By Michelle Malkin
Barack Obama looked pale and wan at what he called his "big press conference" about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Tuesday afternoon. Numb. Chastened. Defeated. Extolled for his eloquence, Obama stuttered and stammered his way through the question-and-answer session. It appeared he was having an out-of-body experience. Who knew that the greatest threat to his presidential campaign would come from the preacher who married him, baptized him, and prayed with him?
Barack Obama should have known. That's who. Take that judgment and shove it on a pretty campaign poster. "Yes, we can"? Try "Yes, you should have."
For the past 24 hours, Obama's campaign too slowly grappled with how to handle the aftermath of Wright's whirlwind tour of hatred this weekend - from Dallas, where he decried his "public crucifixion," to Detroit, where he entertained NAACP bigwigs with impersonations of white people, mockeries of classical music and "white" marching bands, and lectures on racial brain theories, to the National Press Club, where he preened, strutted and head-wagged his way through an hour of bitter black liberation theologizing.
At first, Obama downplayed Wright's public appearances. But Obama now tells us he had to wait 24 hours to convene a press conference to denounce Wright's National Press Club speech because he "hadn't seen it." After all this time on the campaign trail, we're back to the Obama-as-clueless-naif narrative again. When he finally did view the Washington speech, Obama explained, he was "shocked" and "outraged" and "saddened" because "the person I saw was not the person that I'd come to know over 20 years."
What a load of pure unadulterated horse manure. Anyone with eyes can see that Wright's performances are finely honed, time-tested acts. His anti-white, anti-American, "imperialist"-bashing shtick was not developed overnight or over the past few years. He's been peddling AIDS conspiracies for decades. He's been grievance-mongering about slavery for decades. He's been flirting with the Nation of Islam, which provided security for his speeches, for decades. He's been a shouting left-wing radical for decades.
Obama's best-selling Audacity of Hope is named after the first sermon of Wright's that he heard - decades ago - in which the pastor of racial resentment inveighed against an environment "where white folks' greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere." Yet, only now has Obama concluded that Wright's sermons are "a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth." Welcome to the Jive-Talk Express.
A reader of mine who is a clergyman e-mailed after Obama's press conference: "As a pastor, I have this take: It is inconceivable that Obama had no knowledge of Wright's views after 20 years as a member of that church. As a pastor, my heart-held, deepest beliefs and passions cannot be silenced. It is what I am. If I were given a microphone at the National Press Club, I would not speak on something that I had guardedly kept secret for most of my life. No, I would go to my main point, the center of my ministry, the core of my passion, to speak truth as I know it to be. How can Obama actually claim that this is news from his pastor? His mailman, butcher or plumber? No problem. His pastor? No way!" It's not Wright who has changed his loony tune.
It was just last year that Obama was telling the Chicago Tribune that Wright was his sounding board for truth: "What I value most about Pastor Wright is not his day-to-day political advice. He's much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible and that I'm not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that's involved in national politics." It was just this March, in his Philadelphia racial reconciliation speech, that Obama was urging us not to dismiss Wright as a "crank or a demagogue" and protesting that he could "no more disown him than I can disown the black community."
Now, realizing how gravely his self-serving association with Wright has wounded his campaign, Obama himself has attempted to do both those things - and expects the American public to believe him when he weakly and belatedly asserts that "when I say I find [Wright's] statements appalling, I mean it." As those of us with non-European brains might put it: You be trippin', Barry.
Taranto's update on Obamology
No one can say Barack Obama showed leadership in his long-belated decision to distance himself further from "spiritual mentor" Jeremiah Wright. But can it at least be said that his repudiation of Wright was sincere, that he does in fact reject what Wright stands for? Signs point to no. For one thing, as "Allahpundit" notes, and a look at the transcript confirms, Obama had words of praise yesterday for Wright's successor:
You know, the new pastor--the young pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, is a wonderful young pastor. And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community. This--I'll be honest, this obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Rev. Moss but because this has become such a spectacle.
Is Moss an improvement over Wright? As we noted more than a month ago, Moss delivered an Easter Sunday sermon titled "How to Handle a Public Lynching," in which he defended Wright in Wrightious style: "If I was Ice Cube I'd say it a little differently--'You picked the wrong folk to mess with.' "
Fred Dicker of the New York Post quotes a Wright friend who scoffs at Obama's claim that he had no idea what his 20-year spiritual mentor believed:
"After 20 years of loving Barack like he was a member of his own family, for Jeremiah to see Barack saying over and over that he didn't know about Jeremiah's views during those years, that he wasn't familiar with what Jeremiah had said, that he may have missed church on this day or that and didn't hear what Jeremiah said, this is seen by Jeremiah as nonsense and betrayal," said the source, who has deep roots in Wright's Chicago community and is familiar with his thinking on the matter.
The New York Times notes that the feeling of betrayal is mutual:
"Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this," Mr. Obama said Tuesday. "I don't think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we're trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people."
That "more importantly" notwithstanding, note the order in which Obama lists his priorities: me, my campaign and only then the American people. Reader Howard Portnoy quips: "Wright and Obama both need to undergo the 12-step program at Narcissists Anonymous. Wright is angry at Obama for distancing himself from his former pastor--in other words, it's all about Wright. Obama is angry at Wright for being inconsiderate of him--in other words, it's all about Obama. These two deserve each other."
Talking About the 'Issues': The creepiest take yet on the Obama-Wright relationship comes from Andrew Sullivan, quoting "a reader":
Obama did not have a strong model of masculinity, a father figure to know intimately and revere, in his earliest years. He yearned desperately for it; somehow, finding the patriarch would make him whole and normal in a way he thought others felt.
So he found Wright a few decades ago. But he's flying blind. If we're lucky enough, and our fathers live long enough, we can see them for the humans they are. We don't love them less, but in the process of maturing we begin to grow independent by seeing them with new eyes. We separate, and in doing so, enter a new ambivalence about what the father-son role means as it transforms. We might be watching a limnal process for Obama in real-time here. The sad thing is that (and I believe Obama is sincere) I don't think any of us could know the inner turmoil this [is] causing Obama. Sometimes its [sic] easy to forget how privileged those of us who know well the father-son dynamic are; its [sic] just too easy to yell "throw Wright under the bus." Obama is human, too.
Is this what they mean when they say we should be talking about the "issues"? And if this description is accurate--a question on which this column takes no position, noting only that it seems to come from an Obama supporter--wouldn't America be better off if Obama took the time to work out this psychodrama before taking on a difficult job like the presidency?
Obama Campaign Gives Up On Finding 'Mr. Wright'
By Ann Coulter
Whew! I'm certainly glad to hear the "snippets" from Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons "in context." In the famous B. Hussein Obama speech that sent a tingle down Chris Matthews' leg, Obama dismissed the clips of Rev. Wright being played on TV as mere "snippets." He claimed the media were highlighting Wright's "most offensive words," complaining that they had been played endlessly, as if repetition were the problem with the statement: "GOD DAMN AMERICA!"
It's absolutely unheard of to repeat passages from famous speeches. In fact, I have a dream that we will not do that. Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask that the media stop replaying "snippets." All we have to fear is repetition itself, because we are the people we've been waiting for to tear down that wall of endless repetition.
So, like I said: Whew. At last Rev. Wright's "snippets" have been put in a healing context. In two speeches and one uxorious interview with PBS' Bill Moyers over the past few days, Rev. Wright had plenty of time to lay out the lush analytical context of his remarks. In his speech to the National Press Club on Monday, for example, Wright described America as a country of "segregation, Jim Crow, lynching and the separate-but-equal fantasy." Then he ran outside to feed more quarters into the meter where his time machine was parked.
Wright described this as a country that supported the "racist regime of South Africa" and "the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries" – as opposed to the Sandinistas, who were equal-opportunity murderers with a more diverse group of victims. He said this is a country that "cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq," neglecting to add that before you can cut the food stamp program, you must have a country that has a food stamp program.
He said we are a country that sent "over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie." And Wright said it is a country "where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe." (Unless, like me, you do all your Klan-related murdering on "casual Fridays.") And, to listen to Wright, those were the "U.S. of KKK A.'s" good points! (Is it just me, or does Rev. Wright sound kind of bitter these days? I sure hope he doesn't have a gun.)
He clarified his Sept. 16, 2001, sermon, in which he said that on 9/11 "America's chickens are coming home to roost" by saying: "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you." I'm glad to get the full context on that because I had thought he was talking about chicken farming. Actually, that's pretty much the way I took it even when presented as a "snippet."
Rev. Wright also put into context his church giving an award to fellow Obama supporter Louis Farrakhan by saying: "He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That's what I think about him. ... I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan." Why did Rev. Wright's supporters think it would be helpful to hear longer versions of the "snippets"?
Curiously, Rev. Wright complained that "everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago" – especially those damn East Coast, money-grubbing Jews, he carelessly added. This from a man whose entire oeuvre is based on reveling in what happened in this country 250 years ago.
Rev. Wright clarified his statement, "GOD DAMN AMERICA!" by explaining: "God doesn't bless everything. God condemns something – and d-e-m-n, 'demn,' is where we get the word 'damn.' God damns some practices." Well, that changes the meaning entirely.
One begins to suspect that the Clintons, flush with those mega-millions they got from selling their previous tenancy at the White House, have put the reverend on staff. I believe this used to be called "walking around money."
Obama said the Rev. Wright he heard defending himself on Monday was not the Rev. Wright he met 20 years ago. This is the political equivalent of the "It's not you, it's me" speech. He might just as well have said, "I love Rev. Wright. I'm just not in love with him anymore. Hey, can I have my CDs back?"
If it takes Obama 20 years to notice that his pastor is a traitorous, racist nut-job, it will probably take him his full term of office to realize that the U.S. has been invaded and subdued by al-Qaida. Let's just hope President Obama pays closer attention during national security briefings than he did during 20 years of the Rev. Wright's church services.
The only good news for the Obama campaign this week is that Obama admitted that his relationship with Rev. Wright is "a legitimate political issue," which at least makes him smarter than John McCain, who just last week denounced the North Carolina Republicans for an ad mentioning Obama's raving lunatic pastor.
Should We Elect a Problem Solver?
By Tibor R. Machan
In his long interview with Chris Wallace on Fox TV on Sunday April 27, Senator Obama asserted that "The American people, what they are looking for is somebody who can solve their problems." Wow, have I been wrong all these decades. I thought what the American people were looking for is someone who will protect the Constitution of the United States. Isn't that what the president swears to when he or she is inaugurated? Does that entail that the president is to set about solving our problems?
I have a bunch of problems. I buy too much stuff, so much at times I haven't enough funds to cover it. I also have periodic sinus infections. And my neighbor has a huge weed--looks like a regular tree--that blocks the view from my living room and he will not cut it down. And I also have nagging sciatica, as well as a numb left thigh, both of which make it difficult for me to get about. Oh, but there is more. Sometimes it gets very hot up here in the canyon, where I live, and not even air conditioning cools down my place and I detest working while I am sweating like a horse. And there is no one I know hereabouts with whom I can have an occasional beer or go out to the movies. It's a bummer all around--so many problems (I've only just started the list).
So, I take it, if and when Senator Obama gets to be president--or indeed, anyone else--my problems will be solved for me. Hurrah! I can't wait. But then I really don't believe he or anyone else can solve my or anyone else's problems, actually, since he has to solve his own problems and he doesn't know me and he lacks the skills needed to even begin to help Americans solve theirs.
Furthermore, if some of the work done by various political economists, for which one has received the Nobel Prize, tells it like it is, politicians and bureaucrats are not really even inclined to try to solve our problems, no matter what they profess. They have agendas of their own, or so public choice theory tells us, which will occupy their attention quite fully throughout their tenure.
And that makes very good sense--these folks are much more familiar with their own problems, with what concerns them, with what they would like to accomplish, than with the problems of the American citizenry. You see, public choice theory teaches us that just as anyone else in society, so politicians and bureaucrats are pretty much bent on furthering the goals they have rather than other people's goals.
Those goals may well be fine and dandy, don't get me wrong. But when politicians and bureaucrats attend to them, they do so with funds and resources that are not their own and so the ordinary restraints of prudence that tend to guide private citizens and groups of them are easily overlooked. In short, these government folks are spending other people's money to further the goals they favor and know enough about to help to achieve. So they are naturally more likely to solve their own problems, further their own aims, than those of the American people, and also to overspend in the process.
Then there is the additional problem that the American people are a highly diverse and immense lot, with a great many different problems they would like solved. They are, therefore, less likely to be helped out by people far removed from their lives, living in Washington, DC, for example, or some state capitol. And when the American people do receive some help from these folks, it is usually some special group that benefits, not at all the entire public.
These special groups--often called special interests--may be helped out by politicians and bureaucrats so as to secure their political support but not because of brotherly love, fraternity, or some other fellow feeling. And the help is very likely to stop once the political payoffs have been delivered.
What Senator Obama and all the others aspiring to political office should learn is that the American Founders had a very good idea when they identified the function of government to be the protection of our unalienable rights, nothing more. This is the way to restrain politicians to working on what they have at least a chance to succeed at. That is the wisdom in the idea of limited government. But this wisdom doesn't even come up any longer during election campaigning, not from the media, not from the candidates, and, sadly, not even much from the American people.
Where are Obama's friends now?
Way back when, before the angry and antic prophet Jeremiah rose to smite him, Barack Obama appeared before us as an open presidential vessel, into which many poured their political dreams. Foremost were black Americans. Bill Clinton famously diminished the Obama candidacy during the South Carolina primary as just one more Jesse Jackson fling. But across the black community, support for this candidate clearly had deeper roots. Head to head against Hillary, he has been getting huge majorities of the black vote. This was their moment. Upscale white voters signed on and were belittled as liberals exorcising white guilt. Maybe, but for many Obama was also the un-Bush and un-Hillary.
Independents worn down by 16 years of Red-Blue trench warfare bought the "change" promise. Obama sounded like he could pull it off. Indies like to dream. Brand-name Democrats, such as various members of the Kennedy aristocracy, went over, calculating it might be easier to push the party forward with Obama's lightness of being than the Clintons' boxcars of baggage. The periodic ideals of young America we know about.
Even as they watched Barack win, pundits and reporters were agog that a one-term, black-American senator from Illinois could have such an effect. This pickup-team coalition of idealists and pols, led by a virtual Luke Skywalker, was on the brink of pushing the Clinton empire over the cliff. It made the Clintons crazy.
This week we learned the limit of a dream in American politics. At Barack Obama's darkest hour, not one prominent ally came forward to support him. Everyone abandoned Everyman. No prominent black clergyman came forth to make even the simple point that Jeremiah Wright's notion of the "black church" is but one point on a spectrum of faith. Rev. Wright, now written off as a virtual nut case, got more support from black clergymen than did Obama.
Barack Obama was bleeding by Monday and needed cover. Where, when he could have used them, were Obama's oh-so-famous endorsers: Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, Oprah, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Tom Daschle, Amy Klobuchar, Claire McCaskill, Jay Rockefeller, John Lewis, Toni Morrison, Roger Wilkins, Eric Holder, Robert Reich, Ted Sorenson, Alice Walker, David Wilhelm, Cornel West, Clifford Alexander, Donald McHenry, Patricia Wald, Newton Minow? Where were all the big-city mayors who went over to the Obama camp: Chicago's Richard Daley, Cleveland's Frank Jackson, Atlanta's Shirley Franklin, Washington's Adrian Fenty, Newark's Cory Booker, Baltimore's Sheila Dixon?
It isn't hard for big names to get on talk TV to make a point. Any major op-ed page would have stopped the presses to print a statement of support from Ted Kennedy or such for the senator. None appeared. Call it profiles in gopher-holing.
Blogs and Web sites are overflowing with how this meltdown is largely of Barack Obama's own making. What difference does that make? He is not running for class president; he's running for the presidency of the United States. Even at the crudest level of political calculation and cowardice, there's a point in a presidential race when a candidate's supporters are all in. We passed that point weeks ago. It's him or her.
Analysts and historians will spend years sorting through the lessons of this most bizarre of all presidential campaigns. The Obama desertion points in a few directions. The nature of modern media coverage and the length of the campaign (two years!) has made these presidential candidates truly larger than life; indeed, they've become almost cartoon-like. Their personas dwarf and overwhelm the parties to which they nominally belong. As entities, the parties continue to recede. The Democratic superdelegates, created to represent the party's interests, look like deer frozen in the headlights of the two candidates' roaring tractor trailers.
As for the supersized candidates, what strikes one most about them is their "aloneness." They look so solitary. Indeed, it is possible that the old and honorable notion of "standing with" a candidate like Obama simply didn't occur to his famous supporters this week. Everyone has become used to watching celebrity stars and athletes take it in the neck on their own. Even someone running for the nation's presidency looks like just another personal crack-up.
What about the voters - the average Joes and Janes showing up in record numbers in formerly obscure primary states? It's wonderful to learn so much about the politics of Rhode Island, eastern Indiana or swaths of central Pennsylvania, and the candidates themselves are pressing more retail political flesh than ever. The result, though, is pretty clinical - data flowing into exit-poll categories whose fluctuating post-primary percentages are somehow more exciting than, well, real people.
The list is long this week of supporters who let Barack Obama hang out to dry. More than a few were last seen running out on Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the solution here is for the two soloists to meet, flip a coin, and spend the next six months as a pair running against John McCain. It looks like they're the only friends they've got
Who is the Dr. Frankenstein of this Monstrous Situation?
By Victor Davis Hanson
"I can no more disown [Wright] than I can disown the black community."
Once Obama opened that gate, Wright was off to the races to gain national notoriety and finally cash in on the investment he made twenty years ago when he welcomed into the neighborhood a half-white, half-African Harvard Law School kid and taught him about, and protected him from, the hard-ball landscape of Chicago racial politics.
Wright won't quit now for two reasons. First, he knows what he said for two decades, and where Obama was when he said it. So he bristles that Obama's protestations of suddenly being "shocked" by Wright are empty and untrue, and designed to assure the very "rich white folks" whom Wright dismisses. Two, psychologically Wright resents the reversals in positions; the infant politician that he once sired and nurtured is now far better known precisely for rejecting, at least in speeches, the very mother's milk Wright fed him for years. Wright knows he should not embarrass Obama - if for no other reason than it would be disadvantageous for him to do so - but he simply cannot resist given his pique. Obama is suddenly running now as a Colin Powell above race, but Wright chafes that race is what he once shocked a moribund Obama with to bring him to political life.
Who is to blame for all this other than Wright and Obama themselves? The elite African-American community, who, for the past months, has contextualized the hatred of Wright and the half-hearted apologies for it by Obama on the air, television, and in written commentary, shares the responsibility as well. The consequence of that moral failure and political expediency was the most embarrassing moment in recent civil rights history: an African-American receiving a standing ovation at the NAACP for confirming the old white racist slur that blacks are `musical' and emotional while whites are rational and analytical, on the basis of genetically distinct brain chemistries. We haven't heard that voiced in the public realm since the Bell Curve. The shame is that while most whites once lambasted the slur, blacks at a civil rights dinner now applaud it.
Then there are the white elites, who, in their near religious desire to elect a Kennedyesque, liberal African American, simply abandoned almost every historically-learned protocol about racial relations. So when Obama excused Wright's racism weeks ago, they immediately declared a disturbing speech on race as the second Gettysburg Address. More interested in preserving their emotional investment in Obamism, and the alleviation of their guilt that it offers, they neglected to acknowledge that their candidate had just given all racists to come just the sort of context and rationalization they most surely will use (as we saw with Wright's latest rants) to excuse their venom.
What is saving Obama so far? Hillary's negatives are so high that many cannot quite jump over yet. Bush's negatives are so high that many want to rebuke him at almost any cost. And students, blacks, and elite whites have invested so much in the long Obama campaign that they simply refuse to give up now.
So Wright goes on, Obama goes on, Hillary goes on. When they have all finished, the wife of the first "black" President, the candidate who "transcended" race, and "old uncle" Wright - and the liberal Democratic Party - will have done more to destroy racial relations than all the David Dukes in the world.
(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)