America."

He can suggest that I'm not outraged enough at the subtle racism of his grandmother and flower his language all day long, but peel back the curtain, and he's just another politician that promises hope and change.

As Charles Murray put it: "Ah, but he was trashing his grandmother for political purposes, he was equating what she said with the much more terrible things that Rev. Wright said, blah, blah, blah. Yes—if you insist on interpreting what he said purely as an exercise in political positioning. No, if you go to his text with the intention of trying to understand what Obama thinks about race.

"I understand how naïve it is to read a presidential candidate’s speech as if it were anything except political positioning, but that leads me to my final point: It’s about time that people who disagree with Obama’s politics recognize that he is genuinely different. When he talks, he sounds like a real human being, not a politician. I’m not referring to the speechifying, but to the way he comes across all the time. We’ve had lots of charming politicians. I cannot think of another politician in my lifetime who conveys so much sense of talking to individuals, and talking to them in ways that he sees as one side of a dialogue. Conservatives who insist that he’s nothing but an even slicker Bill Clinton are missing a reality about him, and at their peril."

Anonymous said...

Some pretty stupid stuff.

Since you teach at Marquette, and since, well you know, the catholics have kind of a problem going on with the little boys, when are you announcing the resignation? Do you expressly or only tacitly support raping kids?

And since you are so opposed to someone else's preacher, could you tell us all the dumb shit your preacher says? Or what your church teaches? (I won't pretend to know if you even have a church). And just how much does that guy drink anyway?

That was funny where you called Obama by the name Barry- pretty clever Dick- get it, your name is Richard and you're a Republican lawyer, so I can call you Dick, Dick, because that's not childish. Dick, its clever. What's your middle name- Milhouse?)

Quit your job dick.

(Oops, I forgot to capitalize. What could that mean? Duh.)

So lets be honest. You don't like McCain, but you prefer him to the democrats. You had kind of a hard on (should I say medium sized dick) about Hillary ("Must hate Clintons"- its in the platform). But now she's gonna lose. So now you hate the black guy, but not because he's black. And not because he pastor is not a pedophile. But because he's a democrat. So yawn, you hate democrats and democrats hate you. Way to jump into a race issue tho. You don't look dumb at all.

marlo said...

Anon 1:26

Isn't it past your bedtime? By the depth and content of your post (yawn), I can only assume that you are a 14 year old boy.

Posting crap like your comments under anonymous, only tells the rest of us that you don't "have any"...well you know.

Why don't you go back to the HuffPo and leave blogs like this one to the grown-ups?

marlo said...

But you don't look childish at all.

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