On Easter Sunday, Celebrating Obama's Speech from the Pulpit -- and in the NYT

The New York Times continues to glorify Barack Obama for the speech he delivered on race, eager to help Obama not only move on from Wright, but to paint the whole affair in lambent tones, while suggesting GOP presidents including Reagan went "under cover" and used code words to promote racial strife and win elections.The latest brushwork is on display on the front page of the Times's Sunday Week in Review, a story by Janny Scott, "Talk About Race."

Americans and their political leaders have been tongue-tied on the subject of race. We were reminded of that last week when Senator Barack Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, took the almost unimaginable step of going before a national audience at a precarious juncture in a close campaign and speaking explicitly about what race means to blacks and whites. He spoke of black anger and white resentment and the significance of race in American history; his purpose was political but he spoke with seriousness and gravity and at length. Whether the speech helped or hurt him remains to be seen. But the moment was unlike virtually any in the more than 40 years since the triumphs of the civil rights struggle tore up party alignments of the past and tamped down explicit discussion of race by presidents and major-party candidates addressing the American people.

Scott implied an old liberal rationale for the success in presidential elections of Republicans (and Ronald Reagan in particular): Racism. Apparently, any popular GOP stand is simply a stand-in for bigotry.

Race did not disappear entirely from presidential campaigns; it went under cover. It lay buried in code phrases like "crime in the streets," "states' rights," and "welfare mothers." Michael Klarman, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School who specializes in the constitutional history of race, said, "Nixon talks about ‘law and order,' which is a code term for the urban race riots and rising crime rates. He talks about appointing strict conservatives to the Supreme Court, which is a code term for justices who won't insist on mandatory busing. And he talks explicitly about how we ought to have ‘local control of schools.' Without explicitly using the language of race, he is saying whites shouldn't have to go to school with blacks."

In 1980, Ronald Reagan, campaigning on a platform that included "states' rights," opened his general election campaign in Philadelphia, Miss. -- a decision criticized because it was where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964.

The Easter Sunday celebration of Obama's speech on race continued in a front-page story by religion reporters Laurie Goodstein and Neela Banerjee. The Times canvassed pastors at mostly urban liberal churches to see how Obama's speech would politicize -- I mean, enrich -- their Easter sermons in "Obama Talk Fuels Easter Sermons -- Some Religious Leaders Interweave Race and Resurrection."

This Easter Sunday, the holiest day of the Christian calendar, many pastors will start their sermons about the Resurrection of Jesus and weave in a pointed message about racism and bigotry, and the need to rise above them.

Some pastors began to rethink their sermons on Tuesday, when Senator Barack Obama gave a speech about race, seeking to calm a furor that had erupted over explosive excerpts of sermons by his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

The controversy drove the nation to the unpatrolled intersection of race and religion, and as many pastors prepared for their Easter message they said they felt compelled to talk about it. Their congregants were writing and e-mailing them: some wanted to share their emotional reactions to Mr. Obama's speech; others asked how Mr. Wright, the minister, could utter such inflammatory things from the pulpit.

After quoting various preachers at urban churches, the Times praised the race-baiting, America-hating Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

Television programs showed recorded parts of sermons by Mr. Wright, who is nationally known for his work in creating economic development programs in the inner city, inspiring many other black pastors to do the same, and for his fiery, prophetic preaching style. In the excerpts, Mr. Wright thunders that the government has inflicted AIDS on black people, and that the United States deserved the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Mr. Obama responded with a major address that examined race relations through the eyes of blacks and whites, and called for Americans to open up an honest dialogue about race.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center . Read more: http://archive.newsbusters.org/bios/clay-waters.html#ixzz3CdgxLFgQ