Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Fact 1: Senator Obama's old pastor, Reverend Wright, made a variety of controversial statements in his recent press club speech. This fact is easy to prove since the entire contents of the speech are readily available and have been aired, re-aired, and discussed incessantly.

Fact 2: Senator Obama, at his press conference on Tuesday, denounced and distanced himself from his former pastor. His desire was clearly to show that he did not support, believe in, or share the thoughts, attitudes and opinions of his former pastor. This fact is also easy to prove for the same reasons as fact 1.

Fact 3: The statements and sentiments of Reverend Wright that Obama specifically took issue with, and tried to distance himself from, are statements and sentiments that Reverend Wright has made repeatedly over the last several decades. This fact is also very easy to prove since these are the very statements and sentiments that have been aired and re-aired so many times since this whole controversy began.

Fact 4: Senator Obama made the claim in his news conference that the thoughts, ideas and sentiments of Reverend Wright, as expressed in his speech before the press club, were somehow those of a different person than the Reverend Wright whom Obama until recently praised as his friend of 20 years, his pastor, his mentor, his adviser, the officiator at his marriage and the baptizer of his children. Again, all of this is unquestionably true and very easy to prove.

So, what can we deduce from an examination of these facts? What does the relationship between these two men, taken in conjunction with their most recent statements, tell us about the man who is asking us to vote him in as our next president? I'd say we have to conclude one of the following:

1. Senator Obama was deceived by Reverend Wright. Reverend Wright was somehow able to portray himself to Obama over the past 20 years as someone completely different than who he obviously is.
I think we can all agree that this is extremely unlikely given how intelligent the senator clearly is. There is simply no way Reverend Wright could pull this off. Besides that, Obama has been directly confronted about these issues going back quite a while now and would certainly have checked it out for himself. He would have discovered the deceit and denounced his pastor long before now if this were the case.

If, however, it is true that he was deceived and remained unaware of it for 20 years, that certainly disqualifies him from being president. Not only that, it disqualifies him from pretty much any position of public trust.
2. Senator Obama never actually listened in church, read the bulletins, or listened when they had private conversations. Somehow he managed to remain completely oblivious, over a period of 20 years, to the clear thoughts, ideas and sentiments of Reverend Wright.
If Senator Obama is so oblivious that he managed to miss all of this over 20 years, and even missed it over the last several months when the whole country was watching Reverend Wright on YouTube, then he is clearly not qualified to lead the local PTA, much less the country.
3. Senator Obama made a calculated decision over the years to associate himself with Reverend Wright and his church in order to reap the political benefits of doing so, which clearly helped him get started up the political ladder. He never actually shared the divisive thoughts, ideas and sentiments of the pastor or the church, but simply used their association for his own purposes and is now having to deal with the (somehow unexpected?) fallout from that as best he can.
Given what we know about the type of person who would go into politics, this option unfortunately seems more plausible than the first two. If this option is true then Senator Obama is simply another opportunistic, calculating, lying political hack. And, if that is true, then given the choice between two such politicians (Hillary and Barack) it seems quite clear that Hillary is the better choice. She is better at it, more experienced at it, and has the dubious fortune of being married to the best of the best. Lets face it, Bill could, and did, skate through scandals like this in his sleep.

For Senator Obama, getting caught in a deception (which this clearly is), is very damaging given who he is portraying himself to be. The Clintons have perfected the art to the point that when Bill stood before the entire nation and lied through his teeth (and was caught at it) we just kinda went "aww shucks, there's our guy".
4. Senator Obama shares, and has for many years, many of the thoughts, ideas and sentiments of Reverend Wright, but is smart enough to know that he would never stand a chance of being elected president if that became known.
Given some of the senators past statements and certain passages in his book, some of his other associations with people such as William Ayers, and given the content of various speeches by Mrs. Obama this option is also fairly plausible. Lets face it, Senator Obama's voting record puts him as far left as possible and the thoughts, sentiments and ideas espoused by Reverend Wright are fairly well in line with the far left.

There are a couple problems if this is the case. First, such a person could never be elected president (at least not yet) if this were known. Second, if this is the case then Senator Obama is guilty of cold, calculated, deceitful manipulation of the American public and his denouncement of his former pastor is nothing more than a lie. And, if Reverend Wright is not in on the whole deceit of the public (which doesn't seem to be the case now) then after being cast aside by Obama he can definitely make life pretty difficult by simply exposing Obama for what he actually is.

If it comes down to duel by oratory between Obama and Wright I think my money might be on Wright.

My personal opinion is that the truth lies somewhere between options 3 and 4. I don't think Senator Obama is stupid or gullible enough for options 1 or 2 to be the case. Unfortunately Barack Obama stood before us and claimed that the truth was option 1 or 2. So your are left with two choices.

1. Take Senator Obama's own word for it that he is so completely naive and oblivious that he somehow either missed all of this or was deceived.

2. Reach the conclusion that Obama is at best a calculating, opportunistic, deceitful political hack or at worst a dangerous, far left radical whose plans for this country are certainly not in line with the bulk of the population.

Either way you look at it you can't possibly vote for him. Frankly when you apply this whole exercise to Hillary Clinton you can't vote for her either. To the extent that the electorate wises up to this the party leaders had better be formulating a plan B as quickly as they possibly can or their chances for winning the White House are pretty much nil.

Now will the electorate wise up to this? Something tells me the media's complicated love-quadrangle with Obama, Wright and Clinton are going to wise the electorate up whether the electorate wants to be wised up or not.


Leigh Johnson said...

I just emailed this to Dan after he asked for my input:

While the facts listed in your post may be generally true, I think what is missing is an analysis of the reverend's comments. The media and pundits are quite capable of jumping on a sound bite and blowing it out of proportion and context. They are apparently unable to address and analyze what the reverend said as a whole.

As a result, the negative reaction from voters is not surprising; nor is the fact the Obama has to find a way to distance himself from Wright. In reality, he is distancing himself from a public perception of Wright - not the actual man.

I have read some of Wrights full sermons and I find it hard to see anything particularly unusual in what he is saying (from his Christian viewpoint) in the 'gd america' excerpt. What surprises me about the reaction to this sermon is that it's essentially the same thing Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others (like McCain endorser John Hagee have said about natural disasters being God's revenge on America for moral decay or other sins. Wright says the same thing. Beware America for the things you have done. You reap what you sow.

As far as the HIV and crack cocaine comments - well, that something Obama attempted to address in his 'race speech' but most people apparently ignored. Obama tried to let America know that there are beliefs in the black community that aren't shared by (for lack of a better term) 'white' america. According to one national poll, about half of African-Americans believe the AIDS virus is manmade. Many also accept the claim that the government brought illegal drugs to black neighborhoods.

The following excerpt and the above statistic are from a DMN article:

History fuels the distrust – particularly the infamous Tuskegee Experiment. For 40 years, beginning in 1932, nearly 400 black men with syphilis were enrolled in a health study to be treated for "bad blood." They were never told they had syphilis and were not treated for it because the doctors wanted to do autopsies on men who died with the disease.

The government only admitted what happened in 1972, after the Associated Press broke the story. The near-universal knowledge of that experiment among African-Americans grants credence to other health-related conspiracies.

Personally, I find it pointless to harp on someone for conspiracy theory beliefs when many people (liberal and conservative alike) harbor similar evidence-lacking beliefs themselves (no, that's not a dig on religion - it's more of a dig on Kucinich). :)

In the end, I think any candidate running for US President will be persuaded to make choices based on political expediency; either by the prevailing political winds or their short-sighted campaign advisors. Perhaps the only exception to that would be Nader. He’ll say anything, regardless of political fallout.

The question is whether We The People will continue to accept it and whether we’ll continue to accept crappy, sensationalistic, 5 second sound-bite ‘reporting’ from news outlets.

Now for my rant:
Am I the only one who thinks that there are far more important issues that need to be addressed by all the candidates? I don’t care what any of the candidates’ church leaders have said. I want to know what they’re going to do about the huge number of challenges facing them and the nation in 2009. I want to know whether or not they are willing to work with the Congress they have and not the Congress they want. Most importantly, I want to know if they are willing to be a ‘wonk’ regarding all those challenges. I want to know if they’re willing to immerse themselves in these issues – not simply rely on their ‘advisors.’ I want them to demonstrate a clear understanding of all the nuances of a particular subject. I want them to be smarter than me by a long shot. I want them to read a bloody newspaper once in a while. Screw Wright, Hagee, Ferarro, and anyone else associated with the various campaigns.

Let’s get down to the business at hand.

Dan G said...

I have also listened to large portions of Wrights sermons. I will certainly concede the point that certain white, supposedly conservative, Christian pastors have made hateful and distasteful remarks. Two wrongs do not make a right.

The difference, in my opinion, is that Obama has been closely associated, for many years, with people like Wright and other far-left radicals. We all know that if McCain had equally close associations with right-wing radicals, to the extent that it seemed quite possible that he shared many of their opinions, his candidacy would already be over. And rightly so I might add.

Now to your rant. Obama is an unknown quantity. We simply don't have a whole lot to judge him on. His speeches, while eloquent, have not had much substance when it comes to real issues. Lets face it, health care for everyone and free money for college don't tell you anything but that he's a garden variety liberal. His past and his associations seem to indicate that he might be significantly to the left of your garden variety liberal.

We desperately need to know if that is the case because, like it or not, the majority of people in this country do not want a far-left president. This country is still a fairly conservative country. The left has been quite successful in its incremental revolution, but the sleeper does awaken when an attempt is made to move too far, or too fast, to the left.

Leigh Johnson said...

With regard to Wright's sermons:
I agree two wrongs don't make a right - I'm simply saying there isn't really anything in the sermons to get bent out of shape about. I'll post a followup comment addressing this.

With regard to conservatism in America:
In recent polls, with an un-named Democrat vs. an un-named Republican, the Democrats have been on top by a decent margin. If those polls reflect reality, then perhaps the country as a whole is not as conservative as you say.

With regard to 'Obama the Unknown':
I don't think Obama has to be as 'unknown' a quantity as you have said. I have read article after article about Obama's grasp of issues that have affected his current constituency. He knows the people he represents very well as well as the day-to-day issues that matter most to them. The solutions to those Illinois constituents' problems were bi-partisan, substantive, practical solutions with broad appeal. You can see a couple of examples here and an overview here. He has a voting record. It's there to be evaluated - and while it may be regarding regional issues, it deserves recognition. I certainly don't think Clinton's few years in the Senate or as First Lady constitute experience worthy of the Presidency. I'd much rather look at her voting record as a guide - and that record doesn't give me warm fuzzies. McCain's record (for me) is both good and bad; that reflects how I feel about him issue by issue, as well. For me personally, the bad outweighs the good.

To be, fair, until Obama is the presumptive nominee, it wouldn't do much good politically to entrench himself in specifics. As with most presidential candidates, he will probably move toward the center if he wins the nomination and hone his policies to contrast McCain's. If, at that time, he shows himself to be a radical left-wing nutjob, conservatives can happily vote for McCain. I suspect he'll end up as centrist as McCain will end up being. Slightly left and slightly right.

Now, I am just as skeptical as anyone else when it comes to politians, so understand that I take everything Obama says with a grain of salt. My hope is that he can prove my cynicism wrong (at least in regards to him, if not politics as a whole). I want to believe him because he represents himself as the kind of person I would want as a leader. Erudite, elitist (yes, elitist), intelligent, well-spoken, and thoughtful. "The smartest guy in the room."

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he's just as slimy and ruthless as Dubya and Bill. But I'll take the chance that maybe he's true to his word.

Until he proves it though, I'll agree with Nader when he says you can vote Democrat or Republican - it doesn't matter - they're both the same. Nothing changes and the middle and lower classes continue to get the shaft.

Leigh Johnson said...

Read all of this and then tell me what's offensive about it (particularly from an African-American perspective). And no - disagreeing with his politics is not offense. :)

Rev. Wright: July, 2003:

"Prior to Abraham Lincoln, the government in this country said it was legal to hold Africans in slavery in perpetuity. Perpetuity is one of them University of Chicago words that means forever. From now on.

"When Lincoln got into office the government changed. Prior to the passing of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, the government defined Africans as slaves, as property. Property. People with no rights to be respected by any whites anywhere. The Supreme Court of the government, same court, granddaddy court of the one that stole the 2000 election. The Supreme Court said in its Dred Scott decision, in the 1850s, no African anywhere in this country has any rights that any white person has to respect at any place any time.

"That was the government's official position backed up by the Supreme Court—that's the judiciary, backed up by the executive branch, [and] that's the president, backed up by the legislative branch and enforced by the military of the government. But I stopped by to tell you tonight that governments change.

"Prior to Harry Truman's government, the military in this country was segregated. But governments change. Prior to the civil rights and equal accommodations laws of the government in this country there was backed segregation by the country, legal discrimination by the government, prohibiting blacks from voting by the government. You had to eat in separate places by the government. You had to sit in different places from white folk 'cause the government says so. And, you had to be buried in a separate cemetery. It was apartheid American-style from the cradle to the grave all because the government backed it up. But guess what! Governments change.

"Under Bill Clinton, we got a messed up welfare-to-work bill. But under Clinton, blacks had an intelligent friend in the Oval Office. Ooh, but governments change. The election was stolen. We went from an intelligent friend to a dumb Dixiecrat, a rich Republican who has never held a job in his life, is against affirmative action, against education—I guess he is, ha!—against health care, against benefits for his own military, and gives tax breaks to the wealthiest contributors to his campaign. Governments change—sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.

"But I'm fixing to help you again. Turn back and say: 'He's fixing to help us again.' When governments change, write this down: Malachi 3:6, Malachi 3:6: 'Thus said the Lord,' repeat it after me, 'For I am the Lord, and I change not.' That's the King James Version. The New Revised says: 'For I the Lord do not change.' In other words, where governments change, God does not change. God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. That's what his name 'I am' means. You know, he does not change. There is no shadow of turning in God. One songwriter puts it this way: 'As thou has been, thou forever will be. Thou changest not. Thy compassions, they fail not. Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me.' God does not change.

"God was against slavery on yesterday and God who does not change is still against slavery today. God was a God of love yesterday, and God who does not change is still a God of love today. God was a God of justice on yesterday, and God who does not change is still a God of justice today. Turn to your neighbor and say: 'God does not change.'

"Where governments lie, God does not lie. Where governments change, God does not change. And I'm through now. But let me leave you with one more thing.

"Governments fail. The government in this text, comprised of Caesar . . . [and] Pontius Pilate, the Roman government failed. The British government used to rule from East to West. The British government had a Union Jack. She colonized Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Hong Kong. Her navies ruled the Seven Seas all the way down to the tip of Argentina in the Falklands. But the British government failed. The Russian government failed. The Japanese government failed. The German government failed.

"And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on the reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of the racist bastions of higher education and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America'?

"No, no, no, not 'God Bless America,' 'God Damn America.' That's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human, God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent."

Leigh Johnson said...

Contrast Wright's statements with the closing paragraphs of this July 4th, 1852 speech. Take a guess at who gave it - certainly not someone we consider un-American:

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation's ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy - a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Go search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

You an read the full speech (and see who the author is) here.

Dan G said...

1. When I say the country is still fairly conservative I don't mean the country is fairly Republican. There are a lot of Democrats who are a long ways from from the far left.

2. I'm more interested in what Obama stands for and the direction he will try to lead the country than I am in what his talking points are. His associations are a very good place to start in getting the measure of him. His voting record, as far as it goes, puts him as far left as it is possible to be.

3. It is not necessary for me to characterize or attack Reverend Wright. That has already been taken care of by someone who ought to know. These are Obama's own words regarding Wright:



"When I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it"

"It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am."

"it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country."

"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday."

"After seeing Rev. Wright's performance, I felt there was a complete disregard for what the American people are going through and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems,"

"When he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st centuries; when he equates the United States's wartime efforts with terrorism; there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans."

These are Obama's own words. If, as you say, there really isn't anything wrong with Wright then wouldn't you think that Obama, someone who knows him a lot better than we do, would be defending him as well?

As I said in my original post, either Obama doesn't have a problem with the thoughts, opinions and sentiments of Wright, or he does.

If he doesn't have a problem with them then all of those very pointed denouncements and statements above are purely political grandstanding. If everything he said above reflects the feelings he's had all along then what on earth has he been doing for the last 20 years and why did he just decide to throw him overboard now?

Either way Obama does not look at all good. Maybe you can defend Wright, I'll respond to that later, but I don't see how there can be any defense for Obama.

Leigh Johnson said...

1. When I say the country is still fairly conservative I don't mean the country is fairly Republican. There are a lot of Democrats who are a long ways from from the far left.

You're right. I made the mistake of equating republicanism with conservatism. You were right to call me on that one.

2. I'm more interested in what Obama stands for and the direction he will try to lead the country than I am in what his talking points are. His associations are a very good place to start in getting the measure of him. His voting record, as far as it goes, puts him as far left as it is possible to be.

Well, while conservatives may cringe at his record, it looks pretty darn good to me. Then again, I'm probably waaaaayyy out on the left on a lot of issues. Oh, well. Also, aside from Wright, who else is Obama 'associated' with that is cause for concern (Malik Zulu Shabazz doesn't count for obvious reasons)?

If he doesn't have a problem with them then all of those very pointed denouncements and statements above are purely political grandstanding. If everything he said above reflects the feelings he's had all along then what on earth has he been doing for the last 20 years and why did he just decide to throw him overboard now?

OK - now for the long part...

While attending churches over the years, have you ever found yourself disagreeing with parts of a sermon now and then? If so, did it keep you from attending the church? Have you ever maintained a friendship with someone who's worldview you did not share? Did you ever learn something from someone while recognizing that there were things that person believed with which you could not agree?

We have no idea what positive impact Wright may have had on Obama. We have no idea how many of the 3 sermons per Sunday that Wright preached were attended by Obama. However, we can make summary judgements about his political leanings because the politics of necessity made it clear that Obama would have to denounce and further distance himself from Wright?

That doesn't follow, in my opinion. People are complex and are perfectly capable of holding two opposing ideas in their head at the same time without recognizing that as a problem. It doesn't say anything about their ideolgical leanings. Should we assume that McCain is a raging right-winger who wants to bring about the endtimes by working to fulfill biblical prophesy in Isreal just because he is associated with John Hagee who believes those things? No. It doesn't follow. And yes, I know there's not as much history there, but I think the point is still valid.

Per your original post, I suppose a fifth option could be that Obama heard some of what Wright has said over the years, but, being in the microcosm of local Chicago and Ilinois politics, it didn't occur to him how the nation as a whole might construe the remarks.

He looked back over the Wright's sermons and comments over the last couple few weeks, thought about the content, and decided he couldn't support Wright's viewpoint. I have no idea whether or not that is how things played out in reality, but if it supports my perception of the candidate, go me. Obama defended. Case closed.

Lastly, now that my tongue is removed from my cheek, regarding the content of Wright's remarks: I neither agree with any of the crazy stuff he's spouting nor defend the remarks themselves, I just don't see how they are so 'controversial'. As I said before, I think people turned this into something more sensational than it actually is, knowing that the general public is too lazy or too burned out to go read the full statements.

Whew! While tiring, this is fun. I could go on and on and on.... :)

Dan G said...

Well, we're agreed on his voting record at least. And I do understand that it would look good to you just as it looks scary to me. :)

Associations - William Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Tony Rezko, Raila Oginga Odinga, Nadhmi Auchi, Malik Zulu Shabazz (ok, ok, that's just an endorsement, so that cancels out Hagee right?), and of course that's just for starters.

did it keep you from attending the church?

Yes, as a matter of fact it did. When it became clear that the mindset and tenor of the church consistently made me uncomfortable.

Have you ever maintained a friendship with someone who's worldview you did not share?

I think a good example here is a certain person we run into frequently who consistently makes racist comments. I would never maintain a friendship with that person. I could try and understand his background, and could probably come up with pretty reasonable explanations for why he says the things he says, but I'm not going to do that. I'll be civil and Christian, but I won't be his friend.

I don't want to make Obama guilty by association with Wright or any of his other associations. It's just that when you put everything together you get a picture of someone who could be quite sympathetic to a very radical leftist agenda. I understand that to someone who is already on the left, that might not seem like such a big thing, but I think it is a big thing.

If I could take Obama for who he has tried to sell himself as I might be convinced that hey, you know what, lets give this hope and change thing a try. But, if he is actually a far left radical trying to pass himself off as someone completely different, I really, really, want the voting public to know that because I don't think very many of us want someone like that for president.

Yes, this is fun. And yes it is tiring. I think when I get some energy back I'll stop beating the Wright thing to death and try to dig into those important issues and the business at hand.

Leigh Johnson said...

I think when I get some energy back I'll stop beating the Wright thing to death and try to dig into those important issues and the business at hand.

Cheers to that....