(Yet) More on Obama and Wright

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Dave Weigel:

Up to now, no one has demanded that a candidate renounce his pastor as the punditocracy suggested Obama do. No one demanded it of George W. Bush, no one demands it of Hillary Clinton, and no one demands it of John McCain. But it is expected that Clinton and McCain, like Bush, will sweep into countless churches without ever asking what their pastors say. They will go to some churches, like Rod Parsley’s World Harvest Church or John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church, where the pastors are on the record demanding “the false religion” of Islam be “destroyed,” or that New Orleans was pummeled by hurricanes because “it had a level of sin that was offensive to God.” McCain’s occasional criticism of religious right leaders did not prevent him from going to Liberty University and asking Falwell and his students to support the war in Iraq. But if McCain’s experience so far is a guide, all the candidates will have to do is disagree with the bad stuff and they’ll get a free pass to campaign.

Why is that? Why is Barack Obama’s 20-year fellowship a mark on his character but the drive-by and politically motivated fellowship of every presidential candidate simply expected? I understand the argument that Obama might have been influenced by Wright in the pews. I understand it and I don’t buy it. The candidate has had 12 years in government to demonstrate his Wright-inspired AIDS conspiracism or race hatred, and he hasn’t done anything of the kind. The only possible conclusion is that he disagrees with Wright’s occasional outbursts. After the senator’s “More Perfect Union,” former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson argued that the fair-weather support of Republicans for Jerry Falwell was excusable in a way Obama’s relationship was not, because those Republicans “didn’t financially support [Falwell] and sit directly under his teaching for decades.”

That’s a red herring. Republicans, led by George Bush, gave Falwell political access: visits to the White House, jobs for Liberty University graduates, actions that amplified his voice and strengthened the bonds between church and state. The financial aid that Obama gave Wright was a part of his private faith. The attention lavished on Falwell, one among many religious-cum-political leaders who built bonds with the Bush White House, had a public effect on who sits on federal benches, on which charitable organizations get taxpayer cash, and on how much credibility we give to ideas like abstinence education.

Steve Chapman:

Wright apparently sees this nation as defective and divided beyond repair. Obama thinks the defects are only a part of the story, and that a unity transcending ancient racial distrusts is achievable.

What has fueled his candidacy is neither black anger nor white guilt, but a desire by people of different complexions to minimize the role of race in our society. In his book, “A Bound Man,” Hoover Institution scholar Shelby Steele writes that Obama is “a living rebuke to both racism and racialism, to both segregation and identity politics. . . . [H]e also embodies a great and noble human aspiration: to smother racial power in a democracy of individuals.”

If the pastor truly believed his more vitriolic comments, he would have no choice but to treat Obama as a fool for aspiring to the presidency. Instead, Wright has been forced to entertain the notion that white people would choose a black male for the most powerful office on Earth.

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29 Responses to “(Yet) More on Obama and Wright”

  1. #1 |  Jeride Beach | 

    By reading some of these comments on here, I am convinced that, WHITE AMERICA…is not ready for a BLACK PRESIDENT. And the ironic thing is, this is not what he (OBAMA)was basing his campaign after. I mean, you all wasnot even listening to anyhting this man spoke. He clearly said it is not about white america or black america, but it is about UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. If you listen to this controversial 2second snippet, you could see the harshness in REV. WRIGHT sermon, but if you did not listen to the context surrounding, or better yet the sermon where he is pointing out America shortcoming in the past and some still now. It was not even based on race, but instead on how AMERICA IS PORTRAYING GOD in this world society. I felt him, but I also hear where SEN. Obama is coming from…you can sit in a church and listen to that, and realize this man that is preaching this is # 1- a man, not GOD-he have flaws…#2- he is older black man, in which he came up in an AMERICA that is not like the AMERICA we live in today(ie…the CIVIL RIGHTS ERA). So take them in to consideration wehn you pasting JUDGEMENT on a man that you don’t know any thing about, but a 2 second snippet of his LIFE. And also, you can’t tell me, all your life, you never been around a family or friend that said something out of the way about someone else, may it been racist or sexist, and you immeadiately disowned and chastised that person for saying that. AMERICA IS SO HYPOCRITICAL.

  2. #2 |  Henry Bowman | 

    I disagree with many of the opinions expressed by Weigel and Chapman insofar as Obama is concerned, but the simple fact is that both Obama and Clinton are devoted Marxists, with Clinton being, in my view, remarkably similar to Josef Stalin whereas Obama might be viewed as closer to Lenin.

    Unfortunately, the Republican Party has veered ever closer to an American variant of the National Socialist Party, the major difference being the relative paucity of racists in the Republican Party, rather remarkable given the extremely racist nature of the Democratic Party.

    So, of the the major parties, do we choose the Commies or the Nazi’s (beware, it’s just an expression)? Hard to select; probably have to choose a 3rd party candidate.

  3. #3 |  JSB | 

    This election scares me…I don’t want any of the three choices being given to me. McCain is too much of a war monger, and I don’t want to be drafted. I strongly dislike the standard liberal idea that larger government is a good thing, so I would not vote for a democrat (I know, I know…Bush and even McCain are looking like they’re going to do the same thing, but at least I can justifiably criticize them for doing so since their party has always “promised” (and lied about) smaller government where the democrats have not…they promise and deliver). Maybe I’ll just vote libertarian and add one more libertarian to the statistics…

  4. #4 |  JSB | 

    Whoops…here’s an edit for the last post: Bush HAS increased government, and McCain is looking like he’s going to…sorry!

  5. #5 |  Mr Furious | 

    Wow. Devoted Marxists? Really?

    That being the case, I’ll take Lenin everyday and twice on Sunday over Stalin.

    That NOT being the case—because it’s NOT— if that’s what you believe, Henry, I am astonished that you give U.S. politics the time of day.

  6. #6 |  Mr Furious | 

    That Weigel column is fantastic, Radley, I’ll be snipping that one…

  7. #7 |  Robert | 

    Bush, McCain, Clinton et. al. should be denounced for their schmoozing up to their own radical pastors, and so should Obama. Trying to point at somebody else’s dirt to hide your own is pitiful. Just because the others are guilty of it doesn’t give Obama a free pass.

  8. #8 |  Tim | 

    The problem with the Obama/wright relationship is that you can’t based a reconciliatory, post-racial campaign with a message of hope, change and unity while having a relationship with a church and pastor who was also his mentor and ADVISOR who spreads hate, bigotry and separatism. The message doesn’t mesh. In other words, I can’t trust Obama. It is NOT about race. It is about trust. Get it?

  9. #9 |  Leonson | 

    See, my biggest problem with this argument is that it’s apples and oranges.

    McCain or Hilary campaigning or visiting one church with a pastor that gave a bad message =! being part of a congregation of a pastor that gave continuous bad messages for 20 years.

    Who’s trying to stretch analogies now?

  10. #10 |  Leonson | 

    Heck I’d edit if I could-

    It goes even further than that though. Not only was he a member of his church, but he also made him part of his campaign. There’s no equivalence here.

  11. #11 |  Chris | 

    I don’t care how he sounds to my face if what he does behind my back is the opposite.

    I want a president who loves this country and wishes it well, not one who wishes it ill, one who chooses to belong to a congregation in which the preacher cries “God damn America!” from the pulpet and the moonbats in the pews all go “Amen!”

    Just picky, I guess: I want a president who blesses instead of curses this country. And I can’t imagine anyone who would sit through that Sunday after Sunday if he wasn’t sympathetic to it.

    Not one that spews racism, anti-Americanism, and communism from its website, books, DVDs, and so forth.

    Obama’s speech is irrelevant – nothing but diversionary tactics – because his walk doesn’t match his talk.

  12. #12 |  Tokin42 | 

    Weigel missed the biggest red herring argument and it was starting back at him on his pc while he typed. Let me paraphrase his entire argument: “politicians courting religious leaders to garner votes from their “flock” is the same thing as attending a race baiting, jew hating, conspiracy laden diatribe-giving church for decades. Allowing your children to be baptised by someone like wright is the same thing as political campaigning.”

    Like I said, Ron Paul didn’t get cut any slack and neither should Obama.

  13. #13 |  Tokin42 | 

    oops, typo. “starting back at him” should read “staring…”

  14. #14 |  Thomas Jackson | 

    Wow anyone who equates Wrights braying with the activities of any church must surely wish to buy me pristine beachfront property in Oklahoma or my fantastic secluded properties in Florida. America will never be ready for raving racists. That went out with buggy whips although it seems some here love the idea of going backwards. As for those who love the idea of Lenin I suggest they leave for Cuba.

    I am always so dissappointed by those who express such outrage about the US can’t seem to get motivated enough to leave for such people’s paradises. Wonder why?

    Unfortunately this looks like a replay of 1972 when an unpopular Republican will win in a landslide because the Dhimmierats have decided the time is ripe for a ture Stalinist state. Well maybe in Portland or San Francisco.

  15. #15 |  JJH2 | 


    If you’re going to criticize Wright, you should at least pick on him for something he got wrong (there are plenty of examples). The moral heinousness of the US government — well, that’s something he got just right. That you want a moral infant for a president — someone who “blesses” murderous US adventurism abroad — says worlds about you.

  16. #16 |  Betsy | 

    Things take a slightly different perspective when viewed in the right context.

    Whether one agrees with Reverend Wright or not, it seems to me that he has been unfairly demonized to make a media controversy.

    Watch Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s 9-11 sermon in context on youtube and decide.


    Jeremiah Wright’s God Damn America in context on Youtube


  17. #17 |  Alex | 

    There’s two aspects of this thing that are disturbing to me:

    1) I keep seeing the semi-racist arguement that because Obama is black, he is entitled to go to black churches where the preaches are crazy. This church is not representative of black churches as a whole, at least from my experience. This is a specific theology, Black Liberation, that is not consistent with traditional Baptism.

    2) I don’t think Obama believes one word of this. I think he moved to Chicago with political motives and joined an 8,000 member church with strong political ties. As a student of politics, I strongly encourage cynical religious affiliation. But Obama is a “post-racial candidate” who decries the “politics of cynicism,” so he should be taken to task for this.

    3) Alright, one more. Comparing Obama to Bush is an offensively stupid arguement.

  18. #18 |  buzz | 

    Dude, please. You KNOW that if Bush had been a member of Falwell’s church for the last 20 years we never would have heard the end of it. I doubt if he would have been elected the first time out. No one would get that kind of pass. Try to see thru your blinders.

  19. #19 |  Chris | 

    JJH2 and Betsy, quit dodging. Obama says one thing to our faces and then patronizes this Wright in saying the opposite behind our backs. Meet that point head on. Obama is a two-faced fraud.

  20. #20 |  SB | 

    I just don’t get why people think Obama has to be post-race in order to be a unifier. When was that ever the message? To be unified in America, we have to recognize our different histories and current injustices and come together to solve them. “Colorblind” is a racist myth that only serves white people who are too uncomfortable to talk about race. Stop confusing the messages — talking about race isn’t anti-unity; it’s realistic and yes, still hopeful.

    –white guy

  21. #21 |  JJH2 | 


    I’m not voting for Obama and have little interest in defending him. But the fact of the matter is — the only people who really give a shit about the Wright thing are people who were already predisposed to opposing Obama. Why? Because human action is ambiguous; and people are convinced that an action “means” something by virtue of pre-existing beliefs and ideological commitments.

    You seem to think it’s obvious that there’s something “two-faced” and “fraudulent” about running a campaign with one set of a messages, while attending a Church where one of the pastors says things that are in tension with parts of your message. Yet I think, almost as obviously, that that’s just part and parcel of belonging to a Church. If I had a nickel for every Catholic who openly held beliefs in conflict with the ones they were taught at Mass – I’d have a lot of nickels.

    Although I am not religious, I understand and appreciate that faith and spirituality can be complicated things. I have no idea what a “spiritual adviser” does (and I don’t really care), but I recognize that an adviser is not a proxie for the candidate himself. And while the opposite may be “obvious” to you, it’s equally obvious to me that just because an adviser says something to you that you may disagree with, doesn’t mean you are a liar for basing your campaign on the opposite.

    And finally, again, I can’t emphasize enough that a lot of Wright’s comments are, in fact, completely true and justifiable, and all this nonsense about patriotism is the same old American nationalism, ever willing to turn a blind eye to American atrocities abroad.

  22. #22 |  Alex | 

    SB, I think the idea with the “post-racial candidate” is that he won’t play identity politics, which just doesn’t work in the “big tent” party. Republicans can do it better because there’s basically only social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and hawks. Everybody else is a Democrat.

    Also, I grew up and lived about half my adult life in majority black cities, going to majority black schools, having a black best friend. I’ll have all the conversation anyone is up for about minority groups (or anything else for that matter), the good and the bad. But most people can’t have a civilized discussion about sensitive matters, so not having a national down-and-dirty Festivus style Airing of Grievances is probably for the best anyways.

  23. #23 |  Chris | 

    “the only people who really give a shit about the Wright thing are people who were already predisposed to opposing Obama.”

    Irrelevant ad hominem distraction by pure speculation (omniscience?)

    “You seem to think it’s obvious that there’s something “two-faced” and “fraudulent” about running a campaign with one set of a messages, while attending a Church where one of the pastors says things that are in tension with parts of your message.”

    “Says things that are in tension with your message”? Straw man. Talk straight. Wright is a mentor. Worked on the campaign. This is hate talk. Racism. Anti-Americanism. Communism. This isn’t just an occasional remark in a sermon. The church stands for this. It has been plastered all over their website. In published books and DVDs. Quit fogging the issue. Obscurantism.

    Call the thing what it is – phoniness, dishonesty, not “complexity.” Don’t reduce everything to the banal. Obama is a two-faced fraud whose two faces couldn’t be more the opposites of each other.

    He belongs to an institution that hates this country and then he thinks he should be president? I think it’s best to elect people who love this country.

  24. #24 |  JJH2 | 


    You totally missed the boat. My comment about people’s views lining up with their predisposition was NOT an argument about the validity of those positions (and therefore NOT an ad hominem). Why? Because the position that “human action is ambiguous; and people are convinced that an action “means” something by virtue of pre-existing beliefs and ideological commitments” — applies JUST AS EQUALLY to Obama supporters (and says NOTHING about the merits of THEIR view). Two different criteria.

    Similarly, you are committed to framing the debate in very narrow terms – which assume the validity of your assumptions about inherently ambiguous behavior. You responded as if my response addressed the issues on that level – which of course, it doesn’t (that was the point). Your response indicates that you are either unwilling or incapable of reconsidering your assumptions about the obviousness of your inferences. All you did was make unsubstantiated appeals to logical fallacies and reassert your position in even more ridiculous language. That you are committed to waging a battle of buzzwords indicates your dishonesty — even if one agrees with Wright on certain of his ‘controversial’ points – I doubt they would agree with your inane characterizations of them. Communisms! Oh Noes! Brain of, outrage on.

  25. #25 |  Chris | 

    You could complexify a two-car train. His walk and talk don’t match. That MEANS something. Get it, or don’t.

  26. #26 |  JJH2 | 


    Well, I’ll spell it out for you. It’s not clear to me that attending a Church which criticizes the US government is “anti-American.” It’s not even clear to me that “anti-American” actually means anything in particular. It’s not clear to me that having a spiritual adviser who is critical of US foreign policy or the US government is anti-American. It’s not clear to me that having a spiritual adviser who preaches about the long and shameful history of the US government in regards to people of color is anti-American. What is clear to me, however, is that a great deal of Wright’s criticisms are TRUE, legitimate, and dead-on target. It’s even clearer to me that _rather than addressing_ the substance of his accusations, and examining whether each _particular accusation_ is correct, incorrect, justified, or unjustified, people who are already predisposed to opposing Obama’s candidacy are trying their hardest to _sidestep rational thought_ by appealing to lame smears and buzzwords — watch out for Teh Communisms! Teh Racisms! Teh anti-Americanisms!

    And frankly, all the hemming and hawing about the importance of Wright being an “adviser” is completely nonsensical. Advisers advise, and candidates (and presidents) take what they find of value, and ditch the rest. Austan Goolsbe and David Cutler are two of Obama’s economic advisers — one is a neoclassical economist; one favors privatizing social security. Yet nobody believes Obama is going to disentangle the government from the economy or privatize social security. Why? Because there are no stories there about angry black men saying mean ole things about the poor ole US of A.

  27. #27 |  M. Simon | 

    Couldn’t agree more Radly. We definitely need a President who has spent 20 years studying Marxist Black Liberation Theology in Church.

    That is something every true libertarian and Libertarian can get behind.

    It is really hard to fathom why this is such an issue.

    The good Rev Wright is a disciple of Dr. James H. Cone. Black Power!

  28. #28 |  M. Simon | 

    Did I forget to mention that the Republicans were the original anti-slavery party? That the Democrats of yore wanted to make peace with the South? That the Democrats were the KKK Party? That there are still remnants if that in the Senate?

    That Republicans usually close their conventions with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”?

  29. #29 |  M. Simon | 

    If the pastor truly believed his more vitriolic comments

    I get it. It is all an act to fill the collection plate from rich black racists.

    That is comforting. Lucky that neither the Rev. or Obama believes that stuff. They are just exploiting the fools.

    So I think it is time for a new Obama campaign slogan.

    “Racist and anti-racist fools for Obama” or maybe we just shorten it.

    “Fools for Obama”