Goldberg on Obama

Rick Moran
If you haven't yet read Tom Lifson's excellent piece on what Barack Obama will probably say today to address the crisis in his campaign caused by remarks made by his friend, mentor, and pastor Jeremiah Wright, please do so. It will put into context Obama's huge problem with Wright and more generally, his stance as some kind of "post racial" politician who will heal the divide in American politics.

Jonah Goldberg also has some thoughts on what Obama has to say that would save his candidacy - something at this point many observers believe is on the verge of collapse:

Obama righteously deplores "divisiveness." And yet he literally worships at the altar of division. He wants to transcend race, but his black nationalist church and his liberation theology pastor consider race permanent and central issues.

Obama claims that he's a different kind of politician, but his "repudiation" of Wright last week is traditional pol-speak and nothing more. To listen to Obama, you'd think he was the only person in Chicago not to know that his minister is a hatemonger. Either Obama is the worst judge of character in living memory or he's not the man he's been portraying himself as.

Or there's a third option. Perhaps Obama didn't hear Wright's bilious rhetoric because it blended in with the chorus around him. This is the fact that Obama really needs to address if the "Obama movement" is about more than getting the junior senator from Illinois elected.

What does it say that Trinity United Church is the most popular in Obama's old state Senate district, with a membership of 8,500? One of Wright's flock responded to the controversy by telling ABC News, "I wouldn't call [Wright's theology] radical. I call it being black in America."

NPR's Michelle Norris explained on "Meet the Press" that Wright's tone, at least, is "not something that is unusual" in black churches.
Goldberg also says that what Obama must do is address black Americans and tell them why what Wright is saying is just plain wrong:
Obama preaches unity. Well, real unity requires real truth-telling and the ability to tell right from wrong, and Wright from right.

I, for one, have no interest in being united with Wright or anyone who insists that America is an evil, racist, damnable nation bent on murdering black people -- and I suspect neither will many general election voters.

Obama's power base is made up of black voters and the upscale left-wingers who condescend to them. Well, it is time he spoke truth to that power. If the eloquent, self-proclaimed truth-teller and would-be first black president can't manage that, he should go straight from would-be to never was.
As Tom Lifson points out, this probably isn't possible:
Reaching the skeptics will be much, much harder. Thanks to the very qualities that made Pastor Wright a superstar preacher able to build a mega-church, the memory of his rants will linger in the minds of those who have seen his television performance.

He is an arresting presence on screen, full of holy spirit, or anger, or whatever word comes to the beholder's mind. So Obama needs to create a sense that this unpleasantness is best put aside.

As much as possible, he needs to stigmatize those who would continue the conversation about Wright.
Some observers are saying that this is one of the most important moments in American history - that Obama's speech will redefine race relations forever.

This is silly. Obama is not seeking any such thing. He will, if successful, marginalize his detractors while obfuscating what Wright said by putting it in the context of "you just don't understand what it is to be black in America." If he were to go beyond that, he would, as Lifson points out, risk the support of his base.

Two excellent pieces by two excellent thinkers.


HT: Ed Lasky
If you haven't yet read Tom Lifson's excellent piece on what Barack Obama will probably say today to address the crisis in his campaign caused by remarks made by his friend, mentor, and pastor Jeremiah Wright, please do so. It will put into context Obama's huge problem with Wright and more generally, his stance as some kind of "post racial" politician who will heal the divide in American politics.

Jonah Goldberg also has some thoughts on what Obama has to say that would save his candidacy - something at this point many observers believe is on the verge of collapse:

Obama righteously deplores "divisiveness." And yet he literally worships at the altar of division. He wants to transcend race, but his black nationalist church and his liberation theology pastor consider race permanent and central issues.

Obama claims that he's a different kind of politician, but his "repudiation" of Wright last week is traditional pol-speak and nothing more. To listen to Obama, you'd think he was the only person in Chicago not to know that his minister is a hatemonger. Either Obama is the worst judge of character in living memory or he's not the man he's been portraying himself as.

Or there's a third option. Perhaps Obama didn't hear Wright's bilious rhetoric because it blended in with the chorus around him. This is the fact that Obama really needs to address if the "Obama movement" is about more than getting the junior senator from Illinois elected.

What does it say that Trinity United Church is the most popular in Obama's old state Senate district, with a membership of 8,500? One of Wright's flock responded to the controversy by telling ABC News, "I wouldn't call [Wright's theology] radical. I call it being black in America."

NPR's Michelle Norris explained on "Meet the Press" that Wright's tone, at least, is "not something that is unusual" in black churches.
Goldberg also says that what Obama must do is address black Americans and tell them why what Wright is saying is just plain wrong:
Obama preaches unity. Well, real unity requires real truth-telling and the ability to tell right from wrong, and Wright from right.

I, for one, have no interest in being united with Wright or anyone who insists that America is an evil, racist, damnable nation bent on murdering black people -- and I suspect neither will many general election voters.

Obama's power base is made up of black voters and the upscale left-wingers who condescend to them. Well, it is time he spoke truth to that power. If the eloquent, self-proclaimed truth-teller and would-be first black president can't manage that, he should go straight from would-be to never was.
As Tom Lifson points out, this probably isn't possible:
Reaching the skeptics will be much, much harder. Thanks to the very qualities that made Pastor Wright a superstar preacher able to build a mega-church, the memory of his rants will linger in the minds of those who have seen his television performance.

He is an arresting presence on screen, full of holy spirit, or anger, or whatever word comes to the beholder's mind. So Obama needs to create a sense that this unpleasantness is best put aside.

As much as possible, he needs to stigmatize those who would continue the conversation about Wright.
Some observers are saying that this is one of the most important moments in American history - that Obama's speech will redefine race relations forever.

This is silly. Obama is not seeking any such thing. He will, if successful, marginalize his detractors while obfuscating what Wright said by putting it in the context of "you just don't understand what it is to be black in America." If he were to go beyond that, he would, as Lifson points out, risk the support of his base.

Two excellent pieces by two excellent thinkers.


HT: Ed Lasky