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    March 15, 2008

    Barack Obama's Wright stuff

    Posted by: Chris

    15wright_190 Color me disappointed. The message of unity and "new politics" championed by Barack Obama is one that has resonated deeply for me, after years of watching in frustration while bitter partisanship and Rovian wedge politics undermined the common ground our system depends upon.

    But it's hard to square Obama's message and rhetoric with the incredibly incendiary racism and anti-Americanism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years. You've no doubt seen the videos of Wright exhorting his congregation to replace "God Bless America" with "God Damn America"; or when he rails in support of Obama over Hillary Clinton because he knows black America is held down by "rich white people" and she's never been called the "N-word."

    In one sense, Wright is only the latest in what appears an unending stream of supporters of each of the three remaining presidential candidates with outrageous views that must be denounced, rejected, repudiated, whatever. It's a game Obama tried to avoid last fall but now is fully a part of. But Wright's relationship to the candidate is of a different order than John McCain's John Hagee, Clinton's Geraldine Ferraro or Obama's Louis Farrakhan and Donnie McClurkin.

    The Trinity UCC pastor has played a much more central and formative role in Obama's personal development, even providing the inspiration for the candidate's signature "audacity of hope." Only it's hate, not hope, that Wright is preaching in the videos making the rounds in the media, the internet and (of course) the right-wing talk shows.

    I've waited to hear how Obama would respond to the specific sermons that have come to light, and late yesterday he took some important steps in a blog post on HuffPo and an interview with Keith Olbermann to put Wright's outrageousness in context.

    First and foremost, Obama forcefully and unconditionally condemned Wright's rhetoric, which couldn't have been easy on a personal level:

    I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

    He also confirmed that he hadn't been at the church when those sermons were delivered and insisted they weren't characteristic of the pulpit message he absorbed for 20 years:

    The sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn. The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation.

    That's the crux of the matter for me. If in 30 years of preaching Rev. Wright got (very) carried away a few times that have been cherry-picked by the media or oppo research, that's one thing. But if Obama sat through versions of that hateful message on more than very rare occasions over two decades, then it risks undermining the credibility that lies at the heart of his unique appeal.

    Late yesterday, Wright dropped off the Obama campaign's African American Religious Leadership Committe, certainly the right decision for all concerned. But it will take more reporting about their relationship and more openness from Obama to sort through the contours of this story. Whatever effect it might have on his candidacy, short or long term, this isn't a two-day story to be swept under the rug. And better to air it now than in October.



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    1. BB on Mar 15, 2008 11:23:23 AM:

      Oh come on! Of course some (including me) have reasons to say God Damn America, when people do not allow America to be as our Founding Fathers wanted it to be. Anti-gay rights, when all are supposed to be EQUAL. God damn America. I can surely see why many Afro-Americans would say God damn America. The Congress giving Bush his war in Iraq. God Damn America. The majority of Americans acting like idiots when people opposed The Bush war, like the Dixie Chicks. God damn America. Bush pardoning Libby. God Damn America. Cheney is our Vice President? God damn America. McCain actually having a BIG chance to be President? The Nation has NOT learned important lessons? God damn America. The SLOW response of the Govt. to issues like global warming. God Damn America. Oh come on. And on and on and on it can go. And I'm an atheist.

      AND some of the the white rich HAVE kept the black man down...DO keep the black man down...AND keep the NOT rich down, in general. Bill and Hillary are all for the black man, until one is running for President, and is NOT losing to her. Then, their racism creeps out of their pores, along with their nervous sweat. A large majority of Americans CLAIM to be a Christian, and MOST are anything but that. Do unto others? Love thy neighbor? Judge not? He who is without sin? Yeah, right! OH the religious hypocrisy and the hate-filled self-righteousness that has such a strangle-hold on society by PSEUDO Christians. And since MOST are PSEUDO Christians, it will go on for YEARS to come. God damn America, for America is as the majority of Americans allow it to be.


    1. Geena the Transgirl on Mar 15, 2008 4:13:54 PM:

      The problem is 50.1% of Americans do not like care for this style of rhetoric.

      Obama is running as the anti-Rev. Al Sharpton, not on Al Sharpton's spiritual guidance.

      Obama needs to be clear these statements on AIDS, 9/11, are ignorant, harmful, unenlightening, and do not build us up, it tears us down. This is the moment Obama has been waiting for, he can show America how to unite against divisive words, the politics of fear and cheap demagoguery, or he can let this opportunity slip away into the hands of Republicans.

      This also shows how little risk-reward today's politics offers when you latch onto any church as party of your political personality. Romney went down partially because he overplayed his faith. The Mormon church has a past history of prejudice which he never denounced. Huckabee can't get to 50.1% for similar reasons.

      The American people can judge your moral compass, without knowing if you go to church on Sunday morning.

    1. Chester on Mar 16, 2008 10:53:54 AM:

      I would actually be kind of suspicious of a Christian leader who DIDN'T go off on America, because the country doesn't really follow any of the Christian values I know about.

    1. Tony Iovino on Mar 16, 2008 11:50:13 AM:

      I'm a conservative Republican who has only voted for two Democrats ever--Jimmy Carter and Eliot Spitzer--both of which I regretted. Still, I think Obama is OK here, unless we see video of him cheering while Wright espouses hate, bigotry and idiocy.

      We all have friends and relatives who say outrageous things from time to time. I won't throw any of my friends under the bus and I don't expect Obama or any other politician to do so, either. If they aren't on your staff, then just tell me you don't agree with their position or statements and show me that you don't agree by your actions, and as far as I'm concerned the issue is over.

      If I disassociated myself from every friend and relative who is a bit crazy, I'd be a lonely, lonely, man.

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