Well, that didn’t take long. As Garrett noted in the comments below, an increasingly desperate Sarah Palin is already namedropping Wright and Ayers whereever she can. But the good news is Team Obama isn’t going to take this sort of garbage lying down, particularly from a candidate as compromised on issues of character as John Sidney McCain III. Witness Keating Economics — It’s about time somebody brought that up.
“‘We’re going to get a little tougher,’ a senior Republican operative said, indicating that a fresh batch of television ads is coming. ‘We’ve got to question this guy’s associations. Very soon. There’s no question that we have to change the subject here,’ said the operative, who was not authorized to discuss strategy and spoke on the condition of anonymity.”
In related news, why just lose when you can lose and forsake your dignity? Confronted by the fact that their guy just isn’t connecting these days, the McCain team gets set to take the low(er) road. (Indeed, their ad buys across the nation are already almost universally negative.) In other words, expect a lot of Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers from now until November.
“Liberal intellectuals have largely abdicated their responsibility to provide unblinking and rigorous analysis instead of paeans to Obama’s image. Hardly any prominent liberal thinkers stepped forward to question Obama’s rationalizations about his relationship with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. Instead, they hailed his ever-changing self-justifications and sometimes tawdry logic — equating his own white grandmother’s discomfort in the presence of a menacing stranger with Wright’s hateful sermons — as worthy of the monumental addresses of Lincoln.” Ma! Sean Wilentz is being an asshat…again. Just in case anyone takes Wilentz seriously anymore — like publius, I’ve gotten to the point of doubting his scholarship — Cliopatria has compiled a list of worthy responses. [Link via Ted.]
Well, it’s sometimes seemed to have more endings than Return of the King. But, tonight, it looks like the primary season is finally, really, truly at an end, with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois our duly chosen Democratic nominee. In the days and weeks ahead, it’ll behoove all of us, however hard, to let the primary bygones be bygones and to help reunite the party against our real foe, John McCain and the GOP. But, before we let the healing begin, I do have one more word to say about the Clintons, who above all else this campaign season has proven the truth of the old adage: “Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become them.“
Now, I’m not going to recite the full litany of grievances against the Clintons’ behavior of late one more time. I’d say that ground is already pretty well-covered in the election archives. But I will say this: It has become increasingly fashionable in the press and elsewhere to esteem Sen. Clinton — regardless of her other political transgressions — as gutsy, tenacious, a fighter. Say what you will about her methods, this line of thinking goes, she goes there. She does what needs to be done. In fact, argues otherwise discerning political observers such as friend and colleague David Greenberg, she is exactly the kind of fighter the Left has said they’ve been looking for. (Of course, she and her husband have been AWOL when it counted over the past seven years, but that’s neither here nor there in this view.)
Well, simply put, this is all hooey. Sen. Clinton’s behavior over the past six months and change has been exactly the wrong lesson for Democrats to draw from the politics of the last decade. I’ve said it here several times before, but, in a nutshell, here’s why:
You don’t wear the ring. You destroy the ring.
Or, in other words, the key to beating the Republicans is not by acting Republican. It’s by rising above their tendentious garbage and working to restore reason and sanity to our politics. At the very least, a Democratic nominee for president shouldn’t validate the base tactics of the GOP by wallowing in their wretchedness. For what shall it profit a woman, if she shall gain the whole world, and lose her own soul?
Nevertheless, seemingly blinded by ambition, Sen. Clinton very quickly chose the wrong path. (In the place of a Dumb Lord, we would have a Queen…) She embraced the Rove playbook and dabbled in Al Qaeda hysteria. She validated John McCain and threatened to obliterate Iran. She called her opponent elitist and derided the “elite opinion” of the reality-based community. She played nice with Limbaugh, Scaife, and FOX. She flirted dangerously with the race card and lauded hard-working whites. She, for all intent and purposes, became the Republican candidate in the Democratic primary. She, and her husband, became part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
To repeat something I said after Wisconsin in February, the night when Sen. Obama’s primary victory basically became mathematically inexorable: “If you’ll forgive the lapse into LotR metaphors, the treason of Saruman, once the noblest and wisest of our order, is almost subdued. The Battle for Middle-Earth is only beginning.” So, as we move forward after tonight, I’ll try as much as anyone to tone down the internecine fighting around here, and start focusing fire on our true opponents over on the Right. (That is provided, of course, that Sen. Clinton chooses to diminish, go into the West, and remain a Democrat.)
But let’s also draw the appropriate lesson from the Clinton candidacy of 2008. The Clinton era is over, and this general election is now a chance for we as Dems “to show our quality.” We are not Dubya-Rove Republicans, and adopting their scorched-earth idiocies in a “tenacious” attempt to get elected is most assuredly the road to political, civic, and spiritual ruin.
“The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I might not know him as well as I thought, either.” After an unrepentant Jeremiah Wright ratcheted up the heat again at the National Press Club yesterday, thus bringing the punditariat to a full boil, an “outraged” and “saddened” Sen. Obama definitively cuts Wright loose.
A bit depressing that this had to go down, but, at this point, Obama really didn’t have much choice. (Wright was practically begging for it, what with promoting the AIDS and Farrakhan stuff anew yesterday.) So, hopefully this helps bring an end to the sad diversion that was the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Now, perhaps we can move on to other matters, such as the Rev. John Hagee and the “Strangelovian” obliteration of Iran…
Update: While we all mull the fallout from Wrightgate II, consider this: Sen. Obama picked up two more superdelegates today, Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky and DNC member Richard Machachek of Iowa. I believe that puts the post-PA total at 6 for Obama, 2 for Clinton, meaning Sen. Clinton is now a full 10 behind where she needs to be to stay “alive.”
“I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me. They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites…I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?” I haven’t watched the Sunday shows yet, but, if today’s press is any indication, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is the big story in the news, after he delivered remarks in several venues aimed at defending himself against the recent media throng, as well as horrifying attempts by the like of George Stephanopoulos to McCarthify him on national television. (As I said here, we seem to have entirely skipped the rails when kindly ole Mike Huckabee is the biggest voice for tolerance and historical understanding in the conversation.)
At any rate, the return of Obama’s Angry Black Preacher-Man prompted tut-tuts of electoral worry from Clinton-leaning concern trolls like like Salon‘s Joan Walsh, and the usual waiting for the other-shoe-to-drop from breathless political blogs like War Room and Ben Smith. What I haven’t seen yet today, amid all the puttering from the press on the subject of Wright, is any attempt to put the Reverend’s remarks in context of this weekend’s highly dubious acquittal in the Sean Bell case. To wit, New York City cops shoot an unarmed black man and his friends 50 times and end up getting off for it, and, outside of Harlem, there’s barely a shrug, including in the news media. Meanwhile, when it comes to anything and everything involving the fates of Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson, and any other white damsel in distress, the press drone on about it endlessly, funnelling info to us months or even years after the cases have gone cold. But, as they say, this ain’t Aruba, b**ch.
Is Rev. Wright angry? At this point, and as this weekend’s fiasco makes clear, he has every right to be. Perhaps the press and the punditocracy could investigate more thoroughly why black America may be less inclined to think well of our nation at times, rather than working themselves into yet another holier-than-thou froth about occasional intemperate remarks, and/or endlessly fretting about their potential impact on the electoral whims of the white working class. God forbid these media asshats break out of their echo chamber bubble once in awhile and do some honest-to-goodness reporting. Heck, I’d be happy just to see a few of ’em think for themselves.
You don’t need The Weathermen to know which way the wind blows: This thing is over, and has been for weeks and weeks now. But, ABC held a debate tonight in Philadelphia anyway, and, man, it was a tough slog. [Transcript.] Moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos endlessly trafficked in inanities. (The Weather Underground? Really?) Sen. Clinton found no level she couldn’t passive-aggressively sink beneath: Cringeworthy throughout, she name-dropped Farrakhan and channeled 9iu11iani whenever possible (see, for example, her answers on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, and she got in Ahmadinejad’s recent remarks as well.) And Sen. Obama seemed tired, a bit rusty, and, after 45 shallow minutes of idiotic gotcha, (justifiably) ticked. (But I thought he still came through in the clutch anyway.)
The only news made tonight? ABC is rather terrible at this whole debate thing. Tonight was basically a fiasco. From Stephanopoulos questioning Obama on flag pins to the tut-tutting about affirmative action to George getting questions from Sean Hannity to Gibson trying to wrest a “no new taxes” pledge from the candidates, virtually every minute tonight was occupied with trite Republican nonsense. Oh, and Gibson’s dim remark at the Manchester debate that two-professor families make $200,000 a year was not a fluke. Apparently, the guy knows less about the economy than John McCain. Tonight he informed us that there “are a heck of a lot of people” making between $97,000 and $200,000 these days. If by “heck of a lot” you mean 14% of the US, well, ok. But some might consider 1 in 7 a rather small minority of the total population, and thus argue that our tax policy should keep the other, more-likely-to-be-struggling 6 out of 7 in mind. Sheesh…less than a week and our friends in the pundit world have already abandoned their newfound blue-collar bitterness.
At any rate, no news or game-changers to speak of. Sen. Obama is still our nominee, Sen. Clinton is still grappling with that fact. If you didn’t watch this tonight, you chose wisely. Update: Having run ABC’s gauntlet of idiocy, Obama brushes his shoulders off, puts distractions on notice, and says no to more debates.
“‘He would not have been my pastor,’ Clinton said. ‘You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend.” With Snipergate currently gaining traction in the media and footage and transcripts now showing that Clinton had repeated this lie several times, the Senator herself (along with a member of her finance committee) tries to change the story back to Jeremiah Wright. A valiant attempt by Senator Clinton, I suppose, although as noted the other day, her choice in pastors is rather questionable too. His repellent views on AIDS aside, I’ll take Jeremiah Wright’s commitment to social justice any day of the week and twice on Sunday over the virulent right-wing nutjobs of Clinton’s so-called “Family” (which, contrary to what she says above, she did in fact choose.)
But, anyway, back to the main story today: Clinton’s first response to Snipergate: “I have written about it in my book and talked about it on many other occasions and last week, you know, for the first time in 12 or so years, I misspoke.” After it came out this wasn’t a one-time exaggeration, her response then became: ““So I made a mistake. That happens. It shows I’m human, which for some people is a revelation.” (Note the use of that old standby, the victim card.) Either way, a mistake — like a misstatement — happens once, Senator. If it keeps happening, it’s called a lie.
Update: Clinton brings up Wright again, this time reading from prepared remarks. I’m with TPM on this one: “You can always tell when a scandal story has peaked and is ebbing, almost down to the minute: when your political opponents start to raise it explicitly against you.“
“As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say ‘That’s a terrible statement!’ … I grew up in a very segregated South. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m gonna be probably the only conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this, but I’m just tellin’ you — we’ve gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told ‘you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant…And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.” Jeremiah Wright is defended by a brother from across the pew, Mike Huckabee. Gotta say, I don’t agree with basically any of Huckabee’s policy positions, but, he can be a seriously likable guy at times (even if he did fold a defense of Falwell into his remarks.)
“Clinton fell in with the Family in 1993, when she joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. When she ascended to the senate, she was promoted to what Sharlet calls the Family’s ‘most elite cell,’ the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia’s notoriously racist Senator George Allen.” From the gander to the goose, Barbara Ehrenreich looks at Clinton’s own questionable religious ties with an ultrasecret conservative bible study group, The Family, about which a book is due in May. “This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, the Family’s publicity-averse leader, that he is ‘a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God.’”
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one…
I can no more disown [Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love…
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow…
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time…
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own…
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”
In the wake of the Wright controversy, Sen. Obama delivers a thoughtful and nuanced speech on race in America. Video below:
Now, on one hand, I sorta wish Sen. Obama had never had to give this speech, that we were as far along with regard to race in this country as it had first seemed after Iowa. That being said, since events of recent days in particular have suggested how far we still have to go on the racial recrimination front, this speech was both a necessary and important one. It’s been garnering rave reviews across the political spectrum, and I’d throw my hat in there too — my main quibble with the address is that Obama wrote it himself. C’mon, Sen. Obama, think of the speechwriters. When political leaders write speeches as memorable and moving as this one, it’s going to put a lot of people out of work!
Seriously, tho’, I thought the address moved beyond soundbites to give a substantive and nuanced view of race in America, the type of which we haven’t heard in this country from a politician in a very long time. (I particularly like the Faulknerian flourish on the legacy of history.) And it — in true Obama form — showed that the Senator has an understanding of the grievances on both sides of the racial divide, and went out of its way to establish that Ferraro and Wright were two manifestations of the same intrinsic problem. Like TNR’s Michael Crowley, I am somewhat concerned about whether the nuance of his message will come through to undecided voters, once the Hardballs, Hannitys, and Blitzers are done with it. Still, today’s address was the type of leadership moment that I frankly can’t see either Sen. Clinton or Sen. McCain providing, and it showed once again how much our country stands to gain by electing Sen. Barack Obama our next president in November. Black, white, latino, or asian, leaders this wise, intelligent, thoughtful, and inspiring do not come along often.
“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.“
Breaking news! As an eagle-eyed commenter at TPM discovered, it appears one Frederick Douglass, an orator of some repute in the African-American community, and one whom Senator Clinton has called “one of my heroes” and “a great American,” actually despises our great nation, and has given public remarks filled with hate-mongering toward patriotic Americans.
I for one was planning to vote for Senator Clinton, but now I am very concerned. She should reject and denounce this fellow Douglass immediately, although it may be too late. After reading this, I totally feel Clinton is not proud of America and I fear where she would lead this country.
Update: All kidding aside, Sen. Obama gave some eloquent remarks on the politics of division in Indiana today, citing RFK’s elegy for MLK in Indianapolis. “I just want to say to everybody here that as somebody who was born into a diverse family, as somebody who has little pieces of America all in me, I will not allow us to lose this moment, where we cannot forget about our past and not ignore the very real forces of racial inequality and gender inequality and the other things that divide us. We have to come together. That’s what this campaign is about. That’s why you are here. That’s why we’re going to win this election. That’s how we’re going to change the country.”
“Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.“
In response to the burgeoning controversy over remarks by his pastor, Sen. Obama discusses his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright at
Update: “‘I think there was recognition that he’s obviously on the verge of retirement, [that] he’s taking a sabbatatical and that it was important for him to step out of the spotlight in this situation,’ Obama said.” Wright is officially out. With all the bodies dropping in both campaigns now, I’m reminded of D’Angelo’s chess lesson in The Wire: “Pawns, man, in the game, they get capped quick, and be out the game early.” (Although I guess, in this case, Obama lost a bishop.)
Update 2: Sen. Obama also addresses the Wright issue on a new Youtube video going around.