Doing the Wright Thing Part 4

Both CNN and Fox are getting ready to carry Obama's speech on Wright and race.

It's 10:53 and he just took the stage....

I'm staying tuned.

MORE: He begins with the founding.... the document was unfinished because of slavery. Mentions the reflection of slavery in the original Constitution. Overview of the anti-slavery and later civil rights movements.

We cannot solve the challenges unless we heal wounds, etc. This is part of why he's running for president -- to continue the march for a freer US.

His story would be impossible in any other country.

From many one. Stresses unity.

Reviews the various stages of race discussion in the campaign. Touches on the Steele charge that he's offering a chance for liberals to erase guilt.

Says he has already condemned Wright's statements.

Ever heard controversial remarks? Yes.

Did he strongly disagree? Yes.

Wright's remarks causing the recent controversy weren't simply controversial, they remarks were wrong and divisive at a time we need unity.

His denunciations of the remarks won't be enough for many people. Stresses that it isn't all there is about Wright. Stresses his Christianity and his leading Obama to Christianity, his background in the Marines. Reads from his book a passage about listening to Wright. The church seemed like a vessel carrying its congregants to a new world. Black but more than black. Rebuilding.

Stresses how it's like other black churches. Raucus laughter and bawdy humor. Contains the kindness and cruelty, ignorance, bitterness and biases that make up black America. Wright has been like family to me. He contains the contradictions of the black community. Can no longer disown him than I can my grandmother.

"These people are part of me, and they are part of America."

Not trying to excuse comments which are indefensible.

Racism can't be ignored right now, or we'd be distorting reality like Wright.

Wright's comments reflect the complexities of race in this country that we haven't worked through.

Understanding reality requires a reminder of how we reached this point.

Segregated schools still have not been fixed. Inferior education. History of discrimination which prevented blacks from earning or accumulating wealth. Lack of economic opportunity. Erosion of black families (worsened by welfare). Cycles of violence, blight and neglect.

This was the reality of Wright's generation. Came of age when segregation was still the law of the land. Doubt, fear, anger and bitterness have still not gone away. It finds voice in the church on Sunday morning.

The anger reminds us that the most segregated hour occurs on Sunday morning.

This anger keeps us from facing our own condition squarely, but the anger is real, It is powerful. To simply wish it away without understanding only widens the gap.

[This is a summary only; I'm sure the entire text will soon be available.]

(My view of this is that while the anger and bitterness goes on, and Wright's anger reflects it, will Obama defend it or rise above it?)

Country is in a racial stalemate. Can't get beyond it in a single debate. We can move beyond some of our own racial wounds. We have no choice. Embrace burdens without becoming victims. Take full responsibility. Always believe.

This conservative notion of self help was part of Wright's message, but his mistake was that he spoke as though the situation was static, and irrevocable.

America can change.

(I think he's caught between a rock and a hard place in that while he must condemn what Wright said, he can't condemn Wright as a person without ruining all his credibility.)

Reflects the Golden Rule. Find the common stake we all have in one another. We can accept cynicism, play Wright's sermons every day and try to make the American people think he agrees with them, etc. but nothing will change.

The other option is to reject cynicism, fix schools and health care, address the shuttered mills, lost homes, lost jobs shipped overseas.

He keeps repeating "this time." Bring home the troops, care for them and their families, etc. Iraq War was wrong.

The union can be perfected.

Discusses Ashley, a white girl who asked a question in the King church about health care. Convinced her mother that what she wanted was mustard and relish sandwiches (when her mom couldn't afford better). Ashley asks elderly black man why he's there. "I am here because of Ashley."

Closes with a reference to the band of patriots who founded America "here."

How did he do?

Now come the commentators. Britt Hume says it was very eloquently delivered, well written, deft, graceful, whether it will do the job remains to be seen.

Didn't break with him, but connected himself and Wright to his white grandmother's racism which made him cringe. (Hume thinks that was ingenious.)

"Clever," says Hume.

On CNN, the praise is flowing and a little gushy.


(Hmmm.. Does that mean the choice is history versus clever?)

Basically, Obama's argument boils down to this: Wright's comments were wrong and divisive, (and "denigrated the greatness and the goodness" of this country), but they reflected his pessimism which grew out of years of unaddressed racism. People need to move beyond that mindset, but Wright is like family to him -- and analagous to his racist white grandmother.

It's an interesting argument, and I guess we'll see how it plays out.

MORE: Drudge has posted the Obama speech in full.

In three words, Obama's message was along the lines of "TURN THE PAGE."

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm a bit surprised by strength of this passage:

...the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
If Bush or McCain mentioned the "perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam," CAIR would be calling it hate speech.

MORE: Here's John Podhoretz, marveling in awe:

The eloquence of the speech will almost certainly mask Obama's sophisticated effort here to condemn and not to condemn, to say something but not say anything, to sound clear while being extremely unclear. A denunciation that does not denounce, a condemnation that is full of love -- as a former political speechwriter, I will acknowledge I am lost in admiration of the anti-sophistic sophistry on display in every syllable of his text.
Like him or not, Obama has a way with words.Has anyone stopped to consider that he might consider himself to be intellectually and rhetorically to be far and above his pastor?

This is not to defend Wright in any way, but in the speech, Obama seemed to be looking down on him a bit with a hint of bemused, "tolerant" patrician condescension. The way he asked us to have a little understanding of Wright's background and analogized to his grandmother's racism reminded me of Eisenhower's "these are not bad people" remark:

These are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes.
I could be wrong, but it's looking more and more as if it never really occurred to Obama that anyone would take Wright as seriously as they do, and as he failed to.

Hey, I'm a lot more tolerant of such things than probably Obama or Eisenhower.

But when you're running for prezzie, such "tolerance" can be misunderstood.

MORE: Snippets from the Corner.

Here's Cliff May

I think this is the first time Obama has used the phrase "radical Islam" or anything like it on national television.

I don't think any of the Democratic candidates used such phrases in their debates. If I am wrong about that, I hope someone will tell me.

Kathleen Parker:
By framing his Rev. Wright problem as part of the unfinished business of America's founding principles, he makes it unpatriotic to turn away from him now. This isn't a Barack Obama problem; it's an American problem that only he can help solve.
Kathryn Jean Lopez:
...something honest about that. To be disloyal would be wrong, because it's hard to believe Obama hasn't known for quite a while what Wright was all about. Talking about "bitterness," he's excusing Wright for his extremes ... and he's saying, White folks, meet 'the black community.' We're part of America too, just like my white grandmother who was afraid of black men walking on the street. We're America, and we're coming together through me.

He's good. And Hillary Clinton saw it coming ... why she's wisely said that a speech isn't an achievement. If "white guilt" votes, Obama just won the nomination. The election is another thing, because Wright is still YouTubed and there is still the 3 A.M. phone call you want McCain, if any of those running, answering.

Drew Cline
What first strikes me in Barack Obama's speech today is the image of a black American standing across the street from where the Constitution was negotiated in part by slave owners -- and not condemning the Founders, but praising them.

When we hear sentences like this: "Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787," we often hear in response America's black leaders condemn those men as racists who don't represent black Americans. They remind us of the slaves who suffered and died crammed into the cargo holds of some of those ships. They hold slavery to be THE defining mark of early America and discount the remarkable achievement in Philadelphia as something insincere, fraudulent, and unworthy of reverence.

But here was Obama praising the Founders for their ideals. Here he was noting the stain of slavery, but not letting it become THE story of the Founders, but only a part of the story, not letting it press out the reverence the Founders are due.

That might be the lasting legacy of this speech. The Jeremiah Wright controversy will eventually become a footnote in American political history. But the moment of the first serious black contender for the Oval Office speaking with reverence and admiration for slave-owning Founding Fathers, and dismissing explicitly the idea that the United States is, by virtue of the nation's Original Sin of slavery, a fundamentally racist nation, has the potential to become a turning point.

Later, Kathryn Jean Lopez:
If his audience was super-delegates, job well done. This speech won't win him the general, however.
And Jonah Goldberg:
It was a much better speech than I thought it would be. It had some lovely moments and he came across as a remarkably classy and decent guy. But I think there were some serious logical, philosophical, and political flaws to it. Anyway, I've got to write a column on it fast, so I'll be bowing out for a bit.
Interesting reactions all.

If Obama can garner such favorable responses from the horrid reactionaries at the Corner, he's certainly living up to his reputation for being likable.

While I will not vote for him against McCain, there's an element of tragedy in seeing a nice guy being blamed for hateful remarks he never made, and never would have made.

The lesson is simple: never run for office.

posted by Eric on 03.18.08 at 10:52 AM


Magnificent speech, until he started to talk about his actual plans.

It was very good that he distanced himself from Wright, but then to equate his grandmother's offhand insensitivity (which you'll notice he did not specify) to Wright's blather is just peachy: throwing Grandma under the bus.

He blames the lack of black fathers on what? That they are ashamed of not having a job because of racism? Oh, right. That's my fault.

His primary solution is that we need to spend more money. It's all the fault of corporate greed.

What a load of baloney.

Socrates   ·  March 18, 2008 12:39 PM

If he wants to turn a page why were his children being taught by that church?

I think we have to remember the #1 rule for politicians: always be sincere, whether you mean it or not. (cribbed from Flanders and Swann "The Cannibal Song" which this is not: )

M. Simon   ·  March 18, 2008 1:22 PM

A good speaker but he had a chance to be the change candidate and actually startle everyone.

He just blew it.

ajacksonian   ·  March 18, 2008 9:37 PM

David Duke is my spiritual adviser. My children listen to speeches from him every Sunday. However, I don't buy into all his race and Jew hatred.

Do you think I should run for office? After all I'm not responsible for the things he says.


I don't think that is going to fly.

M. Simon   ·  March 18, 2008 11:08 PM

I don't think the comparison of Duke to Wright is completely valid, because Duke is a Klan leader, while Wright is reacting emotionally to people like Duke. Duke is more wrong than the people who react to him -- for the simple (if childish) reason that he started it. That's because people who overreact -- even in an improper manner -- are not as culpable as the people who started it.

It is hardly a defense of Wright, but he is no David Duke.

However, as I noted earlier, ardent Southern segregationist George Wallace was elected to office on a Duke platform, and he eventually rose above it.

I wish the Jeremiah Wrights of this world -- and their supporters -- would do the same.

Eric Scheie   ·  March 18, 2008 11:26 PM

"I wish the Jeremiah Wrights of this world -- and their supporters -- would do the same."

Ah,but Eric I think you are being too rational here,and assuming that they want to rise above it....

I am not so sure that Obama wants to rise above it either.

Oh! Look over here! It's the Evil Corporations and Inherited Wealth that are holding us back!!!

flicka47   ·  March 19, 2008 12:15 AM

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