Now I’m actually angrier about Obama and the Rev. Wright than before. When I complained about what Wright said the first times, I was told that I didn’t understand the history of the black church, I didn’t understand black liberation theology, I didn’t listen to the whole context of what he said. Bull.
But now Obama repudiates Wright. And all Wright did was repeat the exact same crackpot crap that some of us had complained about before.
So before, I was as good as called racist or at least clueless for criticizing the not-so-good reverend. But now when Obama finally criticizes him, the New York Times editorial page — in a classic of doublespeak soft-headed mush from wimps — praises him for “the most forthright repudiation of an out-of-control supporter that we can remember.” Jesus.
Worse, the Times again implies that we’re all racists if we and candidates don’t criticize white crackpot crazy ministers as much as this one has been criticized. Well, I have my alibis: I’ve put in my time criticizing crackpots with white collars and white skins and protesting their bigotry. It’s the Times that is playing the race card here.
In the end, this isn’t about race at all — and I think it was a mistake, in the end, for Obama to put the needed discussion about race in America in the context of Wright.
No, this story is about a nutjob whom our potential president valued as an advisor. Obama would not repudiate Wright the first time he said all these hateful things; Obama did it only when they were repeated and when he realized that this could do him political damage.
You see, this is the problem I have with Obama. I’m still not sure what I think he is: a cynical politician who throws out empty rhetoric and makes these grand statements only when he needs to (that is, like every other cynical politician) or a mushy wimp who can’t make tough decisions because he thinks he can get along with everybody (Jimmy Carter).
The most fun I had Twittering the election last night was immediately seeing the three Abercrombie & Fitch
guys dudes standing behind Obama. Coinicidence? Conspiracy? Product placement. Either there is a story there or the Obama campaign is its own demographic clliche.
Maybe it’s the latter. The Toronto Sun said yesterday:
Hillary is minivans and American sedans, Barack is Range Rovers and Hondas. Hillary is cross-trainers with jeans, Barack is Abercrombie and Fitch and Banana Republic. Hillary is Dunkin Donuts, Barack is Starbucks. And their supporters are equally vocal, in different ways.
: LATER: USA Today talks to A&F, who says they had nothing to do with it. Ditto the campaign. The USAT blog is asking, ‘Anybody know these guys?’
I am delighted that our national — our Western — love affair with China is hitting the skids. We were in love with nothing but its huge and opening market and plain greed pushed every company in sight to move into China, blindly and blithely ignoring the problems there. We could have opened our eyes over human rights. We could have opened our eyes over free speech, Yahoo’s complicity in jailing a journalist, other companies’ complicity in censoring the speech of the Chinese. We could have opened our eyes over the country’s unregulated and amoral economy, poisoning our children, pets, and poor people (some say that is just a stage in economic development; I say bullshit, it is the product of a dictatorship without a moral center). We’ve had so many opportunities. At last, we’re opening our eyes over Tibet and I hope we reexamine our lust for China’s money and the leverage we have to make it behave like a civilized and moral economy.
Finally, the IOC realizes it has a crisis. Finally, companies are realizing that their association with China can be bad for them. Finally, public figures are taking a leadership role (see Steven Spielberg’s refusal to work on the games). And finally, politicians are realizing that they must take a stand. Hillary Clinton and John McCain have said they would not attend the Olympic opening ceremonies, a small but important symbolic statement.
(Barack Obama won’t go that far. Said the Times this morning: “Senator Barack Obama suggested that Mr. Bush should wait to make a final decision, but leave a boycott ‘firmly on the table.’ ” Firmly on the table? That sounds like something a Bush press secretary would say. You see, friends, this is the kind of prevarication I fear from an Obama administration. It’s a small thing, of course, but I see in that small thing I see someone who wants to be everyone’s friend and who has trouble making a firm decision. I see Jimmy Carter.)
Webguild has amazing numbers on Barack Obama’s online spending. They report that in February, he spent $1 million on Google vs. Hillary Clinton’s $67,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings. He spent nearly $100,000 on Yahoo ads; she spent about a tenth of that. He spent an additional $58,000 on Yahoo search ads; she spent none. He spent $4,900 on Facebook; she spent none.
Spending money is only one way Obama and company have used the internet — particuarly the social internet — well. But they are spending money smarter.
In today’s NY Times, Paul Krugman says that progressives (nee liberals) voting for Barack Obama are not getting the most progressive candidate:
All in all, the candidates’ positions on the mortgage crisis tell the same tale as their positions on health care: a tale that is seriously at odds with the way they’re often portrayed.
Mr. McCain, we’re told, is a straight-talking maverick. But on domestic policy, he offers neither straight talk nor originality; instead, he panders shamelessly to right-wing ideologues.
Mrs. Clinton, we’re assured by sources right and left, tortures puppies and eats babies. But her policy proposals continue to be surprisingly bold and progressive.
Finally, Mr. Obama is widely portrayed, not least by himself, as a transformational figure who will usher in a new era. But his actual policy proposals, though liberal, tend to be cautious and relatively orthodox.
Gene Lyons writes a thumping good column on Obama in the Arkansas Democrat. On the disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan:
Democrats were outraged that, due to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush vs. Gore, not all of Florida’s presidential votes counted. In 2008, advanced thinkers supporting Sen. Barack Obama have persuaded themselves that fairness dictates that none of them should count. Nor Michigan’s, either. Better that the voters of two critical swing states comprising close to 10 percent of the electorate be disenfranchised than that Obama’s inevitable nomination be delayed.
On media and Obama:
In Time, Mark Halperin provides a list of “Painful Things Hillary Clinton Knows–Or Should Know.” No. 7: “The Rev. Wright story notwithstanding, the media still wants Obama to be the nominee–and that has an impact every day.” We’ve come full circle. So confident have the Beltway media courtiers grown in their social and political status that what once was furiously denied is now boasted about. Politicians may come and go, but Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, Tim Russert and Maureen Dowd preside over a permanent House of Lords.
On race and the election:
Meanwhile, TV pundits like CNN’s Jack Cafferty warn us that should Obama’s supporters be disappointed in their hopes, “you wouldn’t want to live in this country.” A more concise way of turning the November contest into a racial referendum can’t be imagined. Who will win that one ? Then what ?
On Obama’s race speech:
Wright peddles DVDs of his inflammatory sermons on the church Web site. Could Obama possibly imagine they’d help build that coalition that King dreamed of ? Second, what do the Obamas, Harvard Law graduates, tell their two little girls about Wright’s downright delusional contention that the United States government created the AIDS virus to exterminate African Americans ? Anybody named Clinton or Gore who sat still for something like that would be derided as an inauthentic phony patronizing black folks for political gain–a faker, a con man. Cosseted and protected all his life, Obama’s speech shows that he understands that the Rev. Wrights of this world do as much to keep blacks down as white racism does. All this selfpitying obsessing over the sorrows of history leads nowhere.
I may be the only person who’s not become worshipful of Obama’s speech on race and religion and who finds it more disturbing the more I think about it. But then, I am.
At its core, his speech is more not less divisive. For his real message about Jeremiah Wright and his words was: It’s a black thing; you wouldn’t understand.
By putting himself in the position of explaining and justifying Wright and thus his association with him, Obama may have repudiated Wright’s worst words but he explained them as the product of a racial experience rather than racism.
Then he tried to dig himself out of the hole he dug for his white grandmother by calling her “a typical white person” and, worse, by saying that such typical white people are scared of black people. His spokesman made it no better when he said to Huffington Post that “her fears were understandable and typical of those often shared by her generation.” So now the Obama campaign finds itself in a position of not only explaining and justifying Wright’s racism but also whites’ racism and calling it understandable. Now it’s a white thing; you wouldn’t understand.
This is not ending separation. And the pity of that is that Obama could have done the opposite, which is what I wished for in my post the other day. He could have declared himself an American of every race, thus no race. That was his promise when he emerged on the national scene in his Democratic convention speech. Nick Kristof reminded me of it yesterday:
In that speech, Mr. Obama declared that “there is not a black America and a white America… . There’s the United States of America.” That’s a beautiful aspiration, and we’re making progress toward it. But this last week has underscored that we’re not nearly there yet.
Nor is Obama.
The discussion is reaching an absurd level as the Obama campaign gives The New York Times a picture of Bill Clinton meeting Jeremiah Wright in the White House, as if a meeting is an endorsement and mind meld. This morning, Matt Lauer on today gasped that this came on 9/11 — but not that 9/11; it was a few years earlier — and in the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Then Joe Scarborough said that it’s rather ridiculous to attack your opponent because her husband once met with the minister you’re defending.
I know the popular thing to do is to gush over Obama’s speech. I’m hearing no criticism and little analysis of it in media or conversation. So maybe it’s just me. I wouldn’t understand.