“I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”
-Barack Obama, 'The Audacity of Hope'
Following on the heels of Obama's Pastor Jeremiah Wright "problem", the junior senator has decided to give a speech about race issues on Tuesday while fending off questions from the media today about his views. Interesting, since he appeared on CNN, MSNBC and FOX on Friday nite to do some major damage control. Then again, who watches political talk shows on Friday nites except for political junkies like me? Apparently, he thought prior to that that writing an entry on the Huffington Post would be enough. Obviously, it wasn't and the latest Rasmussen poll exemplifies that reality.
The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He's drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.
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.
And that might be sufficient to placate people who felt he had to take such a firm stand if he hadn't written these words in his Audacity of Hope book which show that he certainly did know about Wright's leanings and didn't dismiss them then:
“The painting depicts a harpist,” Reverend Wright explained, “a woman who at first glance appears to be sitting atop a great mountain. Until you take a closer look and see that the woman is bruised and bloodied, dressed in tattered rags, the harp reduced to a single frayed string. Your eye is then drawn down to the scene below, down to the valley below, where everywhere are the ravages of famine, the drumbeat of war, a world groaning under strife and deprivation.
“It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere…That’s the world! On which hope sits!”
And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world. While the boys next to me doodled on their church bulletin, Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House. As the sermon unfolded, though, the stories of strife became more prosaic, the pain more immediate. The reverend spoke of the hardship that the congregation would face tomorrow, the pain of those far from the mountaintop, worrying about paying the light bill…
And while he (or anybody, for that matter) claims to follow the teachings of Jesus, I'd like to know why he's only opposed to "dumb wars", as he stated in his now infamous 2002 speech, instead of all wars. The audacity of that is that antiwar libertarian Justin Raimondo (who openly admits to being an Obama "cultist" and who was previously a Ron Paul supporter), now calls Obama the "antiwar candidate". No need to wonder why I call this the "delusion revolution". That's Obama's "blank screen" in full throttle.
Obama, as we've seen, seems to need to be prodded to not only denounce and reject controversial supporters and his run up to dealing with his pastor problem was no different. He knew that his 20 year relationship with Wright was potentially going to be an issue when he kicked off his presidential campaign and, as much as his supporters would like to believe that this exposé of Wright was Clinton-made, it actually gained media prominence in early 2007:
Obama's connection to Wright first drew attention in a February 2007 Rolling Stone article that described a speech in which Wright forcefully spoke about racism against blacks. Citing the article, and fears that any further controversy would harm the church, Obama scrapped plans for having Wright introduce him at his presidential announcement speech in February 2007. Obama subsequently received criticism from some black supporters for disinviting Wright, with Al Sharpton stating that "the issue is standing by your own pastor".
But he still decided to keep Wright on his African American Religious Leadership Committee - a position Wright was forced to resign from last week (which we can only assume because the Obama campaign won't say if he was fired or left voluntarily) when the Wright videos emerged in the MSM via FOX News, resulting in Obama's sense of judgment being questioned - the very quality he's been running on since day one.
And now, when the major issues of the day include the US economy being in tatters and the 5 year anniversary of the illegal occupation of Iraq, Obama has finally decided to talk about race - a subject he stayed away from by simply writing it off as being too "divisive" - when the fact is that he wanted to maintain his aura of being that "blank screen" on which voters could project whatever their concerns were on him as he speechified his way to the White House.
That "blank screen" has deluded some of his supporters into believing that he's some sort of "movement" leader. The reality is that the only movement he's leading is the one whereby voters move to the polls to vote for him. He's not calling for his supporters to affect any societal change when he cites MLK's "fierce urgency of now". Instead, he's promising hope and change if he gets into the WH in 2009. Just wait and he'll make things all better - the standard by which almost every presidential candidate runs on. And we all know how that turns out.
In fact, Democrats and Republicans are not dissimilar in how much weight they place on how much difference a president can make and both parties' supporters are just as fiercely dedicated to their version of who can be their hero. This year's Obama supporters are as starry-eyed and defensive as Bush's radical evangelical base has been.
If you take a trip around the big American "progressive" blogs, you'll see no shortage of Hillary Clinton being referred to repeatedly as a "bitch", a "racist", a "traitor" or as someone who is out to "destroy the Democratic party" because she refuses to pull out of the democratic process (such as it is) to hand the crown to Obama. Oh, and apparently the Clintons are the "worst narcissists our country [America] has ever seen" - in a post written by one the worst narcissists Daily Kos has ever seen and who seems to be unaware of George W Bush. Obama supporters claim that Hillary's not "progressive" enough, even though her policy stances and record are nearly identical to Obama's. And, because there's so little distinction to be made issue-wise between them, all that's left to talk about is their personalities. Somehow, that's what "democracy" is about in America - uncivil war. That and spending tens of millions of dollars to win your way to the White House. It's all one long obscenity from all sides.
And Obama is certainly right when he says that he's bound to disappoint not only some of his supporters, but all of them at one point or another. He's already done that by not dealing with issues forcefully and immediately. That doesn't bode well when you realize that his modus operandi for handling Republicans is based on consensus-building - a strategy that could cause a myriad of problems on major issues going forward when timely decisions are necessary. That road could be fraught with political land mines if he's unable or unwilling to make firm decisions based on his principles instead of trying to find lukewarm compromises. And, just as his Tuesday speech will no doubt be crafted to be all things to all people, in the end it may not serve anybody - including himself - well at all.
Meanwhile, he and his advisors have pledged a "full frontal assualt". On the economy? On the Iraq war? On the lack of health care? No. On the fact that Hillary has yet to publicly disclose all of her tax returns while, quite tellingly, Obama hasn't done so either.
Last week, Obama supporters were just giddy that their guy had released his list of earmarks (after major pressure from the Chicago newspapers). They willingly overlooked the fact that $1 million went to the hospital that employs his wife or that another $8 million went to a defence contractor, General Dynamics. No big deal, Obama has a New Way of doing politics, after all. Right? And, forget about the fact that he still hasn't released other information that the press has been after him to disclose. He's Obama. He's above contempt.
And, let me make this clear, as far as both of the leading Democrats go, they're both the same in my book: corporatist militarists. I have no use for either of them or John McCain. The only candidates who came close to espousing the political ideology I believe in as a small "L" liberal were Gravel and Kucinich (too threatening for prime time in today's America) and even they don't match my left-wing beliefs 100%. (You have to add disclaimers like that these days when you criticize Obama because, if you don't, you will immediately be attacked as being a shill for Hillary and I've had enough of that - thank you very much.)
Pundits have called this stretch of the campaigns the "silly season". Let's face it, the whole US election race is just one protracted "silly season", especially when candidates are attacking each other on trivialities, not issues. Add to that reality caucuses, primaries, primacaucuses, delegates, superdelegates, the electoral college and the lawyers and you have a recipe for disaster every single election. And let's not even get into Diebold and the Supreme Court and the role they play in deciding who will lead America.
I cringed when I saw some Iraqis interviewed this past weekend who were asked if they were following the US election. They were, they said, hoping to learn what "democracy" was all about. That's just scary. They'd do well to look elsewhere because the idea that what we're currently witnessing in America reflects anything like "democracy" is the biggest delusion of all.
The Clinton Rules and The Obama Rules
Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle