Yesterday in Philadelphia, Barak Obama gave the most eloquent and powerful speech of his election campaign.

He did what most American politicians never do, he confronted the thorny issue of race divisions head on. He did it in the context of his own relationship with his church minister, the controversial Jeremiah Wright> He condemned Rev. Wright’s racist views but he refused to disown his minister personally. And he managed to elevate the whole controversey into a magnificent plea for the whole nation to come to grips with the race issue through reconciliation.

So will this speech, great though it was, be enough to put the race issue behind him once and for all? Not likely. Obama has too many critics who still have too many questions. Like, why didn’t Obama leave his church when he heard the racist views of his minister? And why does he still refuse to disown him?

And the biggest question of all: Can Obama still win the nomination dragging the ball and chain of the race issue?

Or will it sink him?



  1. 1
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Obama’s speech yesterday was magnificant. He is carving out territory for himself on the race issue that is unique: a president than can truly claim to be a bridge between the White and Black races in America.
    But the answer to your question, Neil, isn’t whether he can put the race issue behind him but, rather, embrace it in the unique manner that he indicated yesterday that he is ready to do, run with it, and serve as a uniter on this most important issue. Rather than being a « ball and chain », Barak can instead utilize the race issue in a way that will serve to win him the presidency.
    But there is another issue that has been raised as a result of the Wright Affair and that is a more important one than race: Did Barak lie? When he said that he only became aware of Wright’s controversial statements at the beginning of his presidential run, was this true? Or was he telling us something that was untrue and it was said only for the sake of political expediency? It certainly does seem a stretch that he could be under this man’s influence so strongly for 20 years and NOT be aware of them.
    Troubling is that he even suggested in his speech yesterday that he knew about the controversial stuff BEFORE the start of his presidential campaign…and this is DIRECT CONTRADICTION to what he had said earlier.
    Of course, politicians lying is par for the course. But Barak promised us a new kind of politician, not more of the same. So shall have to see how this plays out.
    But even if it turns out that he lied — which seems more than likely — people may be so overwhelmed by his rhetoric and the promise of his presidency that this will negate the lying problem.

    For myself, as long as he shows himself that he will not become another Jimmy Carter in foreign affairs and doesn’t pander to class politics domestically, he can be a fine president.

  2. 2
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Were I American, I’d vote for the bridge that Obama seems to be. As for the racism of his pastor, I guess he just shoved it under the rug. Being the son of a Greek immigrant and a French canadian « de souche » mother, I became, by 13 or 14 years of age, so used to slurs from all sides such as « bad greek’, « damned immigrant » and so on and so forth that I ended up not hearing them anymore. You build a shell. Hopefully you leave tiny holes in it to allow others to still reach you…but not hurt you. I guess Barak has done just that. Let’s just hope that should things get too good we won’t some day have a « Barak Obama Day ».

  3. 3

    Tony: –

    Obama first said he had not heard controversial comments from his minister. Then he amended that to say he had heard some controversial comments. A mild lie I suppose. Not a mortal sin.

  4. 4
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Neil —

    What Obama said on March 14, 2008 was:

    « The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. »

    On March 19, 2008 he seemed to amend the above statement, as you point out, by saying the following:

    « Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. »

    If it turns out that Barak lied about knowing about the controversial stuff only at the beginning of his presidential campaign, as he says above, I wouldn’t call that a « mild lie », particularly in light of the fact that what he knew about Wright and when he knew it was pretty much the center of the entire controversy.

    But, hey, as we speak there are probably about two dozen investigative reporters (and a few Hillary operatives) in Chicago in search of a Pulitzer Prize…they’re pouring over Church newsletters from the past 20 years, news accounts, and Barak’s attendence record to see exactly who said what when and who should have been aware of what was said.

    And if he turns out to be a liar, you can be sure that Hillary will make sure that we are all aware of it. But Barak aspires to be president; he can and should be able to take the pressure.

    If he can’t? Heat…kitchen…you know the drill.

  5. 5
    jim Says:

    Barak O’Bama (pun) is not a so-called « black » man. Why doesn’t some of the press identify him as a « white » man. Or more accurately a mulato. Obama’s speech will go down in history, ranking with Lincoln, Kennedy and M.L.King

  6. 6
    John Says:

    Once again, I must confess to being in left field on this one (I spend more time there than the average ball player…..though for far less renumeration).

    I mean who really cares what Barak Obama’s pastor’s views are on anything…..unless it can be demonstrated that such views are also Barack Obama’s and will, in some way, impede his ability to govern effectively. Otherwise why should I care…..anymore than I should care about yesterday’s « earth-shattering » news that there were occasions when Hiliary Clinton was actually in the White House when Bill was dilly dallying with Monica. So what? What does that have to do with her ability to govern?

    What the news media and spin doctors are casting as politically relevant facts these days are an insult to most people’s intelligence………I hope.

  7. 7
    John Says:

    Re: above
    A couple of clarifications:

    I’m referring to Hiliary Clinton’s ability to govern, not Monica Lewinsky’s lol

    The questions are rhetorical (for the media folks who think some of this stuff is politically relevant) not anyone on the blog here

    For the record, I don’t deem Eliot Spitzer’s need to pay for sex to be all that politically relevant either…..although I recognize there may be other factors in that situation that may be

    that’s all

  8. 8
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    If the race issue sinks Obama, it will sink the Democratic Party.

  9. 9
    Barbara Says:

    You are so correct, Peter!

  10. 10
    Joe Agnost Says:

    « I mean who really cares what Barak Obama’s pastor’s views are on anything »

    I care!! And so should you!

    This isn’t just some pastor that runs the church Obama attends… this is who Obama has called « his spiritual advisor » and a man Obama has said has had (and has) a huge influence on Obama’s life!

    Obama made me sick when he said (pp) ‘I can no more disown my preacher over these remarks than I can disown my racist grandmother’.

    Am I the only one that needs to point out that you CAN’T pick your family – but you most certainly CAN pick your pastor!!!

    Obama scares me… he needs to lose.

  11. 11
    John Says:

    You dropped half my statement, Joe. There was an « unless » part.

    No one has demonstrated to me yet that the « you can judge a person by the company they keep » theory is necessarily accurate here…..at least, not to the point it scares me.

  12. 12
    Joe Agnost Says:

    I didn’t mean to step on your toes John! 🙂

    But seriously – it’s not that this pastor said these VILE things that bothers me, it’s that Obama has said that this is his SPIRITUAL ADVISOR! Someone he looks to for guidance.

    It’s bad enough (in my mind) that a person in such a high political position would want/need a pastor for ANYTHING – that’s scary enough!! But this is a particularly disgusting man we’re talking about here – and when given the opportunity to distance himself from this man Obama did the opposite!

    Claiming that he can’t disown his pastor was ridiculous – comparing him to a family member…. it’s just not the same thing…. find yourself a more mainstream pastor if you need one, but don’t claim that you can’t leave this guy because any sane man would have dumped him.

    Your pastor is NOT a family member… you can’t choose your family members.

  13. 13
    John Says:

    No problem with the toes, Joe! At least you didn’t ram me up against the crossbar lol.

    I must confess I’ve only seen one clip of the Reverend Wright and although the guy was a bit of a firebrand, there was nothing in what he said that I found particularly controversial or distasteful. Does someone have a clip of this guy calling for the overthrow of white culture or the return of the Black Panthers or something? What’s up?

  14. 14
    Joe Agnost Says:

    « Does someone have a clip of this guy calling for the overthrow of white culture or the return of the Black Panthers or something? What’s up? »

    Oh my goodness…. you’ve missed the best parts!

    Here are some of his quotes:

    « We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.”

    “In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.”

    “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!…We [in the U.S.] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”

    “The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 years now. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.”

    “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

    He has claimed that america created AIDS to kill black people.
    He has called the USA the US of KKK.

    There is much more out there… and it’s all vile.

  15. 15
    John Says:

    Pretty heavy stuff….no question….but once you sift through the outlandish and the hyperbole, it’s pretty standard « white supremacy/black inferiority » stuff….something that millions of blacks, including Barack Obama, have felt and still feel very deeply.

    Should Obama have looked for a Pastor who couched the sentiment in more polite terms minus the bombast? Perhaps, but if Obama is going to speak for black people (and he should) he’s going to have to embrace (in some sense) both the extreme and the moderate anyways.

    I dunno. The fact that I love the song Street Fighting Man, and the sentiment it calls for, has never made me violent person.

    Hilary Clinton telling the world that she arrived in Bosnia under a hail of gunfire and expecting everyone to believe it still scares me a helluva lot more than Obama’s pastor.

  16. 16

    It seems to me that one can quarrel with some of Pastor Wright’s expressions (although I have no special problem with them) but there is no denying the validity of the deep anger from which his words emerge. We owe Obama a debt for making this distinction so clear.

  17. 17
    Barbara Says:

    I have heard proper white Canadians say much the same thing about America. He has a point, although his rhetoric goes over the top. There is a cultural element to that. Frankly, I think Obama has shown himself to be imbued with genuine Judeo-Cristian values — in contrast to values of Bush. If he has learned that from Pastor Wright, then the reverend can’t be all bad.

  18. 18
    Judi Says:

    My Grandfather was Scot-Irish (McVan) and my grandmother was a mulatto. They married and have children, which one was my father born in 1912. My father married my mother (brown -skin) American, and I was born in 1942. I cannot hate any person by their color. I pick my clothing by colors, but my friends by the « content of their character. »
    My grandparents were married over 50 years, and they LOVED each other very much and their children. God bless America.

  19. 19

    Judi –

    Congratulations to your grandparents and thanks for your comment.


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