Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama Sinks in Rasmussen Poll, Left Thrashes About

For what it's worth, Barack Obama dropped seven points in yesterday's Rasmussen tracking poll that matches him against Hillary Clinton. Rasmussen calls last night's sample "very favorable for Clinton." Although we don't know exactly how favorable, simple math says Clinton beat Obama by a lot last night - well into double digits. It would seem a reasonable supposition that Obama's internal polls showed some similarly disquieting data, and those numbers triggered Obama's sprint around the media last night.

How much damage the Meshugenah Minister scandal will do to Obama remains anyone's guess. Hey, it's possible that by this time next week, the talk will have completely shifted to another topic. Then again, that other topic may be Michelle Obama's rhetoric which bears uncomfortable America-bashing similarities to Reverend Wright's, or why exactly the Obamas depended on the financial help of a Chicago political fixer to buy their dream home in a year in which they netted a cool $1.6 million in combined income.

The reactions from the left regarding Obama's association with Reverend Wright have been interesting. Let me share a few. (The following excerpts are long, so if you decide to just skim them, I'll understand.)

Over at Open Left, the leading light of the liberal blogosphere, Matt Stoller, decried the "swiftboating" of Obama but then unsympathetically suggested that Obama brought it upon himself because he's "not a part of any progressive fights, so there's no independent organizing going on on his behalf from people who actually understand the right-wing media and how it operates."

At The American Prospect, Ezra Klein let loose the following jeremiad:

"Does anyone believe a long association with Jerry Falwell's church would have done anything but help McCain in the Republican primary, and gotten Democrats tagged as anti-religion when they tried to point out Falwell's nuttiness in the general? It's fine to be a Christian extremist in America. It's fine to believe, and say publicly, that everyone who hasn't accepted Jesus Christ into their heart will roast in eternal hellfire, fine to believe that the homosexuals caused Hurricane Katrina and the feminists contributed to 9/11, fine to believe we must support Israel so the Jews can be largely annihilated in a war that will trigger the End Times, fine to believe we're in a holy battle with the barbaric hordes of Islam, fine to believe that we went to the Middle East to prove 'our God is bigger than your God.' What you can't believe is that blacks have suffered a long history of oppression in this country, that they're still face deep institutional discrimination, and that a country where 100 percent of the presidents have been rich white guys is actually run by rich white guys. More to the point, even if you do believe those things, you certainly can't be angry about it!"

At the Daily Kos, Jennifer Bruenjes (who blogs under the name "Scout Finch") whiffs the fetid stench of a media double standard:

"Without weighing in on whether or not the content of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's sermons should be denounced by Barack Obama, I do find one aspect of this story quite troubling. We have now seen more sermons from Barack Obama's minister in 48 hours than we ever did of Mike Huckabee ---- and Mike Huckabee was a presidential candidate for 14 long months. Why is it acceptable to scour every last sermon given by Wright, but only weeks ago we weren't allowed to see or read Mike Huckabee's sermons? In fact, not only was it totally ignored by the traditional media, but the few times the question of Huckabee's sermons was raised, it was brushed aside as inappropriate."

Ms. Bruenjes/Finch and Young Mr. Klein don't quite have their facts straight. People who followed the Republican primary fight spent weeks discussing the phrase "servant leadership." Nevertheless, if indeed Governor Huckabee gave a sermon with "God Damn America" as its exclamation point, I will concede the Kossack has a point. Regarding Klein's rant, does anyone outside the far left echo chamber really think a Jerry Falwell parishioner would have a great shot at the presidency? Even on the Republican side, such a relationship would be as much a debit as an asset as the fate of many campaigns (such as Pat Robertson's) attest. And in a general election, a Falwell disciple would have even greater problems.

Beyond these areas of factual confusion, all three essays on the topic bear a striking similarity - none of them even attempt to grapple with what potential Obama supporters might find disquieting about the candidate's relationship with Wright. Actually, it's worse than that. All three essays take as a jumping off point that if you're concerned about this relationship, you're a schmuck.

This is of course the classic Progressive method of argument - insult someone you disagree with until they come around. It doesn't often succeed, but you have to admire their perverse doggedness in relying on such a strategy at such an hour of peril.

Regarding the merits of the Obama/Wright relationship, here's the current state of play: Obama claims to have found Wright's currently controversial statements offensive. Now, you'll have to forgive the vagueness of the term "found," because we don't know exactly when Reverend Wright's greatest hits reached Obama. Nevertheless, we can assume that the Rolling Stone portrait of Reverend Wright from February 2007 popped up on the Obama campaign's radar. A relevant passage:

Fact number one: We've got more black men in prison than there are in college. Fact number two: Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run! We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional KILLERS. . . . We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God. . . . We conducted radiation experiments on our own people. . . . We care nothing about human life if the ends justify the means! And. And. And! GAWD! Has GOT! To be SICK! OF THIS SHIT!"

And yet Obama didn't break ties with Wright until last night, thirteen months after this story debuted, declaring his profound offense over these remarks in the process yesterday as he toured the media.

As a thought experiment, suppose I had a regular golf game with actor/director Mel Gibson. And suppose I claimed to not be aware that he occasionally called female police officers "Sugar Tits" and engaged in public rants regarding how Jews started all the wars in the world. Let's say that I professed to be gravely offended by these acts. But let's say I kept our regular golf game running for another year. Reasonable, skeptical people might wonder precisely how offended I really was.

Likewise, reasonable people will have serious questions and questions about Barack Obama's relationship with his minister. It's a measure of how knotty this issue is that many Obama supporters refuse to seriously engage the issue, and instead belittle those who find it disquieting.

One final note - the alarming results Obama had in last night's Rasmussen tracking poll came from likely Democratic voters. As much as the left might wish otherwise, many of their own obviously find the Obama/Wright relationship cause for concern.


Chris Dodd Indicates Sinking Obama

Chris Dodd was on Fox News Sunday and just completely bumbled the Reverend Wright issue, which is a sign of how the issue is tanking Obama's chances. Dodd could not answer why Obama has stayed around Wright for years, and answer why the words of this minister were not denounced much early much stronger. Clearly Obama lied to America the other day when he said he was not aware of comments as Chris Wallace dug up an earlier, much weaker rebuttal by referring to Wright as the crazy old uncle who says crazy things. And when Dodd had to face the fact Obama lied he could only beg for a change of subject. If Obama is lying to us now that means he will lie to us when President. We don't want that kind of mess repeated.

The Dems definitely circled the wagons as Schumer stood by Dodd's lame excuses and diversions. The two dems know the damage is taking hold across the board or they would not have defended each other. But America is not buying the diversion. The two senators said these were distractions and we need to talk about the issues. But Wright (and Geraldine Ferraro) were talking about the issues. They were talking about race relations in America and the lunatic left anti-American views.

America knows this and knows that the people who back or lead a campaign give an indication of where that candidate is going. Once you got the Dems on the mundane topics of economy and health care they were quite able to regurgitate their talking points. But when they had to face the hard issues bubbling up from their base they did not know how to deal with it and just wanted to move on.

The talking heads have lost their connections with the people - that is clear. And they have not figured out how to regain it. America is not giving these losers who have led us into hyper-partisan deadlock anymore leeway. No more benefit of the doubt. Either show some leadership and understanding of what Americans want (and it ain't hyper-partisan sniping) or lose our backing. I can see they signs that this crop of leaders is out of gas and a new generation is about to take hold. Can't happen soon enough for my tastes.

Update: Not coincidentally an Obama supporter spoke out today and emphasizes my point about the lies and how they are killing the the wonder boy Obama:
Guilt by association is totally unwarranted. Barack is not responsible for Wright's views. However, how he responds to those views - and whether he is being straight with us, the voters - is critical as to whether he should lead our country.

This is the acid test Obama just failed. He tried to say he never heard these kinds of statements in 20 years, but as Chris Wallace noted he was trying to pass them off as harmless rantings of an old man a year ago or more. He tried to side step the issue then, and outright lied to the voters this weekend when he tried to claim he was unaware of the rhetoric from his church of 20 years - a laughable position. As Brit Hume noted, even if he missed every flame-throwing sermon somehow, had to be aware of the controversy.

Now we are faced with two versions of a repeat of the Clinton years: His wife and Obama who lies to America's face as he tries to cover up missteps. Not sure America wants either choice right now.


Trinity United Responds

No apologies. Instead, they've gone with the "look over there!" approach.

Chicago, Ill. (March 15, 2008 ) - Nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.'s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.

This does not even purport to address the issue. No one is disturbed that Wright tries to better the lives of "the oppressed." People are rightfully angry that he believes it's necessary to tear down "whitey" in the process. Obama spent the last year talking about unity and it turns out that his very good friend, his counsel, his pastor, the man who brought him to Christianity, built a following out of dividing black America from white. Trinity United, and whoever wrote this release does the same thing by announcing that our scrutiny is an attack on the "African American Church." This is freshman-level victimology. I'm a little embarrassed for them.
"Dr. Wright has preached 207,792 minutes on Sunday for the past 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ. This does not include weekday worship services, revivals and preaching engagements across America and around the globe, to ecumenical and interfaith communities. It is an indictment on Dr. Wright's ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite," said the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. During the 36-year pastorate of Dr. Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ has grown from 87 to 8,000 members. It is the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination.

Well, woohoo for you! It turns out that there are 8,000 like-minded people who want to wallow around in their victimhood once a week. I wouldn't be bragging about that.
"It saddens me to see news stories reporting such a caricature of a congregation that has been such a blessing to the UCC's Wider Church mission," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, in a released statement. " . It's time for us to say `No' to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends."

What is he talking about? No one's trying to destroy any ministries or any congregations. In fact, I think we'd all appreciate it if Rev. Wright would make his sermon and lecture notes available for wider release. I am genuinely interested in knowing what he's all about, though I don't expect to sympathize or agree with much of it.
Trinity United Church of Christ's ministry is inclusive and global. The following ministries have been developed under Dr. Wright's ministerial tutelage for social justice: assisted living facilities for senior citizens, day care for children, pastoral care and counseling, health care, ministries for persons living with HIV/AIDS, hospice training, prison ministry, scholarships for thousands of students to attend historically black colleges, youth ministries, tutorial and computer programs, a church library, domestic violence programs and scholarships and fellowships for women and men attending seminary.

These are all noteworthy and admirable projects. But they're not why Rev. Wright is in trouble. Nor do they negate his efforts to single out blacks, domestically and globally, and convince them of their oppression.
Moss added, "The African American Church was born out of the crucible of slavery and the legacy of prophetic African American preachers since slavery has been and continues to heal broken marginalized victims of social and economic injustices. This is an attack on the legacy of the African American Church which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world."

"God damn America" is the legacy of prophetic African American preachers? Douglass weeps.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached the Christian tenet, "love thy neighbor as thyself." Before Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968, he preached, "The 11 o'clock hour is the most segregated hour in America." Forty years later, the African American Church community continues to face bomb threats, death threats, and their ministers' characters are assassinated because they teach and preach prophetic social concerns for social justice. Sunday is still the most segregated hour in America.

It is laughable and shameful that a congregation that has self-segregated thinks that Rev. King's words will be a shield against further examination. By evoking Rev. King, Trinity United only looks worse by comparison.


Race and the Democrats-- Postmortem

By Victor Davis Hanson

End of Story. The Wright scandal has now been clarified as much as it is going to be clarified: Obama senses that most (given the alternative of Hillary or the self-destruction of the nation's first competitive black presidential candidate) want to believe him-and where there is a will, there is a way.

So Sen. Obama apparently is going to insist that either the racialism and hatred of America ("God damn America") voiced by Rev. Wright are maliciously cherry-picked and taken out of context (despite the clear evidence of entire sermons delivered in toto on these topics and in this style); or he is going to stonewall by condemning only piecemeal each successive and more astounding venomous sound-bite that surfaces-while contextualizing them by claiming that Wright is retiring, that someone who raves about AIDs being created in the U.S. is a "scholar," and that Wright was a Marine, etc. And don't dare raise the issue again, since you, not the Rev. Wright, are the problem, or as Obama proclaimed on Saturday, -"The forces of division have begun to raise their ugly head again." Again? Or as they have for 20 years at the Trinity Church?

It doesn't seem to matter that there is more than enough evidence in Obama's own memoirs and past interviews and puff pieces-as well as the common-sense deduction that one does not frequent a church for 20 years and remain oblivious to the ratings of its preacher-that Obama knew what went on.

It doesn't seem to matter that Obama's assertion he will stay on at the church due to Wright's departure is problematic, since Wright's successor Otis Moss III, in a recent CNN interview, simply defended Wright and gave no evidence that he would distance the church from his message.

The senator, I wager, apparently thought the extremism of Wright was a sort of venting and metaphorical catharsis, and what damage it might be doing to the African-American community by demonizing their country and fellow citizens was more than offset by the inculcation of racial pride and solidarity-and the occasional nostrum of having a fiery surrogate articulate the frustrations and bitterness that blacks sometimes fell.

At least, that is the subtext that seems to explain Obama's inexplicable past-of preaching a new unity and racial healing while being connected to a church that preaches hatred.

If one were to review the recent network appearances of Obama, the reaction to them by pundits, and the campaign's spin on them, the story we are to swallow is pretty clear:

Given the racist history of the United States, the black church has developed a counter-narrative and history. Others outside the community are apparently not fully aware of the vocabulary, metaphor and style of this sometimes problematic and complicated milieu, but they should give this "alterity" a pass, given our own culpability for shameful episodes in American history. Obama surely and at present does not buy into this "God damn America" rhetoric, so what is the point in pursuing it any longer?

We are most certainly not ever going to get from Sen. Obama anything close to something like "The repugnant rhetoric from the Trinity Church neither reflects my own views nor those of most in America. To assure others of my long-standing objections to such hatred, I am now leaving the church."

So the question will simply be left to the American voter:

EITHER: 'Obama probably knew what was going on at Trinity, but, given the complex circumstances and Obama's other strengths, it doesn't matter enough to affect my vote;'

OR: 'Obama's attendance and his feeble reaction to the criticism of Wright provide a valuable warning of why someone so inexperienced and yet so familiar with extremists should not be President of the United States next year.'

It's left to the electorate, as it should be.