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3/19/2008
RETHINKING “THE SPEECH”

I’ve read Obama’s speech 3 times and seen it twice while reading a good two dozen takes on it from right and left and frankly, I am at a loss.

I am OverObamad.

My views have whipsawed back and forth between Allah’s incredibly effective, screeching accusation that Obama is a monumental liar and hypocrite to the more staid but equally devastating take by Michael Gerson:

The problem with Obama’s argument is that Wright is not a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of African Americans. He is a political extremist, holding views that are shocking to many Americans who wonder how any presidential candidate could be so closely associated with an adviser who refers to the “U.S. of KKK-A” and urges God to “damn” our country.

Obama’s excellent and important speech on race in America did little to address his strange tolerance for the anti-Americanism of his spiritual mentor.

Take an issue that Obama did not specifically confront yesterday. In a 2003 sermon, Wright claimed, “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.”

This accusation does not make Wright, as Obama would have it, an “occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy.” It makes Wright a dangerous man. He has casually accused America of one of the most monstrous crimes in history, perpetrated by a conspiracy of medical Mengeles. If Wright believes what he said, he should urge the overthrow of the U.S. government, which he views as guilty of unspeakable evil. If I believed Wright were correct, I would join him in that cause.

But Wright’s accusation is batty, reflecting a sputtering, incoherent hatred for America. And his pastoral teaching may put lives at risk because the virus that causes AIDS spreads more readily in an atmosphere of denial, quack science and conspiracy theories.

Allah meanwhile, in the most brilliant harangue I’ve ever read from him, gets to the absolute nub of the matter; that this was a speech given out of pure political necessity and that no matter how soaring the rhetoric, the fact is Obama spent 20 years in the pews of a church where this bigoted extremist preached every Sunday:

“[R]ace is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now,” saith the prophet, politely eliding the fact that he was only too happy to ignore it for 20 years when it was being belched at him from the pulpit in its most wretched form and then for another 13 months as a candidate until ABC dropped it on his plate and rubbed his face in it. Now, with his ass in a sling, suddenly it’s time for the great conversation. If any other politician tried a move this transparently cynical, to nudge the conversation away from his own craven tolerance of racial hatred to some sort of redemption narrative by which to hold that against him is to be, in effect, objectively anti-progress, the media would vivisect him. Instead, expect a full-body orgasm on “Hardball” tonight as the thrill in Chris Matthews’s leg spreads accordingly.

Our commenters laughed at me the other day for calling him a spectacularly shrewd politician. How do you feel now?

Here’s a blank check to white racists to join the restrictive country club of their choice because, after all, they can no more disown white racism than they can the entire white community:

I feel Allah’s pain. As with the rest of Obama’s record, he is asking us to believe that the past simply doesn’t matter; that voters should accept him for who he is now, what he is saying now. It shouldn’t matter that he sat quietly in the pews of his church for 20 years with his wife and children being exposed to the bigoted wrath of a hate filled preacher without confronting the man about the racial divide he now tells us he can bridge. It shouldn’t matter that he sat on his hands and did nothing in the Senate about reaching across the aisle and participating in bi-partisan accords on issues like judges and immigration. Trust him, he asks, and he’ll do that sort of thing once he gets elected president.

Another aspect of the speech I found troubling after going through it a few times has been commented on by several people; the extraordinary number of false equivalences Obama used to dismiss or minimize Wright’s hate speech.

Mickey Kaus on the reference to Obama’s grandmother:

The most disastrous sentence in the speech. If Obama’s saying that those who fear young black men on the street are racists, the equivalents of Rev. Wright in offensiveness, then he’s just insulted a whole lof ot people. If he loses the votes of everyone who fears young black men, he loses the election. People fear black men on the street–as even Jesse Jackson once momentarily admitted–because they cause a wildly disproportionate share of street crime. Does Obama want to be the candidate who says that thought is verboten?

Later, he says:

So when [whites] are told … that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Who would tell them such a thing? Obama, a dozen paragraphs earlier, dissing his own grandmother.

I also found his use of language quite deft when talking about Reverend Wright’s remarks and comparing them to more mundane examples of “controversy.”

From the speech:

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

This is flat out ridiculous. The remarks in question were not “controversial” which implies that there is room for disagreement contained in Wright’s arguments. Only a loon believes the US government created the AIDS virus to kill Black people. And while no one agrees 100% with their pastor or priest about the world, I daresay that not too many of us have been exposed to the level of venom spewing from the mouth of the Reverend Wright. That analogy is flawed as are many others in the speech.

And what about the idea that the speech was a healing salve on the open wound of American race relations? This post by Stanely Kurtz at The Corner shoud open our eyes to reality:

Intellectually, this Newsweek story doesn’t exactly surprise me. Yet part of me still finds it shocking. Here’s the key paragraph:

Last Friday, in an effort to gauge just how “out there” Wright’s sermons are in the context of the African-American church tradition, NEWSWEEK phoned at least two dozen of the country’s most prominent and thoughtful African-American scholars and pastors, representing a wide range of denominations and points of view. Not one person would say that Wright had crossed any kind of significant line.

Newsweek’s finding is totally consistent with Byron York’s story yesterday. The question is, in the wake of Obama’s speech, will the folks who don’t believe Jeremiah Wright “crossed any lines” feel as though they need to rethink — or will they in fact feel justified and affirmed by Obama. The answer is clear. As the Newsweek piece itself implies, the very people who never believed Wright was wrong to begin with feel “defended and explained” by Obama. Rather than pushing radicalism aside, Obama is lending it a sheen of acceptability.

It appears that it is important that Whites “rethink” our views on race and “understand” Reverend Wright’s and other Black people’s pain regarding past sins while Blacks can sit back and judge us on our progress. This, after all, is the view of Wright and Obama is telling us that this view is not mentioned in mixed race company but discussed in barber shops and elsewhere Blacks congregate.

This was, I thought, the major failing of the speech. Obama had an opportunity to speak truth to his race. He nearly got there a couple of times when talking about blacks not taking enough responsibility for their own lives. But he could have issued a clarion call for Blacks to abandon the religion of victimhood from which so many of their problems emanate and embrace the religion of progress and opportunity. I suppose he was constrained for political reasons which is understandable. But he was a lot clearer about what he expected whites to do in this new post racial world.

It’s funny what 24 hours will do to your perspective on something.

By: Rick Moran at 2:31 pm
20 Responses to “RETHINKING “THE SPEECH””
  1. 1
    Steven W. Said:
    2:56 pm 

    The speech was so offensive and over the top … it takes a while to digest. The sentence I finally settled on is this one:

    But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

    In other words, Rev. Wright’s “mistake” was that he simplified and stereotyped and amplified his points - not that they’re inherently wrong, or offensive because of their inherent racism and hatred of the country.

  2. 2
    retire05 Said:
    5:19 pm 

    Rick, basically what I heard Obama say in his speech was:

    Yes, Rev. Wright’s statements could be considered controversial by some, but what the hell, even my own grandmother was a racist. So I guess it all evens out. My loyalties? Wright, of course. My grandmother can’t give me any street cred.

    Set-asides? Affirmative action? Lower test standards for employment opportunities? It ain’t enough. It will never be enough. White Americans are stained with the “original sin” of slavery. And for that, you will pay, and pay, and pay.

    The division of the races will continue if Hillary or that crippled old guy is elected. I am the way and the light. Only through me will this nation be able to obtain salvation from it’s original sin as I am the savior.

    Yes, whites often think they are disenfranchised since they are not eligible for the benefits afforded to minorities. I understand that. So what? It’s not going to improve for those whites due to the evil corporations that I will tax even more, but at least they will feel better about the “white guilt” they carry around when I am the leader of the free world.

    Are there black racists? Yes. But, like my middle name, it is not to be spoken of. After all, it is not their fault. Remember, they were the only people in America to be persecuted. What? What about the Native Americans? Well, they are a discussion for another day.

    I guess, Rick, that pretty well sums it up. Maybe someone should ask Obama why he changed his story of his grandmother in his speech from the telling of it in his book. Or just exactly what controversial comments of Wright’s he feels are over the top. Or why Obama choses to give his speech to those superdelegates that are already on his side.

    Or maybe, just maybe, some industrious reporter could do a story on how well Obama’s message of “hope” and “change” worked in his Illinois district as his buddy, Rezko, was contributing to his campaign coffers while contributing to the inner city blight.

    Nah, never gonna happen.

  3. 3
    Dale in Atlanta Said:
    5:19 pm 

    Rick: bottomline is this: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like it’s a duck….it IS a “duck”!

    “Pastor” (I put that in quotes, because he’s not really a Pastor, he’s an Anti-American, Anti-White, hating Racist Demagogue!)..but anyway, “Pastor” Wright walks like a Racist, quacks like a Racist, and looks like a Racist, ergo, he IS a Racist.

    Of course “Pastor” Wright, and his “congregation” of befuddled sychophants, as well as the self-hating Anti-American Left in this country, can never, and will never admit that, because “Pastor” Wright has black skin, and in their La-La-Fantasyland, ONLY Whites can be Racists!

    But “Pastor” Wright is a Racist; and frankly, if Senator Obama and his wife, have sat there and agreed with him for the past TWENTY YEARS, and they have not condemned him before they got caught just recently, and only just “condenmed” him for political expediency, and they’ve exposed their kids to that Anti-American/Anti-White HATE for however many years, then the truth is, THEY are Racists too!

    Nobody wants to say; I don’t care, I will!

    If walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck….

  4. 4
    syn Said:
    6:52 pm 

    Obama’s problem, he wants America to believe he can bring the kind of change which, in his own personal life, was unable to change for the past twenty years.

  5. 5
    Obama’s Speech, Day Two - UPDATED | The Anchoress Pinged With:
    7:49 pm 

    [...] Also writing: Neo-neocon Micky Kaus Betsy Newmark Small Dead Animals Libertas Prof. Bainbridge American Digest Sundries Shack Rightwing Nut House Paragraph Farmer Melanie Phillips Wizbang Ann Althouse Ambivablog Fausta How to Win Friends and Influence People « Obi’s Sister pinged back with How to Win Friends and Influence People « Obi’s Sister by TheAnchoress @ 12:02 pm. Filed under America, Barack Obama, Election 2008, Parenting   [Trackback URL]  [link]  [ Print This Post ]  [SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Obama’s Speech, Day Two - UPDATED", url: "http://theanchoressonline.com/2008/03/19/obamas-speech-day-two/" });] Trackback URL for this post: http://theanchoressonline.com/2008/03/19/obamas-speech-day-two/trackback/ [...]

  6. 6
    Jack Blax Said:
    10:18 pm 

    Agreed. It seems ironic that someone who called for Imus’ resignation over the “nappy-headed hoes” comment still stands behind someone who is blatantly racist and anti-American. That puts him right up there with Al Sharpton in my book. I may not be happy about McCain, but Obama definitely doesn’t have my vote.

  7. 7
    Rickielee Said:
    10:36 pm 

    Something that occured to me as I was watching Pat Buchanan (who seems to be genuinely incensed at the Reverend Wright’s YouTube remarks) and some black radio host go at it on Hardball tonight……

    Reverend Wright wasn’t talking about you and me (well, certainly not me, I don’t know about you…), if we are white, when he was doing all his damning and condemning. He wasn’t damning and condemning individual white people. He was talking about a white power structure. You and I didn’t drop any bombs on Hiroshima, or infect the black population with AIDS (and is that really all that far-fetched to a man who is a contempory of the men who were diliberatly infected with syphillis in the Tuskegee experiment?), or put all those young black men in jail. So he isn’t racist in the same sense that the Klan is racist, or David Duke is racist, or all those folks (you might know them…) who post crude and hateful stuff on the various blogs about Barack Obama (”have you seen the way he looks at white women….?)are racist. It just so happens to be a fact that society is predominantly (at some level almost exclusively) white at the top and black and brown at the bottom. He is mostly railing against the realities of class, and the fact that class is intertwined with race (and in his view, not accidently). But for white folks to shiver and go and lock their doors when they hear an angry Reverend Wright says more about their own subliminal racial fantasies and fears (Nat Turner, anyone?) than it does about anything the Reverend Wright has actually said.

    He is angry at the ruling class in America, which (again, not accidently if you accept his historical narrative) happens to be white. He doesn’t want to round white people up and put them in concentration camps or deport them. He wants to redress the inequalities and injustices of class and end the historical dynamic that results in those inequalties resolving themselves on the basis of race.

    Barack Obama understands that critique of society and understands the degree to which it accurate and the degree to which it is not, and disagrees with friend and mentor when he takes this critique to paranoid and unkind extremes, even as he understands that his friend means nothing personal and poses no threat to anybody. He is angry at an impersonal power structure, not at white people as such. And he is disappointed in a country which he sees as not living up it’s finest and oft stated ideals. And his patriotism is ambivalent at best. From his point of view, he never asked to come here in the first place. But since America kidnapped him and brought him here, at least it owes him and his a fair shake.

  8. 8
    tHePeOPle Said:
    1:21 am 

    *But he could have issued a clarion call for Blacks to abandon the religion of victimhood from which so many of their problems emanate and embrace the religion of progress and opportunity.

    You’re like black people’s white football coach telling them they just didn’t want it bad enough after an 0-16 season.

  9. 9
    kreiz Said:
    9:29 am 

    Jack at 6, you’re correct. The discernible principle justifying the axing of Imus and the embracing of Wright is either personal loyalty or the race of the actor- hardly solid core values. My particular speech favorite was the observation that Wright was always courteous to white people. Wow. Guess that justfies his pulpit rantings. I get it.

  10. 10
    HE HATE ME Said:
    9:44 am 

    #7 RickiLee

    Let’s not perpetuate the lie that blacks at Tuskegee were deliberately infected with syphilis. They already had it and treatment was withheld. The media distorts the truth enough as it is with editorials posing as news.
    Why are we still discussing the Wright stuff? My local rag says time to talk is over since that eloquent Obamanation speech. Like the man above said, Obama solved nothing racial in 20 years at that G*ddamn church but will CHANGE America.

  11. 11
    Lit3Bolt Said:
    10:07 am 

    That’s right. Black people COULD make themselves not poor, not live in inner city ghettos, not have broken families, not resent white people after institutionalized slavery, lynching, and segregation. If they WANTED to. But clearly, they don’t. Therefore, black people deserve what they get, for they have made their own bed. Racism ended in the 1960s. White people have just been minding their own business until all this angry black rhetoric came out of nowhere.

    Guys, honestly, what is this message board full of? White resentment. You hate the fact that PC culture has your hands and mouths tied, you hate the greased path incompetent blacks get to office and jobs.

    But seriously, other than that, how does “black racism” affect you? Not one bit. Everything is right there in Obama’s speech, in context, but context gets in the way of your own pious screed about “how DARE someone hate American and our beloved white people! Black people have every advantage over whites, because they can call us racist, and we can’t.” Except that you just did. You’re so full of glee that you can gasp and point and turn the tables at Wright and Obama.

    Read Mike Huckabee’s comments on Obama’s speech. Seriously, guys, this goes on in black churches everyday for years and years, but you’re just milking it now for political advantage.

    Also, if you want to talk about politcal correctness, look in the mirror regarding “patriotism” and “flag pins” and “loving your country.”

    You’ve set up so many strawmen I get the feeling I’m in a version of The Wizard of Oz.

    ed.

  12. 12
    Scooter Said:
    12:10 pm 

    Obama’s ivy league legal education shined in that speech. The subject everyone wanted to hear him explain was why he CHOSE to attend such a divisive church for twenty years.

    With the slick nuance of a lawyer, he related to comments of his white grandmother - whom he had no choice of association - moved on to rationalizing larger race relations. While much of his rationalization was true, it only served to distract from the subject we all wanted to hear about, his choice to commune with god through such a divisive minister.

    I suspect he cannot tell us why he CHOSE that church because it would reveal he used that congregation to launch his political career from the south side of Chicago.

    He said these are all things we need to discuss as a nation. Well hells bells, I have been discussing many of the same ideas with my conservative friends for years. However, if a liberal is ever present during those discussions, the liberal will end it with their political correct multiculturalism. So, how are we to discuss this stuff when some of Obama’s own supporters will not allow it?

  13. 13
    SShiell Said:
    12:44 pm 

    You can say what you will about the good and bad in this country. And it is your Constitutional freedom to do so. But as Obama himself earlier in this campaign stated: “Words Matter!” And he was not only supportive of the words that came from Reverend Wright, he further supported them with his tithe.

    I’ll say this one more time for the reading impaired: Obama didn’t just attend this church. He supported it with his tithe. You don’t put $20,000 in the offering plate just to attend. There is no ticket being sold at the door - your tithe is your voluntary support of that church and its ministry. And he supported this congregation and its ministry with his attendance and tithe for 23 years!

    I have been a regular church member all of my life. I began with my parents as a Southern Baptist and most of my adult life has been in the Presbyterian Church. You don’t get much more “Hell and Damnation” sermons than you do from a Baptist ministry. I had no choice as a child but my preference as an adult is my choice, for myself and my family. Yes, I have heard sermons about ungodly actions and the evils of various sins but I have never heard a sermon preached against homosexuality or pornography in my life. To see a minister saying the things Reverend Wright said from the pulpit left me aghast. As a member of that church, nothing Reverend Wright could have said to me afterwards could undo his statements. No amount of rationalization could have been sufficient. I did not just disagree with those statements, they were horrible enough I would have quit such a congregation the very moment they were said. And the fact that Obama continues to support that church and its message with his attendance and tithe tells me volumns that all of his eloquence cannot.

  14. 14
    Hoss Said:
    2:05 pm 

    The most striking and, seems to me, unnoticed inconsistency in Obama’s speech and in his relationship with Wright is this: he promises to heal wounds and unify us all, while he has apparently and dramatically failed (if he has even tried, which he never alludes to) to do so for (a) his pastor, mentor, and long-time friend, and (b) the several thousand members of his church family, and (c) his own wife and grandmother, among others (including apparently many within his campaign). If his family, church, pastor, and campaign are models of the kind of unity he hopes to effect on a much larger scale in our nation and world….uh, no thanks.

  15. 15
    mannning Said:
    2:33 pm 

    Rethinking: Someone tell me why we need to have Obama in the White House along with his mentor Wright always near? Do we really want to be subjected for four or eight years to such overly nuanced black issues as seen by Obama, and the “undernuanced” diatribes of Wright popping in whenever it suits, followed by the usual apologia from Obama that tries to make us accept these poisonous rants? I think not. Do we not have any sense of the integrity, decorum, and balance that should be shown from this national pulpit? Or, will we hear “God Damn America” over and over again? I cannot imagine why we should!

  16. 16
    funny man Said:
    5:05 pm 

    I have to say something from my personal perspective. I, for the most part, found blacks to be more honest when talking about racism than whites. That was regardless of the political spectrum that people belong to. We always rightfully point out the hypocrisies of the left. However, this is also alive an well among people calling themselves conservatives. The beginning of this country was tainted by slavery and later Jim Crow and the KKK. So clearly there is a difference between the pastor and the KKK. He also served the US in the marines and similarly the black population always was loyal to this country.
    Now since I used to live in Detroit proper and being white I won’t deny there is plenty of hostility still going around and unfortunately pastor Wright’s comments are not untypical. As an American, and this has nothing to do with being a conservative, I certainly hope that we can overcome this racial stalemate and in this I agree with Barack Obama.
    As I pointed out in the beginning of my post I would like to hear an honest assessment of one’s own racism and contradictions than always the easy way out.

  17. 17
    Rickielee Said:
    9:18 pm 

    hey, HE HATE ME, or whoever you are….

    Gee, thanks for that important correction, and forgive me for impugning anybody connected with the Tuskegee Institue, or the US Office of Public Health. They did not diliberately infect young black men in Tennessee in the 30’s and 40’s, they went out and found young men who already had it, and then gave them a placebo for the rest of their lives, telling them that they were being treated, and took notes while they spent the next 50 or 60 years dying. For the greater good. Next time you get the clap, light a candle buddy.

    I just posted over here (I am, as I’m sure you suspect, a practicing liberal) to see what level of intellectual discourse they had on the right wing blogs. I have yet to discern a level, so I will take my leave. Enjoy each other’s company guys.

    (and I invite Funny Man Said to come with me and we can find a place were honest talk can happen. It ain’t here. You might try The New Republic)

  18. 18
    syn Said:
    7:22 am 

    “That’s right. Black people COULD make themselves not poor, not live in inner city ghettos, not have broken families, not resent white people after institutionalized slavery, lynching, and segregation. If they WANTED to.”

    Ever consider the possibility that Democrat’s Plantation Party is what has kept blacks poor, living in inner city ghettos, having broken families while believing that slavery never ended?

    After all which is the political party consistantly votes for Margaret Sanger’s ‘Negro Project’; the real problem in all this is that liberals don’t like to admit they are the Klan in the Hood.

  19. 19
    funny man Said:
    5:13 pm 

    Syn: your comments show that you are not capable of a thoughtful discourse. For example, in Detroit most middle class moved out of the city and the upwardly mobile leave as well. It is therefore difficult to change the dynamics in a place like that.
    Sure, it is true that incompetent morons have their own little fiefdom with the help of the democratic party. That liberals didn’t demand excellency in the school curriculum etc. However, to just say racism ended by decree in the sixties is stupid and suggests you are not a real conservative who knows the present is always linked to history.
    Sure Rickielee, thoughtful debate is always welcome

  20. 20
    Steve Said:
    8:14 pm 

    The speech was simply designed to change the subject of Obama’s racist pastor to a history of racisim. It’s the same old race hustling crap that Jackson and Sharpton make their living doing, that whites will really always be racist deep down inside, and blacks are incapable of racism.

    Why is it that when a black pastor goes flaming racist and whites call him on it, that whites get the lecture about racism?

    My favorite part was being called a “typical white person” who if afraid of a stranger approaching them on the street. Is he saying that little old black ladies are not afraid of some white thugs heading their way?

    Obama, go lecture your pastor, the rest of us love America.

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