More on Obama’s speech

I think Tim’s

By Matt Barnum

I think Tim’s last two posts pose some very interesting questions. I’ll attempt to answer a couple of them from the perspective of someone critical of Obama’s relationship with Wright. Is Wright as hateful as he is portrayed? I think he’s pretty hateful; in my mind, it’s perfectly reasonable for Americans to be offended by his characterization of our country as racist, and worthy of damning. Tim also says, that Wright’s accusation that the U.S. has spread the AIDS virus, as well as his gross anti-Americanism “aren’t hurting anybody, nor are they inciting retribution toward any group.” Really? In a moment that contradicts his point, Tim cites research that shows nearly half of African Americans believe HIV/AIDS to be man-made. This, to my mind, is clearly a problem for our country. Significantly, Reverend Wright isn’t just a symptom of this problem—he’s part of it. The reason why so many blacks believe the lie Wright is peddling is precisely because people like him are peddling it. Moreover, Wright’s lies could incite retribution, against whites—the implicit culprit in this conspiracy—or the country in general. It’s clearly a bad thing if some of our country’s citizens think it is the perpetrator of mass murder. Ultimately, the question of “hate” is less prescient than that of “dangerous.” (And I do believe that Wright exudes quite a lot of hate. He calls Clarence Thomas “Colon Thomas,” and Condoleeza Rice “Condamnesia,” because they dare to be black Republicans.) On this question, I think Wright outpaces most of the competition. Why is McCain getting off scot-free for his association with John Hagee, while Obama is receiving hyper-criticism, and attention, just because he made a great speech? First off, I think Obama deserves credit for confronting this issue in a major speech, but not too much credit. The reason why the media jumped on this story isn’t because Obama gave a speech about it. In fact, it’s precisely the opposite—Obama gave the speech because the media started in on the story. And the reason why McCain hasn’t given such a speech is because it simply hasn’t turned into that big an issue. We can certainly debate whether this is fair, but no matter, candidates are going to be responsive to the media. The media aren’t asking McCain why he’s associated with Hagee, because the answer’s blindingly obvious: McCain is doing so for political gain. That certainly doesn’t excuse the association—I think less of McCain for it—but he’s playing politics in a way that is not particularly exceptional. On the other hand, Barack Obama knew Wright for twenty years, and has financially supported their church, and therefore Wright’s messages. It’s still extremely unclear how much Obama knew about Wright’s insane rants, but this vagueness is only a further strike against the senator.