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The Obama Speech

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Submitted by gary fouse (United States), Mar 18, 2008 at 22:39

Barack Obama's address on Race today in Philadelphia was a desperate bid to save his presidential prospects in the light of release of videotapes of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright's sermons. While much of the mainstream media has tried to downplay the story, Obama had obviously come to the conclusion that it was major news-and it was threatening to kill his campaign. While reactions to the speech are still playing out, I would like to comment on my reaction at this time.

Without repeating the various lines in his speech, suffice to say that, like most of his speeches, Obama's prepared remarks today were typically eloquent-especially in contrast to when he is answering questions on uncomfortable topics-as he was this week on the TV news circuit. The problem with the speech was, as I see it, that he tried to appeal to everyone, and, in the process, may have alienated everyone with the obvious exception of those who choose to believe and accept whatever he says because he is their guy.

Obama, while condemning Wright's remarks, stated that he could no longer disown the pastor any more than he could disown the black community. Personally, I am not sure the two are linked. I sure hope not although Wright's parishioners have spoken out loud and clear in their support of him. Is Obama the only member of the church who rejects Wright's sentiments?

Obama also reiterated the racial grievances of black Americans and made the usual calls for racial healing. Obama obviously felt he had to give something to his black listeners and speak of injustice. No question, Obama is walking a very thin tightrope here, trying to hold on to wavering white voters while not alienating black voters who may conclude he is an "Uncle Tom" (a ugly term also used by Wright in some of his sermons).

Obama spoke of Wright's good works and good qualities, stating that he will not turn his back on him. He also referred to his white grandmother, who allegedly referred to her fears of encountering black men on the street. He also acknowledged that he had, indeed, been in the pews on occasions when Wright made "controversial" statements. This is an apparent contradiction from statements he had been making just in the past few days to the effect that he had not been present during these particular diatribes. (Is it possible Obama realized that there may be some video out there showing him in the audience on these occasions-perhaps doing what everyone else was apparently doing-standing, clapping and cheering?)

It appears that Obama's theme is that, yes, he disagrees with Wright's statements about whites and America, but that he will not turn away from his spiritual mentor and his church. America must deal with black historical grievances and present-day "real anger", but he wants to bring about racial conciliation. In other words, Obama's speech had something in it for everyone, just what a politician's speech is supposed to be.

I still am left with serious questions about Mr Obama:

First, how could you sit there in that church for two decades and listen to this rhetoric and racial diatribes. Senator Obama, when Minister Wright was railing about white people, he was talking about your mother-and grandmother. Did you never take offense at that?

You talk about your love of this country. Yet, you sat there and listened to the worst things being said about your country by Wright. I don't know about you, sir, but I would have gotten up and walked out of my church and never gone back if the pastor talked like that about America-or about other ethnic groups not my own. But you, sir, are a sitting US Senator. If nothing else, as a US Senator and aspiring presidential candidate, what kind of judgement does this show? The same kind of judgement that allowed you to do business with a character like Tony Rezko?

Already, many news commentators sympathetic to Obama are raving about the eloquence of his speech. It is spin. The fact of the matter is that in attempting to please all sides, in my view, Obama has hurt his cause only more. As I acknowledged above, Obama is caught squarely in the middle of the racial divide in this country. He doesn't want to be regarded as simply the "Black Candidate", rather one who cuts across racial barriers. Sadly, that is going by the wayside very quickly. I don't know how the senator is going to reconcile these issues. Certainly many white voters who are wavering wanted Obama to cut his ties to Wright and the church in strong and forceful terms. To do so, however, would have alienated many black voters. So he tried to cut it both ways. I don't think it will work.

I don't know if Obama secretely sympathizes with Wright's views; I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His continued membership in such a church and association with Wright would make any reasonable person suspicious. What is really sad and ironic is that the candidate and the campaign that held out hope of advancing black-white relations in America to so many, even among his opponents, is now turning into something that, in the end, may only set relations back.

All of the above, of course, is written from the perspective of a white male in his 60s who probably doesn't understand what goes on in black churches and has possibly deluded himself into thinking that over the course of his life, he had seen dramatic racial progress. All I can say is that if Jeremiah Wright is typical, then we have made very little progress. If there is actually someone out there who can bring Americans together, that person is not going to come out of the Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago.

So is there a secret side to Mr Obama that he has tried to hide from the public? I don't know, but one thing is becoming more obvious every day.

Barack Obama is just another politician.

gary fouse

fousesquawk

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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