Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shilling us softly with our wrongs

Barack Obama vaulted into the national attention with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In that speech he shared this story:
My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or ”blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined -- They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.

They're both passed away now. And yet, I know that on this night they look down on me with great pride.

They stand here -- And I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.
He also made this observation:
...Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.
Senator Obama's credentials for disowning the race-baiting, anti-American pastor of his church seem well established. From that 2004 soar of rhetoric, one could depend on him to put Jeremiah Wright in his place. However, Obama does not even suggest he has tried.

It would have been a good defense to describe the ongoing, vehement, roof-raising arguments - the good vs. evil view of the United States shouting matches - that punctuated their 20+ year mutual admiration society: "Here is an intensely personal example of my long term commitment to unity and change. Changing Rev. Wright's mind is why I persevered as a member of TUCC."

I suspect the lack of this defense means no such conversations took place. Our President should be able to press an argument that the United States isn't evil upon his closest friends, don't you think?

Previous to the Wright exposé, I only highly suspected Michelle Obama of promoting the low expectations of soft bigotry - relative to Jeremiah Wright that is, you've got to parse the bigotry. She speaks repeatedly of America's meanness, of oppression and of her lack of pride in America. She encourages individual despair that only her husband's administration can fix. Michelle Obama is a very angry woman, not much enamored of the United States. You can easily imagine the Reverend Wright whispering in her ear.

Up until this last week you can imagine him sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom.

Today, Senator Obama spoke eloquently to explain all this. His eloquence foundered, however, on the rock of yet another excuse for Jeremiah Wright's behavior and beliefs. He excused Wright - by pointing out that his white grandmother is also a bigot. Perhaps not a raving, blame-America-first bigot, but close enough to justify a cynical exploitation of family in a time of political need:

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

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 – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Sorry, Barack, you didn't choose your grandmother and she wasn't preaching racism and nut-job conspiracy theories to thousands of people. Is she selling DVD's of her remarks? If you're the healer, the uniter, you had to disown your choice of Jeremiah Wright.

My question Senator, is this: If you are the great uniter, why, in over 20 years of intimate association with the man, were you unable to convince Jeremiah Wright of the good things about America you describe in your DNC speech?

Just words?

We'll go to Shelby Steele for today's last word on this:
The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?
Today, Barack Obama acknowledged that to be true, after half-denials for the last week. I think he's toast in a general election.

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