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Friday, March 14, 2008

Audacity of hate: Obama and his spiritual mentor

WND reports more disturbing news about Barak Obama's spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr:
The Chicago minister ... said in a January 2006 sermon at his alma mater, Howard University, "America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. … We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional killers."

Speaking at the Washington, D.C., school's Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Wright said, "We started the AIDS virus. … We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty."
And apparently this is not the only instance in which Wright has blamed the United States for manufacturing the AIDS virus. This comes on the heels of yesterday's revelation that in a 2003 sermon Wright urged his congregation to say "God damn America." Wright has also drawn fire for giving a humanitarian award to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and for saying that America brought the 9-11 terror attacks upon itself.

When asked about Wright's "G-damn" sermon yesterday, Obama rebutted, "...I think it's important to judge me on what I've said in the past and what I believe." Which, of course, is true. Obama's beliefs are what matter. But Obama is a candidate who is trying to remain a tabula rasa upon which American voters should project their own hopes and aspirations; we cannot say for certain what all of his beliefs are. This begs the question: to what degree to Wright and Obama see eye to eye on this issue? Does Obama share his pastor's apparent disdain for the country he now seeks to govern?

Only God knows what is in Obama's heart, but his ties to Wright are worth considering as we attempt to learn more about this political newcomer and presidential front-runner. Rev. Wright has been Obama's pastor and spiritual mentor for two decades. He married Barack and Michelle, and baptized their daughters. Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope, was inspired by Wright, and Obama himself told the Chicago Tribune last year that Wright was his "sounding board." And Wright has a formal role on Obama's campaign. Politico's Ben Smith reports that Wright serves on the campaign's African American Religious Leadership Committee.

Without a doubt, Wright is an influential part of Obama's life, both private and public. Even if Obama does not agree with his mentor that the U.S. is "the No. 1 killer in the world," creator of the AIDS virus, and deserving of damnation, he obviously must not consider Wright's worldview to be too offensive. How else can one explain the role he's given Wright in his life? It's not ignorance. It's incomprehensible to assert that glimmers of Wright's worldview were not visible to Obama over the past 20 years. (One doesn't choose a "sounding board" because he stays silent, and the reverend is not exactly hesitant about voicing his politics from the pulpit.) So even if he did not directly hear Wright drop "G-damns" on America, Obama surely heard him voice the beliefs that served as the basis for those condemnations. To assert otherwise, you'd have to assume that Obama is either lying about his ties to Wright, or he has no idea of the beliefs of his advisors.

So Obama must've been at least aware of Wright's extreme and hateful beliefs, yet he did not consider them problematic. And Obama's defense that Wright is like "an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with" rings hollow. If President Bush had ever mused about appointing someone like David Duke to his campaign, surely the outcry would have been rightfully deafening, and it would've been the end of Bush's political career. Or consider a real-life example from earlier this week. Geraldine Ferraro had to quit Hillary Clinton's campaign because of her assertion that Obama's ethnicity benefited him at the polls. No one has made a convincing argument that Ferraro herself is a racist, but the Obama campaign charged that the comment was. The ensuing fracas compelled Ferraro to step down.

Obama may very well conclude that he needs to have Rev. Wright follow Ferraro's lead, but such a public repudiation seemingly would just be for show, given that Obama has sought counsel in private from an extremist for 20 years.

Not that Rev. Wright's opinions sound dissimilar to Michelle Obama's. It was widely reported that last month the candidate's wife proclaimed to a Milwaukee audience that "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." Later that day she told a Madison crowd, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country … not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change." These repeated statements prompted Peggy Noonan to ask, "Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism?"

The questions still stand, Senator Obama. We, the people, await your response.

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