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Troubling Equivalences

Mickey Kaus dissects the Obama speech. I think that he hurt himself with it more than helped, though obviously the Obamaniacs will disagree. One way to know is to see if he recovers in Pennsylvania, where he's down twenty-six points (before the speech).

My bottom line (still not having read the whole thing).

There would seem to be four, and only four possibilities.

  1. He didn't understand how offensive this kind of speech was until someone pointed it out a few days ago.
  2. He understood, but didn't have the courage to confront his pastor about it.
  3. He understood, but felt it important to his Chicago political career to go along with the racial grievance crowd.
  4. He understood, and agreed with it, until it became politically inconvenient to do so.

If (1), it seems like a political naivety that is inexcusable in a presidential candidate. If (2), what does this say about his ability or willingness to stand up to a dictator? If (3) this isn't "new politics." It's the same old cynical pandering. If (4), do we really want a president that believes this kind of thing in his heart?

As I've said, take away this whole issue, and I'm still not going to vote for Obama, for a lot of reasons. But if I were, this would be a deal breaker for me. I pity the choices of Democrats this year (and generally, every year). But then, no one made them be Democrats.

[Update at 9 AM EDT]

Victor Davis Hanson has some related thoughts:

Two corollaries always follow the Obama victimology: moral equivalence and the subtle suggestion that any who question his thesis of despair are themselves suspect.

So we hear of poor Barack's grandmother's private fears in the same breath as Wright's public hatred. Geraldine Ferraro is understood in the same context as Reverend Wright. The Reagan Coalition and talk radio are identical to Reverend Wright -- albeit without similar contexts for their own purported racism. Your own pastor, priest, or rabbi are analogous to Rev. Wright.

And then, of course, your own motives are suspect if you question any of this sophistry. For Michelle it is always "they" who raised new obstacles against this deprived Ivy League couple and their quest for the Presidency; for Barack it is those who play "snippets", or the system of "corporate culture" that has made Wright the object of anger to similarly victimized poor white pawns.

The message? Wright's motives for espousing hatred are complex and misunderstood; your motives for worrying about Obama and his Pastor are simple and suspect.

I don't think that Obama understands how offensive this speech was to many listeners, and listeners that he needs in a general election. A lot of people have pointed out that it was a speech to the super delegates, which is probably right. I guess he'll worry about binding the wounds of the rest of us at or after the convention. But the bloom is definitely off the rose.

Oh, and he can't even keep his story straight:

Barack Obama's campaign is not premised on making history? Could have fooled me. Let's go to the tape.

...there's only 563 mentions of the phrase "make history" on and another 1,750 mentions of "making history" on the candidate's website alone. How on earth could anyone have gotten the idea that Barack Obama was suggesting that a spectrographic analysis of his skin color proves that his mere election as president would be a positive historical event? In fact, one might say that "making history" was a successful campaign theme for Obama precisely because it used race to his advantage, making the subtle suggestion that electing a black man would make Americans feel better about the state of race relations. And isn't this exactly what Geraldine Ferraro was eviscerated for pointing out?

[Update at 10 AM]

Obama's double standard:

So Imus, who peddles "toxic information," "stereotypes," and "degrading comment[s]," should be deprived of his livelihood. While Reverend Wright, who peddles in "incendiary language," a "profoundly distorted view of this country," "racially charged" remarks, and views that "rightly offend white and black alike," gets the honor of baptizing Obama's daughters.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Stanley Kurtz writes that Obama is just a moderate Wright:

Obama's relationship to Wright is paradigmatic. Obama's own views are not precisely Wright's, but Obama understands and is attracted to Wright's radicalism and wants to win at least a gruff sort of understanding and even acceptance of it from Americans at large. What's scary is that this is all-too-similar to the way Obama thinks about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar Asad. Obama may not agree with them either, but he feels as though he understands their grievances well enough to bridge the gap between these leaders and the American people. That is why Obama is willing to speak to Ahmadinejad and Asad without preconditions.

Can we fairly make analogies between internal American splits and differences between nations? No we cannot. But that is precisely Obama's error-and it is pervasive on the dovish left. The world of nations is in fact a scarcely-hidden anarchy of conflicting interests and powers. Yet liberals treat the globe as if its one great big "multicultural" nation in which reasonable folks can simply sit down and rationally iron out their differences. Obama sees himself as a great global reconciler, on exactly the same pattern as he sees himself as a national reconciler-the man who bridges not only all races, but all nations. Unfortunately, what reconciliation means for Obama is getting Americans to accept folks who don't like them, and to strike bargains (on disadvantageous terms, I would argue) with those who mean to do us serious harm.

...Obama is the appealing face of American radicalism -- the man who unites the leftism of the professors with the radicalism of the Afrocentric clergy, and ties it all up in an only slightly more moderate package. And that is exactly the sort of "unity" we'll get, when and if Barack Obama becomes president of the United States.

Yes, this is one of the many reasons that I would never vote for Obama. And the wrongs of Wright only highlight this problem.

[Update late morning]

VDH says that Obama can fix the double standard:

The new sophistic Obama, however, would recount to us all the charity work and good that Imus had once done and still does, that we don't understand the joshing of the shock-jock radio genre that winks and nods at controversy in theatrical ways, that Imus was a legend and pioneer among talk show hosts, that Obama's own black relatives have on occasions expressed prejudicial statements about whites similar to what Imus does, that we all have our favorite talk shows, whose hosts occasionally cross the line, and that he can't quite remember whether he'd ever been on the Imus show, or whether he ever had heard Imus say anything that was insensitive -- and therefore he could not and would not disown a Don Imus.

This is the real message of the Obama racial transcendence candidacy.

Don't hold your breath.


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Sam Dinkin wrote:

I think you're saying he's on Morton's Fork here. All roads you've named damn him.

Is there a fifth way, such as "Only Nixon can go to China"?

How about if BO (BHO?) says, "I wanted to go to church and this was the best church I could find. I absolutely understand that the bankrupt ideology of being a victim is prevalent at my church and throughout America. To engage arguments made by well-meaning people, I have to stay present and not check out of my community. I belong to this community and hear its messages, but my message must transcend its antecedents."

Rand Simberg wrote:

I wanted to go to church and this was the best church I could find.

That would be an incredible statement. What would it say about Chicago churches?

AHC wrote:

Martin Marty and Jeremiah Wright are friends.

I'm sure you know who Martin Marty is. If not google him.

Would you say the same thing about Martin Marty?

I can't believe how utterly judgemental you are. God have mercy on you. When does the inquisition on Oprah Winfrey begin?

Criticize Obama on his politics, not on his pastor.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Would you say the same thing about Martin Marty?

I've never heard of Martin Marty. But so what if they're "friends"? I don't care about Martin Marty. He's not running for president.

I can't believe how utterly judgemental you are.

Why not? What's wrong with being judgmental, "utterly" or otherwise?

God have mercy on you.

I don't believe in God, nor do I think that he needs to grant me "mercy" because I'm judgmental. God himself is judgmental, or so I've heard. Do you not think that Pastor Wright is "judgmental"?

When does the inquisition on Oprah Winfrey begin?

Are you slow? I've already told you--I don't care about Oprah Winfrey. She's not running for president, and I've never watched her television show.

Criticize Obama on his politics, not on his pastor.

I'll criticize someone on any basis that I please.

Do you realize that we're laughing at you and your illogic?

AHC wrote:

Well you should find out who Martin Marty is. If the foremost Christian theologian in America is personal friends with Jeremiah Wright, perhaps you might see another side to Wright.

Or you could indulge yourself and keep watching him at his worst in the carefully selected, out of context video clips.

I think I know which option you will choose.

Rand Simberg wrote:

If the foremost Christian theologian in America is personal friends with Jeremiah Wright, perhaps you might see another side to Wright.

I don't see why. Perhaps Martin Marty is a sap. If he's personal friends with Wright, that would be strong evidence of it.

Or you could indulge yourself and keep watching him at his worst in the carefully selected, out of context video clips.

Why would I bother? Perhaps you have nothing better to do than watch video clips, and troll my blog with your foolishness, but I'm busy. I've seen the video clips once. That was more than enough. The fact that he makes money by selling them tells me all I need to know.

Leland wrote:

Martin Marty... father of John Marty, a self-proclaimed "Progressive" state senator from Minnesota who backed Dennis Kucinich for President.

So how does this shine a better light on Jeremiah Wright?

AHC, if you are so ignorant of Rand to make a comment to him such as, "God have Mercy on you", then I doubt you really know anything about Jeremiah Wright or Martin Marty. I recommend you read more of Rand's blog before being judgemental of him.

Ilya wrote:

When does the inquisition on Oprah Winfrey begin?

Oprah Winfrey had the sense to quit "Reverend" Wright's church after his 9/16/2001 sermon. She apparently knows hatred when she sees it. Obama either does not, or (more likely) is willing to ignore it when suits his political goals.

And yes, saying "God have Mercy on you" to an atheist only makes you look like a self-righteous idiot.

Jonathan wrote:

I don't think that Obama understands how offensive this speech was to many listeners, and listeners that he needs in a general election.

Yes. We are offered a chance to absolve ourselves of our assumed racism by buying into Obama's socialism and moral equivalence.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 19, 2008 5:10 AM.

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