Saturday, March 22, 2008

Key Questions Still Left After Obama Speech


The beauty of a speech is that you don't just give the answers, you provide your own questions. "Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes." So said Barack Obama, in his Philadelphia speech about his pastor, friend, mentor and spiritual adviser of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright. An interesting, if belated, admission. But the more important question is: which "controversial" remarks?

Wright's assertion from the pulpit that the U.S. government invented the HIV virus "as a means of genocide against people of color"? Wright's claim that America was morally responsible for 9/11 - "chickens coming home to roost" - because of, among other crimes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (Obama says he missed church that day. Had he never heard about it?)

What about the charge that the U.S. government (of Franklin Roosevelt, mind you) knew about Pearl Harbor, but lied about it? Or that the government gives drugs to black people, presumably to enslave and imprison them?

Obama condemns such statements as wrong and divisive, then frames the next question: "There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?" But that is not the question. The question is, Why didn't he leave that church? Why didn't he leave - why doesn't he leave even today - a pastor who thundered not once but three times from the pulpit (on a DVD the church proudly sells) "God damn America"?

Obama's 5,000-word speech, fawned over as a great meditation on race, is little more than an elegantly crafted, brilliantly sophistic justification of that scandalous dereliction. His defense rests on two central propositions: (a) moral equivalence, and (b) white guilt.

(a) Moral equivalence. Sure, says Obama, there's Wright, but at the other "end of the spectrum" there's Geraldine Ferraro, opponents of affirmative action and his own white grandmother, "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." But did she shout them in a crowded theater to incite, enrage and poison others? "I can no more disown (Wright) than I can my white grandmother." What exactly was grandma's offense? Jesse Jackson himself once admitted to the fear he feels from the footsteps of black men on the street.

And Harry Truman was known to use epithets for blacks and Jews in private, yet is revered for desegregating the armed forces and recognizing the first Jewish state since Jesus' time. He never spread racial hatred. Nor did grandma. Yet Obama compares her to Wright. Does he not see the moral difference between the occasional private expression of the prejudices of one's time and the use of a public stage to spread racial lies and race hatred?

(b) White guilt. Obama's purpose in the speech was to put Wright's outrages in context. By context, Obama means history. And by history, he means the history of white racism. Obama says, "We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country," and then proceeds to do precisely that. And what lies at the end of his recital of the long train of white racial assaults from slavery to employment discrimination? Jeremiah Wright, of course.

This contextual analysis of Wright's venom, this extenuation of black hate speech as a product of white racism, is not new. It's the Jesse Jackson politics of racial grievance, expressed in Ivy League diction and Harvard Law nuance. That's why the speech made so many liberal commentators swoon: It bathed them in racial guilt, while flattering their intellectual pretensions. An unbeatable combination.

But Obama was supposed to be new. He flatters himself as a man of the future transcending the anger of the past as represented by his beloved pastor. Obama then waxes rhapsodic about the hope brought by the new consciousness of the young people in his campaign. Then answer this, Senator: If Wright is a man of the past, why would you expose your children to his vitriolic divisiveness? This is a man who curses America and who proclaimed moral satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents at a time when their bodies were still being sought at Ground Zero. It is not just the older congregants who stand and cheer and roar in wild approval of Wright's rants, but young people as well.

Why did you give $22,500 just two years ago to a church run by a man of the past who infects the younger generation with precisely the racial attitudes and animus you say you have come unto us to transcend?


Obama church published Hamas terror manifesto

Compares charter calling for murder of Jews to Declaration of Independence

Sen. Barack Obama's Chicago church reprinted a manifesto by Hamas that defended terrorism as legitimate resistance, refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist and compared the terror group's official charter - which calls for the murder of Jews - to America's Declaration of Independence. The Hamas piece was published on the "Pastor's Page" of the Trinity United Church of Christ newsletter reserved for Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., whose anti-American, anti-Israel remarks landed Obama in hot water, prompting the presidential candidate to deliver a major race speech earlier this week.

Hamas, responsible for scores of shootings, suicide bombings and rocket launchings against civilian population centers, is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department.

The revelation follows a recent WND article quoting Israeli security officials who expressed "concern" about Robert Malley, an adviser to Obama who has advocated negotiations with Hamas and providing international assistance to the terrorist group. In his July 22, 2007, church bulletin, Wright reprinted an article by Mousa Abu Marzook, identified in the newsletter as a "deputy of the political bureau of Hamas." A photo image of the newsletter was captured and posted today by the business blog BizzyBlog. The Hamas piece was first published by the Los Angeles Times, garnering the newspaper much criticism.

According to senior Israeli security officials, Marzook, who resides in Syria alongside Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal, is considered the "brains" behind Hamas, designing much of the terror group's policies and ideology. Israel possesses what it says is a large volume of specific evidence that Marzook has been directly involved in calling for or planning scores of Hamas terrorist offensives, including deadly suicide bombings. He was also accused of attempting to set up a Hamas network in the U.S.

Marzook's original piece was titled, "Hamas' stand" but was re-titled "A Fresh View of the Palestinian Struggle" by Obama's church newsletter. The newsletter also referred to Hamas as the "Islamic Resistance Movement," and added in its introduction that Marzook was addressing Hamas' goals for "all of Palestine." In the manifesto, Marzook refers to Hamas' "resistance" - the group's perpetuation of anti-Israel terrorism targeting civilians - as "legal resistance," which, he argues, is "explicitly supported by the Fourth Geneva Convention." The Convention, which refers to the rights of people living under occupation, does not support suicide bombings or rocket attacks against civilian population centers, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America noted.

Marzook refers to Hamas' official charter as "an essentially revolutionary document" and compares the violent creed to the Declaration of Independence, which, Marzook states, "simply did not countenance any such status for the 700,000 African slaves at that time." Hamas' charter calls for the murder of Jews. Among its platforms is a statement that the "[resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, and the rock and the tree will say: 'Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, kill him!'"

In his piece, Marzook says Hamas only targets Israel and denies that Hamas' war is meant to be waged against the U.S., even though Hamas officials have threatened America, and Hamas' charter calls for Muslims to "pursue the cause of the Movement (Hamas), all over the globe."


Divinity School excuses Pastor Wright's hate speech

Blacks are obviously not responsible human beings to them

On March 29, 2008, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright is scheduled to receive Brite Divinity School's Black Church Leader Award. Brite and Texas Christian University share a Fort Worth campus, but are independent schools. This week, TCU is probably wishing they were even more independent.

The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram have reported on the controversy that led to a decision to move Wright's award ceremony off campus. A TCU senior official told me that both schools have received many angry phone calls in opposition to Wright's award. Consequently, "in light of what happened at Virginia Tech and for the safety of the students," the event will be held off-campus at a site yet to be identified. The official added that "Brite is a small school and getting swamped with calls."

The only Brite staff person authorized to speak about the matter is President D. Newell Williams. Neither Williams nor his administrative assistant were available for comment. I am not suggesting they are dodging questions. No doubt they're struggling to figure out how to best handle this situation without damaging the school. They're academics, not media consultants. Meanwhile, Brite Divinity School posted a statement on its website addressing the issue. Here are excerpts from that statement:
"After careful review, and understanding the sincere concerns many have voiced in response to recent media reports, Brite has for the following reasons affirmed the Black School Studies Program's decision, made months ago, to recognize the contributions of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. at the fourth Annual State of the Black Church Awards Banquet.

Contrary to media claims that Wright preaches racial hatred, church leaders who have observed his ministry describe him as a faithful preacher of the gospel who has ministered in a context radically different from that of many middle class Americans. Brite does not endorse all of the statements or views of any of the church leaders recognized by the Divinity School. Brite is recognizing Dr. Wright for his forty-year ministry linking divine justice and social justice."

On its face, Brite's statement suggests that school officials do not believe that any of Wright's statements reported by the media reflect "racial hatred," nor do they deem any to be inconsistent with the Christian gospel. Any element of controversy appears to be excused on the basis of having been delivered in a "radically different" context than that experienced by "middle class Americans."

Their implied thesis it this: The standard for gauging the appropriateness of preaching in black churches is lower than in white, middle-class churches -- the profile of many Disciples of Christ Churches, the denomination with which Brite and TCU are historically affiliated. Since the controversy surrounding Trinity United Church of Christ's alignment with black liberation theology emerged, we've learned that the over 8,000 member congregation includes an economically wide spectrum of members, once including the billionaire Oprah Winfrey, and now including a U.S. Senator.

The Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ (Rev. Wright's denominational affiliation), recently released a statement defending Wright and criticizing the "relentless airing of two or three brief video clips of [Wright's] sermons." Thomas also states,
"One is tempted to ask whether these commentators ever listen to the overcharged rhetoric of their own opinion shows. Even more to the point is to wonder whether they have a working knowledge of the history of preaching in the United States from the unrelentingly grim language of New England election day sermons to the fiery rhetoric of the Black church prophetic tradition."

Commentators may not have the working knowledge Thomas mentions, but I do, since I hold a Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD), majoring in Preaching & Bible, from a well-respected Protestant seminary. And, while the Rev. Thomas can certainly find historical instances of forceful preaching, he engages in historical hyperbole by implying that hate preach is an acceptable, classic, homiletical genre. To claim, as Rev. Wright has, that the U.S. government developed the HIV/AID virus to kill blacks is absurd. The 18th Century burning of witches in Salem is a lamentable part of American church history, too, but surely Thomas would not cite that as a precedent for bad behavior today.

But then, Thomas is just offering covering fire to one of his own -- one he considers a prophet. It's what church judicatory officials do. But, hate preach is hate preach: from whoever's mouth it is spoken, from whatever pulpit it is delivered, in whatever church it represents, in whatever historical context it is set. It is what it is. Back to Brite's Controversy: these two questions were submitted to Brite's president via email with the promise that his response would be shared with AT readers.
1. Question: In light of the controversial statements made by the Rev. Wright that have surfaced recently, do you feel that he was properly vetted in conjunction with the honor that he is to receive?

2. According to ABC News, Rev. Wright has referred to U.S. Secretary of State Rice as "Condoskeeza Rice." "Skeeza" is an idiom known in the black community as meaning "whore" or "slut." Section 3.4.b.(1) of the Brite Divinity School Handbook, 2007-2008, page 7, states that a "Community Commitment" at Brite means that "members of the Brite Divinity community covenant together to embody a context of integrity in all aspects of our lives but especially in our academic vocation. This includes (but is not limited to) not lying, cheating, stealing, causing harm to self or others, defacing property, slander, libel, or defamation of character." Referring to Ms. Rice as a whore would seem to violate Brite's own covenant relative to the concepts I've highlighted. Question: Should someone the school is honoring be held to a lower standard than the school's students?

We'll let readers know if we receive a response.


Obama not popular with White Voters

The racial dimension of Barack Obama's electability problem is now apparent, but no prominent Democrat dares discuss it openly. Similarly expect no discussion of the subject in the major media. I am not referring to the ongoing and intense discussion of The Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright is a separate problem for Obama. Whether Obama has been, or will be, permanently weakened by his long and close association with Wright, or has soared above it with his Philadelphia speech, is not the subject of these thoughts. Something much simpler than the answer to that question has been starkly apparent for some time, certainly since well before the Wright eruption: Consistently, and by large margins, Obama has lost the white working class vote to Clinton in all states critical to the Democratic ticket this November. The lurking suspicion -- impossible to verify or refute -- is that much of Clinton's handsome portion of this demographic will not go to Obama in the November election.

This has grave implications for a Obama, at least in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Working class whites have voted heavily for Clinton in these states (or, in the case of Pennsylvania, will soon do so). The return of the Reagan Democrats, not the odious fulminations of Reverend Wright and their consequences, is what is now driving Democratic Big Wigs to the bourbon cabinet. Predictably, the media either refuses to acknowledge this now established voting pattern or, in some cases, actually denies its existence.

The latest example of denial is by Dan Balz, staff writer for the Washington Post, who remarked in his March 17, 2008 article purporting to analyze the white male vote, that Wisconsin (where Obama did relatively well among white males overall) and Ohio (where Clinton crushed him, 66-33%, among white working class males) are "states with striking similarities." It appears Mr. Balz has not looked at the two states closely and thoughtfully. In the crucial details of racial demographics, Ohio and Wisconsin are worlds apart; and it is through these details that Obama's white working class problem can be understood.

Here are some pertinent facts about Wisconsin and Ohio: Wisconsin has about 5.5 million residents, Ohio about 11.3 million. Wisconsin is about 89% white and 5.7% black, while Ohio is 85% white and about 11.5% black. The small (but statistically significant) difference in percentage of blacks living in the two states was the least part of Obama's problem in Ohio. Obama's real difficulty in Ohio - and it has been a consistent one for him in similar states -- is the widely dispersed and interwoven location of the two racial groups in that state, versus their relative isolation from each other in Wisconsin. Here, I warn the reader, we are entering emotionally rough terrain for those schooled only in the mandatory American racial catechism of the last forty years.

For at least the last two generations America's racial policies have been predicated on a near religious belief that increased contact between the races will produce harmony, good feelings and positive relationships. Our experience during this period has been uniformly the opposite. Urban white liberals have fled the public schools by the hundreds of thousands, self-segregation by blacks on university campuses is widespread, resentment in the workplace (by both races) ubiquitous etc. In his Philadelphia speech Obama himself referred -- perhaps the first such reference by a black politician without open contempt -- to the concerns that many white Americans have about blacks.

The salient fact is this: in settings where the two races deal more directly with each other, and get to know each other better, through shared public schools, workplaces, public conveyances, universities, etc., they seem to like each other less, not more. This fact is laid bare, at least for anyone willing to see it, by the Democratic primary results thus far. Consider the following additional facts about Wisconsin and Ohio, those states with "striking similarities."

In Wisconsin more than 75% of the black population resides in the Milwaukee area, a metropolitan area that accounts for only 32% of Wisconsin's total population. This means that in Wisconsin the white portion of 68% of the state's population (which is more heavily white than the state as a whole because of the concentration of blacks in Milwaukee) rarely if ever encounters blacks. Thus, for a high proportion of Wisconsin whites, blacks are abstractions, approached most closely by turning on Oprah.

Now consider Ohio: to begin with, the black population, in percentage terms, is nearly double that of Wisconsin (11.5% versus 5.7%). But its dispersion within and among the white population is the real difference between the two states'racial demographics. In Ohio 80% of the state's 11.3 million residents reside in the eight largest metropolitan areas (Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Youngstown and Canton). These cities contain, in the order listed, 24%, 51%, 43%, 24%, 28%, 43%, 44% and 21% black residents. Thus, in Ohio a very high percentage of the white population, particularly its working class component, has regular contact with blacks, or, if living in outer suburbs, has direct contact with other whites who do.

The widely disparate residential patterns of the races is obvious: in Wisconsin, the vast majority of whites live, work, shop, and send their children to school in a world that includes few if any blacks; in Ohio the reverse is true, and the races regularly brush up against each other in all these categories of daily life. Judging from how well Obama did among white voters in these states (satisfactorily in Wisconsin, abysmally in Ohio) increased racial familiarity is not a boon to the Illinois Senator....

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