Previewing Obama's Speech
If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Anything At All
By Mark I Posted in 2008 | Barack Obama | Democratic Primary | Liberals | religion | Rev. Jeremiah Wright — Comments (137) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Sen. Barack Obama is about to deliver a major speech in response to the controversy surrounding the recent revelations of the teachings of his church's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. While the press, which has largely ignored the entire controversy, is destined to praise whatever Obama says and declare the matter settled, it is worth a look at what Obama could possibly say that would accomplish that end.
UPDATE: Drudge has the text of the speech posted. Snipets below.
I find it hard to believe that Obama will come out in this speech and denounce Rev. Wright. Obama has been a member of Trinity Church for 20 years. Wright married him, baptized his children, and has served as a spiritual mentor, a self described "Uncle," for all of that time. Furthermore, in Obama's few comments on the controversy, he has hinted that the statements, "God damn America," "riding dirty," "America is a nation controlled by rich-white people," and "Hillary ain't never been called a ni**er," are taken out of context and are not representative of the long history of Rev. Wright's teachings.
In other words, Obama has tied himself closer to Wright since the scandal broke, not distanced himself. To do so now by denouncing him, or publicly announcing his resignation from membership in Trinity would be an obviously politically motivated act, and one not worthy of the Senator from H.O.P.E™, the non-political candidate.
At the same time, Obama certainly cannot come out and embrace Wright's commentary on America. To the extent that this new examination of Wright's beliefs, and by extension Obama's concurrence with them, has damaged him, it has been because Obama has assured the voters that he has matured beyond the racially-tinged sniping of characters like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. He has to distance himself, without looking like he is distancing himself.
It is for that reason that Obama's speech today is most likely to be unremarkable. The safest course for him to take, as well as the least impressive and newsworthy, is to decry the whole scandal as part of the politics of the past. This is the theme of Obama's entire campaign. He bills himself as a non-politician, unconcerned with petty attacks and baseless charges even as he responds to the kitchen sink campaign being waged against him by Sen. Hillary!™ Clinton.
Obama may seek to straddle the fence, subtly defending the experience of the black church while not specifically embracing Wright's rhetoric. But if he remains true to his campaign thus far, he will decide that sometimes it is better to say nothing than to take a side. The speech is set to begin at 10:15.
UPDATE: Looks like Obama will try to be all things to all people. The speech contains elements of distancing, condemnation, explanation and embrace of Wright and his comments.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all. [...]
But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS. [...]
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
There's much more. I encourage you to read the whole thing.