What's All This Then?

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Obama did what he absolutely had to do. Tell the world that he does not endorse nor is responsible for anything that comes out of Jeremiah’s Wright’s mouth. I suspect that he did it with a measure of reluctance having been a member of the man’s church for close to twenty years, but I don’t doubt the sincerity of his anger at Wright’s performances on Monday and Tuesday. He tried not to throw him under the bus when he made his speech in Philadelphia - but there was no way he could not react the way he did when Wright tried to throw him under the bus. Whether he did it out of ignorance or ego or even vindictiveness isn’t important. His crazed antics were reflecting on Obama and Obama had to put him down and cut him off.

Now we have the right wing pundits - with tacit support from Hillary Clinton - saying O.K. - but he should have done this years ago. Why did he wait ‘til now? Doesn’t this say something about the man’s "judgment" or lack thereof?

Of course if you are totally committed to a candidate because of your party affiliation or political beliefs, you will make any excuse and explain away the most egregious of errors. As an example, I was listening to Michael Medved the other day explaining how John McCain’s newly hatched love affair with right wing preachers who he once labeled "agents of intolerance" is a perfectly understandable growth in McCain’s understanding of their view - rather then the expedient flip-flop that it is. And I suppose that avid supporters of Obama will explain away any apparent flip-flop of his. But if his break from Wright is any kind of "flip-flop" - it’s one that’s completely understandable and justifiable and doesn’t need an avid supporter to explain why - just someone with reasonable intelligence.

Obama was a church member who, though he says he is a man of faith, was not a regular church goer. Even if he had wanted to worship at Holy Trinity every Sunday, it would have been hard to do while he was in Springfield as a member of the Illinois State Legislature and even harder as a United States Senator working out of Washington, DC. But O.K., there were years before he was elected to the State Senate in 1995 - and during those years, the church was more accessible to him. But he still wasn’t a big time church goer and there have been long time church attendees who have said that they never saw Obama at a service. But obviously there were Sundays when Barack and his wife were at services and heard Jeremiah Wright deliver a sermon. Very likely, having seen how the man conducts himself in the pulpit, they heard sermons that were provocative, perhaps even disturbing to the ears of average citizens used to a different kind of sermonizing. But it is reasonable to assume that there weren’t "God Damn America" kinds of sermons week after week or we would have heard about them. The man preached there for thirty years - and if there had been comments as scurrilous as the GD America stuff, you can be sure that Obama’s Democratic rivals and Republican operatives would have dug them out and they would have been all over the Internet like a cheap suit.

What likely happened in that church is what likely happens in some other churches - particularly some evangelical churches where emotions run high. Parishioners , including Obama when he was there, would cringe a little at one of Wright’s rants, though there were likely people in the pews who nodded in agreement when he railed against this country’s history of mistreating its black citizens. In Wright’s world, the past has yet to catch up to the present. But all of this happened within the confines of Holy Trinity Church. There has been no evidence presented that he was urging parishioners to commit crimes or to hate white people. There are white members of his church who have come forward to defend the man and his works.

As long as the audience for Wright’s sermons was the several thousand members of Holy Trinity, there would have been no great compulsion for Obama to up and leave. He might have winced and shook his head a little more often than some of his fellow parishioners at some of the words his pastor spoke from the pulpit - but Wright wasn’t leading a cult of black hatred - which is how his detractors have tried to describe him. That he is a strange man, an angry man, an egotistical man and something of a cook is pretty obvious. But the church was not Wright screaming God Damn America over and over all day and every day. The church was not and is not You Tube . The church is Obama’s fellow parishioners. The church is the good works that it performs in the community - and parishioners on church committees guiding those good works. Until Wright became an issue outside of Holy Trinity, there would have been no reason for Obama to leave. He wasn’t sitting there in service after service thinking to himself that one day he might run for president and voters might think his pastor - despite his educational accomplishments and his military service and having directly served two presidents - was something of a nut and that he’d better leave that church and join some nice quiet, white Christian type of church in case people thought that the pastor’s ideas were his ideas.

Had he done that, he would not have been exercising judgment. He would have been making a cold, calculating move - the kind of move that a ruthless, ambitious politician might make - one who wouldn’t hesitate to abandon anyone who he thinks might slow down his ascendancy to high office. Had his and Hillary Clinton’s positions viz a viz a Jeremiah Wright type of situation been reversed, I’m pretty sure that Obama would not have commented that "had it been him, he would never have stayed in that church." Obama’s not that kind of man and I’m glad that he isn’t.