Obama: Race, Religion, Politics and Hypocrites.

Posted: March 19, 2008 in News, Politics

   He has made racially charged criticisms of Hillary Clinton and suggested that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 showed that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost”.

   He has said that the U.S. government created AIDS to kill black people. He has said this in church to his flock on Sunday mornings.

   He has said that the Government “wants us to sing ‘God Bless America’ ” despite treating black people as second-class citizens. “No, no, no,” he said, “God damn America!”

   He has stated that Zionism is an element of “white racism” in the world.

   He is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and he has said all of that and more in his fire and brimstone Sunday sermons and been met by cheers, applause and choruses of “amen” by his enthusiastic flock. He was the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, a church that is race exclusive in its origins and says that it’s members, “are an African people, and remain “true to our native land,” the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.” (http://www.tucc.org/about.htm)

   He is also the long time friend of Barack Obama who is himself a long time member of TUCC. And there is the problem.

   The controversy has been building now for almost a full year. The early stabs at creating a career ending controversy were taken by pointing out the church’s doctrine and focus on race. These attempts were met with a round of yawns and disinterest by most. This was understandable as spokesmen for the church went on the various chat shows and explained that the concepts that were creating so much controversy were merely expressions of the idea of the black community lifting itself up, addressing its own problems, taking care of itself and taking and teaching responsibility for itself.

   To tell the truth, I didn’t really have a problem with that explanation or the concept being espoused. That’s a good message for everybody to hear. But that’s the kind of message that, in some quarters of the black community, can only be given to blacks by blacks. If a white outsider to the community came in and said the same thing, even if it was truly a heartfelt attempt to help the community, there would be some who would close their ears to the message based purely on the color of the messenger. So, again, I saw no real problem with it.

   Then the videos started slowly coming out. In these videos was Rev. Wright making the statements from above and others and being cheered for every word by his massive congregation. After a few months of this building, Obama finally decided to address the issue. Obama alerted the press that he was going to be giving a speech on the situation related to the Rev. Wright’s comments, Obama’s long standing friendship, described by both at times as an almost father son relationship, with Wright and Obama’s long membership in Wright’s church.

   That moment came, as of the time of this writing, yesterday. In the 24 hours since then, countless talking heads have discussed and dissected the speech and praised it for its bold, honest and frank take on race relations in America. They’ve talked long and hard about how masterfully Obama personalized it by pointing out that he could no more disown Rev. Wright than he could his white grandmother or the black community. But they’ve all but failed to discuss one major issue with the speech. It didn’t truly address Obama’s choice to stay in a church where that mindset and sentiment existed for as long as he did and continues to do.

   See, my problem with this is that most people choose the groups that they wish to be with based on shared interests and beliefs and common ideals. From little fluffy hobby stuff to major lifestyle choices, people look at what they’re getting into based on what they themselves feel, believe or enjoy. People who are bored to tears by chess don’t join a chess club. People who hate Star Trek don’t join a fan club devoted to all things Trek. If you can’t stand football, you’re not going to join a club or buy yourself front row season tickets. People who don’t believe in God or organized religion rarely decide that they need to join an orthodox church. People who don’t believe in racially hateful speech and ideals don’t, or shouldn’t, join a group that espouses those ideas and cheers them when they’re loudly given voice.

   Obama says that he’s never heard the Rev. Wright saying these things from the pulpit before. I find that a little hard to believe given what others in the church have said. I also find it a little hard to believe having seen the videos of Wright’s more controversial comments from the pulpit. One would think that the congregation would react a little differently if their reverend just shifted out of the blue from reading the gospels to damning America, talking about how whites don’t get it and proclaiming that America’s evil deeds came home to roost on 9/11.

   But give Obama the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Obama says that he has never heardWright say these things from the pulpit. We’ll go with the scenario that Wright never said these things when Obama was attending church that Sunday or at least waited for Obama to step out to the men’s room to spew the hate. Even then, there’s no way that Obama could not have heard ofthose sermons. There’s no way that he couldn’t know that they existed; especially since he’s admitted knowing that Wright held these personal views.

   And that’s again, my problem here.

   I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t be a member of a church where the reverend and the congregation held extremely hateful or racist views of blacks. I’ve walked away from organised churches before because the views being espoused and rejoiced in by the members were hateful towards Catholics, Jews, other races, etc. Anything that is that important a part of your life, the symbol of your faith, cannotbe a poisoned tool of hatred against an ideal you hold dear. For me, you can’t separate the two things. You can’t hold the specific church of your faith as a representation of your values but then claim that it’s not.

   Had Obama done something more to address the actual issue that has been building the controversy, then I might have felt different now. Had he said that it had been a case of a church changing over the years or even Obama breaking from the church entirely… Maybe that could have been better. But Obama’s speech was basically one giant smoke and mirror trick where he told everyone to stop talking about his questionable decisions and poor choices and to talk instead about the county’s.

   It doesn’t help the matter of my gut feeling that sometimes Obama is selling an image of something other than what he is. I’ve never felt that he was hiding anything other than inexperience before, but now I’m not so sure. As Hillary’s critics like to say, there’s a pattern here, real or imaginary, that seems to be adding up to something less than what I want to see in a Commander in Chief.

   Obama doesn’t like to wear little flag pins and other symbols of “hollow” patriotism. Obama has an occasional history of not placing his hand over his heart and reciting the pledge or the national anthem when others around him are. Again, like the early issues about his church, they’ve rolled off most people’s backs. It was minor, petty and trivial stuff. I agreed at the time.

   Obama’s wife had a nice foot-in-mouth moment when she told Obama supporters at a February 2008 rally, “let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.” It ran the news cycle and was written off as a slip of the tongue. I agreed at the time.

   But does this most recent development change the meaning of those things. Does it put a new appearance on Obama’s decision to eschew the displays of patriotism if the church he attends has sermons that call on God to damn America? Does it make Michelle Obama’s remarks about a country that is described by her church leaders as hateful and lacking in understanding towards blacks seem less innocent and more racist?

   Right now I’m not 100% sure, but my gut wants me to lean in that direction. Other people’s guts may lean differently.

   But let me ask you this question. Would you, if you’re cutting Obama slack on this, be so quick to do so if the races were switched? Let me give you a hypothetical.

   A white cop shoots and kills a black man one night. The cop says that he saw something suspicious going on, told the subject to stay where he was at and the subject spun around with what looked like a weapon in his hand. That’s all you know about it. That’s all you need to know about it.

   Now, the press does some digging and discovers that this white cop is a member of a white church that entertains sermons about how the black man is of inferior intellect, violent tendencies and, thanks to the mark of Cain (black skin according to some white supremest churches) upon them, criminally inclined. Do you think that you or the people who are excusing Obama’s church going decisions are going to just write that off? Do you honestly believe that the white cop would get away with claiming that he goes to the church but doesn’t really subscribe to the beliefs espoused by the reverends and cheered by the congregation? Do you honestly believe that he would still have a job after those revelations were aired in the cable news cycles even if every investigation into the shooting showed that it was 100% justified? Would you even risk a penny on a bet that every single black leader that is now defending Wright and Obama wouldn’t be demanding the firing of the white officer and jail time irregardless of the facts?

   Now that is an extreme example. But I don’t really have to look that long and hard to find a two much more analogous examples that exist in real life. Their names are Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

   Before Giuliani dropped out of the race, he got lambasted by the voices on the left for, amongst other things, receiving an endorsement from Pat Robertson. The criticism had to do with Robertson’s insane comments about how America brought 9/11 on itself by offending God and other likewise deranged comments about asteroids, tornadoes and hurricanes.

   I agreed with those criticisms.

   John McCain has been blasted for eagerly accepting the endorsement of one John Hagee. Hagee runs a controversial church where he has preached that the Catholic Church is “the great whore” of Christianity, nutty 9/11 beliefs, God caused Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans to prevent a gay pride parade and the idea that America must support and protect Israel so that, when the time of prophecy comes, God can smite Israel from the face of the Earth and send all the Jews to Hell. Hagee is, quite bluntly, a nutjob.

   I agreed with those criticisms.

   But, oddly, the people who attacked Giuliani over Robertson and are still attacking McCain over Hagee, let alone attacking Hagee himself, are the first people to explain why this is different than that and to give Obama a pass. They’re the first to explain at length why Obama should be admired for his stand on this issue while turning around condemning McCain for the Hagee situation.

   And they are right about something. They’re right that the Obama/Wright situation is different than Giuliani/Robertson or McCain/Hagee. Giuliani and McCain merely accepted questionable endorsements that they shouldn’t have. Obama calls Wright a friend, a father figure and a leader of the church that Obama has been a long time member of. Giuliani, McCain and Obama have all said that they don’t agree with everything that their three religious supporters have said in the past. But of this group, only Obama has made the church of the speaker of hatred his long time church.

   I criticised Giuliani and McCain. I’m not going to give Obama the same pass on the matter that so many hypocrites have. Obama cannot treat this matter as a done deal and dead issue to be put behind him.

   I’ve said since before Iowa that I wasn’t a big fan of anyone in this election cycle’s field. I’ve said any number of times that I had no clue who I could bring myself to actually vote for. None of them made me very happy. I can say one thing with certainty now though.

   I cannot vote for Obama. I despise racists and racism of all colors. Right now, I have very big questions about what is truly in the hearts of Barack and Michelle Obama. Obama had a real chance to address the personal issues that mattered here. Not only did he basically refuse to truly address those issues in his speech, but he basically told us to stop talking about it when it pertains directly to him and Wright.

   I hope, I sincerely hope, that my gut’s misgivings are wrong. I hope, I sincerely hope, that matters change by November. As it stands now, Obama is the likely Democratic nominee. If it’s him and McCain, I can’t vote for McCain and I’m not looking forward to the idea of not voting at all.

  1. Winslie Gomez says:

    My mum would ask you to wash your mouth with soap.
    He who knows not that he knows not, is a fool, shun him!

  2. jjchandler says:

    Wow. ~8?)

    I ask that Obama actually discuss the matters of the “controversial” things that he admits to having heard Wright say in church (even while denying hearing in church the big ones in the news) and that people mindlessly throwing their support behind him not do so hypocritically and that earns me the patented “Mum’s Soap Wash” of my mouth. Nope, no mindless support mechanism on display there…

    Winslie, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Fine. I went to your site via your link and I can see that you hold Obama in high esteem. Fine. But there’s a difference between blind worship from afar and actually being here in the middle of it. And the thing is I’m not someone who has been attacking Obama since day one like some others have. I was thrilled that he was doing so well. I was happy as hell that my country had finally come so far as to be able to have a black man have a successful run at the White House. I’ve even praised some of what the man has said over the last year.


    That’s the site of a writer whose work I enjoy. He discusses politics from time to time on his site. I post there as Jerry Chandler. I can’t edit my posts on his site. If you go through the last year of his archives and look at any of the political threads; you’ll see that the only prior questions that I’ve had with Obama’s qualifications for the presidency have been over his experience and his maturity. That’s it. I’ve even praised him over other issues.

    But I don’t like racism by anybody or directed at anybody. Now there’s a question about Obama’s true, heartfelt beliefs. I know that you can’t always pick your friends and you can never pick your family, but you can pick what organizations you belong to.

    I know churches, white churches, in my area that hold racist and boarder line white supremacy ideologies. Even if these were the only churches in my state, I wouldn’t set one foot into those damned things. When my wife and I do go to church, we drive two hours to get there because of the issues that we both have with several churches in our immediate area. There’s no reason that Obama couldn’t do the same thing.

    If I stepped into a church on a Sunday morning and heard a reverend being loudly cheered by his flock for damning America, making racially charged comments about blacks, Asians, Hispanics or others or anything like those types of comments… It would take me just long enough to hear what was being said to turn on my heels and walk right back out the door. If Obama truly means what he says about race in this country then he should have done just that years ago now.

  3. Sean says:

    Y’know, just this morning I was lamenting the fact that I don’t get many comments over at my site. Shows what I know.

    I’m sort of in a two-mind situation about this. Obama stated that he’s often disagreed with Wright. I’ve disagreed with priests in churches that I’ve gone to, although the situation was never as public, divisive, or important as this. It wasn’t in fact Obama who said any of those things, but does his continued friendship offer tacit support to this guy?

    I have a lot to think about.

  4. jjchandler says:

    That’s an issue I’d been thinking about a lot in the last week and a whole lot in the last day, Sean. I fell on the side I did because of the nature of the comments and the reactions of the congregation.

    You’ll never belong to any group that you agree with 100%. Even in our merry little bland of bloggers we’ve got the odd freak like Myers who just can’t comprehend the sheer and utter awesomeness of zombie films. But he’s still a really nice guy and it’s well worth overlooking that flaw to have around. Especially when he foots the bill for dinner! ~8?) (Thanks again.)

    But there are some issues that I think fall into a whole other category. Some of these are some of those issues for me.

    When a reverend preaches that America created AIDS to kill the black man, makes racially charged remarks directed towards whites and declares that God damns America, I fall on the somewhat offended side. When the congregation cheers wildly and embraces those comments, I fall on the very offended side. And, as I said above, I wouldn’t hesitate to walk out of any service where those comments were being made but targeted at blacks or others and its congregation was acting like Wright’s. And I would never return to that church.

    There’s been a lot of guilt by association tricks floating around in this election cycle that I never agreed with. Giuliani, McCain, Clinton, Edwards and Obama have all had people trying to tar them with the brush of other people’s comments and actions. The key difference, for me at least, in these other instances has been that the people that they’re ”associated” with have all been people that they’ve either not had any real dealings with for years, overly complicated business connections with or that you had to link them to through two, three, four or ten other people.

    Obama repeatedly sat in the pews for Wright’s rhetoric. Obama embraces the man. Their relationship has been described as almost father and son in some respects and Obama has referred to Wright as almost like an uncle. Obama asks if he’s expected to disown him and then, in a dismissive tone, answers the question.

    Well, I can do him one better. As I’ve said before, I have and uncle who really is my uncle that I’ve basically severed all ties with. He drinks to excess, does drugs until he’s to the point of near death, cons people out of their money and belongings and has screwed over my family every time a helping hand has been offered. Unless he has a radical and lasting change in his outlook on his life, he is not a part of mine. That’s something I’ve felt for years now, it was reinforced in my mind when I met and married Jenn and it was solidified into an absolute rule in my life when my son was born.

    A part of it was just common sense. You get tired of having some shithead screw you and your loved ones over even if he is family. But a larger part of it was simply the fact that almost all of his lifestyle habits are things that I don’t do, don’t want to be associated with and don’t want others to associate to me. Now I also don’t want to be raising a son who I’m telling there are wrong things to do in life while having my uncle blow into town and doing all of those things in between visits.

    His actions are too directly in conflict with my values, my beliefs and my morals. Because of that, at least until he’s absolutely proven that he’s changed his ways, I’ve basically disowned him.

    Now, I don’t expect Obama to disown Wright and I don’t feel that he should. But I do find issue with Obama being a long time member of a church where sermons such as Wright’s are given and embraced. He can talk about “the most segregated hour of the week” all he wants to, but there’s a difference between saying that whites and blacks have a difficult time understanding each other from time to time and being a part of a group that preaches hatred and lies that can only foment racial hatred and mistrust.

    I judge other people by what is in my heart. My heart would not allow me to be a part of a group that says, embraces or believes what Obama’s church seems to no matter who the hatred and lies were directed out. I couldn’t be a part of such a group for one second longer than it would take me to hear that crap. If Obama can embrace that church, listen to that rhetoric on a Sunday morning and then keep coming back for more, then I don’t judge him well.

    And the worse part of it is that Obama doesn’t even get the “ignorance” excuse. You can at least forgive people like Wright for dumb thoughts and statements if it’s discovered that they’re just plum ignorant and thick as a brick. Obama has shown that he’s very educated, very shrewd and sharp as hell. Again, right now my gut just doesn’t like this at all.

  5. Sean says:

    I think most families have someone like that, unfortunately. My wife’s entire family is like that.

    Thinking more about this, I can’t help but wonder if that’s what was really in Wright’s heart and mind, or was he just trying to play the room? Not just for the YouTubed segments, I mean for any of his statements. Before I talked about seeing the declarations on their site. As I sat and tried to get the kid to sleep, part of me wondered how any of what was there was different from when my mom became a member of her clan’s society? (That’s clan, not klan. She was Scottish.) One thing, the occasional lunch with the laird and lady aside, they never talked about our “responsibility” to either Scotland or the Crown. This is the USA. The first responsibility, other than to our family, should at least be to a country that’s on the same continent. I don’t know, is that too isolationist?

  6. Winslie Gomez says:

    I have just read my comment in the cold light of day and am mortified that I had turned into some kind of looney flamer.

    My language is atrocious and speedily offer my apology and the only explanation I have is that I should never have gone near the computer especially coming back late from the pub. I was obviously “nissed as a pewt”.


    Your article did get me worked up and I should respond, politely!

    Hope you accept my apology.

  7. jjchandler says:

    No need to apologize, Winslie. It wasn’t that anywhere near that bad and I really expected far, far worse from even the people who know me, let alone strangers. Politics, religion and race all bring out more fire in just about anyone’s arguments than any other topic and this one covers all three of those.

    Feel free to comment anytime.

  8. Micha says:

    Jerry, you, Bill Mulligan and Sean all present a very compelling case. You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. I am of a mixed mind about the whole thing.

    1. Standing on its own, Obama’s speech was very impressive and moving. The fact that he could see the validity of the fears and concerns of both whites and blacks, and reached out to both, and the fact that he looked at the issues in all their complexity instead of going for simplistic slogans, is quite unusual in today’s politics. It’s possible that we have here someone who speaks well but doesn’t back it up in the real world, but on the other hand maybe he’s the real thing as far as great leaders go. How can we know?

    2. To a certain extent I am able to accept his explanation of his relationship with Wright. I can imagine him drawn to Wright because of the shared interest in uplifting the black community, to the point that he was willing to overlook his outragous statements. I am also able to accept the idea that in order to bridge the racial divide (or others) also means stomaching to a degree the prejudice and foolishness that exists in the socities in question. It is difficult for me to explain this.

    I’ll give a few examples.

    – I read the autobiography of Malcolm X. Here is a guy who promoted blatantly racist beliefs while at the same time saying some very strong things and being very impressive. He is also still an icon among blacks, which gives you a hint about their state of mind.

    – When I was politically active in the left I often rolled my eyes over the thoughts and attitudes of people in my camp. It was extremely and increasingly frustrating and annoying to hear these people. but at the time I thought that these were ultimately good if misguided people and that our shared goal required me to tolerate this stuff. This was also because I realized that the more extreme people usually are the first ones to be active while moderates stayed home, and I thought the extremists were necessary to get the ball rolling and bring out the more moderates. Furthermore, I often saw how our camp was bogged down because each person was pushing his or her own very narrow point of view to the exclusion of others. I was always the guy who said, “look, I see your point, but…” I wanted to get things done. Of course, at a certain point I gave up, feeling that these people had their heads to far up their asses, and now I’m the one deleting all the e-mails unread, and in general being very angry at the israeli peaceniks. On the other hand, if I meet them, I treat them as friends.

    – As part of the same experience, I noticed that the more involved people were in peacnick activities, the more extreme and myopic they became. You start living in a world shaped by the way of thinking typical to this internal world.

    – Similarly, any (probably hopeless) attempt to bridge the divide between the Israelis and the Palestinians requires people to accept that, for the time being, the people from the other side are very likely to hold some really crappy ideas. Even the moderates. [on an an aside, I was saddened that when refering to our conflict Obama coluldn’t offer the same insight he had for your racial problems, but instead offered some platitude to keep the terrible ‘Jewish Lobby’ off his back.]

    – One of the leading voices among the israeli peacenicks was this religious philosopher who used to say very smart things but also used needlessly extreme language. He was also not that tolerant of seculars. But he was very admired in the left, and not without reason.

    – While you Jerry cut ties with your uncle, I think it is one think to cut ties with a relative whose actions are dangerous, and another to cut ties with an uncle whose opinions you find repugnant. I have an uncle like that (on the right).

    3. I understand your concern that Obama is not what he appears to be. But why is it that we suspect that of Obama? why is it that we suspect him of misrepresenting himself instead of accepting the person he presents himself to be?

    4. I think its part of the problem Obama addressed that whites feel blacks are getting away with having contact with a controversial preacher, and blacks feel they are the only ones not allowed to get away with it (according to what I’ve read).

    5. That said, your point is very compelling. Obama made what at least could be considered two very serious errors of judgement. First he apparently tolerated it as his preacher crossed one line after another. (unless he can bring church members who remember him arguing all the time with everybody). Then he ran for president without dealing with this issue. I also felt he was skirting around this.

    I don’t know what to tell you. On the one hand there’s a guy who seems to have something exxtra to offer politics. On the other hand, he sat in that church, and it’s very difficult to argue with your common sense or the offence you feel about it.

    Personally, I don’t think he is faking who he is. I don’t think you can fake the good part of his speech. But would he perform well as president? I think it is difficult to know with most candidates. But now there is more reason for doubt.

    Still, I envy the choices you have in this election. Ours are really bad. Yet, I am not going to vote in this election (though I have the right), partially because it is up to americans to make the choice, and partially because I don’t want to be have to figure out if Obama or Hillary or McCain are as good or as bad as they look.

    Anyway, thanks for the insight Jerry. And also for Sean and Bill who replied to my E-mail.

  9. Micha says:

    Oh, I didn’t really get Childhood’s End or 2001 (which I’ve seen, not read).

  10. jjchandler says:


    What did Bill say? I only got Sean’s response.

  11. jjchandler says:

    Micha, like I said above, I don’t expect the man to disown Wright and I wouldn’t ask him to. My issue is with his choosing to stay with the church he was in for as long as he did. All of the things that Obama and his supporters have said in regards to why he stayed with the church don’t really work 100% for the same reason that one of your examples doesn’t. That church wasn’t the only game in town and all of the other churches that I’ve ever seen do pretty much all of the positive things that he praises his church for.

    There may have only been one group actively fighting for the cause that you believed in around your area at that time. If that was the case, then you had to weigh the pros and the cons of the people around you VS your beliefs. I find it hard to believe that there were no other churches in Obama’s area that ministered to the poor, helped the needy, involved itself in the community in positive ways and acted as a charity for those in the most need. Almost every church I’ve ever seen does that kind of thing. Also, you found issue with some of those who answered the call to come and support a cause or an organizer. In this case, not only are the views being espoused by Wright being embraced by the congregation, but their being given by the 30 plus year pastor of the church. This is the guy in charge of the thing; this isn’t a few early arriving zealots.

    Obama sat in church, heard those statements or ones like them and chose to stay where he was at. I have an issue with that. I don’t hold Wright himself against Obama. We all have friends or family members that hold beliefs that are in complete opposition to our own and, as I said above, I realize that, like family, you sometimes can’t even choose your friends. Friendship sometimes just happens. I have friends that I disagree with almost violently on religion and immigration amongst other things. We’re still friends and will remain so for years to come.

    But I draw the line at some things. Some of Wright’s sermons bother the hell out of me. Like I said, I could not remain a member of a church where the pastor said those kinds of things directed at blacks from the pulpit on a Sunday morning. Hell, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if the roles in this matter were reversed. If this was a white politician who had been a long time member of a church that made those kinds of comments about blacks we would be instead talking about how fast his party dumped him and how he had to resign in disgrace. I think that may also be something that’s bothering me in this matter and getting lumped into the overall feelings that I have with this. I won’t say that I’m surprised by the level of hypocrisy being displayed here, but I still find it somewhat annoying.

    There’s also one factor of this story that’s not getting a lot of play right now. Did you know that Wright has had a radio program for years now where he said things like this and promoted the church at the same time? Does that change your view on this at all?

    Even if there’s absolutely nothing to this, his basically dodging the issue may hurt Obama. Obama made a slip of the tongue this morning while giving a radio interview. He said that his grandmother didn’t really hold racist views, but that because she was a “typical white person” she would be afraid of black strangers walking down the street at her. It may have been innocent, but it was a very poor choice of wording considering what’s going on with this.

    It was poor wording for several reasons. For one thing, such a reaction isn’t a “typical white person” reaction. Jackson and Sharpton both have admitted to having those same thoughts and feelings before. I’ve been in that situation and not felt that way. I’ve been in that situation and have felt that way as well though. But I’ve felt that way with both whites and blacks. It has nothing to do with skin color and everything to do with where you are at the time. I’m sure his grandmother has felt that feeling with black youths walking toward her on a lonely street. Given the world we live in, I’m also sure that she’s felt that way with the odd white youths as well.

    It was also poor wording because it comes on the heels of the Wright controversy, Obama not really addressing the issue of his church going choices and the fallout from both. For some, there is going to be a much darker undertone to his describing someone as “typical white person” when laying out that scenario. By itself, it doesn’t give me as much pause as it has others in the news cycle today, but it doesn’t help in the overall scheme of things.

  12. Sean says:

    I didn’t know about the show. Now I REALLY have to question Wright’s sincerity. If you’re all fire and brimstone on air, you can’t be Mr. Rogers in the pulpit. Moderate radio hosts don’t get the listeners. It’s the firebrands that get people tuning back in, and coming to the church.

  13. jjchandler says:

    Having a show in and of itself itself I wouldn’t have an issue with. Like anyone in this country, you can have your personal views and express them freely when not in you work environment. It’s the mixing of the church into the show and of that rhetoric into the church that bugged me. Although, since his show is from the church… I have personal views and opinions that I can publicly express here and elsewhere on my own time that I cannot express publicly when in uniform or when acting as a representative of the department I work for.

    Even if Wright’s job isn’t like mine, you would still think that the “time and place” rule would apply at least a little.

  14. jjchandler says:

    Geez, you go hunting for one thing and you find something else entirely… I was looking up stuff about Wright and comments he’s made on the radio and found these on a Google hit.


    April 11, 2007

    “I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus,” Obama told ABC News, “but I would also say that there’s nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group. And I would hope that NBC ends up having that same attitude.”

    Obama said he appeared once on Imus’ show two years ago, and “I have no intention of returning.”

    “He didn’t just cross the line,” Obama said. “He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America. The notions that as young African-American women — who I hope will be athletes — that that somehow makes them less beautiful or less important. It was a degrading comment. It’s one that I’m not interested in supporting.”

    Though every major presidential candidate has decried the racist remarks, Obama is the first one to say Imus should lose his job for them.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18059447/ (Play the video link on the page.)
    April 11th, 2007 MSNBC, David Gregory with Senator Obama.

    GREGORY: I want to begin by asking you about Don Imus. You’ve condemned his remarks about the women’s basketball team at Rutgers. So let me ask you pointedly, do you think Imus should be fired?

    OBAMA: I don’t think MSNBC should be carrying the kinds of hateful remarks that Imus uttered the other day, and he has a track record of making those kinds of remarks. Look, I’ve got two daughters who are African-American, gorgeous, tall, and I hope at some point are interested enough in sports that they get athletic scholarships.

    GREGORY: So he should be off the air, off MSNBC, and off CBS, off the air completely in your judgment?

    OBAMA: Ultimately, you guys are going to have to make that view. He would not be working for me.


    Both of these are less than a year old. This would be funny if I wasn’t a left leaning independent who is likely going to be faced with McCain VS Obama come November.

    Obama felt that NBC should do as he would do and not have someone like Imus working for them. Yet at the same time Obama found his way into the pews of his church and somehow failed to ask the church to remove Wright or to not be a part of that church himself. And, strangely, I’ve yet to find a single news item dealing with Obama making the suggestion that Wright’s radio syndication company, “… ends up having that same attitude.” Gee, Barack, I guess a loony bird making hateful comments about whites and throwing around divisive garbage about the white US government creating AIDS to kill blacks doesn’t qualify as “hateful remarks” in your book.

    I’m also kind of annoyed with this for another reason. It basically punctures the last of Obama’s image and his rhetoric’s meaning and strength. His image and his rhetoric has been greatly shaped by the word “Change!” and how he is and will be an agent of change in Washington when no one else can be. I’ll admit that I kind of liked that idea a bit and fell for some of it even if I found some humor in the old boy network (Kerry, Kennedy, etc.) endorsing Obama and speaking on his behalf. There was definitely something funny about the stalwarts of the old guard promoting a candidate who has basically called them the problem.

    But Obama isn’t about change.

    Is it change when a politician won’t give a direct answer instead of a candy assed, noncommittal one? That’s what Obama did in these interviews. He basically said that MSNBC and CBS should fire Imus, but he did the political dance around it. That’s not change.

    Is it change to have a politician who selectively uses the “race” card, the “offended” card and the “it’s for the children” card. Obama played all three when it came to Imus. Where were those concerns for all of the “hateful remarks” that Wright has a “track record” of saying? That’s not change.

    Is it change to act one way and then condemn others for doing the same? Obama has declared that it’s unfair to judge Reverend Wright on sound bytes and snippets. He has said that he actually knows the man and knows what’s in the man’s heart. Well, Obama judged Imus on sound bytes and snippets and ignored those close to Imus who made the same statements about Imus then that Obama makes about Wright now. Hypocrisy by a politician isn’t change.

    Is it change for a politician to wrap himself in the flag when he feels cornered? Obama has declared that he doesn’t always cover his heart, recite the pledge or the national anthem or wear flag pins because “hollow patriotism” isn’t what he’s about. Well, he sure loaded up the stage for his speech the other day with enough flags backed by that nice royal blue curtain. He chose that location for his speech. He therefore chose the images of the speech. “Hollow symbolism” by a politician in need isn’t change.

    Is it change to duck, dodge and weave in a speech? Obama supposedly called his press conference to discuss the growing controversy over Reverend Wright and his relationship to Wright and his church. That’s not what he did. He quickly threw the issue out there, danced around it, declared that we could talk about it but we wouldn’t, declared that, in almost Bush-like fashion, just talking about it would be bad for the country and then told us what we should really be talking about. While I agree that race in this country is a greater issue that needs addressing, that’s not entirely what the specific issue at hand was about. Is a politician showing skill at the duck, cover and redirect change?

    None of that smacks of change. That’s just the same old song.

    I’ve defended Obama on the net and around my workplace over false rumors of his being a “secret” Muslim, of his refusing to swear himself into office on anything other than a Koran and hosts of other internet generated garbage. I’ve defended him over real issues brought forward by others as well. The only thing that I’ve never defended him over is the charge of inexperience. And even there, I’ve said that he would still be a better choice in office than McCain.

    Now I’m not so sure about some of those past sentiments of mine. Obama isn’t change. He isn’t a bridge builder, a uniter or a new and better type of politician. He’s a race card playing hypocrite. And, especially when it comes to the Democratic party these days, what the hell is new about that?

  15. Micha says:

    I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with this issue.

    “Now I’m not so sure about some of those past sentiments of mine. Obama isn’t change.”

    I know how you feel. My disappointment with the left in my country has left me unsure about my past sentiments too, and angry. Similarly, for me the point where I became more hostile than tolerant of the left was when I’ve given up on the hope that they will be a force for positive change. When it seemed to me that they were so full of their negative qualities — which I’ve tolerated before — to be useless in effecting the change I hoped for, I was no longer able to tolerate them as well as I did before (+ the situation became more complicated and they simply couldn’t adjust).

    Now this Obama situation has me more conflicted. It seems to me like there are three Obamas.

    One is the idealized Obama of the speech, popular with many, who is capable of addressing the resentment of blacks and whites (some of which I find in your words) because he is capable of understanding the point of view of whites and blacks while remaining critical of both. I don’t think this Obama is a complete illusion. I don’t think we should become so cynical that we fail to recognize the significance of his words and message, but we certainly shouldn’t replace cynicism with blind idealization.

    The second Obama is the one you see, who kept going to that church; who was able to tolerate Wright but not Imus, and so forth. The existence of this Obama is undeniable, although I find his actions to be more understandable to a degree, but not justified. This guy looks worse partially because the idealized version looks too good. But I don’t want to excuse his actions.

    Now some people think there’s a third Obama, who secretly holds similar views to Wright’s but pretends to be moderate. I’d like to think that such Obama does not exist, but I’ve been wrong in the past. I think Obama is probably more left than he presents himself now, but not more than most politicians who try to appeal to the center.

    I think the real Obama is somewhere between the idealized Obama and the negative one you see, but I don’t know exactly where. Is the real Obama closer to the idealized version or to to the negative one? Is he too much like the negative image you portrayed to be an acceptable candidate? Or does his positive qualities make him a good candidate despite the fact that we can no longer see him in the idealized light that has been surrounding him until now? I don’t know.

    I’ll regret to give up on Obama completely just because we have become so critical that we reject pretty good candidates when they begin to tarnish a little. But I certainly wouldn’t want to see a bad candidate succeed because he had a good image initially, only to bring harm to the causes we support later on. I’ve seen both happen in the past. Tough choice.

    You’ll also have to decide, assuming Obama wins the nomination, whether you are willing to vote for him as a vote against McCain, or you prefer not to vote.

  16. jjchandler says:

    Micha, I don’t think what you’re getting from my words is a resentment of color as much as a resentment of the entire situation. I’m just growing tired of the hypocrisy by all sides. You’ve seen me argue before against the hypocrisy of the Right and the Left and of hypocrisy in race issues today by everyone. To some degree that’s what I’m doing here. It’s just become magnified because of the disappointment factor.

    A black POTUS who truly believed in the ideals that Obama has stated and truly lived those ideals and had supporters and followers who did likewise could be a great thing for this country. But a black POTUS who is willing to play the race card, display hugely hypocritical double standards and doesn’t truly live up to even half of the ideals that Obama likes to espouse and has supporters and followers who do likewise could be massively damaging to this country’s race relations and the opportunities of the next black POTUS in regards to being elected sooner rather than later.

    Even in my moments of doubting that Obama’s capabilities and political maturity were up to the office at this time, I’ve given him the credit of seeming to genuinely be something better than some of what’s come before. Even when he seemed to be showing signs of frustration and anger at having to keep going through the song and dance of the last debate and the ongoing process of this nomination, I felt that he could be a more powerful and active VP than any before him and that the position could quickly ready him for his run at the office. A later run that I was more than happy to support 100%. Now… Not so much.

    I get to see the damage that rhetoric like Wright’s does every day. I run into the aftermath of that kind of message every day. The area of the city that I work around has two of the city’s poorest and most crime ridden black communities right on its edges. In these communities are churches where rhetoric like Wright’s, and some worse than his, is spewed on a regular bases and I get to see what that turns a large number of the parishioners into.

    Obama is not Wright. I know this. But the fact that he and his wife sat in that church for 20 years and that their views may truly be, at least to some degree, what the occasional slips of the tongue or the occasional refusal to show pride in ones country were discounted as being is not a pleasant possibility. The possibility of the damage and resentment that this situation can create through any number of outcomes is likewise frustrating.

  17. Micha says:

    1. Jerry, I have no doubt that you have the honesty recognize the hypocracy both in the right and the left, among blacks and among whites. I also think there is a trend of people who are fed up with hypocracy in general (see Southpark, Daily Show etc.) . However, I also think we can recognize a specific resentment in America toward blacks for the way they use the race card and the hypocracy coming from them at times.

    2. Obama’s speech seems to suggest a certain capacity to see the other’s point of view , an all too rare ability that would be useful in attempting to bridge the divide. Whether he really has the ability or is just a good speaker is hard to tell. You point to examples where he exhibited the same kind of hypocracy he was supposed to transcend (Imus). I agree with you, but I’m willing to cut him a little more slack on this, because I think we should expect a black man — even one who is honest enough to see the other’s point of view — to be more inclined to the point of view of his side, including, at times, the hypocracies. I also expect a politician — even a relatively good one — to behave like a politician. The question is, will Obama prove himself to be a black man who, though rooted in his (black, left wing, etc.) point of view, is capable of seeing other points of view? Or is he, like too many people, ultimately too entrenched in his narrow point of view to be of much use? I don’t know.

    3. You’re right that if Obama fails either as a candidate or as president, it would be very harmful to race relations. Although it’s kind of unfair that the failings of one black man willl reflect on every other. But that’s life. However, the counter arrgument is that waiting for the ideal black candidate could result in waiting indefinetly. That’s a risk too, since I suspect that there would be few black candidates who will not carry with them some of the luggage that is burdening the black community. And those who don’t might have difficulty gaining support froom blacks and liberals because they would be perceived to have sold out. Remember, that even blacks who have the esteem of white America often carry with them such attitudes. Again, I don’t know which risk is greater. It is probably regretable that Obama soared so high now that he couldn’t become a VP candidate for a while, but things happened differently.

    4. You wrote: “I get to see the damage that rhetoric like Wright’s does every day. I run into the aftermath of that kind of message every day. The area of the city that I work around has two of the city’s poorest and most crime ridden black communities right on its edges. In these communities are churches where rhetoric like Wright’s, and some worse than his, is spewed on a regular bases and I get to see what that turns a large number of the parishioners into.”

    It could be argued that this strengthens Obama’s point. If Wright’s attitude is indeed prevalent in exactly the urban poor black society that needs the kind of leadership that Obama supposedly is offering, than it is important for Obama to be part of that society if he is to change it, for him to be an insider. I realize this is a problematic argument. Could an African american who was an outsider alien to theses attitudes be able to do what Obama should do to help black society? Or, on the other hand, what kind of leader could Obama be, who sat silently (as far as we know) when this distructive attitude was promoted? Again, a tough choice, but not an obvious one. I could understand Obama feeling it necessary to be part of this African american community with all its prejudices, in order to help it change. One of the criticism I have against leftists in my country is that many of them have chose to pretty much reject mainstram Israeli society for its many faults, insteed of reaching to it to get it to change for the better. Although what made it worse was that they were even more critical than what Israeli society fairly deserved, and they were not critical of Arab society or of themselves as much as they should [i.e. hypocrites]. That’s why I feel so impressed with Obama seemingly being able to reach out to both black and white socities despite their prejudices and faults, but without whitewashing them (as our leftiists do). It is a rare quality.

    Anyway, tough choice all around. Giving him a chance despite his faults is risky, and so is not giving him this chance. We’ll have to see what he does in the coming weeks to justify or not justify taking that risk.

    I am also concerned with the way liberals have become divided over this issue. Those who support Obama and those who dislike him seem to be very hostile toward each other (from what I’ve seen online).

  18. Sean says:

    I know this is a couple months out, but the event is fairly recent and I’ve not had much time to post this. Now that Obama’s cut ties with the church in question, does that change anything? Or, to look at it cynically, is it just Obama thinking, “This is making me look bad, got to get away from them!” Whattaya think?

  19. Micha says:

    I don’t want to sound like an Obama apologist, because I’m not. I have my doubts about him too. But it kind of seemed to me that Obama reacted to the Wright issue the way a regular person would instead of a politician. He at first hesitated to cut ties, and even tried to explain wright’s behavior. Then he got angry about it, and only afterwards he made a decision to severe ties with the church. The way he blundered and hesitated with this issue makes it seem to me more human, more natural, and less calculated.

  20. jjchandler says:

    I think he reacted to two separate things. The “final straw” seemed to be Wright undercutting Obama’s attempts at distancing himself from the church and Wright’s statements and Wright’s newer and dumber statements that accompanied that. Some of it may have been spin control and some of it may have been heartfelt. He didn’t help some of his critics or doubters any by wording some of his speech about breaking from the church as clumsily as he did. The “anything that anyone there says will be attributed to me” (not quite the exact wording) comment sort of put the move into the wrong light. That made it seem far more politically motivated and self serving than it may have been.

    In one respect I haven’t lost some of my doubts and misgivings about Obama and some of his choices in regards to his church and the race issues that some leaders in that church have seemed to enjoy stirring from the pulpit, but I’m now at an interesting crossroads. I have misgivings about Obama, but I’m certain that McCain is going to screw things up in a major way. It’s now an option of wondering what Obama might do wrong VS knowing pretty much 100% what McCain is going to do wrong.

    The overall feelings of annoyance that I’ve felt for this contest haven’t been helped by Hillary’s actions of the last four-plus weeks. I’m just so thrilled with this years race.

  21. Micha says:

    Your choicers seem pretty good compared to the choices in my country. They also seem better compared to the choices in the last election, dont they?

    What is it you don’t like about McCain?

    Part of the problem with Obama is the fear that once in office he will not live up to the shiny, promising image he’s offering. The more promising he seems the greater the fear that he will prove a dudd. I think in a way it is also worse if the guy (or woman) from your side of the political odle turns out to be a failure. In my country the camp that I belong to have proven such failures that the rise of the other camp is inevitable.

    But I have to say, Obama strikes me as a smart man, a man who understands complexity. That’s an important skill in this day and age.

  22. Sean says:

    I’ve been trying to think how best to add to this. Micha, the fear of buyer’s remorse shouldn’t be THE deciding factor in choosing a politician. Sure, if the person has a record of promising you the sky and then giving you blue-tinted sunglasses to look at a white piece of paper, well, then, yeah, don’t go that route. If you go through life thinking no one will ever live up to either their potential or their word, then, for you,(not you, PERSONALLY, Micha, the figurative you!) no one will.

    I understand the issues Jerry has with Obama. A person running for ANY office, even crossing guard(are those elected?) has to realize that in addition to themselves being examined, the people they surround themselves with will be examined and reflect on the person. But, how much should that reflection change the perception of the person? For example, I work with a bunch of people that could take lessons from a remedial basket-weaving class(slow version) full of Cro-Magnons. Now, does that make me a bad TV person, or I am just in a bad place? Conversely, if a political candidate was the slimiest piece of pond scum, but he surrounds himself with Boy Scouts, Mother Theresa, and Superman, does that make HIM a good choice? I knew people that REALLY liked Al Gore, but wouldn’t vote for him because of Tipper Gore, and her leanings. Get it? Tipper? Leanings? Wow, tough room. Anyway, seriously, these people had real problems with what SHE stood for, but they thought Al had real leadership potential. Is that justified? In case it’s not coming off right, I’m not trying to preach, or dictate, or convert anybody. I really just don’t know these things. I also spent all day in 94 degrees in a camera tower, so all my synapses MAY not be firing do to melting.

  23. Micha says:

    Sean, I think because Obama doesn’t have much of a track record prior to this election people are at the same time able to place in him more hope than a more seasoned politician, and be more afraid that he will prove an empty suit. They have no way to predict. Kerry did not inspire such hope or fear in people.

    However, it could be argued that we don’t really know how anybody will do when he gets to the white house, not even the seasoned McCain, so there is always going to be something of a leap of faith in picking a president.

    You’re right that expecting to be disappointed is a bad policy. But I am afraid to ask people to take leaps of faith (for Obama or otherwise) because we have had much bad luck in that department here in Israel in the last 15 years or so.

    you’re also right about the danger of guilt by association. But here too Obama seems to inspire extra fear because people don’t know him. There is a kind of fear that maybe his association with extremists reflects some hidden thing about him, or that his mistakes handling Wright are a hint to his true inexperience, or a wishy washy quality that kept him in the church longer than he should have. Clearly it is easier for people to feel this insecurity about who the true Obama is for the same reason that others attribute such greatness to him: he is brand new. But it this case I seem it is safer to assume that Obama is what he appears to be instead of scaring ourselves with the idea that he has some hidden true identity.

  24. Sean says:

    Geez, I thought I’d responded to that, Micha! One of the things I’ve noticed is politicians, even the good ones, seem to suffer from the used car dealer reputation. Now, I’ve driven nothing BUT used cars. Apart from the air conditioner not working on my LHS right now, I’ve not had too much problem that was actually the car’s fault. So, could it be that politicians are prone to the pothole-that-cracks-the-oilpan syndrome too? Put another, slightly clearer way for those that don’t speak, well, Me, if bad things happen, assuming that there was nothing elected officials could do to prevent or change it, are those officials still going to bear the blame?

    Now, for for either Obama or McCain, they get elected. A hurricane, earthquake, alien invasion or nacho shortage takes place. No matter what experience they’ve had, unless they’ve had more than one big disaster(fates forbid), they’re going in new. Nobody knows how they’ll react in a situation like that until they’re there, neck deep IN the situation.

  25. Micha says:

    I’m playing a little of the divil’s advocate here. Trying to explain the fears people have about Obama.

    It’s true, the attitude people have toward politicians goes to the extreme. Either they make excuses for everything they do or they heap a lot of blame on them, without taking into account other factors, or that sometimes people try and make mistakes.

    It’s true that in your system the presidency is such a lofty position it is hard to imagine how someone will handle it until they actually do. In our system it’s a little less but still hard.

    It is also clear that in the case of Obama people find it easier to imagine the best or the worse about him.

  26. Sean says:

    I wonder, though, if that could apply to anybody, Micha. Not just politicians, either. I was going to say something about Mr. M and the other members of the Trollband, but the internet is different.

    When I meet someone, I usually trust them. Usually, I find out that I can. Occasionally I find that I’d not want to use them to scrape my boots. (Don’t forget, I work at a racetrack.) So, I think probably your background has a lot to do with it. Stace usually doesn’t trust anyone until the police report, blood sample, and a week’s worth of satellite imagery comes in.

    Now, take that premise to politics. You generally don’t really know that much about the person. Yeah, there are speeches, but that usually gives you insight only into the image they’re trying to present. I wonder, also, in these 24-hour news channel, every-word-spoken analysis, and really polarized times if people feel like maybe they DO know these candidates personally. After all, they’re on one screen or another 25/8.

  27. jjchandler says:

    Sean of the Dead – ~8?) : “I knew people that REALLY liked Al Gore, but wouldn’t vote for him because of Tipper Gore, and her leanings. Get it? Tipper? Leanings? Wow, tough room. Anyway, seriously, these people had real problems with what SHE stood for, but they thought Al had real leadership potential. Is that justified?”

    To some degree… Yes it was. Tipper and her Parents Music Resource Center group lead an all out attack on rock music, twisted facts and in a few cases outright made stuff up. Then Senator Al Gore actively worked in capacities that assisted her when he should have recused himself. When a husband and wife team are the living embodiments of censorship to some, they have more than a little justification for feeling leery about voting for them.

    Micha: “But it this case I seem it is safer to assume that Obama is what he appears to be instead of scaring ourselves with the idea that he has some hidden true identity.”

    But what is Obama? His words and his record present a different picture of the guy. And then there’s the issue of what he will do based on what he has done. Even his surrogates sometimes get caught out by that.

    To some degree, lots of politicians get elected based on what people want them to be rather than what they are. Lots of politicians sail through the system because easily 50% of the electorate doesn’t know the first thing about them other than whether they’re a Republican or a Democrat. But it seems like 9 out of every 10 Obama supporters that I meet are clueless to what he stands for, what he has done or what he believes in other than “CHANGE!!!” and not being for a war that he’s actually more or less supported through votes ever since he could cast votes that related to it.

    Most Obama supporters haven’t a clue who they’re supporting. Some are placing their faith in his ability to be a charismatic leader who can inspire others to do what needs to be done and who will surround himself with inspired supporters who are qualified to deal with areas that he himself is not. A lot of people have been throwing around comparisons to JFK.

    But what most of those people seem to have forgotten (or weren’t old enough to be around to begin with and never bothered to learn) is that JFK was not an overwhelmingly popular guy once he took office. He talked big and he did get us to the moon, but he failed in so many more areas than he succeeded in. People referred to his time in office as “Camelot” not as a comparison to the great kingdom of myth and legend, but rather to compare it to the lambasted musical that many of the time decried as superficial, hollow and empty of the promise it had.

    I honestly hope that Obama lives up to his hype since he’s the better of our two options this year. But he still runs the risk of being an unimaginably bad failure that will do greater harm than good to the causes he champions. I said a year or so ago that he would have been a great strong VP. It would have given him time to mature and time to create a more definable and dependable record. I still wish that he would have gone that route and held off his ambitions to run for the big chair until 2016.

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