Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama's Old Whine in a New Whineskin

Many have remarked on the bizarre, even reprehensible equation Barack Obama drew in his Philadelphia speech between Jeremiah Wright on the one hand and both Geraldine Ferraro and Obama's grandmother on the other. Charles Krauthammer, for example.

Sure, says Obama, there's Wright, but at the other "end of the spectrum" there's Geraldine Ferraro, opponents of affirmative action and his own white grandmother, "who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe." But did she shout them in a crowded theater to incite, enrage and poison others?

"I can no more disown (Wright) than I can my white grandmother." What exactly was grandma's offense? Jesse Jackson himself once admitted to the fear he feels from the footsteps of black men on the street. And Harry Truman was known to use epithets for blacks and Jews in private, yet is revered for desegregating the armed forces and recognizing the first Jewish state since Jesus' time. He never spread racial hatred. Nor did grandma.

Yet Obama compares her to Wright. Does he not see the moral difference between the occasional private expression of the prejudices of one's time and the use of a public stage to spread racial lies and race hatred?
But there is another criticism that builds on previous observations that behind all this talk of bringing America together and getting beyond the old polarities is the same old big government, forget-liberty-and-collapse-in-my-big-strong-arms, nanny state liberalism.

Jonah Goldberg found the speech initially "thrilling," and listened with hope that, for a Democrat, Obama was going to set a new course. Then, "Sigh, Here we go again."

For all the wonderful rhetoric and tantalizing promise of Obama and his speech, there's not much that's new here. This was largely a restatement of Wright's indictment of America, delivered in University of Chicago parlance instead of South Side Chicago diatribe.

The old baggage has been replaced with shinier suitcases, but the contents are the same. Black America's problems can be solved by spending more money on the same old Great Society programs. Any talk about blacks' problems that takes the eyes off that prize is a "distraction." Yet again, white Americans can prove their commitment to racial justice by going along with more big government. My hope for something better proved too audacious in the end.

Krauthammer also touches on the new eloquence with which Obama packages the old complaints and the old destructive remedies. "This contextual analysis of Wright's venom, this extenuation of black hate speech as a product of white racism, is not new. It's the Jesse Jackson politics of racial grievance, expressed in Ivy League diction and Harvard Law nuance."

Krauthammer then declares our presumptive young emperor naked, and poses these devastating questions:
But Obama was supposed to be new. He flatters himself as a man of the future transcending the anger of the past as represented by his beloved pastor. Obama then waxes rhapsodic about the hope brought by the new consciousness of the young people in his campaign.
Then answer this, senator:

If Wright is a man of the past, why would you expose your children to his vitriolic divisiveness? This is a man who curses America and who proclaimed moral satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents at a time when their bodies were still being sought at Ground Zero. It is not just the older congregants who stand and cheer and roar in wild approval of Wright's rants, but young people as well.
Why did you give $22,500 just two years ago to a church run by a man of the past who infects the younger generation with precisely the racial attitudes and animus you say you have come unto us to transcend?

We have not heard the end of this. In a war, it is usually with aerial bombing and artillery that you soften up the enemy before you send the troops in to topple what's left. In this political battle, Hillary Clinton and John McCain are just watching The Self-Declared-Moral-Future jump up and down on his own land mines.

Hillary has one eye on Obama's self-destruction, and another on polls like this one from Rasmussen. "Nationally, Barack Obama now holds a statistically insignificant one-point advantage over Hillary Clinton, 45% to 44%. Before the story broke about his former Pastor, Obama led Clinton by eight percentage points."

For his part, McCain is seeing what Rich Galen is seeing:
According to the Gallup poll track, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is sitting on a five percentage point lead over Obama 48-43. This is in contrast to the Gallup measure on March 16 (two days before The Speech) when Obama had a two point lead over Clinton – 47-45.

What do polls in March mean for the general election in November? Sure, but keep this in mind:
Given the state of the economy, the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, the lack of any positive news for Republicans at the US House or Senate level and the constant claim of the popular press that Democrats are so much more energized than Republicans, how can this be?

Hillary and Barack should be beating McCain by 20 points.

Jeremiah Wright should be beating McCain by 15.

At some point the national political press corps is going to come to the realization that the prospect of a Democrat being sworn in as President on January 20th next year is becoming increasingly dim.

I'm upbeat. This is why I have said that Barack Obama is quite beatable. But for that very reason (grumpy, brittle conservatives!), it is vital that we beat him!

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