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Moyers interviews Wright
April 28, 2008 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Bill Moyers interviews the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his first broadcast interview with a journalist since he became embroiled in a controversy for his remarks and his relationship with Barack Obama posted by homunculus (159 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why is it so quiet after the Moyers-Wright interview?
posted by homunculus at 10:25 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was watching Wright on TV the other night (well, half watching him while sucking horribly at TF2, totally ADD spaz monkey that I am) and I have to say I kind of like him. Don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but he’s undeniably smart, passionate and extremely articulate.
posted by Artw at 10:29 AM on April 28, 2008


Jeremiah Wright At National Press Club This Morning: Watch Video.
posted by ericb at 10:30 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was impressed with Wright's presentation of what he stands for and why. Self professed lefty writer Joan Walsh on Salon... not so much. Why Jeremiah Wright is so wrong

And I'm on the left. I know huge chunks of it are true. But Wright casts his critique in such an extreme way that the possibility of redemption, the evidence that America can and has and will change for the better, is never considered.

He struck me, a white, middle class atty, as anything but extreme, at least in Moyer's interview, which is all I've ever seen of him.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:36 AM on April 28, 2008


from Wright's wiki entry:

Inspired by President John F. Kennedy's 1961 challenge to "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," Wright gave up his student deferment, left college and joined the United States Marine Corps and became part of the 2nd Marine Division with the rank of private first class. In 1963, after two years of service, Wright then transferred to the United States Navy and entered the Corpsman School at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, where he graduated as valedictorian. Having excelled in corpsman school, Wright was then trained as a cardiopulmonary technician at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland where he graduated as salutatorian. Wright was assigned as part of the medical team charged with care of President Lyndon B. Johnson (see photo of Wright caring for Johnson after his 1966 surgery). Before leaving the position in 1967, the White House awarded Wright three letters of commendation.

In other words, Wright did precisely what George Bush and Dick Cheney did not: he served his country, and did so honorably. He has earned his right to speak his mind.
posted by ornate insect at 10:38 AM on April 28, 2008 [23 favorites]


thank god for bill moyers. i love his interviewing style. it's not really possible to soundbyte him up. and that's a good thing.

thanks for this, homunculus. i don't watch TV, so i wouldn't have heard of it otherwise.
posted by CitizenD at 10:42 AM on April 28, 2008


You know what? He's probably nuts.

But after hearing him talk at length -- and it's been hard to do that, so thanks for posting this -- he's in the junior league of crazy compared to Jerry Fallwell. He's in the junior league of crazy compared to faith healin' Oral Roberts and his crazy ass corrupt son. There's nothing here; it's not even a molehill to turn into a mountain.
posted by boo_radley at 10:44 AM on April 28, 2008


... he's in the junior league of crazy compared to Jerry Fallwell

Or, more pointedly, compared to John Hagee. Why McCain mostly gets a pass for his much wackier religious ties, I don't know.

But if McCain tries to trot out Wright in the general election, maybe Hagee will actually start to be an albatross.
posted by gurple at 10:50 AM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


This controversy is based on the premise that any of these rich, educated presidential candidates actually believe in God. Protip: people who don't attend church don't get elected.

John McCain hasn't even been baptized, which you'd think would be a priority for a baptist.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:56 AM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


and wasn't there a post about some white choir repurposing God Bless America for crazy purposes? Could someone link to that?
posted by boo_radley at 10:59 AM on April 28, 2008


Deniability and disposability are cruicial when swiftboating.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why McCain mostly gets a pass for his much wackier religious ties, I don't know.

Because after decades of the Republicans publicly fastening their mouths to the asses of psychotic religious right figures, it has ceased to be remarkable. It is expected for Republicans to be deeply "in" with frothing-at-the-mouth, America-hating Christian pastors. Meanwhile, a Democrat with even a mild critique of how things are in America is an unpatriotic, Jesus-hating communist, despite only the farthest left Democrats even vaguely approaching anything recognisable as "leftism".

Our country's political situation is horrifyingly poisoned, and I don't know that the antidote even exists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:00 AM on April 28, 2008 [11 favorites]


I watched the Moyers interview the other day and I'm watching the Press Club conference today. It's hard not to like this guy. I may not agree with him on everything, but nothing he's saying is beyond the pale.

The attacks on Wright in the media have really been shameful. It's bad enough that we continually vilify our politicians (that is, politicians vilify each other) but it's kind of disgusting to see random people get slimed and reviled just because some politician knows them. The average person could never stand up to the absurd scrutiny over non-issues and symbolism.

Performing the same character assassination on friends and acquaintances of political leaders just to do some damage by proxy is obscene.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 AM on April 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


and wasn't there a post about some white choir repurposing God Bless America for crazy purposes? Could someone link to that?

Actually I think most of the people in that Choir were black, although it was the headline entertainment at a 'values voters' summit held by the conservative right. Some of the minor republican presidential candidates attended, as did senators, congressmen, etc.
posted by delmoi at 11:05 AM on April 28, 2008


John McCain's position on religion is sort of unusual, his religious background is vague and years ago he likened Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton, and went further and criticized Falwell and Robertson for "the evil influence that they exercise over the Republican Party." He's since apologized but personally McCain has struck me as rather secular if not a closeted atheist.
posted by bobo123 at 11:09 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've heard Obama's opponent wears women's underwear.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:10 AM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Why Should God Bless America?" at the Value Voters Presidential Debate.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:10 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I was referring to Ron Paul)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:10 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


John McCain hasn't even been baptized, which you'd think would be a priority for a baptist.

why do you people persist in believing you can argue this issue with conservatives on the grounds of reason? These people wouldn't give a shit if Obama worshipped the devil if he were a conservative who made a vow to lower the capital gains tax. You cannot reason with people who are brainwashed to do whatever Rush Limbaugh tells them. Don't you understand that all this Rev Wright stuff could be ANY issue at all? While you are spending all your energy putting out this fire, they are busy spreading gasoline on some other part of Barack Obama's past that they can exploit to herd the sheep in the direction they desire. Republicans spend millions upon millions of YOUR dollars per year in "faith based programs" as bribe money to get demogogues like Falwell and Hagee to infect their flocks with whatever propaganda they need to influence the vote. Democrats and liberals would be better served to explain this strategy whenever the subject is broached instead of validating it as an actually issue - in order to make it more transparent, at least to the fence-sitters.
posted by any major dude at 11:11 AM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why McCain mostly gets a pass for his much wackier religious ties, I don't know.

I think you know. I think we all know.

I think it's about as obvious as it can be, and as much as Pope Guilty has a point, the reason is much simpler that that. Obama is under a microscope on practically every issue. He has to be perfect on every score because he knows that whatever he does, on the Wright issue for example, if he makes the slightest wrong move, he'll be skewered for being disloyal, or else be accused of being too close to a Nation of Islam conspiracy nut.

The fact that he continues to get blasted about Wright, and his association/friendship with a guy that was a radical four decades ago, as well as for trivial non-issues like the flag pin, and not putting his hand over his heart during the national anthem, while no one says boo about McCain's or Clinton's more unsavory connections and very long lists of shady dealings speaks volumes.
posted by psmealey at 11:14 AM on April 28, 2008 [11 favorites]


Wake me up when Moyers, or anyone in the traditional media, has a hostile interview with John Hagee.

My point is that the entire Wright "scandal" is just more right wing media bullshit. Obama's preacher had a few hellfire and brimstone moments. Horrors, someone better fetch the fainting couch!

Meanwhile, McCain can suck up to a genuine loony who thinks his deity smacked New Orleans because of the dread faggots, says that Catholics are Satan worshipers, etc and no one in the media seems to give a shit.

So fuck 'em. Bill Moyers has more important things to do than carry water for the right wing by continuing to give this non-issue airtime.
posted by sotonohito at 11:14 AM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


why do you people persist in believing you can argue this issue with conservatives on the grounds of reason?

That's overly pessimistic. Many conservatives of my acquaintance, devout Christians, are coming to believe that Obama is closer to their faith-oriented mindset than McCain is. If Obama is the nominee, I think there is a real chance this year to show American Christians that it is possible to be genuinely Christian and politically liberal. The Republican/Evangelical alliance only goes back 28 years. It will end eventually. In 1976, Carter took half of the conservative Christian vote. I think that Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 could move back near that.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:17 AM on April 28, 2008


He's since apologized but personally McCain has struck me as rather secular if not a closeted atheist.

What religious views he holds privately are a matter of speculation. But publicly, he was more than willing to accept the endorsement of Hagee, his "spiritual advisor", in person and onstage, long after Hagee made his sorta-kinda-infamous comments about New Orleans and about the Catholic church.
posted by gurple at 11:18 AM on April 28, 2008


Why McCain mostly gets a pass for his much wackier religious ties, I don't know.

Because the people it offends aren't voting for him anyway?
posted by smackfu at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2008


McCains struck me as a spineless flip-flopper since he started sucking up to Bush, TBH. It wouldn’t surprise me if he started sucking up to anyone if he thought there were a few votes in it.
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2008


Unfortunately, I'm sure Wright's sound bites at the National Press Club today will dominate the news cycles for a while and completely overshadow Moyer's excellent interview from last Friday. Major kudos for Bill Moyers and his show for existing on PBS.
posted by jaimev at 11:22 AM on April 28, 2008


O’Reilly Attacks Moyers For Interviewing Rev. Wright: They Should ‘Take A Long Vacation, Perhaps In Iran’
posted by homunculus at 11:23 AM on April 28, 2008


he served his country, and did so honorably. He has earned his right to speak his mind.


Robert Heinlein didn't write the constitution. Everyone has that right.
posted by srboisvert at 11:24 AM on April 28, 2008 [27 favorites]


I have a feeling that the bit where he repeats “Barrack HUSSEIN Obama” is going to get heavy play in certain quarters, and little else.
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on April 28, 2008


srboisvert - Heh. Read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Heinlein pretty much worshiped the consitution.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on April 28, 2008


Pater wrote:

In 1976, Carter took half of the conservative Christian vote. I think that Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 could move back near that.

I think you are drastically underestimating the amount of money the Republicans funnel to the Christian Right propaganda machine. White Jimmy Carter was building homes for the poor Tom Delay was building megachurches.
posted by any major dude at 11:25 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why McCain mostly gets a pass for his much wackier religious ties, I don't know.

It's because these are the Primaries, and for the moment, McCain isn't perceived as an opponent.

It was the Clinton camp who brought up the Obama-Wright connection in the first place, in a foolhardy effort to get Obama out of the picture. Rest assured, if Hillary wins the nomination, McCain will not get a free pass -- unless her advisors think a) a Clinton win is in the bag, or b) the Primaries muck-raking didn't work.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:29 AM on April 28, 2008


Most Christians aren't in megachurches, though--and it appears that their influence is waning. Smaller home-based churches are on the rise, and among younger Christians there is great dissatisfaction with the the traditional hierarchical structures. American churches are changing--the emergent/missional movement is here to stay. And they aren't being swayed by whatever the megas are doing. It's a more complex story than that.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:29 AM on April 28, 2008


Don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but he’s undeniably smart, passionate and extremely articulate.

Was that a left handed compliment or were you unaware that Blacks tend to see "articulate" as such? Or perhaps you're trying to take back the word?
posted by brevator at 11:34 AM on April 28, 2008


I have pretty much no idea what the fuck you're on about - the guy is a good speaker, that is all.
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on April 28, 2008


srboisvert--of course everyone has a right to speak their mind, but the attempt to smear Wright as unpatriotic (like the swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004) is truly ironic--given that the man, unlike our current cowardly leaders, actually put his life on the line for this country.
posted by ornate insect at 11:38 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's because these are the Primaries, and for the moment, McCain isn't perceived as an opponent.

One of the points that Hillary keeps hammering home is that these negative things about Obama are going to make him unelectable. Surely it would be in Obama's interest right now to point out McCain wouldn't dare come after him about Wright for fear of more Hagee scrutiny... if that were, in fact, the case.
posted by gurple at 11:38 AM on April 28, 2008


Was that a left handed compliment or were you unaware....

As a Left-Handed American, I find your remarks extremely offensive.




OK, not really.
posted by gurple at 11:39 AM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


brevator, what word would you use? Obama is articulate, and that is an important thing. He'd be articulate if he was half-Burmese half-Swedish.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:39 AM on April 28, 2008


Atrw- fair enough, but I honestly couldn't tell from your comment.
posted by brevator at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2008


I agree with Fupped Duck about "self-professed lefty writer Joan Walsh"—if that woman is a leftist, the left has come to a sad pass in the last few decades.

Wright's sermons are distinguished by their old-time lefty anti-America rhetoric.


Ooh, how awful! Didn't he get the message? Even lefties are supposed to wave the flag now, and say nothing bad about America, because if you do, you're AIDING THE TERRORISTS!

He struck me... as anything but extreme

Me too. A thoughtful guy who is pissed off about what this country, which has so much promise, has done to everyone but members of the ruling elite since the beginning. Why is he "extreme" and not the thugs and criminals who run the country? Oops, mustn't say that—I might be AIDING THE TERRORISTS!
posted by languagehat at 11:41 AM on April 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Wright might be right in what he is saying, or writing (ho ho), but he is a fool to bring up his thing when the Obama connection, used by the conservatives, was dying down. Now it is on the front burner again and instead of helping a brother to become the first black to be (possibly) presidwent, he helps sink his chances. Not smart at all but self-centered.
posted by Postroad at 11:41 AM on April 28, 2008


just more right wing media bullshit

I'm as weary of Wolf Blitzer as the next guy, but I feel that the media-as-left-wing-puppet vs. media-as-right-wing-puppet conflict is totally at odds with Occam's razor. Which is to say that media outlets are corporate entities whose principle goal is to maximize profit in the form of ad revenue. This is done by increasing viewer/listenership, which is itself best achieved with scandalous outragefilter.

Dollars to doughnuts that if discussing torture memos or the McCain-Hagee relationship would increase ad revenue, that's the news we'd be getting. But the bean counters have decided that angry black men are far more profitable within their targeted demographic. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by sheer profit motive, &c.
posted by JohnFredra at 11:43 AM on April 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Artw- In Starship Troopers and a couple other stories I can't remember right now, Heinlein felt the constitution should apply only to certain classes of people. In particular, people who'd already received the right sort of indoctrination, preferably via military service.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:43 AM on April 28, 2008


what word would you use? Obama is articulate, and that is an important thing. He'd be articulate if he was half-Burmese half-Swedish.

I agree that Obama and Rev. Wright are both articulate, but when I read Atrw comment I honestly asked myself if it was a subtle swipe. I don't personally have a problem with the word, but it is well understood to have a double meaning to many African Americans. If you don't believe me you can google it.
posted by brevator at 11:48 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the derail.
posted by brevator at 11:54 AM on April 28, 2008


johnFreda--the problem w/that analysis is that people seem to have caught on to the degree to which the media acts as stenographer for corporate interests, and they have not responded to the manufactured Wright "controversy": Obama has tapped into this newfound weariness for the mainstream media, and one need only witness the response he got when he spoke the day after the last debate about how the ABC moderators (Gibson and Stephanopoulos) took 45 minutes to ask him a substanitive question. ABC got roundly panned for this pseudo-debate, and it will likely go down in history as a low point in American journalism. Obama has been consistently using the public's distrust of the media to his advanatage: he has managed to effectivily "pivot," and turn many of these empty "gotcha" campaigns to his own advantage.
posted by ornate insect at 11:54 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


brevator - fair enough. I'm not from around these parts and clearly not up on this sort of thing.

I can't believe someone jsut implied that I haven't read Starship Troopers. FUCK YOU, NOW I GO TO WAR!
posted by Artw at 12:01 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Was that a left handed compliment or were you unaware that Blacks tend to see "articulate" as such

Are those the only two options? How about, "I genuinely thought he was articulate, I consider that to be a positive trait, and I don't particularly care whether 'Blacks' 'tend' to view that as a 'left handed compliment'."
posted by pardonyou? at 12:02 PM on April 28, 2008


The Republican/Media Smearing of Reverend Wright
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2008


Are those the only two options? How about, "I genuinely thought he was articulate, I consider that to be a positive trait, and I don't particularly care whether 'Blacks' 'tend' to view that as a 'left handed compliment'."

Yes, I understand there's a third option, that why I wrote:
Was that a left handed compliment or were you unaware that Blacks tend to see "articulate" as such? Or perhaps you're trying to take back the word?
posted by brevator at 12:11 PM on April 28, 2008


Was that a left handed compliment or were you unaware that Blacks tend to see "articulate" as such

I think it's all about context. In order for it to be a slur, the speaker has to be white, must be referring to an African-American person, and must deliver it with unambiguous condescension. Of course, on the web, it's impossible to determine any of that.

I usually go with "eloquent" (until that one gathers significant negative baggage as to be unusable). Obama is, after all, oratically proficient about 5 orders of magnitude past being merely articulate.
posted by psmealey at 12:12 PM on April 28, 2008


Wright seems pretty hellbent on damaging Obama. It's hard not to read his many remarks, including (false) defenses of Farrakhan, reiterations of the crazytalk about the genocidal invention of HIV, and insistence on the idea that 911 constituted retribution for US misdeeds, as anything other than a real attempt to assert himself regardless of the harm he knows it will cause Obama. Even if some of his comments seem reasonable to people on the Left, only an idiot would think that they're acceptable to most of America, and Wright is no idiot.

What horrible appearances. I wish the guy would shut the fuck up.
posted by OmieWise at 12:54 PM on April 28, 2008


and wasn't there a post about some white choir repurposing God Bless America for crazy purposes? Could someone link to that?

Well there are Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church's 'music videos': God Hates America and God Hates the World.
posted by ericb at 1:01 PM on April 28, 2008


Huh? Omie, you're a smart guy, I can't believe you actually think that. Did you watch the Moyers interview? Why is it crazy to point out that America has committed enormous historical "sins" (whatever construction you want to put on that word), and that its activities in the Middle East might have had something to do with the 9/11 attacks? Does sanity now equate to blind patriotism? And why the hell should Wright choose his remarks to make sure they're "acceptable to most of America"? Do you? He's a preacher, not a politician, and being an American, he thinks (perhaps foolishly) he has a right to say whatever the fuck he wants. And his primary duty as he sees it is to his parishioners and Black Americans in general, not to Obama. I'm sure he wants to see Obama elected, but not badly enough to censor himself.
posted by languagehat at 1:02 PM on April 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wright seems pretty hellbent on damaging Obama.

Well, Obama has Wright and Hillary has Bill. Maybe they balance each other out in the end.
posted by psmealey at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes, I understand there's a third option, that why I wrote:
Was that a left handed compliment or were you unaware that Blacks tend to see "articulate" as such? Or perhaps you're trying to take back the word?


I guess I just cringe at the notion that the word -- a perfectly good one -- needs to be "taken back" before someone can use it without fear of having their motives questioned.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:06 PM on April 28, 2008


Thanks for the soundbites Omie. Did you double down and read the interview as well?
Sure its disturbing to most of America to hear someone discussing the fall of the empire, but maybe thats because no one's talking about it.
Shoot messengers much?
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:07 PM on April 28, 2008


On Hagee: Rapture Ready: The Christians United for Israel Tour, (Max Blumenthal, YT, excerpt, 9:57, Starring Joe Lieberman, Tom DeLay, & c.)
posted by xod at 1:11 PM on April 28, 2008


ornate insect,

The funny thing about corporate media as 'stenographer' is that most of the 'big' media outlets are themselves owned by companies that have lots of subsidiaries in different industries. NBC, for example, is owned by GE, who has tremendous clout in the energy, transportation and health care industries. So they're only beholden to corporate interests insofar as those interests are congruent with those of their parent, and yet they can act as a very large microphone for any number of special interest issues in which they, as a 'news' organization, ostensibly have no stake.

I don't really understand how Obama's tapping into this make my analysis problematic -- can you expand on that? Perhaps we are talking past each other?
posted by JohnFredra at 1:12 PM on April 28, 2008


Actually, I think one of Obama's biggest weaknesses is his lack of ability with oratory. He writes a damn fine speech, eloquent, well reasoned, and all around great, but he can't deliver speeches all that well. He's better than Bush, but that's damning him with faint praise. He isn't anywhere near Bill Clinton's level of ability when it comes to delivering a speech well, but then Bill Clinton may have been the best speech giving president in the last 50 years. He's a competent speaker, but seems to lack the fire that really makes a great speaker.

Which may be why "articulate" seems like a good way to describe him. Our current president is far from articulate, watching him deliver a speech is painful even if the text of the speech itself isn't all that bad. Obama is articulate, unlike Bush you can actually understand the words coming out of his mouth.

That said, it is undeniable that some people have been using "articulate" in a racist manner (cf Joe Biden), so I tend to avoid it in the context of Obama.
posted by sotonohito at 1:25 PM on April 28, 2008


Actually, I think one of Obama's biggest weaknesses is his lack of ability with oratory

I actually think he's pretty good at it. Clearly his strength is in the composition, but I don't these he's bad at all at delivery... except in one very specific area. I think his biggest weakness is in the debates. When he is forced to deliver an answer in a structured way, with time constraints imposed, timed format, he gets uncomfortable. You can see the machinery going, and that his natural thought process is to turn over and dissect the issue before arriving at his thesis. That's where I see the delivery failing as he's trying to verbalize it as he's composing the thought. But, whatever failings he has there are still somewhat modest. You can't expect a world class miler to win the 100 meter high hurdles too.

Hillary, on the other hand, excels in this format. She has somewhat encyclopedic like recall, and has canned responses ready to go on almost any issue, never off message, always supporting her talking points. Her stump speech, while vastly improved, still comes across as a bit insincere and wooden, as she tends to project a bit like actors playing politicians in movies do. She's, oddly much more effective when she's tired, when she's got that rasp in her voice that forces her to tone it down and be a little more approachable.

As for comparisons to Clinton, well whatareyougonnado. He was the master. He was great AT being President, unfortunately for us, though, he was a shitty president.
posted by psmealey at 1:40 PM on April 28, 2008


JohnFredra wrote:

NBC, for example, is owned by GE, who has tremendous clout in the energy, transportation and health care industries.

Don't forget that GE also has a division that manufactures engines for F-16 fighter jets. But of course you already know that from the disclaimer every NBC reporter makes at the end of each story they do about the war - because to not disclose that their parent company makes millions of dollars in profits off of the continuation of this war would be unethical, no? The fact that it's a necessity that they keep a cordial relationship with the Pentagon and administration in order to win these contracts couldn't possibly hinder their ability to give Americans the truth could it?
posted by any major dude at 1:50 PM on April 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


Do they still make miniguns? 'cos those things r0XX0r.
posted by Artw at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2008


Here's the problem with the way all colors of the political spectrum and the punditry talk about politics these days. A new article in Slate on the subject of Wright asserts:

"The conventional wisdom says that every time Wright shows up on a television screen, it hurts Obama, which we're inclined to believe for now. There's an outside chance that by going public with new comments, Wright can drown out the older, more inflammatory ones. But that's a nuanced view, and if this primary season has taught us anything, it's that nuance doesn't win elections."

But it's really not about nuance, nor is it about conventional wisdom. Those in the media often like to make declarative statements in the name of 'conventional wisdom,' but most of the time, the assumptions and beliefs attributed to 'conventional wisdom' originate and spend their entire misbegotten and impoverished lives dwelling only within the fevered imaginations of the Washington media establishment, seldom venturing out of those cloistered surroundings to mingle with the commoners they claim to represent.

And I find it really interesting what this article says about the unlikelihood of 'a nuanced view' of Wright having any influence. As anyone who's actually seen the entirety of the sermons from which the sound bites that have been making the media rounds were taken knows, the supposedly controversial comments that have been running on an endless loop on the cable airwaves were deliberately taken grossly out of context to misrepresent and distort the actual views of the reverend, as expressed more fully in the context of the complete sermons. In other words, this notion of a 'nuanced view' that gives so many in the media such heartburn is essentially just another way of saying 'whole truth, in context, without political spin.' Apparently, we now think selectively filtering out plain facts that don't agree with a particular ideological take on an issue is some kind of service to objectivity. I mean, taking certain facts out of context in order to arrive at frightful conclusions directly contradicted by other, conveniently ignored facts is an indication of mental illness when people do it in their personal lives, but I suppose it's just par for the course when it comes to the media's analysis of American politics.

If our press were actually doing their jobs, parsing out the noise and reporting facts, instead of acting as a middleman for PR firms and powerful interests with an agenda-driven message to get across on the American public, stories like the Wright non-controversy would never even make it onto the TV screen or into print. Why? Because a simple fact-check would have shown that, taken in context, Wright's remarks didn't even come close to meaning what his detractors and other muckrakers have gone on to suggest they meant. There's never really been any there there in this 'scandal,' and yet, the media is so in love with talking about it that they've actually almost managed to make it take on the weight of a real scandal by means of mass hypnosis--definitely, if air time were the only metric for determining what makes a scandal, Wrights comments have now emerged as the most significant political scandal of our times, beating out the entirety of the Bush administration's scandals, including the construction of secret, black detention sites with no outside supervision or due legal processes, the suspension of habeas corpus, the establishment of entirely new systems for conducting unchecked surveillance on American citizens, the intentional suppression of global warming science, the wholesale violation of federal law with respect to politicization of the justice department, prohibitions on torture and the separation of powers, and on and on.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:56 PM on April 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


Well, TBH, anyone having any faith in the US news media after the “dean scream” is wildly overoptimistic.
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Huh? Omie, you're a smart guy, I can't believe you actually think that. Did you watch the Moyers interview? Why is it crazy to point out that America has committed enormous historical "sins" (whatever construction you want to put on that word), and that its activities in the Middle East might have had something to do with the 9/11 attacks? Does sanity now equate to blind patriotism? And why the hell should Wright choose his remarks to make sure they're "acceptable to most of America"? Do you? He's a preacher, not a politician, and being an American, he thinks (perhaps foolishly) he has a right to say whatever the fuck he wants. And his primary duty as he sees it is to his parishioners and Black Americans in general, not to Obama. I'm sure he wants to see Obama elected, but not badly enough to censor himself.

I believe it entirely, although it doesn't contain my complete feelings about Wright or his comments. Wright has a choice, which he's apparently made, between being himself and helping to elect Obama. I really wish we lived in a country where his "right to say whatever the fuck he wants" wouldn't be used against Obama, and I wish we lived in a country in which his comments about the reciprocity of 911 (comments with which I generally agree) were acceptable in mainstream political discourse. We don't, however, which is why I included my comment about what he knows he must be doing.

Look, principles are great, and on the one hand it's great that this guy is willing to stand on his, but comments that rankly hold America to account, and attack the cherished illusion of American exceptionalism, do not go down well with most of the electorate. Saying so does not mean that that's how I want things to be, nor does it indicate an undue cynicism. This is (still) a country that voted for GWB twice. Running for President is, in large part, a rhetorical process, and Wright's rhetoric for it sucks. I'm frankly surprised that my comments seem at all controversial. The context for these comments is not only the Presidential race, but the hay we've already seen made from Wright's previous comments. It's hard for me not to think that agreement with his ideas (as worthy as they may be) is constraining some folks ability to think critically about how his comments will be received.

(I also think his bullshit about HIV and Farrakhan is just that, and that he deserves to be excoriated for it. The fastest growing group of new HIV cases in the US is among AA women who acquire the disease heterosexually. Wright's anti-science shit does no one any favors, and really, materially effects the willingness for some people to pursue treatment.)
posted by OmieWise at 2:37 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


In order for it to be a slur, the speaker has to be white, must be referring to an African-American person, and must deliver it with unambiguous condescension

I don't think so. I think the idea is that you may not realize that you're racist, but if the guy were white, it wouldn't occur to you to call him "articulate". You'd just think it was a regular guy talking. We don't specify that Bill or Hillary, or, say, Stephen Colbert is "articulate" after we see them on a talk show; we just jump right in to the part where they said XYZ, or maybe we say how smart they are or something. But a black person expresses themselves at the same level, and it seems necessary to point out how impressive it is that they're good at talking... I believe that's why people sometimes find themselves offended by it. (Not that it was intended that way - but I think the point is that it doesn't have to be conscious to reveal a cultural bias)
posted by mdn at 2:37 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and, Fupped Duck, my point is precisely that those are sound bites. If you don't understand how and why sound bites are important then you should probably stay the hell out of political threads. Wright certainly understands them, which is why I'm critical of his choice to supply more.
posted by OmieWise at 2:39 PM on April 28, 2008


Even if some of his comments seem reasonable to people on the Left, only an idiot would think that they're acceptable to most of America, --OmieWise

How the hell do you know? Do you know a single non-republican who was offended enough by Wright to vote against Obama? No one is speaking for themselves, they are all speaking for some imaginary "normal guy", yet there is no evidence that anyone cares. The people who are going to get upset about would be manipulated by the right-wing into freaking out about anything they could gin up, just like they'd freak out about Hillary's defense of a child rapist by calling the victim someone who sought out older men, or her working for a Communist law firm in the 1960s or whatever.

You will probably find a lot of people who would never vote for Obama claim that they're offended, but who would vote on such a trivial issue with all the pressing problems this country has?

I actually think he's pretty good at it. Clearly his strength is in the composition, but I don't these he's bad at all at delivery

His problem is extemporaneous speech.
posted by delmoi at 2:53 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


At my last Klan meeting we were all sitting around calling Obama articulate. Cuz that's just how evil we are.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:58 PM on April 28, 2008


Even lefties are supposed to wave the flag now, and say nothing bad about America, because if you do, you're AIDING THE TERRORISTS!

No, if you do you're helping the Republicans take the White House for the third time in a row and packing the Supreme Court with their employees for at least a generation.

This is not about the media (they're stenographers, yes, if you haven't noticed you haven't been paying attention) and not even about Wright (he says a lot of self-evident things, others that are very debatable, but he is obviously not Satan); this is 100% about the fact that Obama isn't running for president of MetaFilter, he's running for a President of a country that might -- I'm being polite here with "might" -- be slightly to the right of MetaFilter as a whole.

Wright is a huge asset for Obama if he only wants to win Metafilter, but Wright is a huge albatross around Obama's neck if Obama wants to be President of the US. Having said that, as a detached spectator who obviously doesn't have a horse in the race and doesn't particularly care who wins, I have to say that my many dear American friends who are totally in the tank for Obama and keep shooting down any objections to their optimism, well, I hope that it's mostly swagger and they are somewhat prepared to absorb a loss, maybe even a big one, this November. Because many of them look like they'd be totally hit by a ton of bricks if Obama ends up losing. The election's still a long time away, hence nobody knows, but still I think their optimism might be, you know, based more on wishful thinking, hope and enthusiasm than on anything else.
posted by matteo at 3:00 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like what I hear from Jeremiah Wright. I absolutely hate the storm that has arisen over his words, which is one of the most blatantly manufactured media controversies in a period where they've been lots more obvious than usual. God damn America, indeed.
posted by JHarris at 3:20 PM on April 28, 2008



gurple - you do realize there are royalty fees associated with your use of:

OK, "not really"

My army of attorneys will be in touch with you.
posted by notreally at 3:21 PM on April 28, 2008


What happens if I call someone white articulate?
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on April 28, 2008


matteo: [...]this is 100% about the fact that Obama isn't running for president of MetaFilter, he's running for a President of a country that might -- I'm being polite here with "might" -- be slightly to the right of MetaFilter as a whole.

Hold on for a moment there. How can this be?

At no time, that I'm aware of at least, has Metafilter ever actively sought a left-leaning userbase. There's certainly a number of right-wing folk here, and some of them have been very vocal. Perhaps it has sought a more enlightened or educated kind of user, but that doesn't necessarily imply liberal, does it? Well?

OmieWise:Wright certainly understands them, which is why I'm critical of his choice to supply more.

You know what? Fuck sound bites. He's not running for office, and trying to frame one's words in such a way that they couldn't be clipped off at an inopportune point is so obnoxious an activity that no one who isn't running for office should have to do it.
posted by JHarris at 3:33 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wright has a choice, which he's apparently made, between being himself and helping to elect Obama.

I guess we'll just have to agree to differ about how much of an obligation people not actually in the pay of Obama's campaign have to help to elect him at the expense of being themselves. If Wright suddenly started talking like a "good Negro," saying all the things White America wants to hear, 1) it wouldn't do any good, since the old sound bites would continue to be used against Obama, and 2) his parishioners would turn against him, and quite rightly. Short of using a time machine to wipe out Wright's entire career (or ensure that Obama never met him), I'm not sure what you think he should do that would have any effect on the situation. This is a deeply bigoted country; it's impressive that so many white people are willing to vote for a black guy, and things have come a long way during my lifetime, but the fact is that the powers that be will use any weapons they can find to crush anybody who even faintly resembles a threat to their hegemony (and of course Obama is not anything like a real threat, he probably will do pretty much the same things as Hillary), and with a black guy who's hung out with actual black people for much of his life (in contrast to, say, O.J. Simpson), it's always going to be easy to find albatrosses. If Obama winds up losing (and as matteo says, you should brace yourself for that prospect), don't blame it on Wright. Blame it on Obama (who is starting to remind me of Adlai) and on the too easily manipulated American voter.
posted by languagehat at 3:38 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Or what JHarris said.
posted by languagehat at 3:39 PM on April 28, 2008


Was that a left handed compliment or were you unaware that Blacks tend to see "articulate" as such?

I find this anguished parsing over words perceived as racist rather Alice in Wonderland. I still shake my head over a case some years back (sorry I do not recall the people involved) where a white fellow on a board of directors called the black treasurer's budget figures "rather niggardly," whereupon the treasurer took offense and walked out. "Niggardly", of course, has nothing to do with niggers and was used correctly. Yet because the treasurer did not know the meaning of the word and wrongly took offense, the guy using the word ended up resigning!

I would call anyone who speaks clearly and well "articulate", whatever their colour, age, race, sex or anything else, because that is what the word means. If someone takes offense, that is their problem. We do not improve society by acquiescing to willful ignorance or we end up like Humpty Dumpty: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean."
posted by binturong at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2008


"Niggardly", of course, has nothing to do with niggers

Um, wow. Just wow. Are you trying to stir up something with that comment, or am I just being oversensitive here? Yikes.
posted by ornate insect at 3:50 PM on April 28, 2008


Niggardly - Word_origins
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Artw--yeah I know the word. But binutrong might have written:

"Niggardly", of course, has nothing to do with the word "nigger"
posted by ornate insect at 3:59 PM on April 28, 2008


Great catch! Your petty quibble should earn you a medal or something.
posted by Artw at 4:00 PM on April 28, 2008


It's hardly a petty quibble. The original phrasing seems to walk a line. You do see the difference, no?
posted by ornate insect at 4:02 PM on April 28, 2008


You seriously think this is a productive and helpfull line of argument that proves anything about anything?
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on April 28, 2008


Re-read the original phrasing: it could be read in a less than flattering light. I'm willing to give binutrong the benefit of the doubt here, but that was really a poor way of phrasing it.
posted by ornate insect at 4:05 PM on April 28, 2008


I'm also impressed at how clean he is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:06 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Whoops, sorry, you are quite right ornate insect I should have used quotes to be clear. And thanks for the Wikki reference. Amazing. Is there anything that is not on Wikki? I hope it's not a derail, but I think the whole point of the Wright incident is that it is largely a manufactured controversy because people pay more attention to the meaning and interpretation of words than to what the guy is actually saying. If that makes any sense.
posted by binturong at 4:23 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


INPUT: I hope it's not a derail, but I think the whole point of the Wright incident is that it is largely a manufactured controversy because people pay more attention to the meaning and interpretation of words than to what the guy is actually saying. If that makes any sense.

PARSE: Hitler Hitler Hitler Hitler Hitler Hitler Hitler Hitler
posted by Artw at 4:27 PM on April 28, 2008


To pastor Wright all I can say is, preach it brother go tell it on the mountain tops. Makes me want to clap my hands.
posted by nola at 4:29 PM on April 28, 2008


You know what? Fuck sound bites. He's not running for office, and trying to frame one's words in such a way that they couldn't be clipped off at an inopportune point is so obnoxious an activity that no one who isn't running for office should have to do it.

I'm not sure what it is you expect here. Just because you, or I, or Wright doesn't like soundbites (and we're probably in agreement about them), doesn't mean that they won't be used against Obama.

I guess we'll just have to agree to differ about how much of an obligation people not actually in the pay of Obama's campaign have to help to elect him at the expense of being themselves. If Wright suddenly started talking like a "good Negro,"...

Well, first, I don't think the choice was between saying what he said and saying what America wants to hear. He could also have chosen to stay silent. I understand that he's a person of some importance in his sphere, but his recent tour is a direct result of his connection to Obama. He could have chosen to remain silent.

Look, I'm sympathetic to Wright. He's spoken some kinds of truth for a lot of his career, and he's lead a liberal church that's done a lot of good. It's got to suck to be in the position he's been put in by the media. But he's spent a career working for the uplift of his people, and more specifically, of his congregation, and to me it really does show a lack of character to jeopardize the chances of one of his parishioners to BECOME PRESIDENT merely so that he can have his say. Especially when he could say whatever he wants in nine months. It's possible that he doesn't care about Obama winning the nomination or the Presidency, in which case his comments now are completely justified, but even so, I think they damage Obama's chances.

Another way to think about this is to ask yourself if Obama and his campaign are happy about Wright's appearances. I'd be shocked if they were. For one thing, it's exactly the kind of distraction Obama has been lamenting. It distracts from policy and it distracts from substance. Wright is a sideshow, and unless Obama is a hypocrite, he's suggested that we need less of that in American politics. But, further, I think Obama wants to move beyond the Wright moment in this campaign, and even had Wright said nothing controversial, his appearance doesn't help with that. Given what he has said, I can think of no reason at all that Obama would be happy with his appearances.

Personally, I don't give a shit about Wright. I'm more than a little bit wary of Black churches, even liberal one's like Wright's (just as I am of White churches); and, his political views, many of which I agree with, aren't particularly well-articulated or argued. There are many other places I engage with the things he says which interest me. Which leaves me looking and listening precisely in the context in which he made the comments: as someone connected with (even if not paid by) Obama's campaign.
posted by OmieWise at 4:29 PM on April 28, 2008


binutrong--thanks for the clarification. I'm not given to parsing everything, despite artw's insistance that I am. Not just the lack of quotes, but the plural form of the word in question is what caused me to wonder what it was you were saying.

artw--I have flagged your last comment b/c it's just totally unnecessary and extremely childish.
posted by ornate insect at 4:32 PM on April 28, 2008


Maybe you'll get a medal for that too.
posted by Artw at 4:34 PM on April 28, 2008


Do you know a single non-republican who was offended enough by Wright to vote against Obama? No one is speaking for themselves, they are all speaking for some imaginary "normal guy", yet there is no evidence that anyone cares.

I guess I know because I've been paying attention to the polls of "White working-class voters" who had trouble voting for Obama in PA, many of whom stated that race was a factor in their lack of an Obama vote. I don't know if polling data counts in your facile view of America, but it does in mine, especially when it details people saying unpalatable things which they should be embarrassed to admit.
posted by OmieWise at 4:42 PM on April 28, 2008


I enjoy hearing Wright speak, too. But, as a conservative Republican, I think that my motivation is probably different from (apparently all of) yours.
posted by Slap Factory at 4:50 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


*Sigh*

I can't wait to watch President McCain's inaugaration.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 4:52 PM on April 28, 2008


Why Jeremiah Wright's Tour Is Good for Obama
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on April 28, 2008


... many of whom stated that race was a factor in their lack of an Obama vote.

Does that mean they would have voted for Obama but for Wright? Obama's still black either way, I think.

... it really does show a lack of character to jeopardize the chances of one of his parishioners to BECOME PRESIDENT merely so that he can have his say ...

It must stink to be a victim of character assassination, and then to be told you should just suck it up - and if you don't, that indicates a lack of character on your part.

If you believe you're speaking truth to power, it would show a lack of character to stop doing this so that your parishioner can become president, I think.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:57 PM on April 28, 2008


it really does show a lack of character to jeopardize the chances of one of his parishioners to BECOME PRESIDENT merely so that he can have his say.

Merely so that he can have his say.

Merely.

.
posted by srboisvert at 4:58 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Obama on Wright:
“I think certainly what the last three days indicate is that we’re not coordinating with him, right?” Mr. Obama said. “He’s obviously free to speak his mind, but I just want to emphasize that this is my former pastor. Many of the statements that he has made both to trigger this initial controversy and that he’s made over the last several days are not statements that I’ve heard him make previously. They don’t represent my views and they don’t represent what this campaign is about.
[...]
People will understand that I am not perfect and there are going to be folks in my past – like Reverend Wright – that may cause them concern,” Mr. Obama said. “But, ultimately, my 20 years of service and the values that I’ve written about, spoken about and promoted are their values and what they are concerned about. That’s what this campaign has been about. And will continue to be about.
[...]
Some of the comments that Reverend Wright has made offended me and I understand why they offend the American people,” Mr. Obama said. “He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign."

But Mr. Obama said the election should not be decided on issues like comments from his former pastor. Voters, he said, were concerned about gas prices, health care and the Iraq war.

“None of the voters have asked about it,” Mr. Obama said. “Now, there may be people who are troubled by it and may be polite and are not asking about it.”
Man, that Obama guy is such an MSM tool!
posted by OmieWise at 5:09 PM on April 28, 2008


(who is starting to remind me of Adlai)

did you tap my phone? I told exactly this to a friend just the other day. word for word.
posted by matteo at 5:17 PM on April 28, 2008


Another way to think about this is to ask yourself if Obama and his campaign are happy about Wright's appearances. ... Which leaves me looking and listening precisely in the context in which he made the comments: as someone connected with (even if not paid by) Obama's campaign.

I humbly suggest that you may be a tad too invested in Obama's campaign if you filter everything that goes on through "would Obama and his campaign be happy about this?" He is "connected" with Obama's campaign by the facts that 1) he is—sorry, was—Obama's pastor, and 2) a bunch of assholes are using him as a stick to club Obama with. I understand, as does he (did you watch the Moyers interview?), why Obama felt the need to distance himself, but that's a far cry from saying he should shut up and be a good Obama supporter. His primary goal (once again) is not to get Obama elected—he probably suspects (rightly) that not much will change for the people he cares about in that event—but to support his parishioners and people like them. You may not approve of everything he says and does, but at least acknowledge that he has every right to say and do it without regard to what you or "Obama and his campaign" might be happy about.

Artw: You're really being a jerk, and it's hard to see exactly why.
posted by languagehat at 5:19 PM on April 28, 2008


I told exactly this to a friend just the other day. word for word.

Either:

1) Great minds think alike,

or

2) I did tap your phone.

You'll never know. Bwahahaha!
posted by languagehat at 5:20 PM on April 28, 2008


it really does show a lack of character to jeopardize the chances of one of his parishioners to BECOME PRESIDENT merely so that he can have his say.

Nah. Wright is just lending more credence to that idea that he's a loose cannon, will say whatever is on his mind, whenever he wants to say it. He's pretty much become Barack's crazy old uncle... which mostly supports what Barack said in his speech on race.

I think there's actually a kind of genius in it. If he went quietly into that good night after "the speech" people would always suspect that there was something boiling just beneath the surface with both Wright and Obama. In this case, Wright says what he wants, and Barack just shrugs and goes "what are you gonna do?"
posted by psmealey at 5:27 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I humbly suggest that you may be a tad too invested in Obama's campaign if you filter everything that goes on through "would Obama and his campaign be happy about this?"

Of course Wright has every right to say whatever he wants, but I took it as axiomatic that the context of his comments is Obama's campaign for President. Otherwise I'd just be saying, "Who the fuck is Reverend Wright?"
posted by OmieWise at 5:39 PM on April 28, 2008


Nah. Wright is just lending more credence to that idea that he's a loose cannon, will say whatever is on his mind, whenever he wants to say it. He's pretty much become Barack's crazy old uncle...I think there's actually a kind of genius in it.

psmealey -- spot on. I agree. Wright and Obama sought to distance themselves from the other.
"The governmental leaders, those -- as I said to Barack Obama, my member -- I am a pastor, he's a member. I'm not a spiritual mentor, guru. I'm his pastor.

And I said to Barack Obama, last year, 'If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.' All right? It's about policy, not the American people."*
Regarding Barack Obama's response to Wright's speech today:
"If it was not clear before today, Senator Barack Obama said, it should be clear now: his presidential campaign has no control over what the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his former pastor, says or does.

'I think certainly what the last three days indicate is that we're not coordinating with him, right?' Mr. Obama said. 'He's obviously free to speak his mind, but I just want to emphasize that this is my former pastor. Many of the statements that he has made both to trigger this initial controversy and that he's made over the last several days are not statements that I've heard him make previously. They don't represent my views and they don't represent what this campaign is about.'"*
posted by ericb at 5:43 PM on April 28, 2008


'I think certainly what the last three days indicate is that we're not coordinating with him...'

Methinks that may not be the case. Wright is smart. Obama is smart. Wright is a retired pastor and may be willing to serve himself up -- in a "crazy uncle-sort-of-way" -- to mitigate the media focus on past "sound bites."
posted by ericb at 5:53 PM on April 28, 2008


Next up -- John McCain and his relationship to and solicitation of the endorsement from homophobic, anti-Catholic, anti-Semite, anti-Islamist Rev. John Hagee.
McCain Can't Quit John Hagee [Video | 05:46].

McCain "Proud" of Endorsement From John Hagee Who Calls Catholics "The Great Whores".

McCain Defends Hagee: ‘He Said That His Words Were Taken Out Of Context’
___________

STEPHANOPOULOS: "...you solicited and accepted [Hagee's] endorsement?

MCCAIN: Yes, indeed. I did...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're going to hold onto his endorsement? Your own campaign acknowledged that you should have done a better job of vetting Pastor Hagee.

MCCAIN: Oh, sure...

MCCAIN: I'm glad to have his endorsement."*
posted by ericb at 5:56 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Would calling a white person unarticulate be a slur? Or would calling a black person unarticulate be a compliment? It's all so confusing.

BTW - I was very impressed with Wright. Count me in as one of the few whose estimation of Obama has increased after learning about the man. He at least seems to have a boatload of integrity, in the old-fashioned definition of the word, and listening to him has caused me to reevaluate my opinions of modern Christianity. It seems there are people who might actually be striving to be a little bit more like their messiah. I just wish they weren't outnumbered by the brainless followers of Hagee and company.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:04 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


No one is speaking for themselves, they are all speaking for some imaginary "normal guy", yet there is no evidence that anyone cares.

Can we tear apart the media/politicians' normal guy? He or she is about forty, upper middle class, living in a detached house in suburbia. They do not own the house. The bank owns the house, which is a poorly constructed McMansion-type. They are married, with two children. Their family owns at least two automobiles and they must use them daily. They believe to some degree in a Christian God, perhaps attending church, perhaps "lapsed." They believe in American exceptionalism and patriotism. They have a credit card and regularly carry debt. They support the troops, but would vaguely like to get out of the war, not because it's wrong, but only because we're losing. They don't like the drugs the ads on TV tell them not to like and they like the drugs the ads on TV tell them to like. Their relationships and sex life are mainstream. They tolerate gays and abortions, but view both as sort of icky, maybe sinful. They have a doctor or several, a lawyer, a personal trainer, a therapist, a financial manager - a whole cadre of trained professionals to take care of their life. (That one's even a problem here on Ask Metafilter.) They are incredibly risk-averse but only for risks that are already negligible. Thusly they will protect themselves from terrorists and their children from strangers with candy, until they die in a car crash. They belong to the Republican or Democratic party. They eat corn syrup at Burger King and Chili's or out of their freezer, and are slightly overweight. They listen to the ads on the radio and watch the ads on the television. They enjoy buying things and will soon own the latest expensive large TV technology if they don't already. They do not accept open racism or sexism, but might privately, probably support several of the ideas and systems that foster these prejudices, and probably won't balk at hearing that Democratic Black women suffer the dilemma of betraying either their race or their gender - a dilemma shared by Democratic White men, but only one was in the news.

Man, I could go on and on. The point is that it's quite easy, yet harmful, to overestimate the commonality of one's viewpoints and experiences. Here we have the media, politicians, and so on extending this. They expect not commonality with themselves, but commonality with some prototypical nigh-impossible American created by them and serving their interests (a variety, but the blatant, most-important ones are easy - buy things. support the politicians we put forth as serious candidates. Go into debt. Go into debt and pay interest so you can get a good credit score which will allow you to get into worse debt and pay more interest.) They're not necessarily sitting around planning these things out as conspiracies, but there's a system as good as an arch-conspiracy. The worst part is that by expecting this false commonality a version of it is created, to a degree. You can shirk this a little bit, get high on Vicodins or have gay sex in the rest room, but these have to be guilty pleasures and understood as singular exceptions to the Great American Lifestyle, not evidence that it's a lie.

So yeah, it can be hilarious and painful watching politicians play to this big lie, knowing if they're bright enough to figure out how to become Senator, they're probably way too bright to believe any of that shit. So if Obama goes up there and stops lying, says "Yeah, chickens coming home to roost, etc. etc." he immediately gets taken out of the media's "Contender" category with Clinton, McCain, and formerly Edwards, Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, right past the "Respectable Background Characters - It's Very Democratic" category of Biden, Dodd, Hunter, and so on, and right into the "Let's Treat These Guys As A Joke" category with Paul, Gravel, and Kucinich. And that's not something that will make everyone believe that (it failed, for example, with Giuliani who the media took all seriously and then got beaten by Ron Paul) but it would be enough to take him out.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:28 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


as someone who is in the tank for obama, i have to agree with OmieWise. unfortunately, perception is everything in politics. much of the american electorate sees wright's remarks as crazy, and this taints obama. and the MSM just stirs the pot. i hope i'm wrong, but i see wright as a huge liability for obama.
posted by brandz at 6:48 PM on April 28, 2008


I *heart* Bill Moyers.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:57 PM on April 28, 2008


I enjoy hearing Wright speak, too. But, as a conservative Republican, I think that my motivation is probably different from (apparently all of) yours.

Here's the truth behind what SlapFactory said: The 'conservatives' (meaning, the proto-Nazis, not the actual conservatives who are just as fed-up as the rest of us) are laughing it up right now over how effectively they're managing (again) to turn those who should be political and ideological allies among the electorate against each other.

Every single Democratic leaning voter should realize that to engage any of these slurs against the Obama campaign and Reverend Wright (whether initiated by the Clinton camp or not) is ultimately a loss for the Democratic party come general election time. The point is to make us eat each other and to create so much bitter feeling among the powerful new anti-Republican coalition (in which both independents and black voters play such a crucial role) that at the end of the day, what should be a powerful new political force is fractured and easily cowed.

This entire made-for-TV-controversy--in fact, every one of these horse-race conversations about how this or that manufactured scandal impacts one of the candidate's chances--risks making liberals look callow, hypocritical and opportunistic: Right now, to undecided voters, the Democrats are starting to look more and more as if they're just as calculating, out of touch, and unprincipled as the Republicans they've been denouncing for the past eight years. That plays right into the hands of a guy like McCain, who's worked hard to brand himself (quite dishonestly, in my opinion) as a principled moderate/maverick.

Why are the Democrats starting to look so bad? Because the two Democratic candidates are now campaigning against each other in exactly the way that the Republicans campaign against Democrats: Race baiting, media manipulation and factual distortions, insinuations questioning the other candidate's patriotism, all of it, straight from the Republican play-book.

It's not too late to reverse this trend in perception, but it's going to require both candidates and their supporters to turn away from attacking each other, and begin focusing on their real opponent in the general election: John McCain. Remember, no matter who wins now, they will have to take on McCain, so the candidates should just leave the process to sort itself out now and start focusing on the real obstacles that either of the winning candidates will have to overcome to take the White House--at least, this is the strategy both candidates should adopt if they want to win. Any other strategy gives the Republicans enough of a nail to hang their hats on that they'll just use their well-established vote-blocking and other election manipulating mechanisms to shave a few percentage points off the margins in the larger electoral college states and steal the election that way.

So far, that strategy seems like it might have a chance of working, so long as everyone keeps drinking the kool-aid and taking all the concern trolling at face value.

The fact is Wright isn't the boogie-man he's being portrayed as in the press. He's actually quite moderate, and if you listen to the entirety of the 'controversial' sermons, you'll see that. What the Republicans (and to a lesser extent, the Clinton camp) are exploiting is the tendency of liberal-leaning whites to become overly-emotional, conflicted, self-defeating and self-loathing when it comes to issues of race. The strategy is to demoralize and fracture the (until recently) very strong and unified anti-Republican movement that's formed in reaction to the Republican's stranglehold on the political process over the last eight years (due to the resulting near-collapse of our constitutional government).

Inadvertently or not, the Clinton camp and its supporters are helping by behaving in a way virtually guaranteed to alienate black voters, for whom Wright's patriotism or status as a moderate voice has really never been in doubt. The simple fact is, Wright has never preached "God damn America!" What he actually preached is that, in light of some of the government's recent failures and abuses, it's tempting to say "God damn America," but that faith shows Christians another more hopeful way to respond to that sense of frustration. There is absolutely nothing controversial about these sermons.

Wright's message and politics have been misrepresented in a willful, deceptive way, and there's no reason for anyone who regards themselves as progressive or liberal to legitimize those distortions by granting the right-wing's absurd talking points (or Clinton's, as the case may be). It's a dirty trick, that could be played on anyone: All you have to do is take any one statement out of context, then present it within a different context of your own. This is among the most shameful kind of political dishonesty there is, and whether or not the Clinton camp is directly responsible for these attacks, for anyone on either the political right or left to play into this trick is shameful and hurts the cause of getting someone into office who stands a decent chance of significantly reversing the trend toward the wholesale abandonment of our liberal democracy--a liberal democracy that owes whatever greatness it's achieved in the past, in fact, to its willingness to turn a critical eye on its self to examine its own faults, no matter how much labored soul-searching that might take.

So stop it now. You're being made to slap yourselves in the face with your own hands and it has to stop now. Don't let the puppet masters make you dance to their off-key music. Cut the strings, now.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:14 PM on April 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Here's the truth behind what SlapFactory said: The 'conservatives' (meaning, the proto-Nazis, not the actual conservatives who are just as fed-up as the rest of us) are laughing it up right now over how effectively they're managing (again) to turn those who should be political and ideological allies among the electorate against each other.

That's not what I meant at all. Except for the laughing it up part.

Also, your large blocks of text make my eyes hurt.
posted by Slap Factory at 7:19 PM on April 28, 2008


sotonohito writes "He isn't anywhere near Bill Clinton's level of ability when it comes to delivering a speech well, but then Bill Clinton may have been the best speech giving president in the last 50 years."

It's worth noting that Bill Clinton did not start out that way, not when he was campaigning for president the first time. He tended to be long-winded and a bit aloof. But intelligent, yes - he's a brilliant guy, truly, but he gets carried away with it sometimes. He also had the ability to sorta work a crowd up close and get casual, like his appearance on MTV, and when he pulled out his sax on Arsenio (remember that show?). That's how he won the first time, not with his speeches. His SOTU speeches were pretty amazing, but sometimes more than three hours long. Many were not bellringers, but many were thick with policy and theory. If you remember Obama's first speech that made him known, at the convention in 2004, which sorta came out of nowhere and blew everyone away ... well, even Pat Buchanan was saying that was a bellringer.

But his speeches have waxed and waned since then. Some have been historic as well as eloquent, like his speech on race - no matter what happens in the nomination process, that speech will be taught in history classes. But I remember his last speech in Pennsylvania, and, yeah, a lot of the same themes as so many of his campaign speeches, but not exactly moving the earth and sky. You can't do that every time, though, but he really nails it when it matters. He's already way past Clinton in that regard, IMO. Obama himself has said he's the kind of person who comes through in the fourth quarter. I think his speaking abilities will only get better with time and experience.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:24 PM on April 28, 2008


Would calling a white person unarticulate be a slur? Or would calling a black person unarticulate be a compliment? It's all so confusing.

I really don't think it is. Calling a black person "articulate" is often considered a backhanded compliment - it's not a direct slur, and saying someone is not articulate is not a compliment. But in most cases, we say "that was articulate" rather than "he is articulate", except in cases where there's an underlying expectation that the person won't be articulate ("wow, he's really articulate").

If this had been with a 60-something white minister who had an advanced degree from an excellent university, who had studied and preached for decades, and had sat down to have a conversation with Bill Moyers, would the first thing we would say in response be, he's "smart and extremely articulate"? I'm not saying it's impossible, but the worry is, perhaps his ability to engage in intelligent dialogue would be quickly absorbed as a given, not taken note of.

Again, I don't think it needs to be considered as intentional - it's just something to consider as a culturally ingrained issue. Because of course we would use the word articulate differently depending on expectation - we will say a 12 year old is articulate if they speak at a certain level that would not be impressive if they were 20, and we would say the 20 year old was articulate if they spoke at a level that we would naturally expect from someone applying for a professorship. And when would we call the professor articulate? I don't know that we usually do - we expect a basic level of clarity and are impressed by specific examples ("that was a very articulate explanation")
posted by mdn at 7:29 PM on April 28, 2008


That's not what I meant at all. Except for the laughing it up part.

I didn't say it was what you meant. I said it was the truth behind it.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:29 PM on April 28, 2008


I don't think so. I think the idea is that you may not realize that you're racist, but if the guy were white, it wouldn't occur to you to call him "articulate". You'd just think it was a regular guy talking. We don't specify that Bill or Hillary, or, say, Stephen Colbert is "articulate" after we see them on a talk show; we just jump right in to the part where they said XYZ, or maybe we say how smart they are or something. But a black person expresses themselves at the same level, and it seems necessary to point out how impressive it is that they're good at talking... I believe that's why people sometimes find themselves offended by it. (Not that it was intended that way - but I think the point is that it doesn't have to be conscious to reveal a cultural bias)

I agree that it needn't be intentional to reveal prejudice. But I disagree that Hillary or Bill or Stephen Colbert wouldn't be characterized as articulate if the point was that they elucidated complex points in a clear and effective manner. It's the usage of "articulate" to indicate a lack of "black accent" or black cultural references, especially while ignoring the actual content of the speech, that's the prejudiced usage.
posted by desuetude at 7:36 PM on April 28, 2008


this thread is like a parody of a thread about white guilt and misguided liberalism. please stop debating this stupid "is it a slur to call a black man articulate" distraction.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:43 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Right now, to undecided voters, the Democrats are starting to look more and more as if they're just as calculating, out of touch, and unprincipled as the Republicans they've been denouncing for the past eight years.

Congratulations, you've figured out American politics!
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:44 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, your large blocks of text make my eyes hurt.

Good.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:45 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


well, I hope that it's mostly swagger and they are somewhat prepared to absorb a loss, maybe even a big one, this November. Because many of them look like they'd be totally hit by a ton of bricks if Obama ends up losing.

Um, it's not Obama losing that would hit me like a ton of bricks in November; it'd be the consequent fact of McCain winning. That means either 1) the voting system is so rigged (through voter suppression rather than machines) that the Republicans will never lose another election until it's too late or, 2) the American population is so cowardly and ignorant that they'll keep voting Republican until it kills them.

I literally cried at my desk when it was announced that Bush won a second term and I didn't even really like Kerry. If McCain wins, I don't know what I'll do.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:58 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Asia Times on Wright.
posted by Brian B. at 9:31 PM on April 28, 2008


This Bill Moyers fellow, can he moderate our presidential debates from now on?
posted by aqhong at 1:51 AM on April 29, 2008


Brian B. Did you really just link to an op-ed piece by "Spengler" on purpose? Because if you did, damn... Spengler is a well known right wing loony, he lies with a monotonous regularity, and he lies badly. I mean, linking to him isn't quite as bad as linking to Stormfront, or World Net Daily, but sheesh. I'm continualy amazed that the Asia Times keeps him around, and apparently pays him actual money to write the his spittle filled ravings.
posted by sotonohito at 4:47 AM on April 29, 2008


I heard a black guy call Obama articulate on the radio yesterday. He wasn't making a point about the use of the word or addressing the pseudo-controversy, he was just saying "Obama's a very articulate guy, so..." Because you know what? Obama is strikingly articulate. If the adjective has any meaning, it applies to him.

So: what saulgoodman said.
posted by languagehat at 6:01 AM on April 29, 2008


Um, it's not Obama losing that would hit me like a ton of bricks in November; it'd be the consequent fact of McCain winning.

I'm of a similar mind. A lot has been made of Obama's messianic like hold over his supporters, but that too, is overblown. I like Obama a lot and I see enormous potential in him, but policy-wise, he's far from my ideal. In fact, there are a few positions that HRC holds that are closer to my own. But here's the deal:

The problem is that I do not think HRC can win the general election. I think that the Club for Growth and their fellow travelers put a tail on Bill starting when he left the White House and have photographic evidence of all of his peccadilloes these past 7 years. Despite McCain's clear shortcomings, after this stuff starts to recirculate, people that were of a mind to vote Democratic are going to have second thoughts. I think that the Religious Right has a pathological hatred of HRC, and will show up in droves to vote against her. This will also kill hopes for gains in Congress on down-ticket races.

Beyond all that, I think that if by some miracle, HRC wins the General Election, she will find herself to be completely unable to govern. The Clinton/DLC wing of the party has fallen so far out of favor with both new progressives and the anti-war left, that she'll have to give up on health care, and much of the rest of her platform and try to govern to the right.

The alternative to this would be McCain, who clearly has no vision for his own Presidency or the country, and will cling to the demonstrably failed practices of the conservative playbook.

So, the reason why many of us are so strident in our support for Obama is not necessarily (in my case at least) that we are reflexively anti-Hillary, it's because of the three candidates, he's the last best chance we've got to try to have any chance at righting this dangerously off course ship.
posted by psmealey at 6:02 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bob Herbert on Wright yesterday:
This whole story is about Senator Obama’s run for the White House and absolutely nothing else. Barack Obama went to Rev. Wright’s church as a young man and was blessed with the Christian bona fides that would be absolutely essential for a high-profile political career.

Faster than anyone could have imagined, the young Mr. Obama became Senator Obama and then the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then came the videotaped sermons and the roof caved in on Rev. Wright’s reputation. Senator Obama had no choice but to distance himself, and he did it as gently as he felt he could.

My guess is that Mr. Wright felt he’d been thrown under a bus by an ungrateful congregant who had benefited mightily from his association with the church and who should have rallied to his former pastor’s defense. What we’re witnessing now is Rev. Wright’s “I’ll show you!” tour.

For Senator Obama, the re-emergence of Rev. Wright has been devastating. The senator has been trying desperately to bolster his standing with skeptical and even hostile white working-class voters. When the story line of the campaign shifts almost entirely to the race-in-your-face antics of someone like Mr. Wright, Mr. Obama’s chances can only suffer.
posted by OmieWise at 6:25 AM on April 29, 2008


Brian B. Did you really just link to an op-ed piece by "Spengler" on purpose? Because if you did, damn... Spengler is a well known right wing loony, he lies with a monotonous regularity, and he lies badly. I mean, linking to him isn't quite as bad as linking to Stormfront, or World Net Daily, but sheesh. I'm continualy amazed that the Asia Times keeps him around, and apparently pays him actual money to write the his spittle filled ravings.

Spengler appears to be a religious observer obsessed with theosophy, and he comments on Western Civilization by it. Perhaps he is a nutjob obsessed with his own religious point of view, which only boosts his credibility in observing a minor religious nutbar like Wright. Because he sees religion in all matters political, I would happily link again on any religious subject he cared to rave about. This is because I will never underestimate the singular ability of religion to ruin our lives so quickly, and therefore I won't underestimate the personality cult loonies that worship Obama because of it. If you don't like to read Spengler, then thank Obama for helping to make his brand of commentary necessary in the public square. Oh, and if you are a Wright supporter, your dismissal would be hypocritical, although I have no idea if you are one.
posted by Brian B. at 6:59 AM on April 29, 2008


Clarence B. Jones on Wright:
The reappearance of Reverend Jeremiah Wright in the national media with an interview by Bill Moyers, a weekend speech in Detroit at an NAACP conference of some 10,000 and his recent speech at the National Press Club opening a two day theology and Church meeting in Washington, DC, has reignited this discussion and its impact on the presidential campaign of Senator Obama.

To some, the "political" consequences of Rev. Wright's comments on Obama have been the principal, if not their exclusive, concern. Some persons, like Eric Deggans, in an article earlier today in the Huffington Post, said it would be the "the race-based bullet" coming from the "friendly fire" of Rev. Wright that could prevent Senator Obama from winning the Democratic nomination.

Aside from whether or not Democratic primary voters believe Senator Obama can effectively address their day-to-day concerns with high gas prices, rising foreclosures, absence of affordable health insurance and ending the war in Iraq, the underlying issue, uncomfortably presented by Rev. Wright, is the reality of race relations in America...

Rather than condemning Rev. Wright I commend him for refocusing the issue of race in America within a more relevant contemporary framework: A conference on the role of the Church in America, its organization, community work and its theology. The Church and its companion teaching of the gospel of Christianity was the centerpiece of leadership provided by Martin Luther King, Jr. It was Dr. King's abiding faith in the ultimate decency and fairness of most of white America that enabled him to build a successful coalition for the elimination of institutional segregation and the most egregious forms of white supremacy and racism in the United States.

It may be that America will look back at this election and conclude that we owe a great debt to Rev. Wright. However painful the rebirth and perfection of a new 21st-century America may seem now, ultimately he may be the unheralded, indeed unpopular, "hero" who enabled us to reembark on a new journey of recovery for social justice, initiated earlier by Dr. King, the greatest moral leader in our country in the 20th century.

The millions of white people who have voted for Senator Obama in the democratic primaries may be telling us something that we are unable to "hear" and understand. They just might be saying, in spite of all of the negative media and a political pundits, the time has come when they want to finally cross over the bridge to a new 21st century based on a color/race-irrelevant and multiracial society.
posted by psmealey at 7:02 AM on April 29, 2008


If you don't like to read Spengler, then thank Obama for helping to make his brand of commentary necessary in the public square.

What the fuck? Lucy, you got some splaining to do.
posted by psmealey at 7:05 AM on April 29, 2008


What the fuck? Lucy, you got some splaining to do.

I'll quote from the original piece that some found so offensive, a conclusion about Obama that I agree with:

It is possible that because of the Wright affair Obama will suffer for what he pretended to be, rather than for what he really is.

Obama is probably a religious fake with a true believer following. Is there any other kind?
posted by Brian B. at 7:13 AM on April 29, 2008


[NY Daily News] Wright Press Club event organized by Hillary Clinton supporter, Barbara Reynolds.
posted by psmealey at 7:15 AM on April 29, 2008


Obama is probably a religious fake with a true believer following.

As I alluded to in my own perspective above, I think that's mostly a canard. I think that, yes, there is a lot of enthusiasm and overwhelming support among African-Americans for the campaign, which is very understandable given history. But I think the support for Obama among other voter blocks has little to do with a cult of personality that it does a genuine belief that he has the better chance to win than HRC. I think the trope about Obama having the svengali like pull over his supporters is a plant designed to trivialize his campaign, his message and his support.

If you want to talk about cult of personality, I think George W. Bush, and his God Reagan are much clearer examples of that. The fact that Bush still has 20% of the people behind tells you everything you need to know about idol worship on the Right. In this case, not the same thing at all.
posted by psmealey at 7:24 AM on April 29, 2008


Brian B. I'm afraid I don't understand what you are saying. Spengler's nutbaggery is *necessary* from your POV?

This would be the same Spengler wrote the hit piece "Obama's Women Reveal His Secret". His secret, naturally, being that he hates America from a limp-wristed elitist standpoint. And you've got to love the dogwhistle racism of "Obama's Women".

What stunning insight do you see in the spittle filled ravings of Spengler that is necessary? He's a John Bircher with pretentions of eloquence and tendency to, poorly, immetate Buckley.

I'll agree that religion, any religion, is damn silly, but I fail to see how Obama's religion is particularly worse than Bush's "God told me to invade Iraq" nonsense. As for Wright, I'm not a "supporter" because I consider all priests/shamans/witchdoctors/preachers/televangelists/etc to be equally skeezy con artists. Wright == Robertson == Mullah Omar == Pope Benedict == Ayatollah Khamenei == Jimmy Swaggart == your local neighborhood preacher.

But, for now, we're stuck with the fact that to get elected it is necessary for a politician to claim membership in some form of organized religion. It sucks, and I wish it were otherwise, but that's what reality is. Black churches have an unfortunate tendency to be extremely homophobic, but from what I've read Wright isn't particularly worse than any of the others in that respect. He said America had problems, in typical preacher/con artist raving form, and I'm supposed to get all up in arms? Why?

As for Obama, I support his candidicy because a) I can't support a third Bush term and that's what McCain represents, and b) I really don't agree with most of Clinton's policy. Obama's too right wing for my taste, and I worry that his rhetoric about reaching out to the Republicans is going to be yet another iteration of "the Democrats surrender". But he's the best of the three currently running.

There are some Obama supporters who are a bit fanatic, but as psmealey observes they don't even remotely approach the level of the Reagan worshipers.
posted by sotonohito at 8:18 AM on April 29, 2008


I'm not a "supporter" because I consider all priests/shamans/ witchdoctors/preachers/ televangelists/etc to be equally skeezy con artists. Wright == Robertson == Mullah Omar == Pope Benedict == Ayatollah Khamenei == Jimmy Swaggart == your local neighborhood preacher.

See, now you've just undermined your entire argument, because this kind of black and white thinking is just silly.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:41 AM on April 29, 2008


As for Wright, I'm not a "supporter" because I consider all priests/shamans/witchdoctors/preachers/televangelists/etc to be equally skeezy con artists. Wright == Robertson == Mullah Omar == Pope Benedict == Ayatollah Khamenei == Jimmy Swaggart == your local neighborhood preacher.

I think you have to recognize at least one difference - I feel like say, Wright and Benedict actually believe in God and at least some of what they preach, compared to Swaggart and Robertson.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:28 AM on April 29, 2008


A more naive me likes to imagine that Wright might be an asset to Obama's campaign, as a sort of inoculation against the poo-flinging that will inevitably continue and expand into the general, should he be the nominee.

That, as Obama tries to steer discourse away from soundbites and petty controversies, over time he might turn the Wright spat to his advantage by arguing, when the next silly row comes around, that we've been through this, look, he handled it this way then, that nobody cares about context-free soundbites, that the country needs to focus on the more pressing matters at hand, that he's rubber and you are glue, etc.

But obviously, that's not how the cards are dealt. His point about transcending soundbite-driven discourse might ring true with those of us who like to think about politics and media and language at length, but how many of us are there anyway? "Low-information voters" (what a splendid Americanism, but I digress) may not be as impressed by such arguments, and that's putting it politely. In fact I myself, a card-carrying elitist, caught myself misremembering some of the subtleties of the Wright story, having read up on it when it broke but then hearing little about it since aside from what blares out of my little TV in my little kitchen somewhere in Europe, showing CNN International non-stop (bar the occasional ABC News carried on BBC News 24) all these late nights and early mornings because I keep finding myself so disproportionately obsessed with the US election.

So apparently it works. And here the tension between big-C Change and realpolitik presents itself so acutely: if you want to play transcendental politics you need to be able to play the soundbite-du-jour game, as well. And I worry about Obama's abilities as to the latter.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:45 AM on April 29, 2008


Latest: Obama plans to address Wright issue at "big press conference" today
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:53 AM on April 29, 2008


My only real point here is that I see all the media obsession with Wright as yet another example of how completely in the pocket of the Republican party the media is. McCain has ties with a pastor/con artist who has said stuff at least as nasty as Wright said, yet he has gotten a free ride. Obviously I'd perfer that people could run for president without sucking up to any priest/con artists, but if people are going to make a big deal out of Wright, then they bloody well ought to be making the same stink about McCain's witchdoctor of choice.

I shouldn't have gone on to state that, from my POV, all religious leaders all look the same, and the only difference I can see is that some of 'em have more opportunity to do harm than others do; far as I'm concerned they all have exactly the same desire to do harm. I think its true, but its a side issue and one that I know a lot of people will argue about.
posted by sotonohito at 11:02 AM on April 29, 2008


I don't know. The main thing I got out of the press conference was the strong impression that here Obama is forced to do something that he earlier said he not only wouldn't but couldn't do: disavow Wright. It's a big Catch-22, and I must add that he really appeared tired of the whole ordeal, and physically tired as well.

I guess we'll have to see how this develops from here but right now, I've got a bit of a bad feeling about it.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:35 AM on April 29, 2008


Obama strongly denounces former pastor -- "Candidate calls Wright's recent comments 'wrong and destructive.'"
posted by ericb at 11:57 AM on April 29, 2008


I suspect that Obama will now be denounced for "throwing Wright under the bus" by the very same people that criticized him for not renouncing him to begin with. Why anyone in their right mind would want to run for President and subject him or herself to this nonsense is incomprehensible to me.

The shame of all this is that moment where Obama stepped up to the plate, and in a nuanced and clear way, made the defining speech on race in the 21st century. As widely praised as it was, no one seemed to understand a damn word of it.
posted by psmealey at 12:07 PM on April 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


meh, never fear. he's still a shoo in for the nomination. and he'll still beat mccain.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:38 PM on April 29, 2008


Obama is probably a religious fake with a true believer following. Is there any other kind?

One little known fact about United Church of Christ congregations is that they are non-credal or covenant churches. One can be a member of UCC and not have to recite any Credo or subscribe to any official or unofficial theology.

I would not call Obama a religious fake: his beliefs are between him and his God and he is lucky to have found a religious community of brothers and sisters who value intellectual honesty, while believing that religion ought to be biblically responsible, emotionally satisfying, and socially significant.

(These words are the motto of the UCC church I attend and I'll be forever grateful that I found a place of worship that does not questions me on my personal beliefs)
posted by francesca too at 12:51 PM on April 29, 2008


Ha! I think some of you up-thread called it... The Washington Independent includes this, among its latest on the Wright mock-controversy:

But even at a moment like this, Obama’s non-confrontational style was on display, at least a little. As he pondered his future dealings with Wright, Obama said, "I do not see that relationship being the same after this."

Now can we please finally move on and talk about something with some real historical weight to it, like this latest news about how the government's own lead prosecutor at Guantanamo just testified under oath that the Guantanamo tribunals were rigged and subject to political manipulation?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:13 PM on April 29, 2008


Wright's narcissistic, and all this recent attention has just fueled the fire. Come November, no one will associate this guy with Mr. Personality. It will be a non-issue.
posted by VicNebulous at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2008


Wow, I just watched the video of Obama's repudiation of Wright, and it's brutal. He pulled no punches this time. He seems both angry and sad, which I think he has every right to be. (Tired, too, as gnfti said.) Wright apparently wanted something from him, and he got something, although why he felt like he had to say the things he did, which he must have known would leave Obama no choice but to break with him, I still puzzle to understand.
posted by OmieWise at 3:51 PM on April 29, 2008


Discussions about Wright are torture.
posted by valentinepig at 3:53 PM on April 29, 2008


OMG Pansy flap
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on April 29, 2008


Artw, haven't you had your might-be-offensive-in-the-right-light word moment already today? Let's not.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:17 PM on April 29, 2008


Now can we please finally move on and talk about something with some real historical weight to it, like this latest news about how the government's own lead prosecutor at Guantanamo just testified under oath that the Guantanamo tribunals were rigged and subject to political manipulation?

Don't talk about things like that, you might outrage Obama.

This whole shitshow is about Wright acknowledging America's wrongdoings. As America can do no wrong, Barack Obama has disavowed him as is required by politics.

Wright, even with the goofy AIDS beliefs and odd habit of emphasizing how certain people are White, comes off looking much better than Obama in these two conferences.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:30 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


goodnewsfortheinsane - was it the OMG or the flap?
posted by Artw at 6:50 PM on April 29, 2008


I suspect that Obama will now be denounced for "throwing Wright under the bus" by the very same people that criticized him for not renouncing him to begin with. Why anyone in their right mind would want to run for President and subject him or herself to this nonsense is incomprehensible to me.

Well, yeah. Here's why:

March 18, 2008 - "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother."

April 29, 2008 - "The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church."

If I were the white grandmother, I'd be worried about him flipping on me next.
posted by Slap Factory at 7:18 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Slap Factory writes "If I were the white grandmother, I'd be worried about him flipping on me next."

Given the Wright press conference, there was nothing else he could do. If his grandmother did the same thing, it would be a huge political albatross, just like this situation became.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:07 PM on April 29, 2008


Oh, fuck grandma.

Listen, Wright took advantage of his sudden, national soapbox to insult Obama, spew some more conspiracy theory laden bullshit and generally make an ass of himself at the expense of Obama's candidacy. This thing was not going to go away unless Obama did exactly what he did yesterday. It may not go away at all, but Barack did what he had to do.

That said, Wright's impression of LBJ was pretty good.
posted by psmealey at 1:01 AM on April 30, 2008


I am a white Jewish origin person who sang in a black gospel choir in the fine gospel music city of Cleveland Ohio, for three years just before I moved to Scotland. This is a black choir and I was the only white member. It did more good things for my ear and voice (and, of course, my spirit( than anything else in my long musical life. So I am not wary of the black church.

The choir, which is about 30 years old now, has no home church and is led by the musical and spiritual awesome of its director and arranger. It sings in three states and to any kind of black church - baptist mostly, but ame, pentecostal, whatever. Rich and poor churches, storefront churches and beautiful old buildings. In all of the church services I attended, the preachers were very different from each other politically. Where there was political content, it was a small fraction of the intensely personal content of most of the preaching. Most of the moral content was local and about one's own family or one's own life. I rarely even heard a bad word about homosexuality, and many male gospel choir members are (quietly) gay. We never sang and I never heard anybody else sing a song about God not blessing America. I am sure experience in Wright's church is a lot like that.

What links these churches together are a common worship experience that is truly awesome to behold and often really fun. It's full of music, emotion, human relationships nd a fantastic, committed and active love of God and Jesus Christ. Reverend Wright does not speak for the black church - there is no one preacher who can. If a preacher tried to represent what all the black churches have in common, it would probably be a sermon about God's grace and mercy.

For that matter, black churchgoers, in my experience, spend time talking about preachers the way some people talk about bands, with praise and criticism for them both. Not everyone in the pews agrees with the preacher, and seniority and good works earn him a lot of tolerance for weirdness. I am sure Wright benefits hugely from this.

One of the things I love about Barack Obama is that I can relate so well to that part of his experience - graduating and going to Chicago and walking in to a whole new experience of faith and becoming a part of it. It must be so painful for him to have this conflict with Wright and it must be hard on Wright's congregation. It must be hard for the black churches in general, who now have to weigh in, internally and externally, on this debate. I think it's good for churches to discuss whether America has sinned, but there needs to be a movement to make this debate move towards a positive outcome, rather than isolation.

As for Wright,his mojo comes from South Chicago, and it won't last if he goes to Washington and loses his connection with Chicago. He won't play on tv very long or well. What is he to be, Oral Roberts x Chomsky x Ahmedinejad? I could see him doing a youtube church pretty well, though.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:08 AM on April 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Nation: Wright isn't the problem.
posted by OmieWise at 7:12 AM on April 30, 2008


Bill Moyers Journal: On Rev. Wright ~ “Beware the Terrible Simplifiers”
posted by homunculus at 9:21 AM on May 4, 2008


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