All written without reference to Pastor Wrong
If the Democratic National Convention failed to produce a bounce for John Kerry, the same cannot be said of Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's candidate for United States Senator from Illinois. While this rising star in the Democratic Party spouted some conservative themes during his speech, the rhetoric may be deceptive. While Obama spoke of individual responsibility - such as stating that the government cannot teach kids to read, parents must - his ideology and voting record is quite different.
Obama is very liberal. Among his campaign contributors are George Soros, People for the American Way, pro-abortion groups and teacher's unions. Soros got his money's worth from Obama, who turned out redmeat antiwar quotations during the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. At an October 2002 antiwar rally, he repeated the false "economy and war" canard of fanatical antiwar liberals. Obama said:
"I don't oppose all wars.What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Roves to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income...to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression."
When confronted with this quotation by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," Obama shrugged it off, not choosing to repeat its conspiracy theories. Russert uncharacteristically did not press the issue. But the quotation would seem to indicate Obama's inclination to parrot the Michael Moore Left.
In fact, Obama has bristled at being referred to as a mainsteam Democrat. When he was accused by Black Commentator magazine as being co-opted by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). Black Commentator believes the more moderate rhetoric of the DLC and Bill Clinton's willingness to compromise with Republicans for political gain have harmed the party. It believes the DLC's candidates are corrupted by corporations, and refers to conservative black politicians as "black stealth candidates," which is how they characterized Obama.
Obama was so disturbed by this, he wrote a letter to Black Commentator stating:
"To begin with, neither my staff nor I have had any direct contact with anybody at DLC.I don't know who nominated me for the DLC list of 100 rising stars.I certainly did not view such inclusion as an endorsement on my part of the DLC platform.I spend much of my time with audiences trying to educate them on the dangers of both the Patriot Act, Patriot Act 2, and the rest of John Ashcroft's assault on the Constitution.In the last three months alone, I passed and sent to Illinois governor's desk 25 pieces of major progressive legislation, including groundbreaking laws mandating the videotaping of all interrogations and confessions in capital cases; racial profiling legislation; a new law designed to ease the burden on ex-offenders seeking employment; and a state earned income tax credit that will put millions of dollars directly into the pockets of Illinois' working poor."
His voting record certainly displays the ideology characteristic of an indulgent liberal. (Sorry, "Progressive.") Obama favors abortion, socialized medicine, and Affirmative Action. Obama sponsored a bill in the Illinois legislature requiring local police departments in Illinois to record the race of anyone stopped for questioning so that the data can be used to track the occurrence of racial profiling. He opposes a $2,000 tax credit for retirement and has voted against private gun ownership, mandatory sentencing and the death penalty. During his tenure as a legislator, he abstained from voting about an abortion parental notification bill and on legislation that would keep pornographic video stores and strip clubs from within 1,000 feet of schools and churches. He has also voted against laws requiring students to complete suspensions before being transferred to other school districts. He abstained from legislation requiring adult prosecution for students who fire guns on school grounds. He opposed legislation making it a criminal offense for accused gang members to associate with known gang members.
Ironically, Obama is the candidate of the racial segregationist. It is not because segregationists want him to be a Senator. It is because he is classified African-American using the standards of racial segregationists. Obama is called an African-American. However, Obama is half-white. His father, who was black, abandoned him and his mother when he was about two years old. He lived with his white mother and white grandparents.
Considering a mixed race individual an African-American is a typical liberal practice. They routinely refer to anyone who is partially black as black. Tiger Woods, Halle Berry and Mariah Carey are all mixed race celebrities regularly referred to by the liberal media as black. Tiger Woods has had the gall to complain about this. (With good reason; his mother is Asian.)
Ironically, this custom by liberals and Democrats of referring to partially black people as black is simply a reiteration of the old racist, Jim Crow, "one-eighth law." In racist locales, such as segregation-era Louisiana, people with as little as one-eighth African-American ancestry were classified as black. This classification led to dramatic curtailments of freedom. In Missouri and Mississippi, "The marriage of a white person with a negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful and void." Obama is black only by the standards of white segregationists. By insisting that mixed-race individuals be considered black, Democrats -- the party of the unreconstructed South -- are displaying their segregationist roots.
Obama the candidate is conservative only when addressing a national television audience. Ironically, the oddball Black Commentator magazine is partially correct. Obama is a stealth candidate -- a liberal stealth candidate.
In Defense of Jeremiah Wright
Stanley Kurtz imitates far-Left "postmodernist" mumbo-jumbo long enough below to point out that Obama's pastor is actually a mainstream figure in Leftist circles. No wonder Obama sat there and lapped it up. It was not too different from what he would have heard on occasions in his classrooms at Columbia and Harvard
On the matter of Jeremiah Wright, conservatives remain encased in an adamantine literalism. From the perspective of either deconstructionism or postcolonial theory, Wright's utterances are neither controversial nor disturbing. Lack of general familiarity with these critical discourses accounts for the deep-lying anti-Wright bias of both the blogosphere and talk-radio. The conservative misdirection here parallels the literalist condemnation of Paul de Man.
Let us invoke Homi Bhabha's encomium to Franz Fanon (Location of Culture, Chap. 2), including Fanon's meditations on the liberatory effects of anti-European violence. As with Fanon in Bhabha's gaze, Wright appears as the purveyor of a transgressive and transitional truth. His voice is most clearly heard in the subversive turn of a familiar term, in the silence of a sudden rupture: (not God bless America but...) God damn America. This line of thought keeps alive the dramatic and enigmatic sense of change. That familiar alignment of colonial subjects - Black/White, Self/Other - is disturbed with one sharp reversal, and the traditional grounds of national identity are dispersed. It is this palpable pressure of division and displacement that pushes Wright's sermons to the edge of things - the cutting edge that reveals no ultimate radiance but, in his words, an "audacity of hope."
Through repeated sonic replication (which Wright surely anticipated, having released the sermon on DVD), the phrase is effectively broken up, or opened up, in a moment of Lacanian jouissance, migrating, so to speak, from God damn America into God(d) am(n) America. The evident echoing of late-capitalist discourse-games (Toys "R" Us) turns God Am America into what is simultaneously a discreet invocation of early-American providentialism, an appeal to business interests, and an identificatory excursus on the Illinois subaltern.
Spivak is no less apt on the problem of literalism (Spivak Reader, Chap. 9). The denial of contingency is a particular loss on the matter of Wright. Deconstruction has taught us that taking contingency into account entails the immense labor of forging a style that seems only to bewilder. On Wright, we must question staying within the outlines of rational agency and instead give a hint of postcolonial heterogeneity in opposition to the impoverished conventions of mere reasonableness. That "high" register, where sermonic production is in the same cultural inscription as the implied listener, cannot be employed for the epistemic ruses of the South Chicagoan subject.
In short, from the standpoint of deconstruction and postcolonial theory (and only from that standpoint), Wright's remarks are undisturbing, and in fact most welcome. Since the most eminent universities in the United States have consistently valorized these discourses it follows that (unless you've got a problem with deconstruction or postcolonial theory - and how could you possibly?) Wright is to be commended. To be sure, the aporias of Wright's populist discourse are more implicit than in deconstruction or postcolonial theory. Yet in substance (insofar as substance can be attributed), Wright's views and those of scholarly theorists are quite similar. If anything, the theoreticians are more radical. Obama's ability to act as both the revelatory sign and unifying signifier of the discourses of Harvard or the University of Chicago, on the one hand, and the demagoguery of South Chicago, on the other, ratifies and validates his location in culture.
OK, I've been tweaking actual deconstructionist and post-colonial texts, and adding some "original" analysis of my own, to fit the Wright affair. It's partly in fun, but also remarkably easy to do. The serious point is that these radical theorists, so popular in America's academy, do in fact approve of figures like Wright, which is why respectable universities have tenured Wright's spiritual mentors. (Thanks to Lisa for pointing me to Spengler's important analysis of Wright's theological sources.) The condescending approval of sophisticated academic radicals toward Wright's theological mentors seems very much like Obama's own approval of Wright. The tone of the two worlds might be different, but the substance is not that far apart.
Again, to be serious for a moment, Michel Foucault, another deeply influential postmodernist thinker, made a point of idealizing "local" rebellions against oppressive universal forms of knowledge. By this he meant anything from an individual radical subtly subverting some bureaucracy he was employed in, to the challenge posed by Afrocentrism to traditional Christianity. There is "local" radicalism, then there's the sophisticated universal academic radical, who encourages and approves of, yet also transcends, the radicalism of place. We might say that Obama has latched onto Wright's "local" radicalism in the way that his universally radical anthropologist mother latched on to the localized struggles of Indonesian peasants. There may be some condescension and pragmatic political manipulation here, but it's likely also mixed with the genuine admiration of authentic local radicalisms we find among intellectuals. Obama's gift is that he knows how to unite both [radical] sensibilities.
Fear and condescension in the elite media
Post below lifted from Dinocrat. See the original for links
Tom Bethell has an insightful piece in the American Spectator that raises some important points about a debate that, if it is framed honestly, dares not speak its name in the elite media. Excerpt:
Rev. Jeremiah Wright's remarks about America were the worst things said about my adopted country since I came here from England in 1962. Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X are not in the same league as this champion of race hatred from Chicago. Imagine if Senator John McCain had for years been a member of a church where a white pastor said that blacks should go back to Africa where they came from. And McCain were to respond: Well, I disagree with his remarks and I reject what he said but I won't disassociate myself from him, because he has been so important to my life. McCain would be out of the race in the blink of an eye. Yet Obama has not felt the need to distance himself from Pastor Wright.
The New York Times has praised Obama's speech as a "profile in courage." That is baloney - reflecting the gross double standard that has prevailed for decades on the subject of race. The underlying problem is that the liberals who still control so much of the debate quietly agree with much of what Wright said..I just read a mealy-mouthed article by the Washington Post's Dan Balz ("Will the Answer Outlive the Questions?"). He quoted three "Democratic analysts" who point out that Wright's comments could hurt Obama in November. What was significant was that not one of these analysts went on the record. This shows that we do indeed need a debate about race. The real problem is that it's the liberals who don't want to debate it, probably because they know they would lose.
Prediction: This Obama episode will once more show how the new technology is transforming political debate. Balz conveyed in his piece that the Washington Post will be good soldiers and won't do anything more than absolutely necessary to upset the race industry, of which the Post is a part. But how could the web and the blogs and e-mail be controlled? That's what bothered Dan Balz. "The danger," he wrote, as though he were already on the Obama team, "is that what might last are the images of his Chicago pastor - edited and reedited into television ads, YouTube videos and an endless stream of e-mails delivered quietly into the computers of millions of Americans."
Bethell says: "The underlying problem is that the liberals who still control so much of the debate quietly agree with much of what Wright said". That may be true, but we think the problem may be even worse than that.
We think that, when confronted by an issue like the Wright comments, many in the elite halls of the MSM experience a combination of fear and condescension that they do not even appreciate consciously. Instead, this toxic brew falsely presents itself to them as a feeling of sensitivity to someone's plight. It masks itself as something nice, but it is not. In fact, it is itself a kind of nasty bias. Of course this is a feeling that it would be very hard for such a reporter or editor to acknowledge and confront directly. The same sentiment was evident in the self-censorship of the elite media in the cartoon controversy three years ago. The media sometimes note in passing the strange or scary or aberrant behavior by members of certain groups, like the Cartoon Riots, or the Wright statements, but, depending upon the group, they'd just as soon leave the matter alone as quickly as possible.
In an example used by Bethell, Nick Kristof wrote in a recent piece "it has been shocking to hear Mr. Wright suggest that the AIDS virus was released as a deliberate government plot to kill black people. That may be an absurd view in white circles, but a 1990 survey found that 30 percent of African-Americans believed this was at least plausible." Kristof then went on to catalogue other items where blacks and whites thought differently, in the same kind of "on the one hand, on the other hand" way. (In some ways that is also what Senator Obama did in his speech the other day.) Regarding Kristof's two-handed approach, isn't the media's problem this: if 30% of people believe something nutty, shouldn't we start the discussion by calling that belief nutty, and take things from there?
Until the elite media are willing to see clearly and condemn nutty or destructive behavior or beliefs of groups that elicit the MSM's inappropriate emotional reaction, an open debate cannot take place - at least any debate hosted by the elite media. Some sort of debate will continue to take place of course; it will just for the most part not include those parts of the media establishment. It is of note that in two recent examples of such debates - the Dubai ports deal and the immigration reform fiasco - the elite media's view was 180 degrees out of phase with the vast majority of Americans. It is our guess that the matter of Reverend Wright is similar in some ways to these two other examples. Time will tell if that is the case.
Another dubious Obama associate
Long before Barack Obama launched his campaign for the White House, when he was considering a run for the US Senate in 2003, he paid an intriguing visit to a former Chicago sewers inspector who had risen to become one of the most influential African-American politicians in Illinois. "You have the power to elect a US senator," Obama told Emil Jones, Democratic leader of the Illinois state senate. Jones looked at the ambitious young man smiling before him and asked, teasingly: "Do you know anybody I could make a US senator?" According to Jones, Obama replied: "Me." It was his first, audacious step in a spectacular rise from the murky political backwaters of Springfield, the Illinois capital.
The exchange also sealed an intimate personal and political relationship that is likely to attract intense scrutiny amid the furore over Obama's links to some of Chicago's most controversial political and religious power brokers. Obama has often described Jones as a key political mentor whose patronage was crucial to his early success in a state long dominated by near-feudal party political machines. Jones, 71, describes himself as Obama's "godfather" and once said: "He feels like a son to me."
Like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the outspoken pastor of Obama's Chicago church, and like Tony Rezko, the millionaire fundraiser and former friend of Obama who is on trial for corruption, Jones is in danger of becoming a hindrance to his protege's presidential ambitions. For almost a year Jones has used his position as leader of the state senate to block anticorruption legislation passed unanimously by the state's lower house. He has also become embroiled in ethical controversies concerning his wife's job and his stepson's business.
None of them is linked to Obama, but the Democratic contender can ill afford another scandal related to his former Chicago allies. Despite his electrifying speech on race last week, the opinion polls make worrying reading for the senator and his aides. Hillary Clinton appears to be regaining lost ground and John McCain, the Arizona senator who has sewn up the Republican nomination, has edged ahead of his warring rivals......
The Clinton camp is treading carefully, aware that overt attacks on Obama might alienate black voters. Yet the New York senator's aides are quietly pleased by what they regard as an overdue scrutiny of Obama's past. They believe he will come to be seen not as some Messiah but as an unusually gifted political hack who has made compromises with dodgy associates, just like most other American politicians. That intensifying scrutiny may soon lead to Jones's Illinois door, and to further uncomfortable insights into the unflattering political realities that accompanied Obama's climb from obscurity.
At one point during Obama's 2003 Senate campaign, Jones set out to woo two African-American politicians miffed by Obama's presumption and ambition. One of them, Rickey "Hollywood" Hendon, a state senator, had scoffed that Obama was so ambitious he would run for "king of the world" if the position were vacant. When Jones secured the two men's support, Obama asked his mentor how he had pulled it off. "I made them an offer," Jones said in mock-mafioso style. "And you don't want to know."
Jones is now at the centre of a long row over his attempt to block proposed laws cracking down on his state's "pay-to-play" tradition - whereby companies hoping to win government contracts have to contribute to the campaign funds of officials. Jones's staff say he blocked the bill because he intends to produce something tougher. No proposals have appeared.
Cynthia Canary, an activist against corruption who is fighting to have the laws passed, says Obama had little choice as an Illinois politician but to deal with an ethically dubious regime. "You hold your nose and work through the system," she said. Yet she also thinks America is being done a disservice by those who portray Obama as somehow above the uglier wheeler-dealing of politics. "He's a pragmatic politician, and in the end if you think that he's superman, your heart is going to get broken."
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