Saturday, March 22, 2008

IT’S TIME FOR SWIFT-BOAT SEASON

This past week, America has grappled with the “sin” of Barack Obama. It seems that he has been caught red-handed. No, not in the same way as Elliot Spitzer, but in perhaps a more disturbing way in the eyes of many. Spitzer, I recently read, was merely suffering from a “sex addiction,” and is now in the process of getting cured. (Of course it’s B.S. – nearly all men are addicted to sex, but most of us don’t abuse innocent people and live lies in order to procure it.) By contrast, Obama, it has been said, has revealed himself to have, not just a flaw in his character, but a flaw in the trait that was supposedly his best feature – his judgment. That’s right, boys and girls. The talking heads have passed judgment on Barack’s judgment. He might be able to deliver great speeches at the drop of a hat, but there’s no debating that he grievously erred in associating himself for twenty years with that Monster of the Midway, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Obama has been criticized lately by just about every commentator who associates himself with the party of the elephant. But what is especially notable is that he’s being criticized by certain liberal commentators as well. Most recently, I was listening to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen decry Obama’s judgment in connection with the Wright scandal. This is a new kind of sin for a politician, folks – attending the wrong kind of religious services, and attending them too often. If only Obama were like most politicians and didn’t give a crap about religion, he would never come under Cohen’s scrutiny. He could go to church on the odd occasion, press some flesh, smile for the cameras, and declare himself “Christian,” when in fact he thinks it’s all a bunch of B.S. That’s OK. But what’s not OK is for him to be a sincere Christian who frequently attends the services of a church where one of its ministers says thing that he doesn’t agree with. Now that shows bad judgment. He should quit … and keep moving from church to church, all the while searching for the minister who says just the right, politically correct things. That would show good judgment for a politician … at least according to Obama’s critics.

Personally, I suspect that most of these critics, liberal or conservative, have one thing in common – they probably aren’t very religious. Why do I say that? Consider the following quotation, which comes from the one Presidential candidate who made spirituality the central theme in his campaign. And I’ll give you a hint – it’s not Hillary “Throw the Kitchen Sink at Him” Clinton.

"[Y]ou can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do. It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what ... Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable, years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say 'Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that.' …

"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..."

Those, my friends, were the words of Mike Huckabee, himself a minister. He knows full well that just because you attend a church doesn’t mean that you agree with its clergy about matters of politics or theology. Huckabee also knows that just because a black minister says some stupid, angry words about the white American establishment, doesn’t make him a monster. Truly, there is no such thing as an inspired preacher who hasn’t said stupid, angry things on occasion. It goes with the territory.

When I think about all the non-religious people piling on Barack for his relationship to Wright, I can only laugh at my own relationship with a certain Senior Rabbi. I’d still be listening to this guy preach if he hadn’t helped to lead a coup to get rid of the cantor and Associate Rabbi who were the real reasons why I loved the synagogue so much. The Senior Rabbi once said to me that he and I agree about “practically nothing.” And I’ve heard one person after another tell me how furious the Senior Rabbi was with me about things that I’ve done or said. But still … if the Board of Trustees at the Temple had merely stood up to the guy and kept the other two clergymen, I’d still be at synagogue a couple of times each month, listening to this guy preach one thing after another that I found fundamentally wrong. Why? Because I don’t go to a synagogue primarily to listen to a guy spout out wisdom. I go to feel the unique sense of spirituality that is only possible when large numbers of people come together in prayer. I gather that in the case of Reverend Wright’s church, a truly large number of people came to pray together. For anyone to second guess Barack Obama in choosing to remain at such a church … well, let’s just say that Thomas Jefferson, who aimed to create a “Wall of Separation” between church and state, is probably still rolling in his Monticello grave.

Political scientists and sociologists will, for years, look back at this past week and think primarily about the incredible speech that Barack Obama gave about racial relations in America. And perhaps it was just as well that Cohen and Geraldine Ferraro joined their new right-wing buddies in slamming Barack for his connection to Wright, for if not for those slams, Barack would likely have avoided giving such an important speech. Still, to a guy like me, even Barack’s speech is missing the main point here. Eradicating racism is vitally important, don’t get me wrong, but nothing is more crucial than protecting our freedom of religion. I want to live in a country where anyone – politician, pediatrician or pawn-broker – feels free to walk into a church, synagogue or mosque without fear of being condemned for that decision. I want to live in a country where people are encouraged to speak viscerally from the pulpit, without fear that anything controversial that comes out of their mouths will someday come back to haunt their parishioners. And finally, I want to live in a country where every time a truly inspired leader expresses the willingness to throw his or her hat in the political ring, the media doesn’t search desperately for scandals that would bring down the candidacy, especially when that scandal is based on nothing more than walking into a pew at a large, mainstream church and attending a service.

11 comments:

Night Stranger said...

It was the speech he was born to give!

I'm now in the middle of Dreams from my Father, and if anyone doubts that this man has experience, sincerity, or the ability to articulate, they ought to pick up a copy.

I can't help but think that no matter what the future holds for Barack Obama, and I hope it's the Presidency, he has shown by this speech that he can and will be a major force for reconciliation in this country and perhaps peace in the world. At least he deserves a shot at it.

zen_nonna said...

I loved your blog. Had a little trouble with the black background. I have been blogging about Hillary Clinton on alphawomen website. I was working on my latest post but so many things happened this week that defied the imagination that I did not know where to begin. It is absolutely astonishing that so many people do not READ.

It would have been easy for Obama to denounce Rev. Wright and quit Trinity. If he did that he would be like every other politician.

I started this political season a Hillary supporter but her behavior made me take a closer look at Obama.

I am 63 black and female. If Obama does not get the nomination I will vote Republican. I have never done that.

Daniel Spiro said...

I'm with you, Zen. I'd vote for McCain over Hillary. But we won't have to. Barack will win the nomination, I'm reasonably sure. What I'm less sure about is the general election. Hillary has severely damaged Barack's chances. I still think he'll win, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on it.

Anonymous said...

If you are black you are RACIST that’s that. Seen it every step of the way. If you disagree with me ask yourself this, when was the last time something happened to a black by ANY other race and the black person was actually wrong; in your opinion? When was the last time the black wasn't completely perfect and a victim? Especially if what happened to them did in fact happen to them while committing a crime. You dont wait for the fact to see what happened. You wait for the facts to pervert everything to your argument. Even when others tell you your wrong. As a matter of fact when was the last time someone of another race told you, you were wrong and it WASN'T because they were racists? Just for the record, who on God's green Earth put blacks in charge of deciding who qualifies as a racist and who doesn't. The MAJORITY of blacks don’t have any say in their own lives. Ask them they'll tell you, it's all the White Man & the Jews. These are the people you want deciding who qualifies as what and who doesn’t. I say it should be the majority of America making this decision. Unfortunately majority usually equals "White" and therefore obviously EVIL. This is Democracy. Majority rules is the actual definition of Democracy. MINORITY RULES is the definition of FASCISM!!!! Just cause your black doesn’t mean you can’t qualify as a Nazi. that’s what the Nazis were………. Fascists.
America believed Hitler would eventually attack the USA. He didn’t but his beliefs and way of life did.
Now remember the most important part of all of this, if you are black, all you have to say is the White Man is the real racist here. That’s all you have to say to be right

-Tyler Goines
03/21/08

Betty C. said...

Great post, Dan. I was able to watch Barack's whole speech on the issue too --the glories of YouTube!

Daniel Spiro said...

Yes, thank God for You Tube. I also appreciate that I was able to watch the Stanford game free on the Internet for the first time -- except for the part of the game that took place during my Purim party, which of course I had to miss :(

Daniel Spiro said...

Anonymous,

Unquestionably, there's still racial prejudice throughout our society, but I do think it has improved a lot in the past 40 years. I also think that, when all is said and done, Barack Obama will do a lot of good in reducing the amount of that prejudice still further.

But what's really important to me this morning isn't race. Or politics. It's Stanford basketball. And by the way, spectator sports, for all its triviality, is one of the few things that bring the races together.

YoungMan said...

Buh bye Punahou Barry.

Reagan Democarats are gone. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Barry's caucus and primary wins have overwhelmingly been in states where a Democrat has no chance in a general. I, like you, know Hillary's chances in the General are better. After all, what is more beautiful than (electoral) math to an intellectual?

I think he will get the nomination, but he's not winning Ohio Pennsylvania or the Mountain West. Just look at RealClearPolitics, as you so often cite, as your guide....

Finally, that speech was the biggest piece of craven hypocrisy in the world. A man of Barry's ambition, education from Punahou to Harvard, didn't know what he was getting into? Baloney. He used his church membership as a crutch to leverage himself into South Side Chicago Politics.

The one honest thing about that speech is taht he could not disavow the racist hateful crutch that catapulted him into his political career. But thats precisely why the man is barely more than a "cooler" version of Jessie Jackson,...and thank God he's been exposed.

At least Hillary and her supporters would never subscribe to "God Damn America" like the effete guilt ridden yuppies who see a vote for Barry as a way to expunge their "sin" of guilt by association. To those, there are flights out of JFK or Dulles every hours, and don't let the plane door hit you in the a$$.

YoungMan said...

Oh Dan,

Dont blame Billary for diminishing your man's chances. He and Michelle made that choice 20+ years ago, and now they have to live with the consequences. His protestations that he didn't know what that hatemonger said is disingenuous at best.

Dan, unfortunately for you, and what I you and your fellow cultists want to gloss over is that the man's words are offensive (possibly not in degree) to a wider swath of Americans than the Rev. Jackson's dismissal of H***e-town 16 years ago.

God Bless America...not God Damn America. The Obama campaign is populated by too many who believe the latter who believe that they have to expiate their original sin of having been born as citizens of last great hope on earth. That doesnt play in Peoria.

Buh Bye Punahou Barry Dunham.

Daniel Spiro said...

Well, Youngman, at least you recognize that Barack should get the nomination. I'm taking this thing "one game at a time," as they say in sports. If the Hillary backers want to elect McCain, that's their prerogative. But if they show up and support the Party's nominee with the same energy that they've brought to tearing him down these past several weeks, I think he will be elected President.

And more importantly, he'll be a good one.

Dan "The Cultist" Spiro

YoungMan said...

Dan,

One quick correction, if you care to publish it. I said he will (likely) get the nomination. I did not say should (as deserves to) get the nomination. Being not of your party, thats not my call.

I still think he will be far easier for McCain to beat than Hillary.