That Obama is a fraud who will say whatever he thinks expedient at the time is shown by the way he now suddenly rejects the mental environment in which he was living for most of his life up until now. It is his fraudulent presentation of himself that is at issue in the Pastorgate affair. But he is trying to bluff his way out of it. That will only work among people who believe him in spite of the evidence that he cannot be believed. Taranto offers below one of the two comments about Obama's recent speech that I am putting up
Barack Obama took the stage this morning to give what was billed as a "major speech on race." It was, of course, an attempt to rescue his campaign from the revelation that his so-called spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, espouses a virulently anti-American and antiwhite worldview called "black liberation theology." Here is the part of the speech that bothered us most:
I can no more disown [Wright] 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.
Our first thought was that it was pretty low of Obama to exploit his (still living) grandmother in this way. Is it really necessary for the whole world to know about her private expressions of prejudice? Doesn't simple decency dictate that a public figure treat embarrassing facts about loved ones with discretion? Obama was trying to accomplish something very specific by dragging his "white grandmother" into this political mess. He was trying to diminish Wright's hateful theology by implying that it too is a private matter. Said Obama:
For the men and women of Rev. Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings. And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Rev. Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.
Note how Obama elides the difference between a comment at the "kitchen table" and a sermon delivered to a congregation of thousands and recorded on DVD.
Obama rightly faulted his spiritual mentor for using "incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." But he tried to treat Wright's most outrageous comments as if they were aberrations rather than the most extreme expressions of an extreme ideology:
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain.
Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely--just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice.
Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country--a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America, a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
What Obama is evading is that this "profoundly distorted view" is not just some passing emotion. It is what Wright himself, in the "talking points" page of his congregation's Web site, describes as "systematized black liberation theology." As we noted yesterday, Wright credits James Cone of New York's Union Theological Seminary with having undertaken this systematization. Here again is Cone's description of black liberation theology:
Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community. . . . Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.
So here we have, on the one hand, an old white woman who would be completely ordinary and anonymous but for her grandson's astonishing political success, and who harbors some regrettable prejudices; and, on the other, a leader in the black community who uses his pulpit to propagate an ideology of hate.
Obama said this morning, "I have asserted a firm conviction--a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people--that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union." But if he cannot speak out unequivocally against the public, organized bigotry of his spiritual mentor, how can he possibly live up to this promise?
From the Center-Left TNR on the Obama speech
Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I suspect today's speech may fail to meet its goal of assuaging white America in two ways.
The first is the way the speech will be filtered through the media. Many headlines are already focusing on his condemnation of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's rhetoric. But Obama also refused to rhetorically dump Wright. Instead he argued that "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." This is a complex and nuanced point--one which, taken from the context of Obama's larger assessment of race in America, won't satisfy people horrified by a preacher who blamed 9/11 on U.S. policies. Other headlines are likely to focus on Obama's overall call for racial reconciliation and a more perfect union. Obama said, quite rightly, that the recent flaps over Wright and Geraldine Ferraro "reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through--a part of our union that we have yet to perfect."
But the question is whether working class voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia and elsewhere believe, particularly in a stalled economy, that racially perfecting the union really ought to be a central goal of the next president. I would like to believe so. I'm not convinced they do. (A related point: Obama's speech was almost entirely devoted to the black-white divide. As a strategic political matter, he may have inadvisably glossed over the role of Latinos, who foster as much resentment towards black America as do whites.)
The second way in which Obama's speech may have come up short was the scant attention it devoted to social failures within the black community. This, again, was a theme that Bill Clinton used masterfully to establish himself as both a student of black culture and someone unwilling to indulge its worst excesses. It's true that Obama did urge blacks to avoid "becoming victims of our past," and take "full responsibility for our own lives--by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them." But this was a small part of his speech and not at all its tonal emphasis.
Yet it seems quite likely that millions of white voters still see black America as indulgent of criminality and insufficiently devoted to education and work. Obama's fleeting lines about victimhood and reading to children do little to address that audience. As an alternative, Obama might have benefitted from invoking the example of Bill Cosby, who has morphed from comedian to one of black America's sharpest internal critics. "Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other [the N-word] as they're walking up and down the street. They think they're hip. They can't read. They can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere," Cosby told a group of black activists in 2004 (who, it should be noted, cheered him on). There was nothing like that here from Obama.
Finally, I can't help but think of the familiar complaint that Obama's rhetoric is wonderful--but the specifics of the change he promises are fuzzier. In an entire speech about race in America, Obama never so much as mentioned affirmative action. He laments the state of our disgraceful public school system--yet his own platform doesn't promise the kind of revolutionary (and expensive) overhaul that system requires. Making decisions about the allocation of resources is where things get really tricky, but Obama steered away from those questions.
The information era being what it is, I was already debating my thesis via email with an Obama aide as I wrote this reaction. He warned me against assuming that Reagan Democrats are defined by the same racial prejudices that defined them in the 1980s, back when crime and welfare were primary political issues, when one Willie Horton could turn an election. He may be right. I hope he is. Unfortunately, I fear that America hasn't come nearly as far as he hopes. But it is the answer to that question that will determine the fate of Barack Obama.
Jonah Goldberg on Obama
Obama and his surrogates are denouncing attempts to link the candidate and the views of his pastor and mentor. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) on "Fox News Sunday," for instance, said, "Guilt by association is not typically American. We've all been around in places where people have given speeches or said things that we've thoroughly objected to, totally objected to."
OK. But even Obama didn't spin it that way. More implausibly, Obama claimed that he'd never heard his mentor say anything of the sort, in public or private.
Obama has been a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ for 20 years. Wright baptized Obama's daughters; he officiated at Obama's wedding. The title of Obama's career-making book "The Audacity of Hope" is from a Wright sermon. Wright worked with Obama as a community organizer. Saying you were out back catching a smoke during one sermon or another won't cut it. The issue isn't what Obama sat through, but what he stands for. Even Wright's tone is poisonous.
Obama righteously deplores "divisiveness." And yet he literally worships at the altar of division. He wants to transcend race, but his black nationalist church and his liberation theology pastor consider race permanent and central issues.
Obama claims that he's a different kind of politician, but his "repudiation" of Wright last week is traditional pol-speak and nothing more. To listen to Obama, you'd think he was the only person in Chicago not to know that his minister is a hatemonger. Either Obama is the worst judge of character in living memory or he's not the man he's been portraying himself as.
Or there's a third option. Perhaps Obama didn't hear Wright's bilious rhetoric because it blended in with the chorus around him. This is the fact that Obama really needs to address if the "Obama movement" is about more than getting the junior senator from Illinois elected.
What does it say that Trinity United Church is the most popular in Obama's old state Senate district, with a membership of 8,500? One of Wright's flock responded to the controversy by telling ABC News, "I wouldn't call [Wright's theology] radical. I call it being black in America." NPR's Michelle Norris explained on "Meet the Press" that Wright's tone, at least, is "not something that is unusual" in black churches.
A Rasmussen poll released Monday found that 29% of blacks surveyed said Wright's comments made them more likely to support Obama, while only 18% said the opposite, and half said Wright's comments would have no effect on them. That is a symptom of a problem that platitudinous "hope" cannot alone remedy.
A 2005 study by the Rand Corp. and the University of Oregon found that nearly half of African Americans say they believe that HIV is man-made. More than 25% think that it's a government invention, and one in eight say it was created and spread by the CIA. Just over half believe that the government is purposely keeping a cure from reaching the poor.
And please, spare me the rationalization that blacks have reason to be conspiratorial. Doubtless there's truth to that. But that doesn't make the conspiracy theories any more true or any less destructive.
In the 2005 issue of Social Science Quarterly, Sharon Parsons and William Simmons tried to explain why conspiracy theories like these persist in the black community. Part of the answer, they concluded, is that black politicians have no interest in dispelling them. Paging Sen. Obama!
Obama preaches unity. Well, real unity requires real truth-telling and the ability to tell right from wrong, and Wright from right. I, for one, have no interest in being united with Wright or anyone who insists that America is an evil, racist, damnable nation bent on murdering black people -- and I suspect neither will many general election voters.
Obama's power base is made up of black voters and the upscale left-wingers who condescend to them. Well, it is time he spoke truth to that power. If the eloquent, self-proclaimed truth-teller and would-be first black president can't manage that, he should go straight from would-be to never was.
The new Jimmy Carter
Thirty two years ago a Democrat politician with very little experience "transcended" politics as usual and was lifted on waves of good will to the White House. It seems to be happening again. Jimmy Carter is unknown to most young Americans. Most Americans do not remember how Carter magically seemed to appear on the American political scene. Perhaps a history lesson is in order.
"I'll never lie to you," Carter famously told American voters in 1976. His smile was all embracing. Carter seldom got angry. He talked about his evangelical Christian faith often. Carter promised change and hope. He told us that the mean and cynical government that we had come to expect from Washington was a thing of the past.
Millions of Americans, many of them who had remained uninvolved in American politics, listened. They trusted Carter to be "different." His carefully crafted words led people to believe that Jimmy Carter was something very different from the typical sort of Democrat. Carter would try something new. He was an idealist who was not wedded to failed ideals of the past.
Then Carter won. It became painfully apparent that four years as Governor of Georgia was poor experience for the leader of the Free World. Carter supported on "human rights" grounds the overthrow of the Shah of Iran (our friend) and its replacement by the Islamic theocracy which still rules Iran to this day (our enemy.) He pursed domestic policies which called for privation instead of growth. Carter lied about the firing of U.S. Attorney David Marston, who had been investigating corrupt Pennsylvania Democrat congressmen.
When America faced a genuine crisis, the illegal capture of our embassy staff by the Iranian Islamic militants, Carter was utterly at a loss. He tried to talk to negotiate their release, but the regime with whom Carter tried to work with had no interest beyond utterly humiliating America.
Carter, after the Soviets assassinated our ambassador in Afghanistan and then invaded that nation, was "surprised" that Communism was aggressive and malignant. His response was to try to exert diplomatic pressure on the Soviets as well as trade sanctions. Jimmy Carter, well into the middle of his presidency, seriously seems to have considered that Marxist-Leninist regimes were somehow like another form of socialist democracy, that Moscow was no threat to America, and that the proliferation of virulently anti-American dictators around the globe was in our long term best interest.
All of this sounds very much like Barack Obama. Carter was "magic" because he was the first nominee from the Deep South, the first nominee who talked a great deal about his religion. Obama is "magic" because he is the first black candidate and because he speaks very well. Carter was all smiles and civility, just like Obama is all niceness and calm. Pointedly, neither man speaks about political philosophy much at all.
Yet Carter was obviously a stark Leftist. What was not shown in his brief presidency has been shown in his long ex-presidency. When has Carter ever had anything to say good about America? More pointedly, what American ex-president has been so viciously partisan in his comments? His contempt for every Republican president since him certainly belies the toothy smile and meek words of 1976. Jimmy Carter is a bitter, angry man - a man who hates his country and blames America for the problems of mankind.
Barack Obama seems cut of identical cloth. Carefully scripted, Obama quickly corrects statements which show how he truly feels. He rejects anti-Semitic, anti-American supporters only when nudged to do so. His wife "misstates" when she says that she has never been proud of America until now, but Michelle corrects the error only belatedly and without apparent concern for misinterpretation.
It certainly seems as if Obama feels that the problems of America have been her moral shortcomings, which is very much what Jimmy Carter thought. It seems as if Obama feels himself morally superior to those in politics today, much like Carter did thirty years ago. Obama, like Carter, invites Americans to trust him with the most beguiling claims of spiritual elevation. Obama, like Carter was an utter and complete Democrat partisan, although he promised to be just the opposite.
Jimmy Carter never tried to "govern from the center" or "seek bipartisanship." He could easily have passed tax cuts or defense spending increases. He did not want to. Barack Obama has never sought bipartisanship. He embraces Leftism completely. They are the same: Barack Obama is our next Jimmy Carter
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