March 19, 2008

The Speech I-The Issue

I have been mulling over Sen. Obama's speech for some time.

The threshold issue is whether Sen. Obama's membership in a church whose pastor sometimes resorts to the rhetoric of black nationalism and anti-Americanism disqualifies him from seeking the Presidency, or whether it tells us something significant and negative about Sen. Obama's character and beliefs.

A great deal of nonsense has been written about this issue. One of the privileges of American citizenship is the right to opine that the country is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket. People on all sides become strident from time to time about the failings of the government and the society. With somewhat lesser frequency they either predict or wish for national catastrophe. Whether it's pro-lifers going on about the murders of unborn babies, neocons about the fecklessness even of the Bush administration in going to war against evil, peacenikes hollering about militarism, or anti-immigrationists going on about the "national question" and what some of them even call the "treason lobby," Americans are not shy in pointing to imminent judgment and the alleged betrayals that are bringing it on.

White folks hearing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in snippets of his most strident rants are likely to be shocked both by his raucous style, and especially about his readiness to retail kooky conspiracy theories--AIDS was invented by the government to kill blacks, 9/11 was a plot, etc. These theories abound among blacks, and seen in the light of things like the Tuskegee experiment, they are wrong but not entirely incredible.

Politicians have strange bedfellows. In Obama's case, for a young man uncertain of his identity among Chicago blacks, and seeking acceptance and political support to join a church like Rev. Wright's may have been a bit calculating and perhaps unwise if he had known how far he was to go, but it's hardly a hanging offense, unless you buy the canard that Sen. Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate.

I don't buy that. If anything, he's sincerer than your average pol.

Nevertheless, given the feeding frenzy and the viral spread of the snippets of Wright's rants on the Web and on cable, Obama had to confront the issue. The result was The Speech.

And quite a speech it was.

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