April 30, 2008 [LINK / comment]
Obama disowns "Rev. Wrong"
Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Nearly six weeks after saying he could "no more disown [Rev. Jeremiah Wright] than I can disown the black community," Barack Obama did just that yesterday. Based on what the "Rev. Wrong" said at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Obama really didn't have much choice if he intends to be the Democrats' nominee. What is so shocking about the latest news is that Rev. Wright hurled a verbal counterattack at Sen. Obama. (See Washington Post.) Both men have now disowned each other, in effect. (So does this mean Obama has in fact disowned the black community?)
On the "Today" show, NBC's Tim Russert called this a "public divorce," almost unparalleled in modern American history. It would be interesting to find out when the last time a leading presidential candidate parted ways so dramatically from one of his closest associates.
Obama's viability in the fall campaign depends greatly on how he is perceived by the opinion-making elite. It's no surprise that Obama-booster Andrew Sullivan, who considers himself a conservative, is straining to defend the Illinois senator, who already missed his chance to make this flap into a "Sister Souljah" moment, distancing himself from hate speech. To his (partial) credit, Sullivan at least used the opportunity to reject the "government created AIDS" conspiracy talk by many Blacks. James Patterico notes that Sullivan took much too long to face up to Obama's big failure; link via InstaPundit.
It's hard for me to understand why anyone would waste their breath trying to defend Rev. Wright. People on the Left who complain that he has been unfairly targeted by the media, or that Obama has been unfairly associated with the Rev. Wright completely miss the point. The guy is just hogging the attention and making the most of his 15 minutes of fame. He's a classic demagogue who hides behind a pulpit to spout his vile words, making those sitting in the pews feel justified in sharing such hostile feelings. Either you take a stand against hate speech, from whatever the source, or you sit back and let the forces of evil win another round.
What this episode illustrates is the uncomfortable fact about the coalition that makes up the Democrats' voter base: A large number of them just plain hate America in general, and resent successful people in particular. [In this kind of situation,] the art of politics consists of retaining the support of such people while keeping them hidden away from view of the general public. Every once in a while, such efforts fail, and the ugly attitudes shine through.
Democrats are not unique in that regard, however. Indeed, the Republicans have a problem in appeasing their "Base," those energetic folks who respond to emotional and symbolic appeals. They're the kind of people who thought former Sen. George Allen's "macaca" crack [in August 2006] was funny. It is the responsibility of true political leaders to keep such people at bay, and chastising them when necessary.
From a partisan perspective, I am glad whenever the other side stumbles and raises our side's chances for victory. But in this case, I feel no joy in seeing the Obama candidacy taken down a notch or two. Why? Because racism continues to be a huge problem in this country, and anything that needlessly antagonizes the opposing sides makes it harder to lessen the divisions that plague us. Racism today is a more complex, nuanced, insidious beast than it was in the 1960s Civil Rights era, and as Rev. Wright reminds us, Black racism has become just as big a part of the problem [as] White racism. Most people would admit that privately, but would never say so publically. As long as public discourse over such matters is kept in the straightjacket of Political Correctness, we will never make much progress in righting all those Wrongs.