Bozell Column: Obama's Clintonesque Speech
Barack Obama came to Philadelphia on March 18 not so much to address his poisonous pastor, Jeremiah Wright, but to talk vaguely of race relations. The news media swooned. No one was giddier than MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who rhapsodized that Obama’s speech was one of the greatest speeches in American history, worthy of Abraham Lincoln, and should be read by school children like "The Great Gatsby" and "Huckleberry Finn." This, after all, is the Chris Matthews who said he "felt this thrill going up my leg" over Obama.
Obama said he could no more disown Wright than his own white grandmother, whom he disparaged as mired in racial stereotypes. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos deemed that part of the speech an "act of honor" -- even if it publicly humiliated Grandma, and even if Wright’s record of paranoid ranting and raving about racism is anything but honorable.
Newspapers and news networks tried to insist that Obama’s speech drew praise "across the political spectrum," but this was nonsense. Many outlets utterly excluded conservatives and Republicans from their stories. They were hermetically sealing Obama from criticism. CNN did it for hours before and after the speech, relying only on an array of black and white leftists for analysis.
Inside the sealed liberal-media bubble, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson crowed that Obama was "supposed to be on his heels," backpedaling in a defensive crouch. Obama didn’t have to backpedal, because the press didn’t demand he hold a press conference. They were content to let him speechify. Once he returned to interviews on CNN, Anderson Cooper and Larry King rolled over and played dead. Here’s a Cooper toughie: "How do you decompress?"
Obama brazenly pressed ahead with his crumbling claim to be a uniter of the races. The speech was Clintonesque: it tried to be all things to all people, even as its corroded center remained Slick Barry’s stubborn refusal to spurn the man radio hosts like Mark Levin quickly called "the Wrong Reverend Wright."
The press was content to let Obama criticize Wright’s view that white racism is endemic, and that Israel is the root of all Mideast problems. But Obama’s denunciation begged an obvious question: Why on Earth then would you sit in Wright’s church for two decades and pour tens of thousands of dollars into Wright’s treasury? Why, then, did you choose this man to officiate at your wedding? To baptize your children?
The press was content to let Obama decry that Wright’s sermons were racially charged, but let him claim ignorance of Wright’s racial animus, and let Obama claim that "not once" in his conversations with Wright had he heard Wright talk about any ethnic group "in derogatory terms." This is simply unbelievable, a lie.
In his own memoir "Dreams From My Father," Obama described how an early meeting with Wright quickly devolved into Wright telling him in paranoid terms that the black man will never be safe in America. Obama told of an early sermon that preached of a world of white greed, "a world where cruise ships throw away more food 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."
"White folks’ greed runs a world in need," but Wright never disparaged whites to Obama’s face? Does Chris Matthews think lying is Lincolnesque?
The press was content to let Obama explain away Wright’s viciousness by suggesting his reverend was raised in a segregated world where opportunities were constricted and blacks had to scratch and claw to get ahead.
But as Morton Klein wrote in The New Republic, this passage, too, struggled with the facts. Like Klein, Wright went to Philadelphia’s Central High School, an academically prestigious school that was 95 percent white, and lived in an upper-middle-class neighborhood.
The press was content to let Obama explain that the anger and bitterness of Wright’s generation over their experiences with discrimination have not faded. They did not wonder: since when does a minister of Jesus Christ preach a gospel of bitterness, vengefulness, and hatred? What kind of man of God expresses an unwillingess to forgive? Why would Obama the Uniter allow this generational bitterness to be handed on like a legacy to inner-city school children, so that they too could despise a White World of Greed? Where is the faith and the hope and the charity in that message?
Obama tried to claim that the outbreak of Wright’s poison was a distraction, not a real issue, and the press obediently echoed his complaint. But Barack Obama can’t be a Messiah of Unity and embrace his minister who proclaims "God Damn America" and makes crackpot allegations that the AIDS virus was invented by the government for black genocide.
Embracing Wright is not a distraction. It is a disqualification.