Obama's Spiritual Guide: 'God Damn America'

At the end of a Good Morning America segment today about Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., an Obama campaign representative complained that John McCain's pastor had not been similarly "vetted." If that's true, then ABC or some other media outlet surely should and will do so.

Let's imagine that upon vetting, McCain's pastor is found to have made statements that were the mirror-image of those that Rev. Wright has made. How long would McCain remain a viable candidate? Judge for yourself, based on Rev. Wright's statements as exposed in the GMA segment that was the result of work by ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross. GMA aired a number of clips from sermons Rev. Wright gave at his Trinity United Church of Christ.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no! Not God bless America. God damn America! It's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human!"

View video here.

Cut to clip of Obama saying "I don't think my church is particularly controversial." Really? In another sermon, Ross states that Wright "refers to the U.S. as being under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan."

WRIGHT: And they will not only attack you if you try to point out what's going on in white America, the U.S. of KKK A."

ROSS: He regularly mocks black Republicans as sell-outs.

WRIGHT: They live below the sea level, they live below the level of "Clarence Colon" and "Con-damn-nesia."

ROSS: In his first sermon after September 11th, 2001, Reverend Wright said the U.S. had brought on the attacks with its own terrorism.

WRIGHT: We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant?! Because the stuff we have done overseas is not brought back into our front yard? Americans chickens are coming home to roost.

Ross quoted Obama as saying that Wright is "like an old uncle who sometimes says things I don't agree with."

That Obama advisor then appeared, Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

CHRIS CUOMO: You heard Brian's piece. Given what Reverend Wright has said over the years, much of which would be considered over the line politically, should Senator Obama separate himself from the reverend he calls his "spiritual guide"?

SHAUN CASEY: I think Senator Obama's been very clear that he disagrees with Reverend Wright on a number of the specific issues you've just shown in the story. I think it's unfair to hold any politician to the political views of their particular pastor and I think it's unfair to hold any pastor to the political views of congregants. It's part of the great American tradition that many congregations are composed of folk who have a wide variety of political views. So I don't think Senator Obama really has any more to say than what you showed in that piece.

CUOMO: But is there a responsibility as a candidate for president to associate yourself, certainly as a spiritual advisor, with ideas that are consistent with your campaign? Senator Obama said his campaign is about moving away from divisive politics, from sniping and attacks. And then, to say your spiritual advisor is a man who says America should be damned? That it is to blame for 9-11? That Farrakhan deserves an award for epitomizing greatness? Does that go together?

CASEY: I think he's repudiated that very clearly. If you had any evidence that in fact Senator Obama had embraced those views we would see that in the piece. But the fact that you didn't have any video of Senator Obama embracing those views, in fact he's repudiated those views, I think it's very clear. I mean, it's interesting to me you haven't vetted Hillary Clinton's pastor's sermons, you haven't vetted President Bush's pastor's sermons. You haven't vetted John McCain's pastor's sermons. So, you're not holding them to that standard, which I think is very interesting.

CUOMO: And you believe that what the reverend has said doesn't go beyond the pale of what he preaches in terms of religion, it doesn't deserve any more scrutiny than that? It doesn't have anything to do with politics? This is just the media picking on Senator Obama?

CASEY: No. It's fair to ask those questions. But what you have to accept Senator Obama's answers that he repudiates those specific political views on the three or four issues that you've outlined. And I think you have to take his word for that. It seems to me what you're trying to do is what some of the media tried to do to John Kennedy in 1960, that because he was a Catholic he must embrace certain political views the Catholic church held and he denied those, and he denied those for about a four-year period. And it really wasn't until the actual election itself that the American public understood that he was able to separate himself from some of the political views of his church. I think it's the same dynamic that's going on here.

CUOMO: When people hear what Reverend Wright has to say, they may be concerned that that is the spiritual adviser for Senator Obama. How do you respond to that?

CASEY: The way to judge Senator Obama's spirituality and faith is to read what he has written, listen to the speeches which he has given, which again you showed no clips from. This man has spoken at greater length about his faith than any current candidate for the presidency of the United States. Follow what Senator Obama says on policy, follow what he says about his own spirituality, don't impute positions to him from his minister. That's only fair.

Let's begin by giving kudos to Brian Ross for his investigative work, to ABC for airing the segment and to Chris Cuomo for posing some probing questions to Obama representative Casey.

That said, if this had been a Republican candidate, could he possibly have come so far as to get his party's nomination before this kind of piece had been aired? And would the person in Cuomo's position simply have been asking whether the Republican needed to "separate himself" from the minister? Would there not be clamoring for the Republican's outright withdrawal from the race?

Let's consider Casey's defense: that ABC is doing to Obama what some in the media did to JFK in 1960. But Kennedy was born into a worldwide religion. Here, Obama as an adult chose to become a congregant in a very specific church, and chose that church's leader as his personal "spiritual advisor." He chose Rev. Wright to perform his wedding ceremony and to baptize his children, and credits Rev. Wright with devising the title of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope."

This was not just simple membership in one of the world's great religions. It was Obama's decision to very closely associate himself with this congregation and its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Were the shoe on a Republican foot, would the MSM not have long-ago driven him from the race?

Michelle Malkin: "Now we know where Michelle Obama’s resentment of America comes from: her profanity-spewing pastor."

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.