The controversy surrounding the North Carolina GOP ad that features the now familiar Jeremiah Wright clip damning America has generated the largest amount of manufactured outrage I’ve seen in quite a while.
The ad raises a legitimate question: Is Obama too “extreme” for North Carolina? Does his belonging to Wright’s church for 20 years – “sitting in a pew” and listening to his pastor spout his hatred – make Obama himself an extremist?
There can be no reasonable challenge to the idea that Wright spreads hate. It is not only in his sermons but in the bulletins published by his church as well. Black “Liberation” Theology or not. Good works in the community notwithstanding. Jeremiah Wright encourages his flock to hate rich white people, hate Jews, hate the government of the United States, hate our ancestors, hate everything about America – including “middle classness – of which he doesn’t approve.
No amount of spinning can alter the fact that Wright is a conspiracy mongering, hate spewing preacher. If he has asked God to forgive those who he sees as having oppressed African Americans – as indeed there has been plenty of oppression – I have not seen it. This would seem to give the lie to Obama’s contention that Wright preaches a gospel of Christian love. Without forgiveness, there is no love and there is no room for “love” of anyone in Wright’s sermons except the oppressed – a curious belief for a Christian.
Where Christ forgave the Romans because the didn’t know what they were doing, Wright specifically makes mention of conspiracies against African Americans and genocide – atrocities carried out by whites with the full knowledge that what they were doing was wrong and evil. This is an interesting but flawed analysis because it presupposes a level of organization and an ability to carry out long term plans by generations of white people as well as (compared to today) an extraordinarily weak and divided central government. And, of course, Wright makes no mention of the many white abolitionists – many of them rich, white men – who fought to end the abomination of slavery.
But since there is no forgiveness (nor, one suspects, any redemption) for the architects of black oppression, the only possible conclusion to be drawn is that African Americans should hate those who Wright says are their oppressors. Wright urges God to damn America and Americans for our past and present sins. And if you can spin that any other way than promoting hatred, you should be a PR flack for the devil.
I am told that I don’t understand this kind of Christianity, that because I and others who are condemning Wright have not immersed ourselves in the black religious experience that we should just keep our mouths shut and ignore Wright’s hate mongering. This may be politically convenient for Obama but it hardly addresses the issue raised by the North Carolina ad – which, of course, is the entire point of criticism directed against it and the NC GOP.
Can Obama be tarred with the charge of being an “extremist” because of what his pastor of 20 years believes? And more to the point, by making the charge is the North Carolina GOP guilty of racism or even dirty politics?
As to the notion that Obama himself is an extremist I suppose that depends on your point of view. I don’t find him extreme – no more so than any liberal with a statist agenda. However, there may be some in North Carolina who feel differently. Conservative Tar Heels are a notoriously independent lot (they elected Democrat Heath Shuler who defeated 8 term incumbent Charlie Taylor) and some of Obama’s positions on gun control, late term abortions, perhaps even the Iraq War could be considered by some as “extreme.”
But to make that claim just because of what his pastor believes is another question. While Obama’s politics are not extreme to many, the fact that he sat in a pew for 20 years listening to Wright without leaving or even complaining about his pastor’s warped views – the point of the ad – raises legitimate questions as to Obama’s core beliefs about America.
The answer is we don’t know if Obama shares the extremist views of his pastor because he only denounced them when it was politically expedient to do so – when his campaign was in deep trouble immediately after Wright’s hate mongering came to light. To take Obama at his word that the reason he didn’t denounce Wright’s remarks earlier was because he wasn’t aware that his pastor held such views is becoming less and less credible as more information surfaces about the wide extent and dissemination of Wright’s beliefs. In short, Obama would have had to slept through Wright’s sermons not to have heard the pastor’s message.
However, there is considerable doubt whether Obama really believes that God should damn America or that AIDS is a government plot or that white people are evil. In that respect, the NC ad is a typical political ad – that is, it is stretches the truth to the breaking point.
But it is hardly racist nor, as the New York Times claims, is it designed to “stir up bigotry” in North Carolina. Why make that claim? Because it has black people in it? Because it makes the unarguable point that Wright is a hate mongering preacher? Because the ad portrays the close relationship Obama has with his pastor?
This is nuts. And it is a taste of the kind of defense that Obama will use in the general election against any and all Republican attacks. They will play the race card for all that it is worth. And that will be just as dishonest as any ad the GOP will ever run against him. It will be Obama who will seek to make this coming contest a campaign about race.
In this, he will have a willing assist from the press who will insist that the campaign should be about “issues” while calling out the GOP for any attempt to brand Obama as too liberal or too “extreme.” The will let slide Democratic attack ads that will portray McCain as “out of touch” (read “too old”) or unfeeling about the plight of the middle class.
It may be not accurate to intimate that Obama shares his pastor’s extremist views about America as the NC GOP ad clearly does. But the hysterical reaction – including McCain’s denunciation without even seeing the piece – gives us a taste of what’s to come as the Obama campaign and the press fully intend to “racialize” this campaign. Every attempt to criticize Obama will be decried as trying to scare white voters. Every attempt to bring Reverend Wright into the campaign will be denounced as racist.
It will not be the GOP playing the race card in the coming campaign. They wouldn’t dare. Rather it will be the Obama campaign using race to shield the candidate from attacks – fair or unfair. It’s probably smart politics. But what it says about Obama is not very elevating.