Appearing on Morning Joe a couple weeks ago, Time editor Rick Stengel was quick to blame the controversy over Rev. Wright's past remarks on "the incredible ignorance of white Americans" about what goes on in black churches.
But the Time editor wasn't quite so forgiving when it came to the past of the current pontiff. Appearing on today's Morning Joe to discuss Time's cover story on Pope Benedict XVI's impending visit to America, Stengel blithely referred to the Pope as having been the Vatican's "hatchet man" during his years as a cardinal.
As excuses go, it was right up there with "but oshifer, I was too drunk to see that stop sign." That's the league in which I'd put the defense of Barack Obama over the Rev. Wright mess that Mika Brzezinski offered this morning.
Responding to Chris Matthews' question on yesterday's Hardball as to why he never left Rev. Wright's church, Obama claimed "I never heard [Rev. Wright] say those things that were in those clips." On today's Morning Joe, two of the three panelists weren't buying. The genial Willie Geist came down off the fence where he often resides to frame the issue.
WILLIE GEIST: The fact remains, a lot of people, and these are people we've all talked to, say "if I went into a church with my children, and the pastor said 'God damn America' and the rest of these things, you just wouldn't go back to that church." There are other places to go.
That's when Brzezinski began her bad Johnnie Cochran impression.
Eric Alterman was the latest in a long conga line of liberal authors plugging their books on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report on Monday night. He began by confusing the audience about God. Liberals refuse to take orders from God (since he doesn’t exist, or isn’t important enough to take orders from) or the Fatherland (conservatives-are-Nazis jokes always work with the stilted studio audience). But in the next breath, Alterman was claiming Jesus for the liberal side:
ALTERMAN: To be a liberal, Stephen, just means you believe in the truth. You don't take -- you don't take orders from God. You don't take orders from the Fatherland, you don't take orders from --
COLBERT: But God is truth. Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the light [sic]. What part of that don't you understand?
ALTERMAN: Jesus was a liberal. There he is [on the Alterman book cover], right next to Willie Nelson.
The April 7 edition of Time includes an article by Richard Lacayo hailed the peace symbol, "50 years old and still working." It was the ready-made icon for the sixties counterculture. But then Lacayo decided to compare it to the Christian cross, and things got ugly:
There were people who didn't like the symbol any better than they liked the movements it represented. They saw it as an inverted broken cross or "the footprint of the American chicken." But it kept spreading through the culture. Like the Christian cross, which has served the purposes of soup kitchens and Crusaders, the Sisters of Mercy and the Ku Klux Klan, it was adaptable. Over time, it evolved from its narrow association with nuclear disarmament into an insignia for countercultures of all kinds. Hippies made it a sort of all-purpose symbol of peacefulness. The environmental group Greenpeace, the militant wing of flower power, adopted it for its eco-defense campaigns.
While the Klan and the burning cross certainly go together -- and the Klan definitely saw itself as righteous Christians -- this is still a bit of free association that burns and singes the vast majority of Christians (including black ones) who loathe the Klan.
Mollie Z. Hemingway at Get Religion is confounded by an obnoxious Newsweek essay by Christopher Dickey titled "Christian Rage and Muslim Moderation." In it, you can see the Cold War echoes in it, with Newsweek taking up the usual schtick: the American (or conservative, or anti-Islamic) side is being clumsily, pointlessly, tastelessly provocative, while the Ayatollahs are calmly, reasonably planting seeds of a new detente. But it’s Muslim rage, not the headlined Christian rage, that Dickey is suggesting that the "wrong" side is hoping to foment:
Pope Benedict XVI, an exiled Egyptian journalist, a bleach-blond Dutch parliamentarian and Danish cartoonists all have something in common with a Teddy bear named Mohammed. They have been at the center of that seething storm called Muslim rage in the last few months, and, with the exception of Mohammed T. Bear, they appear to be testing that anger to see if it will erupt … yet again.
Just when you thought the conflagration over James Carville's Judas analogy might be dying down, here comes Derrick Z. Jackson to pour gasoline on the flames with a return-fire Judas shot of his own.
Readers will recall that when Bill Richardson endorsed Obama, Clinton fan Carville chose Good Friday to say:
Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic.
Offered the chance to apologize or withdraw his remarks, the cantankerous Cajun declined, choosing instead to rub in his remarks:
I was quoted accurately and in context, and I was glad to give the quote and I was glad I gave it. I’m not apologizing, I’m not resigning, I’m not doing anything.
Enter Obama fan Jackson with his column of today, On race, Clinton misses the call, in which the Boston Glober sees "signs that [Hillary] will continue to skate the thin ice of race politics and risk the Democratic Party falling through." He saves his Judas shot for last [emphasis added]:
Eric Alterman’s new book on Why We're Liberals isn’t just plagued with errors, it makes wild charges, like attacking conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, suggesting she was anti-Semitic for cheering on the movie The Passion of the Christ. In a chapter about how conservatives mock the elites, when they themselves are rich and pampered, Alterman wrote about conservatives: "In Ingraham’s case, as in many others, one detects a strain of anti-Semitism in her insistent elite-bashing." From pages 173-74:
In observing the members of the conservative elite denouncing "elitists, it can be difficult to tell your players without the proverbial scorecard. For instance, the radio talk-show host and former conservative cable host Laura Ingraham has written an entire book about the dangers posed by liberal elites, entitled Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the Media Are Subverting America. In it, this daughter of a Connecticut lawyer, and graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia Law School, who now lives in an expensive home in Washington D.C., distinguishes between liberal elitists and those whom she terms "true Americans."
National Public Radio knows how to identify itself as the secular liberal media. On Good Friday, the show Fresh Air with Terry Gross recycled a 2004 interview with retired academic John Dominic Crossan, a co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, a man who believes the Gospels are largely mythology, someone's ahistorical hopes, and that the resurrection of Jesus never occurred, and that perhaps the body of Jesus was consumed by wild dogs. In this interview, Gross also asked him to comment on (disparage) the movie The Passion of the Christ, which he eagerly did. He suggested too much focus on the passion of Christ is "dangerously close to pathological." (Photo from NPR.org)
In all the brouhaha last week over the incendiary comments made by Barack Obama's pastor the media seemed to forget to partake in their traditional Holy Week Christian-bashing excercise. There were a few entries in the "Easter Hit Parade," like the Comedy Central show "Root of All Evil" which my boss, Brent Bozell, wrote about in a column recently, and an episode of "Law and Order" which featured another Christian-stones-someone storyline.
I suppose it's good news that there was less faith flagellation courtesy of the liberal media, and yet at the same time it's sad that I was expecting to find it at Easter time. But the fact remains that Christmas and Easter are generally times when the media attacks on Christians are more pronounced.
If you ask the average man on the street, regardless of his religion, he'd probably tell you that anyone who would disrupt an Easter Mass with a political protest -- complete with stage blood and attempted "die-in" -- is a jerk with little if any reverence for God or the sanctity of a church as a place of worship.
But according to the Chicago Tribune's Manya Brachear the so-called Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War are representative of a "frustrated faction" of Catholic faithful (emphasis mine):
Cardinal Francis George has long opposed politics at the communion rail. But Sunday’s anti-war protest at the start of his Easter homily spotlighted a frustrated faction in the Roman Catholic church who believe committed Catholics must do more than preach and pray for peace.
The rantings of Barack Obama's pastor sound strange to most Americans, Christian or non-Christian, black or white. Yet to some in the media, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's preaching is in the "mainstream" of Christian doctrine.
Take the Chicago Sun-Times's David Roeder, reporting on Trinity United Church of Christ's (TUCC) Easter Sunday service:
Theirs is a mainstream Christian theology, but shaped by oppression that they feel yields a connection to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. It's a church they said most Americans could embrace if they only got beyond media sound bites.
Roeder noted that TUCC, as it proudly declares on its Web site, is "Unshamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian." The TUCC Web site also celebrates the church's identity as "an African people" that "remain[s] 'true to our native land,' the mother continent, the cradle of civilization."
Now, of course, there's a wide array of debate among "mainstream" Christians over varying points of Christian doctrine, both between and within denominations, but the notion of ethnocentric identity within the church itself is alien to the preaching and teaching with which most American Christians, black or white, would be familiar:
The Huffington Post has learned that Bill O'Reilly -- who claims to love America -- spent Sunday at a "church" run by a former Hitler Youth named Joseph Alois Ratzinger. Ratzinger has gone to elaborate ends to hide this connection, including taking on the absurd pseudonym "Pope Benedict XVI." Which, even if it doesn't prove anything, certainly makes you think.
This shocking revelation comes only a week after Barack Obama admitted he attends a church formerly run by Jeremiah Wright, who talks smack about America, although probably less than Goebbels did.
It would be enough to make Rev. Jeremiah Wright's accusation that the government created AIDS for purposes of perpetrating a black genocide sound almost rational. OK, scratch that. Nothing will render reasonable that morsel of moonbattery. But has the Rev. Wright's replacement suggested that NPR is . . . a Republican front operation?
As per this Fox News article, the theme of today's Easter sermon at the Trinity United Church of Christ was “How to Handle a Public Lynching,” the victim in question being the Rev. Wright. The controversial pastor's successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, lit into the national media, coming up with a string of plays on their names to express his contempt:
Somebody better break it to the New York Times: they might still be the paper of record in their own minds, but to the rest of the world they're just one more dead-tree joint struggling for attention.
The Old Grey Lady's unjustified conceit was on display during this afternoon's Hardball, when one of its columnists was aghast that Chris Matthews had had the audacity not to have read her oeuvre.
Deborah Solomon, who has a weekly column in the NYT Sunday magazine, had interviewed the Rev. John Hagee, a minister who has endorsed McCain and has made a number of controversial statements. I'd mention in passing that while Hagee's critics have accused him of anti-Semitism, he has in fact received numerous awards from Jewish groups for his steadfast support of Israel.
Barack Obama’s interview with Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night's "Anderson Cooper 360" on CNN was quite gentle. While Cooper did press Obama to address some of the criticisms that have erupted over his pastor Jeremiah Wright, he did not press him about Wright’s criticism of white people, or his claims of the government giving blacks AIDS, only one (truncated) 9/11 passage. Cooper used ten-foot-pole language about those people who would be alarmed by Wright’s America-bashing remarks: "Patriotism is going to be used by whoever it is you are facing." Used? Have you ever noticed how the media never asks if America is being "used" by leaders who spit on America?
Obama was spinning furiously.
I never heard anything nasty about America.
COOPER: In the past, you said you didn't think that your church was particularly controversial. Yesterday, in the speech, you said that -- you admitted that you did hear in the church remarks that could be considered controversial. Do you know specifically? Do you remember what you heard?
Anti-Catholicism still thrives at the Los Angeles Times, even though readers of the paper continue to call them on it. Last week, the Times published a smarmy op-ed by "humor" writer Barry Gottlieb ("That 'thou shalt not' list just got longer," 3/17/08). In addition to propagating the false story that the Vatican had composed a list of "new sins" (it didn't), Gottlieb mocked Catholic belief, ridiculed the sacraments, and derided the Church. In other words, it was just another episode of Catholic bashing at the Times.
Today (Thu. 3/20/08) - to its credit - the Times published three letters to the editor from readers who objected to the column's blatant bigotry. (I couldn't help but embolden some of the right-on points.)
This screed [Gottlieb's piece] insulting the Catholic religion is inexcusable. To publish this in a daily paper is an insult to every Catholic reader.
Time editor Rick Stengel made his regular Thursday Morning Joe appearance today, revealing the magazine's cover to be published tomorrow. But while we learned that the Dalai Lama's photo will appear there, the bigger story is the "cover" Time is trying to provide for Barack Obama's Rev. Wright problem.
Here's the gist of Time's defense of Obama, a distillation of Stengel's statements and Time articles by Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein:
An important aspect of the problem is that white Americans are incredibly ignorant about black churches in America.
In fact, Rev. Wright's church isn't that radical as black churches go.
It was understandable for Obama to have joined Wright's church. At the time he was a 27-year old bi-racial man trying to figure out his identity as the son of an atheist father and skeptic mother and needed a church "he could learn from."
It's understandable that Obama didn't leave the church: it's like reading a book--you don't necessarily agree with the author.
Obama's speech was a "triumph," and Americans will be thinking "small" if they make the Wright thing a big issue in the campaign.
Roland Martin, a talk radio host out of Chicago and contributor to CNN, appearing on the network immediately Barack Obama’s "race speech" on Tuesday morning, compared the reaction to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s much-publicized comments to the reaction to the Catholic sex scandal. Co-anchor Heidi Collins asked, "He [Obama] didn't disagree strong enough to go to a different church though. He stayed for many, many years. How do you think that will play?" Martin’s responded, "But frankly, I think that is irrelevant, because I don't -- look, I was born and raised Catholic. The first 25 years of my life of my life, I was Catholic.... And there are a number of people out there who are still Catholic today, even though the Church dropped the ball when it came to the whole issue of sex offenders, and some who left. But that's fine. But the reality is a person's faith is a personal decision."
Martin made similar comments on Monday’s "Newsroom" program during a discussion of Rev. Wright’s comments with co-anchor Don Lemon and Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus at the bottom of the 3 pm Eastern hour. "[Y]ou have a number of people who have said that, for Catholics, will you leave the Catholic Church because of what the church did when it came to sexual abuse victims? And you know what? A lot of folks have stayed."
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. -- Barack Obama, Huffington Post, March 14, 2008
The key question before Barack Obama today was the one going to his integrity: was he was telling the truth when he claimed in his HuffPo piece of March 14th that he never heard Wright make, in public or private, the remarks "that are the cause of this controversy"?
During the roundtable segment on Monday's The Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty compared the racist and anti-American words of Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, to Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's condemnation of the many abortions in America. Cafferty, who in January suggested that abortion is a "crap" issue, asserted: "How is this different than John McCain chasing after Pat Robertson or the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, who talk about how we have a culture of murdering unborn children in this country and that we've turned into Sodom because we coddled the gay community in this country? I mean, to me, that stuff is considerably more offensive than decrying racial violence and intolerance in this country, which members of the black community have some firsthand knowledge of." (Transcript follows)
The Early Show did its best this morning to help Barack Obama climb out of the hole he's dug for himself with his close association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In a set-up segment, CBS's Dean Reynolds rhetorically asked: "the question is whether the rhetoric is so remarkable, because in African-American churches pastors often seek to rouse their congregants to self-reliance by speaking harshly about the country's troubled racial past and the need to overcome it."
Nice try, but how does accusing the US government of introducing AIDS and giving black people drugs equate to a call for self-reliance?
Reynolds concluded by stating that the Obama campaign is concerned that its candidate has been "victimized" in the same way the Trinity church claims Rev. Wright has.
Then it was on to a Russ Mitchell interview of the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III of Harlem's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church. The thrust of Mitchell's questions and Rev. Butts' responses was that the controversy is being blown out of proportion, that fiery rhetoric is a tradition in black churches with roots in the Bible and even in the words of Jesus. Moreover, it would be wrong to expect congregants to criticize their pastors' words.
One set of facts, two diametrically different NYT op-eds addressing it this morning. The fact: that Barack Obama is backpedaling as fast as he can away from the hateful anti-American rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright. The op-eds: Bill Kristol's, offering a dose of sobering realism about Obama's feet that if not of clay, then are certainly those of a garden-variety politician.
And then there's Roger Cohen's, the Obama fan who, in a bit of breathtaking revisionism, would explain away Barack's moonwalk on the theory the candidate has simply "grown beyond" the problematic preacher. And Cohen's just fine with that.
How much trouble is Barack Obama in over the extremism of Jeremiah Wright? Enough that Dem strategist Donna Brazile has been reduced to arguing that as black preachers go, Wright is relatively moderate. Enough that the normally affable Brazile got a bit short with Time editor Mark Halperin, he of the infamous memo to his subordinates during the 2004 presidential campaign while serving as ABC News political director.
The comments came during the panel discussion on today's This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
The liberal media has a simple policy about the religion of candidates. Democratic front-runners are "devout Christians," whether they go to church or not, since liberalism and the Lord’s work are pretty much the same thing. Republicans are the ones whose religious beliefs and associations are approached with fear and loathing.
Take one recent eruption from Obama about so-called gay marriage, as reported by CNSNews.com. "If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans." The scowling echo in that phrase disturbed many, that a Christian would say this piece of the Bible is true, and that other line of God’s word is obscure and worth ignoring. Is Obama trying to assemble today’s version of Thomas Jefferson’s bible, cutting out only the passages that display the Jesus he believes in, and shredding the rest?
I've enjoyed Tucker Carlson's show and can't let it pass into history, as it did last night, without a mention here. MSNBC has said that Tucker will remain at the network as an at-large commentator, and I have a feeling that, liberated from show-host concerns, he might become even more uninhibited in the expression of his quirkily conservative/libertarian views.
So let's usher Tucker out by focusing on one of our favorite nemeses, Rosa Brooks, the liberal LA Times columnist who appeared on the show's final episode. The unreconstructed Obama apologist offered the lamest excuse yet for his failure to have disassociated himself earlier from the ugly rhetoric of Rev. Jeremiah Wright: Barack simply wasn’t paying attention in the pews.
How's this for a balanced Today panel to discuss the impact of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's extremism on Barack Obama: two liberals who agree it shouldn't hurt him, with one suggesting the situation might even help Obama?
The panel discussion was preceded by a segment narrated by Lee Cowan, the NBC correspondent covering the Obama campaign who has admitted "it's almost hard to remain objective" about Barack. Cowan buttressed his case in that regard. After playing the clip of Rev. Wright using the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Obama and Hillary, Cowan claimed the words were "old." True--if Cowan considers December, 2007, when Wright uttered them--ancient history.
Then it was on weekend co-anchor Amy Robach's interview of Michael Dyson and Melinda Hennenberger. Dyson, who as Robach noted is an Obama supporter, is a Georgetown professor and MSNBC political analyst. He has in the past garnered headlines for his fierce criticism of Bill Cosby, claiming among other things that Cosby "battered poor blacks" with his calls for self-reliance.
Lewis Black is a stand-up comedian. His shtick is foam-flecked fits of rage and profanity. Amazon.com advertised one of his DVDs by promising "There's eye-crossing, teeth-gnashing, raspy-voiced yelling, and liberal use of the F-word." In his show at Washington’s Warner Theatre, Black complained the Kennedy Center refused their facilities on the grounds that he dropped F-bombs 42 times in his first hour-long HBO special.
With a record like that, it should be no surprise that he’s a star on Comedy Central, that venomous Viacom property that markets mockery of everything polite, charitable, and (especially) holy. Black is the star of a brand-new Comedy Central show, named "The Root of All Evil." Comedians act like prosecutors, with Black as judge, trying to determine which of two allegedly evil forces is worse. The battle for the debut episode: Oprah Winfrey vs. the Catholic Church.
This is the same hate-spewing channel that mocked the Pope on "South Park" and skewered Catholicism on the holiday special "Merry F—ing Christmas." Now, on the cusp of the Easter celebration, it’s Catholic-hunting season again.
Who cares if our next president has chosen as his "spiritual guide" someone who calls on God to damn America, and believes the US brought 9-11 on itself? Completely off track! Let's get back to the important stuff. You know, like the fine print of the candidate's plan to nationalize health care.
That in a nutshell is Anderson Cooper's kvetch about the controversy over the outrageous statements made by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., the pastor of Barack Obama's church and the man Obama has described as his spiritual guide and advisor.
Cooper made his comments on his 360 show this evening.
ANDERSON COOPER: Is this just the kind of thing that happens in campaigns? It seems we're almost at a point now where it's this or other issues for the Clinton campaign where people are just latching onto anything to strike a blow against their opponent. All this seems to have nothing to do with actual issues that the country is facing which these candidates should be talking about and we probably should be talking about.
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!"