Sunday, March 30, 2008

Editorial: Damn or defend?

Jeremiah Wright, pastor, mentor, friend, confidante and all round roll dog of Barack Obama damned the United States from the puplit. In his role as pastor, he called upon the Lord to damn the United States of America. And the candidate did nothing.

And Barack Obama still claims he's qualified to be president of the United States?

When you're in the midst of a scandal that's rocking the nation, what do you do? Obama pulled a John Kerry and rushed off to the Virgin Islands for a little R&R as the scandal continued brewing despite his nearly 5,000 pretty words that said nothing. Then he returned to the US and, sure enough, booked himself an interview with last century's Mother Confessor, Babara Walters. As Ava and C.I. note, he told Walters Friday:

Had the reverend not retired. Had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church.

First off, Wright never apologized and doesn't appear to feel he has anything to apologize for. Why should he when so many in the media declare the damning of the entire country a non-issue?

Jake Tapper (ABC News) was among the few to notice the claim that Wright had apologized. He called the Obama campain and was told it was clear that Bambi never said Wright had apologized. Clear? Tapper:

Okay, except Obama wasn't "clearly" saying that at all.

Here's a clear way to say that: 'Had the reverend not retired I would have confronted him about his remarks. If after that Wright still refused to acknowledge that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I think is the great character of this country -- for all its flaws -- then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church.'

Barack Obama did not say that on The View at all. He told lies and probably fooled a number watching. Obama wasn't leaving. Wright offered no apology.

The comments in question (including attacks on Jewish persons and Andrea Mitchell reported

on NBC's Today Thursday that he slimed Italians as "garlic noses") didn't take place a month ago or two months ago. They are years old.

Let's review through what Obama said on The View Friday.

Had the reverend not retired. Had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church

But Obama did in fact stay at the church. Obama stayed with that church for twenty years. Obama did not leave in 2001 or in 2002 or 2003 or . . . He stayed.

Now it's hard to follow what Obama himself heard Wright say because Bambi's been all over the map. Sometimes he's claimed he didn't hear anything in the sermons when he attended. (We would assume he'd be in church nearly ever Sunday prior to heavy campaigning for the US Senate in 2004.) In his lengthy speech two Tuesday ago, he suddenly stated he had heard some things. We have no idea which it is because he's lied repeatedly.

But here's reality. It was his community church. He lived in the community. If something significant (appalling or agreeable to the congregation) was said, Obama would have heard of it. He would have heard while getting his hair cut, he would have heard of it at work. He would have heard about it while going about his daily routine before being sworn in as a US Senator in 2005. Prior to that and after, it is not unreasonable to expect that a phone call would also be a means to provide news of any sermon he missed.

For 20 years, Wright was his pastor. For 20 years, Bambi was fine and dandy with that arrangement, hailing the man as his mentor, showering him with praise. When did the relationship become uncomfortable for Bambi? It appears that was only when ABC's Good Morning America broadcast excerpts of Wright's sermons.

After that happened and Americans were shocked that someone running for president would be okay with the cry to damn the US, Bambi becomes uncomfortable? Suddenly, he's stating that (a) if Wright hadn't retired, (b) he would have confronted Wright.

Really? Whose word are we supposed to take on that? Obama's?

Obama's lied non-stop throughout this, he's changed stories repeatedly. Here's reality, his pastor -- among many other offenses -- damned the United States of America from the front of the church in a sermon and Obama was fine and dandy with that for years.

As C.I. noted Wednesday:

The president of the United States is expected to defend the US. But when Wright damned the US, you didn't leave the church. You still haven't called him out on it or distanced yourself from his remarks damning the US. You want to be the leader of the US and America's not even sure you can be counted onto verbally defend the US because Wright damned the country and you did nothing.

[. . .]

The people of the United States have a right to expect that someone running for president will defend the country. Barack Obama has yet to prove that defending the US is a concern for him.

He didn't defend the country when he was already serving in the Illinois legislature with dreams of being a US Senator and more and Wright was damning the United States. He went along with it. He was okay with it. He didn't leave the church, he didn't call Wright out. He just kept going to a church where the pastor would damn the United States.

Damn or defend? Exactly what can voters count on Barack Obama to do?

To his credit, Barack Obama himself didn't damn the United States but, equally true, he didn't defend the United States. He wants to be the leader of the country now and wants Americans to think he's up for the job. But when it came to facing down a two-bit hate monger, Barack buckled. He never did that. Now he wants Americans to think that he can stand up for the country, that he can lead the country. But he showed no leadership in his dealings with Wright or his remaining with the church.

He demonstrated that when the US is verbally attacked, he can ignore it. He can ignore it and go along with it, give his agreement to the damning by continuing to attend the church.

That's not leadership and it's not presidential.

Now Panhandle Media really hopes this goes away. They're convinced it will. But it's been nearly two weeks since Bambi gave his speech and it's still not going away. Not only is it not going away, but now comes the pushback to hype, reality.

The media largely dismissed what Wright said and largely praised Bambi's non-addressing the damning of America. But that's not how it's playing across America. And now people are weighing and they will continue to do so. They will not be silenced by a media cry or a campaign telling them that it's no big deal because, to many Americans, the damning of this country is a very big deal.

Some examples from last week. Brad Warthen (South Carolina's The State) offers:

Folks, I'm an American history major, and I've lived in this country for most of 54 years. What part of the rather sketchy overview in that sermon do you think I didn't know already? If I'd been sermonizing, I could have added a lot to it -- including the fact that the blood offering of the Civil War, as horrific as it was, seems to have been an inevitable sacrifice to expiate the sin of slavery. And I would have said the evil didn't end there, nor could it, there being original sin in the world, and no one of us since Jesus Christ born free of it.
But I wouldn't have said "G** Damn America." Not in a million years. For me, the point of bringing up evil is to try to overcome it -- as I believe two people Mr. Darby mentions (King and Bonhoeffer) were trying to do.
Sorry, but I can't accept that the Rev. Wright was saying "things that challenge America to rise above its sins of prejudice and greed." No, if he'd said America was in danger of damnation, or headed straight thataway, rather as Jesus said to the Pharisees
in the example cited by my colleague Warren Bolton this week, that might have been seen as a challenge, perhaps even a well-intentioned warning. (Personally, although he had more right, being God, than anyone else to do so, I don't remember Jesus ever damning anything more sentient than a fig tree.)
But Mr. Wright didn't call on us to do anything. Instead, he called on G** to damn America.

Wes Isley (Yes! Weekly) writes:

Imagine if Obama were white and attended some hellfire-and-brimstone church where the pastor railed against women in leadership and homosexuals, and trotted out all manner of conspiracy theories about the US government as if they were fact. In this scenario, I'm convinced the Democratic party would abandon such a candidate, and the media would brand the guy an ignorant hick. But because Obama is biracial, he's been given a pass. We're told that the Rev. Wright's comments must be heard in the correct context, with the proper racial history, and they would all make sense. This sounds suspiciously like the arguments used by some whites who say flying the Confederate flag is simply a matter of heritage.

In an open letter to Obama, sports columnits Jason Whitlock (Kansas City Star) explains in the preface:

Yeah, the defenders of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the people pleading for context and understanding of his irrational, unpatriotic and borderline racist words, are the same people who clamored for Imus’ removal and claimed context had no place in the discussion of Imus’ inappropriate description of female basketball players at Rutgers.
I am not political. Dishonesty is so pervasive within politics that I practice abstinence. Conservative and liberal ideologies are the enemies of common sense. I’m a nonvoting, casual observer.

Whitlock, though non-political, has been a supporter of Obama (his open letter is a plea for Obama to address the damning of America). Whitlock's column was published last Sunday (and he thought it would be passed to Obama by Oprah, whom he'd sent it to in advance). Still nothing on the damning of America unless those pitiful remarks on The View were supposed to 'address' it.

Among those weighing last week were Jeffrey Weiss (Dallas Morning News), Craig Unger (Vanity Fair), Bruce Fisher (ArtVoice), Joe Klein (Time magazine), Gene Lyons and Joe Wilson (via No Quarter) who observed:

Among other things, Wright preaches that the United States government unleashed the HIV virus in Africa to kill blacks. (Having worked in African for much of my adult life, including with one of the early AIDS researches, Dr. Jonathan Mann, I can safely say that there is absolutely no evidence to sustain Wright's reckless charge.) Obama had no choice but to address his 20-year close relationship with a man he still considers, as he made clear in his speech, a mentor.

It is not and has not gone away. The media reaction to Bambi's speech (nearly 100% praise) only enraged people more and it's the perfect example of how the press so often gets it wrong when trying to shape opinion. If you're offended or slightly offended and it's acknowledged that you have a right to be, you may move on. You may not, but most people just want to be acknowledged and, as Wally's favorite day care worker used to tell him when he was young (ten through 13), "This isn't Burger King, you don't always get to have it your way." But the media didn't acknowledge that many Americans were offended or that many Americans didn't feel that Barack Obama even addressed it well in the overly praised speech (only 51% gave the speech approval marks in the PEW survey taken after the media had heavily pimped the bad speech as right up there with "Four score and twenty . . .").

When that happens, opinions harden. When a significant portion of Americans see that their beliefs weren't even acknowledged (forget about agreed with), opinion hardens which is why we said last week that Wright is toxic and viral. Most were already agreeing he was toxic. That is why, after all, Bambi gave that lengthy speech. But people weren't seeing that it was also a viral issue. We noted that conversations would take place in church parking lots on Sunday. They did. They took place all last week. And while opinion hardened, what did Bambi do?

Like his new mentor John Kerry in 2004, Bambi went on vacation. [See Wally, Cedric, Rebecca, Wally and Cedric again and Mike]. He hoped it would go away. It didn't. That was his first tactic. While he was out of the country, Hillary Clinton was asked what she would do had she been attending Wright's church -- first by an editorial board and then asked in an open press conference. CNN reported:

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Clinton referenced a speech she gave nearly a year ago after talk-radio host Don Imus' controversial remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team. "I said it was time for standing up for what is right, for saying enough is enough, for urging that we turn a culture of degradation into a culture of empowerment, for saying that while we of course must protect our right of free expression, it should not be used as a license or an excuse to demean or humiliate our fellow citizens. Sen. Obama spoke eloquently at that time as well," she said. "Everyone will have to decide these matters for themselves. They were obviously very personal matters," Clinton added. "But I was asked what I would do if he was my pastor and I said I think the choice would be clear for me."

With the issue not fading, the Obama campaign tried tactic two: Trash Hillary. The problem with that is "lunch-bucket Democrats" (a popular phrase now being used by all the press, but we first saw the phrase used by Taylor Marsh) trust Hillary Clinton for a reason, she generally responds to issues the same way they do. Hillary and Bill didn't leave their own mansion to move to the White House in January 1993. Unlike the Obamas, they owned no mansion. They don't have to work at relating to the working class because they understand that section of America very well. Both have been criticized for their listening tours but the thing is people want to be listened to. That's difficult for those supporting Bambi to grasp because he is a candidate who TALKS AT YOU and NOT WITH YOU. (Which is why he's attracted cult-like groupies in need of "Dear Leader.")

So tactics one and two didn't work, it was time for tactic three. Obama declared publicly that focusing on Wright was preventing discussions of Iraq. When has Obama ever offered a public discussion on Iraq? Forget discussion, when on the campaign trail has he ever offered anything but a bumper sticker on the topic? He's not. It takes a lot of nerve after over a year of campaigning for him to claim that Wright is preventing him from talking about Iraq. No one bought it, though many wondered how stupid he thought the average American was, so it was time for tactic five, show up on The View and lie, guessing that Barbara was so smitten with you she wouldn't challenge your lies.

Barack wants to be president of the United States but he can't even defend the United States when his pastor damns it. He can't even walk away from that church. He stayed silent, he continued going and then, after his pastor retired, wants to say, "If he hadn't retired [years later], I would have left or I would have confronted him." What should a president have done?

We'd argue a president should have immediately left. We'd argue a president also should have made known to the pastor why he or she was leaving. Barack didn't do, here's the word, a damn thing.

Damn or defend.

Jim was on the phone with Ava mid-week while C.I. was dictating the snapshot noting that and claimed it for the editorial because it does break it down so perfectly. Do you expect a president to damn or defend the country?

If you expect him or her to damn the country, then you're okay with the fact that Barack Obama did nothing. You're okay that with him acting cowardly and being silent in the fact of the country being damned, you're okay with him choosing his mentor over the United States. But if you're expecting that a president -- or someone who wants to be that -- defends the country, then like many Americans you're taking part in conversations with friends and family asking where does he get off running for president when he couldn't even stand up for America?

Damn or defend.

It's really that simple.
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