Monday, March 17, 2008

Rev. Wright and Obama

Just a quick post here on Barack Obama and his spiritual adviser/former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The Obamas have been members of his church in good standing for 20 years; Rev. Wright married them; he baptized their children; he inspired the title for Obama's The Audacity of Hope; he was serving on Obama's African American Religious Leadership Committee, etc.

Here's the story that set off the firestorm:

In short, this is a major, major, major problem for Obama. If it doesn't cost him the Democratic nomination, I think it may very well cost him the general election.

Obama has denounced and repudiated these statements, saying that he wasn't in attendance when they were made.

You would expect conservatives to see this as a problem.

Here's Victor Davis Hanson (the whole post is well worth reading):
So the question will simply be left to the American voter:

EITHER: 'Obama probably knew what was going on at Trinity, but, given the complex circumstances and Obama’s other strengths, it doesn’t matter enough to affect my vote;'

OR: 'Obama’s attendance and his feeble reaction to the criticism of Wright provide a valuable warning of why someone so inexperienced and yet so familiar with extremists should not be President of the United States next year.' It's left to the electorate, as it should be.
But liberals are seeing it as a big deal, too. Here's Michael Crowley, the senior editor for the left-of-center The New Republic:
There are two separate issues here. One is political, and that one's not too ambiguous: This is really bad news for Obama, both in the primary and if he makes it to the general. He's worked successfully to escape the image of the "angry black man," and here he is linked to that image in the most emotionally searing way.

The second issue is how we should feel, normatively, about the fact that Obama maintained ties with Wright, even after presumably realizing that he held views Obama now calls deplorable. I'm not prepared to render judgment on that here. But I do worry that this lays bare a very grim truth: That even middle-class black American culture is more angry and alienated than most whites understand, and that our country is simply not yet at the point where even an ostensibly post-racial black candidate can escape that dynamic entirely. (Indeed not only was Wright perfectly acceptable to Obama and his Chicago circle, but it seems likely that it would have been difficult for Obama to separate himself from the preacher had he wanted to, lest he be accused of not being an "authentic" member of the south side black community.) In other words, what's happening here is far bigger than the particulars of Obama and Wright, it's about cultural dissonance that was going to bubble up one way or another. And as a colleague put it to me today, in terms I hope are too pessimistic: "It makes me think it's going to be at least another generation before we see a black man elected president." If Obama can prove him wrong then he really may be a world-historical figure.

And here is Obama supporter Gerald Possner, writing at the Huffington Post:
If the parishioners of Trinity United Church were not buzzing about Reverend Wright's post 9/11 comments, then it could only seem to be because those comments were not out of character with what he preached from the pulpit many times before. In that case, I have to wonder if it is really possible for the Obamas to have been parishioners there -- by 9/11 they were there more than a decade -- and not to have known very clearly how radical Wright's views were. If, on the other hand, parishioners were shocked by Wright's vitriol only days after more than 3,000 Americans had been killed by terrorists, they would have talked about it incessantly. Barack -- a sitting Illinois State Senator -- would have been one of the first to hear about it.

Can't you imagine the call or conversation? "Barack, you aren't going to believe what Revered Wright said yesterday at the church. You should be ready with a comment if someone from the press calls you up."

But Barack now claims he never heard about any of this until after he began his run for the presidency, in February, 20007.

And even if Barack is correct -- and I desperately want to believe him -- then it still does not explain why, when he learned in 2007 of Wright's fringe comments about 9/11 and other subjects, the campaign did not then disassociate itself from the Reverend. Wright was not removed from the campaign's Spiritual Advisory Committee until two days ago, and it appears likely that nothing would have been done had this story not broken nationally.

Come on, Barack. I'm backing you because you are not 'one of them.' You have inspired me and millions of others because you are not a typical politician. You tell it like it is, don't fudge the facts, and don't dodge and weave with clever words to avoid uncomfortable truths.

Tell it straight. Was Reverend Wright so radical that his post 9/11 comments did not cause a stir at the Church, and you never learned about them until 2007, nearly 6 years later? Why, when you did learn about them, did you not ask Revered Wright to step down from his role in your campaign?

Give us the plain truth. You won't lose us by being brutally honest. You only risk shaking our faith in you if you seem like so many other politicians that crowd the field.