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May 05, 2008

Hitchens: Is Michelle Obama Responsible For the Wright Fiasco?

Interesting as always, but I find Hitch sadly, knee-jerkedly in a headlong rush to excuse Barack Obama himself (that old leftism is hard to quit), which in turn finds him looking for a convenient scapegoat.

You can click on the link for his attempt to absolve Barack by blaming Michelle; I'll just quote this.

Liberal comment on Wright, and on the incredible damage that this conceited old fanatic has done to the Obama campaign, tends to dwell on the negative effect that black chauvinist rhetoric has on white working-class voters. Fair enough, I suppose. But why should a thinking black member of the working class want any truck with a Farrakhan fan or with a moral idiot who thinks that the drugs and disease in the black community are imposed by an outside conspiracy? I don't need any condescending liberal to explain to me why black Americans are inclined to be touchy about the way their forebears were treated any more than I require a patronizing former Harvard law student to guide me through the anxieties of the gun-owning and hunting community. I can quite easily understand these points without pedagogic assistance. What I won't be told is that Tawana Brawley was right, or that AIDS is the fault of the government, or that Jews were behind the slave trade, or that there is a secret Masonic code in the dollar bill. And the apologist for murder "Minister Farrakhan" and his big-mouth Christian friends flirt with this kind of half-baked garbage every day.

Nettled at last by the way in which this has upset his campaign, Sen. Obama last week cut the ties that bound him to his crackpot mentor. Well, high time. But those who profess relief at this should perhaps revisit what they thought (and wrote) about the earlier Philadelphia speech in which Obama was held to have achieved the same result with less trouble. If he was right last week, then the Philly speech was a failure on every level, and if it was a failure on every level, and thus left Obama hideously vulnerable to the very next speech made by his foaming pastor, then that must raise questions of eligibility for the highest office.

Let me get to the left of Hitchens and rap him for seeking a Lady MacBeth in Margaritaville -- some people claim there's a calculating, malign woman to blame.

Whatever "influenced" Obama to choose and support a conspiratorial racist demagogue as his "spiritual mentor," it was still Barack Obama's decision to do so.

Barack Obama had at least one reason to seek the blacker-than-thou cred that Wright gave him that Michelle Obama lacks -- Barack Obama, being mixed race, had to strive to show his "authenticity," a need Michelle Obama didn't have.

Thanks to both CJ and Alice H.

You Definitely Can't Blame Oprah Winfrey... who left Wright's church long ago, when Obama should have.

Winfrey was a member of Trinity United from 1984 to 1986, and she continued to attend off and on into the early to the mid-1990s. But then she stopped. A major reason—but by no means the only reason—was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

According to two sources, Winfrey was never comfortable with the tone of Wright's more incendiary sermons, which she knew had the power to damage her standing as America's favorite daytime talk-show host. "Oprah is a businesswoman, first and foremost," said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity when discussing Winfrey's personal sentiments. "She's always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn't be smart. She's been around black churches all her life, so Reverend Wright's anger-filled message didn't surprise her. But it just wasn't what she was looking for in a church." Oprah's decision to distance herself came as a surprise to Wright, who told Christianity Today in 2002 that when he would "run into her socially … she would say, 'Here's my pastor!' " (Winfrey declined to comment. A Harpo Productions spokesperson would not confirm her reasons for leaving the church.)

But Winfrey also had spiritual reasons for the parting. In conversations at the time with a former business associate, who also asked for anonymity, Winfrey cited her fatigue with organized religion and a desire to be involved with a more inclusive ministry. In time, she found one: her own. "There is the Church of Oprah now," said her longtime friend, with a laugh. "She has her own following."

The Great National Dialogue On Race -- Um, Where Is It? A good point:

Right about now, his much-heralded tutorial on race relations is looking more like Richard Nixon's "Checkers" speech than the Gettysburg Address. Because, after last Tuesday's formal renunciation of his ties to Wright -- and presumably also his white grandmother and all blacks -- Obama looks not only tardy but thoroughly hypocritical. Didn't Obama's vaunted speech call for an open national dialogue on race, a subject he said was too important to ignore? Didn't he urge us to address those "old wounds" that still fester today? Whether you agree with him or not, isn't that exactly what Wright was doing last week when he reappeared in public to make more provocative statements on race and politics?

That's no way to start a dialogue, Mr. Obama. You don't call on people to talk and then renounce someone for speaking his mind. Because Wright didn't really say anything new last week, it seems that his only new sin is that he called Obama's bluff and, well, sparked another national dialogue on race. Which, of course, points to the absurdity of Obama's call for more racial dialogue in the first place.

Obama evidently hoped a racial dialogue would amount to a tidy academic seminar in the well-behaved, elite Ivy League, about home mortgage lending rates, test scores or economic opportunity. Presumably, after the lecture there would be time for questions and answers, maybe even some light refreshments, and no one who mattered would go on the attack.

Or better yet, maybe he imagined one of those interminably self-congratulatory racial roundtables at which the self-appointed black representative speaks to the Latino, Jewish and Asian chieftains to discuss their peoples' grievances, after which they'd all shake hands, pat themselves on the backs for "talking together" and herald a new day in race relations. Maybe they'd air the proceedings on public television or, at the very least, National Public Radio.

But lovely as it sounds, apart from the elite spokespeople, that's not the way race is lived and felt in America.

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posted by Ace at 03:05 PM

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