Obama not so different rationalizing Wright

In Capitol Review, Notes by Mark Hillman

"If you really believe black people are ‘fellow Americans,’ then treat them as such." — John McWhorter, Losing The Race.

If Barack Obama truly wants to transcend race, he would do well to apply the words of John McWhorter to his "explanation" of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama is supposed to be different: a messenger of hope and change, not just another beltway politician; an agent of reconciliation not grievances and reparations; a unifier who transcends partisan and racial divides.

That’s why many gave him the benefit of the doubt when he explained that he didn’t wear a U.S. flag lapel pin because he viewed it as a "substitute for … true patriotism."

That’s why some gave Michelle Obama a mulligan when she said, "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."

That’s why Obama’s rating as the most liberal senator in 2007 by the respected National Journal never seemed to resonate beyond conservative circles.

However, in addressing his 20-year relationship with Wright, whom he calls his spiritual mentor, Obama sounded like every other scripted politician snared by a public relations debacle.  Obama’s devotion to Wright peeled back the veneer in a way that voters of every stripe could not ignore.

If he was prescient enough, according to fellow travelers, to have foreseen the perils of war in Iraq, how can he imagine that Jeremiah Wright never talked "about any ethnic group in derogatory terms" in private conversations?

If he really possesses "judgment to lead," why wasn’t his judgment as keen as that of Oprah Winfrey who left Trinity United Church of Christ several years ago?

If his oratorical skills are so remarkable, why didn’t he explain how sermons referring to the "US of KKKA" or "a world … where white folks’ greed runs a world in need" can conceivably coincide with aims for racial harmony?

The insurmountable obstacle for people who previously extended to Obama the benefit of the doubt is that the aforementioned can no longer be easily dismissed as aberrations or gaffes.  Instead, they fit more easily into a profile of someone who doesn’t afford that same benefit to others.

If U.S. flag lapel pins are symbols of superficial jingoism, were we to ignore that Obama surrounded himself with at least a half-dozen full-size flags for his speech explaining his relationship with Rev. Wright? Equally conspicuous was the absence of trademark signs sloganeering for Hope, Change, Judgment and Leadership.

Absent, too, was evidence of the courage so often assigned to Obama.  Few people who take their faith seriously would continue to attend — much less donate $20,000 to — a church where the pastor regularly punctuates his sermons with rants like those Obama described as "not only wrong but divisive."

The very public rift between the Catholic church and parishioners who disagree with church doctrine on abortion and gay marriage is a marked contrast to Obama’s supposed silent disapproval of Wright’s message.

Moreover, Obama’s assertion that Wright’s church contains "the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America" should be insulting to black congregations that, regardless of their political ideology, recognize that the universal message of Jesus Christ compels Christians to preach the truth in love and to embrace forgiveness.

Obama failed to explain how a church can harmonize Wright’s "God damn America" with Christ’s "blessed are the peacemakers."  My own limited experience worshiping in a black innercity church has been diametrically different.

Rather than Wright’s hateful general condemnation of white people, the message at this church whose congregants were almost certainly aligned to the political left was vibrant, both spiritually and personally challenging, and although socially candid, contained not a tinge of racial exclusivity.

Accepting Obama’s contention that Wright’s public pronouncements do not square with his private persona requires, to quote Hillary Clinton, "a suspension of disbelief."

Obama’s white grandmother, he says, confessed a fear of black men and uttered racial stereotypes.  But she did so privately.  People are generally more coarse and unguarded on any subject in their private utterances than in their public pronouncements.  Obama would have us believe that Wright said things from the pulpit that he would never say privately.

The candidate who would unify us by transcending race has, unfortunately, resorted to the same race-based rationalizations that perpetuate division and thwart hopes for a post-racial society.

“A person you excuse from any genuine challenge is a person you do not truly respect," McWhorter writes.  Obama’s desire to be elected appears to have surpassed his desire to be respected.