Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama squirming

(Chickens coming home to roost above -- via Doug Ross)

Regardless of the confident assurances from the supporters of Barack Obama that the controversy over Reverend Jeremiah Wright is nothing to worry about, the candidate himself today signaled that he is very worried, indeed. He has thrown Wright under the wheels of his campaign bus, hoping to gain a bit of traction. Obama today called Wright's remarks "stupid."
Obama gave a sweeping speech on race last week in which he condemned incendiary remarks by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but the words of the former pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago continue to dog the candidate. Reflecting the campaign's concern about the fallout, Obama used a question about religion at a town hall forum as an opportunity to address the issue.

"This is somebody that was preaching three sermons at least a week for 30 years and it got boiled down . into a half-minute sound clip and just played it over and over and over again, partly because it spoke to some of the racial divisions we have in this country," Obama told an audience in this central North Carolina city.

"There are misunderstandings on both sides," the Illinois senator said. "We cannot solve the problems of America if every time somebody somewhere does something stupid, that everybody gets up in arms and forgets about the war in Iraq and we forget about the economy."

Short translation: "If I can't get the media off this and onto my chosen campaign themes, I have a lot of trouble." Wright now joins Obama's grandmother under the bus as the candidate lurches through the crisis. The bad news? The report also restates Wright's anti-America rhetoric. Obama has a real problem.


Obama plans huge Federal intervention in education

When commentators accuse Obama of trafficking only in vapid bromides it means they've not read his campaign materials. The ethereal vagaries of his pep-rally speeches given on past election nights do not convey the full scope of his plans for federal social activism. Those are only spelled out in his written campaign materials. And reading them can be like wading through a room waist-deep in peanut butter. But they do reveal his domestic agenda.

Both Democrat candidates openly advocate a form of socialized medicine. Obama packages his proposal as a new national health plan. On its face, it represents a politically "liberal" proposal. But during the primary campaign in Texas, Obama resisted being called a "liberal." He charged that those applying the label to him were engaging in the tactics of politics-as-usual saying, "Don't let them run that 'okey doke' on you." If he won't accept "liberal," he's unlikely to align with "socialist." And one socialist-like program -- National Health Care -- is not enough evidence to make the charge stick.

That's where his Blueprint "Plan To Give Every American Child A World Class Education" (pp. 20-23), and its linked, 15-page single-spaced document entitled "Barack Obama's Plan For Lifetime Success Through Education" points to another, broad, federal intervention.

Nearly all of the various programs summarized below will involve additional federal dollars poured into the vast and dynamic education industry, the Democratic Party's most powerful interest group. When you see the word "encourage" in the same phrase as "federal" or "policy", grab your pocketbook, because they want to spend your tax money.

Not just school boards, but consultants, testing companies, publishers, schools of education and a vast universe of other service-providers stand ready to reap more billions. Every time you "address" a problem you have to have studies, conferences, boards, consultants, facilitators, meeting planners, and on and on. That's just to get started, before anything is actually decided, much les created. Education is big business. Plenty of well-paying jobs, in and outside the schools. It will surprise no one that Obama is looking for "new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay" You might want to scan through the litany of proposals that comprise much of his education plan, just to gauge the scope of his intentions:
Zero-Five Plan

Early Learning Challenge: Early care and educational programs for pregnant women and children from birth to age five to address gaps in services and enhance quality programs that serve all young children.

Early Head Start: Quadruple funding and improve quality; $250 million dedicated funds to create or expand regional training centers.

Voluntary, Universal Pre-School: Provide funding to accelerate the trend toward voluntary, universal pre-school for all.

Child Care Development Block Grant Program: Increase funding that remained unchanged under the Bush administration.

Child Care Quality: Double resources within the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program to develop quality-rating systems for child care that reflect higher standards and supports for teacher training and professional development, improving student/teacher ratios, providing family support in child care settings, and increasing professional development and teacher training.

Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs: Expand programs to all low-income, first-time mothers, assisting approximately 570,000 first time mothers each year.

Presidential Early Learning Council: Encourage dialogue among programs at federal and state levels, and within the private and nonprofit sectors, to collect and disseminate the most valid and up-to-date research on early learning.

Transform the Teaching Profession

Teacher Service Scholarships: Pays for four years of undergraduate teacher education or two years of post-graduate in return for four years of teaching service.

All Schools Accredited: [What will be the impact on home schoolers and charter schools?]

Teacher Residency Program: Obama will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to what eduspeak calls high-need schools.

Career Ladder Initiatives: Expanded teacher mentoring programs will pair experienced teachers with new recruits and provide incentives to give teachers paid common planning time so they can collaborate to share best practices. These initiatives will provide federal resources to states and districts to help create mentoring programs. Obama will provide $1 billion in funding to create mentoring programs and reward veteran teachers for becoming mentors.

Reward Teachers: Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay. To be developed with teachers, not imposed on them.

Middle School Intervention Strategies: Provide funding to school districts to invest in interventional strategies in middle schools such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.

STEP UP Plan: Addresses achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Professional Development Schools: Obama will provide $100 million to stimulate teacher education reforms built on school university partnerships.

State Leadership Academies: Obama will provide funding for academies to enable principals to develop the sophisticated skills they need and provide ongoing financial support. Obama's plan will also support research about the effectiveness of various approaches to principal training.

Helping At-Risk Children Succeed in School

Additional Learning Time: Obama will create a $200 million grant program for states and district that want to provide additional learning time for students in need.

The Success in the Middle Act: This legislation, sponsored by Obama, would provide federal support to improve the education of middle grades students in low-performing schools. It requires states to develop a detailed plan to improve student improvement.

Redesigned Schools

Reorganization: Obama will support federal efforts to continue to encourage schools to organize themselves for greater success by developing stronger relationships among adults and students, a more engaging curriculum, more adaptive teaching, and more opportunities for teachers to plan and learn together.

Competitive Grants to Help Students Graduate: Offers grants to existing or proposed public/private partnerships entities that are partnerships or entitles pursuing evidence-based models that work.

Positive Behavior Support: Obama will promote a more effective and just method of addressing behavioral problems in school.

R&D Programs for Improving Science Education: Obama will double our investment in early education and educational R&D by the end of his first term. Part of this funding will go toward improving science education.

Expanding After-school Opportunities

Expanding 21st Century Learning Centers Program: Obama will double funding for this main federal support for after-school programs to serve one million more children each year.

[For more, read the Blueprint and linked documents.]

This is, obviously, not a full-blown plan to federalize the nation's public schools. But it does represent a bold and intrusive step in that direction. Senator Obama sees the state as an instrument to redeem us:
"It is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keep, I am my sister's keeper -- that makes this country work."

Those fine words express an ageless, altruistic principle behind countless good works, but they are not among the principles our Founders laid down. Barack Obama's broad social engineering design for America has many facets. But transforming education will play a key role when and if its time comes. And that should concern us.


Obama's Hollow Doctrine

Spencer Ackerman has a long piece in the American Prospect which purports to be a serious exposition of Barack Obama's foreign policy and of his choice of foreign policy advisers. Obama is said to have big, transformative ideas: He "is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we've heard from a serious presidential contender in decades."

I got excited reading this - the kind of expectant feeling one gets upon sitting down to read something that proposes to be new and interesting. Ackerman writes that he "spoke at length with Obama's foreign-policy brain trust" in order to take the measure of the "new global strategy" that President Obama will implement. So what does this new strategy entail? Well, it will be
a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering "democracy promotion" agenda in favor of "dignity promotion," to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.

So our foreign policy will be guided by "dignity promotion." Ackerman quotes Samantha Power to flesh out the idea:
Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking]," she says. "If you start with that, it explains why it's not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It's not a human way to live. It's graceless - an affront to your sense of dignity.

Power continues, arguing that U.S. policy should be "about meeting people where they're at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That's the swamp that needs draining. If we're to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we're not [providing]."

This is ludicrous. Islamist ideology itself is in many ways a type of "dignity promotion," insofar as it is concerned with the recovery of Islam's world-historical grandeur and the obliteration of western power, which is viewed as a source of humiliation and tyranny. Unfortunately for Obama and his brain trust, Islamism inspires a form of political and cultural dignity that runs far deeper than any sentiments created through enlarged American budgets for food distribution.

How does Barack Obama propose to offer Muslims the sense of dignity that they clearly derive from their participation in resistance movements whose most basic ambition is the rejection of the West? Is this really the sweeping foreign policy that Obama offers - an attempt to smother ideological radicalism with western materialism? This isn't transformative policy; it is a banal example of defining a problem away. You can continue reading the piece in search of specifics, but you won't find any. It ends with a cliched flourish:
Why not demand the destruction of al-Qaeda? Why not pursue the enlightened global leadership promised by liberal internationalism? Why not abandon fear? What is it we have to fear, exactly?

"He goes back to Roosevelt," Power says. "Freedom from fear and freedom from want. What if we actually offered that? What if we delivered that in the developing world? That would be a transformative agenda for us."

What does "liberal internationalism" mean in Ackerman's imagination? What does "enlightened global leadership" entail? Does that mean we let Iran get the bomb, or not? Who knows. Now what was Ackerman saying at the beginning of his piece about hollow sloganeering?


Obama's Pastor Slurs Italians in Latest Magazine

Like Asians, Italians are another minority that has prospered in America .... so ...

"(Jesus') enemies had their opinion about Him," Wright wrote in a eulogy of the late scholar Asa Hilliard in the November/December 2007 issue. "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans." Wright continued, "From the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth (in a barn in a township that was under the Apartheid Roman government that said his daddy had to be in), up to and including the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death on a cross, a Roman cross, public lynching Italian style. ...

"He refused to be defined by others and Dr. Asa Hilliard also refused to be defined by others. The government runs everything from the White House to the schoolhouse, from the Capitol to the Klan, white supremacy is clearly in charge, but Asa, like Jesus, refused to be defined by an oppressive government because Asa got his identity from an Omnipotent God."

Every issue of the magazine published last year included Wright's column, "The Message," in which he covered a range of subjects, including his views on other African-American churches as expressed in his April 2007 commentary "Facing the Rising Sun."

"In a world that is controlled by white supremacy, in a country that is on its way to hell in a hand basket because of lying politicians, in a culture that still thinks 'white is right' and with young people who do not have a clue as to our story, our history, our legacy or our destiny, we still have African-American Christians who are more concerned about 'bling bling' than about freeing our minds," Wright wrote.

In a nationally broadcast speech on March 18, Obama distanced himself from Wright by saying he "condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy." But Obama also said, "I could no more disown him than I could disown the black community." According to his federal income tax return for 2006, Obama gave the Trinity United church that year $22,500 in contributions.

The Clinton campaign has not commented on the controversy, but in an interview Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said actions speak louder than words. "He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend. "You know, I spoke out against Don Imus (a radio talk show host who was fired for making racially insensitive remarks about black female basketball players at Rutgers University), saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that," Clinton said. "I just think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving," she added.

Trumpet Newsmagazine started publication in the 1980s in Chicago and distribution expanded in March 2006 to several other cities, with broader circulation through subscriptions. On the magazine's masthead, Wright is named as the magazine's CEO and Wright's daughter, Jeri Wright, is the publisher. Requests for comments from Jeri Wright, the magazine's marketing staff, and the Obama campaign were not answered by press time.

The last Trumpet to be published was the November/December edition, a double issue that featured a remembrance of "Pan-Africanist" Hilliard and a profile of Louis Farrakhan, who was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement "Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter" award at the magazine's 25th anniversary gala late last year. Farrakhan has called Judaism a "gutter religion" and said Jews are "bloodsuckers," as reported in The New York Times.

Trumpet Newsmagazine also included myriad articles and regular features geared toward the black community, ranging from health, parenting, music and the arts, to profiles of successful members of the community and tips on everything from dating to spiritual well-being.

Many political observers have said that Obama's speech last week limited the damage of the ongoing Wright controversy, but others say the issue is continuing to hamper his campaign. "I don't think it's going to go away," Ralph Reed, a long-time conservative activist and political strategist who now runs Century Strategies based in Duluth, Ga., told Cybercast News Service. "Because while Obama's speech was thoughtful and eloquent, it didn't address the central issue, and that's why he would have someone as such a close spiritual advisor with such extreme views," Reed added. "Let me be clear," Reed added. "I don't think any candidate should have to answer for the theological views of their pastor, church or denomination. But (Wright's) were not theological views, but political statements." "I think it's more likely to be a serious issue in the general election, more than in the primaries," Reed said.




Lex said...

Wow, a whole "Obama Watch"! This is great! And all of my usual targets in the blogroll. This is going to be an interesting year, eh?

A Recovering Republican said...

Campbell professor speaks on real meaning of Christian unity

BUIES CREEK - When Barack Obama refused to denounce controversial pastor and mentor Jeremiah Wright recently, he was doing something that reflected the Bible's teachings about the nature of Christian unity, according to Steven Harmon, associate professor of Christian theology at Campbell University.

As Campbell's Staley lecturer for 2008, Harmon used the analogy in the third lecture in the series, "One Life With Each Other: The Theology of Ecumenism," to illustrate the spiritual meaning of Christian unity as explained by scripture.

A specialist in patristics, or the study of church fathers, and ecumenical theology, Harmon is the author of several books, "Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision," and "Every Knee Should Bow: Biblical Rationales for Universal Salvation in Early Christian Thought." His research interests focus on ways in which Baptists and other evangelical Christians may find resources in post-biblical early Christian tradition for contemporary faith and practice.

"Christian unity is no easy unity," Harmon said. "We are members of one another, but we can be angry and disagree with each other without turning it into a sin."

Paul's letter to the Ephesians illustrates the theology involved in ecumenism, which is the quest for greater visible unity among the currently divided Christian denominations. Though drawn from different backgrounds and nationalities, the members of the "body of Christ" have been called by God, redeemed and forgiven through his spirit. They are not just members of a church or a denomination, but of a "fellowship" that is directed by God.

Harmon added that the cross of Christ unifies all believers into one body. Baptists and Catholics may differ in their worship practices, but they should tolerate each other in "love" or they will forge divisiveness.

"When Senator Obama said Wright was like family to him, that he couldn't disown Wright because he was a part of him, he was precisely right. Baptism creates a new family that takes precedence over the relationships we have with the families that include parents, siblings, spouses and children," Harmon said.

A graduate of Howard Payne University, Harmon received both master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Harmon has pursued additional graduate studies at The Catholic University of America, the University of Dallas and Westfˆilischen-Wilhelms UniversitŠt in Munster, Germany, as well as sabbatical study at Duke Divinity School. He is vice chair of the Doctrine and Interchurch Cooperation Commission of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a member of the BWA delegation to conversations with the Roman Catholic church, a member of the Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and a book review editor for the journal, "Perspectives in Religious Studies."

Harmon has served as an adjunct professor at Southwestern and Howard Payne and as a visiting professor at Duke. He has also served as pastor and interim pastor of Baptist congregations in Texas and North Carolina. In the fall, Harmon will join the faculty of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.