As pretty much everyone is aware, Barack Obama has come under some scrutiny because of his ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The not-so-good reverend is the pastor of Obama's church (of twenty years) and has been spoken of by Obama as his "spiritual advisor." Apparently something in Wright's preaching was what brought Obama to his Christian faith -- and he has looked to Wright as his advisor for many years since.
The New York Time's editorial is titled "Mr. Obama's Profile in Courage," and is nauseating in its praise of Obama's oratory abilities. Comparing Obama's explanation of his connection to Wright with Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, they said of Obama, "It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better."
Mr. Obama had to address race and religion, the two most toxic subjects in politics. He was as powerful and frank as Mitt Romney was weak and calculating earlier this year in his attempt to persuade the religious right that his Mormonism is Christian enough for them.
It was not a moment to which Mr. Obama came easily. He hesitated uncomfortably long in dealing with the controversial remarks of his spiritual mentor and former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who denounced the United States as endemically racist, murderous and corrupt.
On Tuesday, Mr. Obama drew a bright line between his religious connection with Mr. Wright, which should be none of the voter's business, and having a political connection, which would be very much their business. The distinction seems especially urgent after seven years of a president who has worked to blur the line between church and state.
Say wha-? First of all, you gotta love the fact that the NYT will get a dig in there on a Republican while praising the Democrat hero. I'm no fan of Mitt Romney (just look to earlier posts to see the intensity of my dislike). And I can say that calculating and pandering to the said calculations appears to me an accurate portrayal of the man. But to suggest that Obama isn't calculating? Give me a break! He's trying to figure out how to win an election, which is full of calculations -- and then pandering to those calculations. If he calculates better and more subtly than Romney, then so be it. But he's still calculating... and he has a good bit to do. He has to figure out how to convince the black community that he's black enough (which just cracks me up) and he has to convince the religious people that he's Christian and not Muslim (also a bit funny) and now he apparently has to convince the American people as a whole that his views on America and politics are not influenced by his spiritual mentor of twenty years.
And for the record, the NYT has understated Wright's sermons just a bit in their description. He didn't just "denounce the United States as endemically racist, murderous and corrupt." That puts an incredibly nice face on the things he said from his pulpit. Wright calls America the USofKKKA. He claims (talking about young black men) that "the government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law, then wants us to sing 'God bless America.' No! God DAMN America!" He claims that we have supported state terrorism against Palestinians and Africans - and now we are indignant that what we have supported overseas has been brought to our shores (911), calling it "America's chickens coming home to roost." He says, "Who cares what a black man has to put up with every day in a country controlled by rich white people... Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture that was controlled by rich white people. The Romans were rich. The Romans were Italian, which means they were European, which means they were white.... Jesus taught me how to love my enemies. Jesus taught me how to love the HELL out of my enemies, and not be reduced to their level of hatred, bigotry and small mindedness."
Whew!! I wonder what his sermons would be like if he were reduced to the white's level of hatred and bigotry? Oh - and a side note to Rev. Wright. Jesus wasn't black. He was Jewish.
Now that we have knowledge of what the Rev. Wright's sermons are like, I have to take issue with the NYT's statement that Obama's religious connection is none of our business. Obama's religion is clearly politically driven. How can you draw a line between religion and politics if the sermons preached are on politics? How is it possible that the NYT would not see that Jeremiah Wright's teachings have no line between church and state? I believe the answer to this is clear. They see it -- but they also agree with the Reverend's statements... that America is racist, evil and corrupt. They think that a socialist government will create a more utopian existence, righting past wrongs and equalizing an America where wealth is divided along racial lines.
But wait... Barack Obama is black, isn't he? He has money, doesn't he? His wife is black, isn't she? She also makes great money, doesn't she? For some reason, a reason I don't know, Obama and his family have been spared the "Uncle Tom" label. But what of Condoleeza Rice? What of Colin Powell? Or Oprah, for crying out loud?? American privilege isn't racially divided. It's divided by achievement. This is not rocket science.
But moving on... The editorial goes on to say:
Wisely, he did not claim to be unaware of Mr. Wright's radicalism or bitterness, disarming the speculation about whether he personally heard the longtime pastor of his church speak the words being played and replayed on YouTube. Mr. Obama said Mr. Wright's comments were not just potentially offensive, as politicians are apt to do, but "rightly offend white and black alike" and are wrong in their analysis of America. But, he said, many Americans "have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree."
Mr. Obama's eloquent speech should end the debate over his ties to Mr. Wright since there is nothing to suggest that he would carry religion into government. But he did not stop there. He put Mr. Wright, his beliefs and the reaction to them into the larger context of race relations with an honesty seldom heard in public life.
Mr. Obama spoke of the nation's ugly racial history, which started with slavery and Jim Crow, and continues today in racial segregation, the school achievement gap and discrimination in everything from banking services to law enforcement.
Well, yes. Obama is right. Many of us have heard things from our pastors with which we disagree. However, if they are consistently spouting things which we find offensive, we either address the offense and right it - or we remove ourselves from the church and thus the influence of the offense. We certainly don't remain in the situation and tout that offensive person as our spiritual advisor!
And how can the NYT editorial board think that there's nothing to suggest that Obama would carry his religion into government?? This must be one of the most ludicrous things I've heard yet. If his religion influences his thinking and his life, he will bring it into the office and thus into government. If it doesn't influence his thinking and his life, it's worthless.
Obama is correct that America has a history regarding race relations that is ugly. It doesn't do any good to deny it - it's there. But to say that racism is still alive and well in America doesn't do justice to America's progress. To suggest that an "achievement gap" in schools is due to racial discrimination reduces a complex problem to one of skin color and is highly inaccurate. To suggest that racial segregation is somehow prompted by bigotry and hatred is also reducing something complex, having to do with cultural preferences, to a "problem" of skin color and bigotry - and is also highly inaccurate. To make the assumption that there is a racial problem in law enforcement simply because there are more blacks incarcerated than there are whites is ludicrous. This brings me back to the Rev. Wright's statement about the three strikes law... and the conspiracy theory that the government is providing the black people with drugs so that the government can incarcerate them. Oy...
And the NYT ends their editorial by saying they don't know how effective Obama's words will be - but the one thing that's certain is that "he raised the discussion to a higher plane." I guess I must just be one of the schlobs who refuses to make the distinction between religion and politics... because I don't see it.