The Problem Is Not With Reverend Wright, But With Republican Operatives

I have argued here on this blog that the type of political tactics which allows for the Reverend Wright matter to dominate the whole of America is troubling.  Barack Obama suffers as the result of the GOP working over-time to demonize him, the one candidate they fear most in the fall campaign.

Now comes a well written national article that adds on to that theme.  THIS IS A MUST READ!

Not all of what Wright says is comforting.

His views are not universally appealing, nor are they or should they be seen as unassailable.

But, for the most part, they are well much within the mainstream of American religious and political discourse.

The problem is not Jeremiah Wright.

The problem is a contemporary political culture that has come to rely on character assassination as an easy tool for reversing electoral misfortune — and a media that willingly invites manipulation.

Let’s not forget how Wright became an issue in the 2008 presidential race. Republican operatives, fretful about their party’s political fortunes, decided that the only way to weaken the candidacy of Wright’s longtime parishioner, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, was by suggesting the Democratic presidential front-runner was in the sway of an anti-American radical.

That end was achieved by separating out from long and thoughtful sermons regarding matters biblical and political seemingly offensive phrases and then inviting the Grand Old Party’s media echo chamber to repeat the sound bites until they became conventional “wisdom.”

This is a classic guilt-by-association maneuver, played out so aggressively in the current circumstance that it would make Joe McCarthy blush. But it has worked, at least in part because people of good faith have not taken the time to assess and appropriately answer the charge that Obama’s connection to Wright confirms the candidate to be either a closet radical or, worse yet, a dupe of some free-floating, ill-defined but still frightful fringe.


Wright can be unsettling, thought-provoking, often right and sometimes wrong. But he is neither anti-American nor unpatriotic.

In more ways than Republican and now Democratic critics seem prepared to admit, Wright is the embodiment of an American religious and political tradition of challenging the country’s sins while calling it to the higher ground that extends from the founding of the republic. No less a figure than Thomas Jefferson — who constructed that wall of separation between church and state but who worried a good deal about questions of the divine — worried openly about the retribution that would befall a nation that permitted slavery.

“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other,” wrote Jefferson in 1781’s Notes on the State of Virginia, where he asked, “(Can) the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

The wrath of God brought down on a country that permits slavery? A nation damned by its original sin? God damn America?

America has been blessed from its beginnings by champions of liberty, by abolitionists and civil rights marchers, by suffragists and union organizers, by anti-imperialists like Mark Twain and challengers of the military-industrial complex like Dwight Eisenhower. Necessarily, these patriots have said some tough things about American leaders and policies. They have acknowledged flaws that are self-evident. Yet, they have not done so out of hatred. Rather, they have loved America sufficiently to believe it can be as good and as just as figures so diverse and yet in some very important ways so similar as Thomas Jefferson and Jeremiah Wright have taught us.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Windfall Tax On Oil Profits Needed After “Forecast-Busting First-Quarter Earnings “

The news should not startle anyone who feels like they need a bank loan to fill the gas tank on their car.  Gasoline prices have rocketed, and predictions are that things will get worse.  Now comes word that forecast-busting first-quarter earnings were reported by oil companies which only adds salt to the wound.

BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Europe’s two biggest oil producers, posted forecast-busting first-quarter earnings on Tuesday thanks to record crude oil prices that are expected to bolster profits across the industry.

BP posted a 63 percent surge in first-quarter net profit to $7.6 billion (4.9 billion euros), while Shell reported a 25 percent rise, to a record $9.08 billion (5.81 billion euros).

Revenue at BP jumped 44 percent to $89.2 billion (57.1 billion euros), while sales at Shell soared 55 percent to $114 billion (72.95 billion euros).

Last week ConocoPhillips reported a 16 percent rise in net income to $4.14 billion. Like BP and Shell, the third biggest U.S. producer far outpaced industry expectations. More big profits are expected from the biggest two U.S. companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., when they report first-quarter earnings later this week.

The combined profits of $17 billion, at a time when Americans are falling behind on mortgage payments, and struggling to find the money to fill the tank just to get to work, should alert the White House about the need for legislative action.

Clearly there must be a windfall tax on oil profits, a remedy that has long been proposed, and one I strongly support.  Some of the smarter politicians understand the need for such a response.

“With the price of oil and gas skyrocketing, and the big oil companies continuing to enjoy record-breaking profits the time has come, among other things, to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil companies so that consumers don’t get gouged at the pump,” Senator Sanders said in a news release. “Congress and the president must say ‘no’ to the $213 million in campaign contributions that the oil industry has given to them since 1990 and ‘yes’ to consumers by taking this important step.”

The Bush White House has been too cozy with oil interests while the economic conditions for average and low income Americans have deteriorated.  Things are not going to get better as predictions of $200 a barrel oil is now being talked about.

Opec’s president on Monday warned oil prices could hit $200 a barrel and there would be little the cartel could do to help.

The comments made by Chakib Khelil, Algeria’s energy minister, came as oil prices hit a historic peak close to $120 a barrel, putting further pressure on global economies.

The prices for goods and services are climbing in the US, and the high price that truckers need to pay for fuel is the chief reason why.

Dave Gares, an independent truck driver since 1974 who hauls mostly soft drinks these days, never dreamed he’d be paying more than $4 per gallon for diesel.

It takes 220 gallons to fill up his tractor-trailer rig, which gets a little over six miles per gallon on the road. It costs Gares up to $1,400 to fill up, with the added cost of fuel additives to boost his truck’s mileage. He said he has to absorb the increases to stay competitive.

Clearly there needs to be a response to the obscene oil company profits that sap the incomes of families in America.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Federal Judge Forces Action On President Bush’s Interior Department Regarding Polar Bears And Global Warming

The Bush Administration has dragged its heels so long with the matter over saving the polar bears that a federal judge has been forced to press the Interior Department to make a decision.

A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to decide within 16 days whether polar bears should be listed as a threatened species because of global warming.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with conservation groups that the department missed a Jan. 9 deadline for a decision. She rejected a government request for a further delay and ordered it to act by May 15.

“Defendants have been in violation of the law requiring them to publish the listing determination for nearly 120 days,” the judge, based in Oakland, Calif., wrote in a decision issued late Monday. “Other than the general complexity of finalizing the rule, Defendants offer no specific facts that would justify the delay, much less further delay.”

Allowing more time would violate the Endangered Species Act and congressional intent that time was of the essence in listing threatened species, Wilken wrote.

The ruling is a victory for conservation groups that claim the Bush administration has delayed a polar bear decision to avoid addressing global warming and to avoid roadblocks to development such as the transfer of offshore petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast to oil company bidders.

I say in November that we put Bush and Company, and all their allies, on the endangered list in government.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Did Barack Obama Do The Right Thing By Denouncing Reverend Wright?

One can understand the political needs that Barack Obama faces as he runs for the Democratic Party nomination, while at the same time understanding the desire of Reverend Wright to publicly defend himself.  The right-wing use of Wright’s comments, often out of context, is not a new tactic for the GOP.  Contortions and confusion is a game plan they use often.  Sadly it works.

As CNN reports Obama made it clear today that he was “outraged” with Reverend Wright over comments made in the past couple of days.

“I have been a member of Trinity Church since 1992. I have known Rev. Wright for almost 20 years,” he said at a news conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “The person I saw yesterday is not the person I met 20 years ago.”

What particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing,” Obama said, adding that Wright had shown “little regard for me” and seemed more concerned with “taking center stage.”

I cannot prevent him from making these remarks,” but “when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts what I’m about and who I am. … It is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.”

In a break with previous comments, Obama focused his criticism on Wright the man, and not simply his remarks.

Obama had at the center of his campaign the idea that the old ways of ‘doing’ politics was not in the best interest of the national needs.  Many agreed and cheered him on.   More importantly they voted in large numbers for him.  When confronted with the Wright matter I had hoped that Obama would speak to the larger themes of not allowing the conservative’s rant on Wright, which was amplified by the media, to deflect from the larger issues, and thereby drive the race for the White House.  By denouncing his pastor in the fashion that he did, Obama gave in to the basic premise that the conservatives had laid out when they started their constant barrage of Wright.  The GOP playbook worked again.  And the public gets the shaft.

What Obama should have done is attack this style of campaigning by the Republicans.  These types of political attacks on Barack Obama about his pastor are aimed at playing politics with the lowest common denominators.  Again.  Will the Wright matter effect the price of gasoline or improve health care coverage for working Americans?

The GOP has a bloody war on their hands and an economy that has soured into a recession.  So they needed to have a diversion that affects the strongest person who could kick their ass in November. 

Technorati Tags: , , ,  

Former Statehouse Workers Geneva Rode And Ruth Schohl Still Bring Memories And Smiles

Pictured are your blogger, Kay Fauerbach, Ruth, Geneva, Lary Swoboda and wife Jan.

There are a fine bunch of talented and special people that keep the State Legislature humming every day. They never see their names in the headlines, and most are happy they do not.  It has always been that way.  While promoting the elected official they work with, and helping the process of government run smoothly, they never get the recognition they so rightfully deserve.   Two such people were Geneva Rode and Ruth Schohl who had worked for decades in the Capitol before I arrived in January 1987.  It was their institutional memory and delightful stories that made my first session there especially interesting. 

After the tornado in Columbia County last week, I again thought of both ladies and found myself smiling.  Geneva Rode lives not far from where the tornado activity took place, and so I called her the night of the excitement to see if she was doing fine.  The voice that came over the phone was just as if time had stopped.  At close to age 90 she is still active in her church, drives in good weather, and still reading everything.   She and Ruth both decided to work their final years in the Statehouse with Representative Lary Swoboda (yes only one ‘R’) and as such were invaluable to me as I was a fresh new committee clerk.

The orderly process for moving a bill through the legislature was made so much easier with the binder of material that Geneva had kept over the years while she had performed the duties for others.  With patience she molded me so I too could perform the same tasks.  I was fortunate to have her in the office at that time.  But her real talent was to make others feel warm and welcome when coming into the legislative offices.  And at times make everyone laugh.

At one point as I stood by her desk talking she just happened to pick up a long safety pin and stick it into her breast!  Being a typical man with no real threshold for pain I nearly crumpled from the sight.   She broke into a hearty laugh as she explained that after having cancer and her breast removed she found that amusing.  I have never forgot that day, or her smile.

Ruth was equally warm and conversational with stories of working for legislators in the days when there was less heated rhetoric and more harmony among the folks in the Statehouse.  She delighted in telling about the day she met Hubert Humphrey as he sought the White House.  She gave me a small stick pin of HHH from those days that is part of my political collection.

After both ladies retired a small group of us would get together for lunch about every other month.  I would always drive over and pick Ruth up so we could meet the others.  Most times Ruth would have a bunch of reading items for her dear friend Geneva and off we would go to laugh and reminisce.  Every now and then Ruth would show her appreciation for my driving by giving me a book.  She would put it in the back seat, as I would tell her that was not necessary.  She would smile and say, “I know.”  Ruth passed away several years ago after a very full and active life.

Those books are on my shelves, and all the memories and smiles over the years in my heart. 

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Gay Marriage Massachusetts Style

A nicely written and well thought out article on the great social issue of our times, that being gay marriage, found the front cover of the New York Times Magazine this weekend.  After reading about the young gay couples that married I found myself, not surprisingly, very much in agreement with the tone and style of the article.  Gay married couples are compatible and more than normal.  Benoit Denizet-Lewis does a superb job of bringing real gay married relationships to the eyes of the reader.  Bravo.

Joshua and Benjamin were deeply committed to each other by the time Benjamin graduated from Brown in May 2004, the same month that Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Marrying “seemed obvious and inevitable,” Benjamin told me, because he and Joshua had no doubt that they would spend the rest of their lives together. “It seemed silly,” he said, “not to get married when we were fortunate enough to live in the only state where we could.” (Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New Jersey have legalized civil unions for same-sex couples, while Maine, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California and the District of Columbia allow domestic partnerships. More than 40 states prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages from Massachusetts.)

Both of their families were supportive. “My parents didn’t have a problem with me marrying a guy,” Benjamin said. “Their only question was, ‘Aren’t you a little too young to be doing this?’

“Oh, my parents said the same thing,” Joshua huffed. “But you know what I told the parental units? I said, ‘I don’t want to hear it, because at our age you were married and pregnant with us.’ That shut everyone right up, and soon enough our parents were fighting over who would get to pay for the wedding!”


But I could also relate to young gay men yearning for companionship and emotional security. Had gay marriage been an option when I was 23 and recently out of the closet, I might very well have proposed to my first gay love. Like many gay men my age and older, I grew up believing that gay men in a happy long-term relationship was an oxymoron. (I entered high school in 1989, before gay teenagers started taking their boyfriends to the prom.) If I was lucky enough to find love, I thought, I’d better hold onto it. And part of me tried, but a bigger part of me wanted to pitch a tent in my favorite gay bar. I wasn’t alone. Everywhere I looked, gay men in their 20s — or, if they hadn’t come out until later, their 30s, 40s and 50s — seemed to be eschewing commitment in favor of the excitement promised by unabashedly sexualized urban gay communities. There was a reason, of course, why so many gay men my age and older seemed intent on living a protracted adolescence: We had been cheated of our actual adolescence. While most of our heterosexual peers had experienced, in their teens, socialization around courtship, dating and sexuality, many of us had grown up closeted and fearful, “our most precious and tender feelings rarely validated or reflected back to us by our families and communities,” as Alan Downs, the author of “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World,” puts it. When we managed to express our sexuality, the experience often came booby-trapped with secrecy, manipulation or debilitating shame.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Bill Clinton Harming His Image As He Fights For Hillary Clinton

I have often disagreed with the more centrist and moderate positions that President Clinton took while serving in the Oval Office.   Apart from those differences I always knew Bill Clinton to be an expert politician with well-honed skills for speaking to the needs and desires of the electorate.  Even members of the GOP had to admit he was a master politician. 

And then came 2008.

What has happened to the former President is hard to say.  But the facts are clear.  He has proved to be race baiting when emphatically stating to his audiences made up of mostly white people, that they are somehow different from those that vote for his wife, Hillary Clinton.

“She’s in it for you and she’s in it because of you. People like you have voted for her in every single state in the country.” People like you. The phrase hung in the air and the room quieted. Clinton didn’t say what the people who voted for Obama were like, but the suggestion was that they were somehow different.

Bill Clinton has often been a hindrance to the campaign team of Hillary Clinton and his missteps, which are clumsy and more noticeable given his true abilities, makes the headlines. 

His role has come at a cost — to morale among some campaign staff, relations inside the Democratic Party and with African-American leaders, and in the view of some, his own legacy. He has lost considerable credibility with many party leaders, who, as “superdelegates” to the party convention, will be crucial in determining who is the Democratic presidential nominee.

At several moments in the campaign, Mr. Clinton has raised hackles with offhand remarks. He offended some African-Americans when he compared Sen. Obama’s eventual victory in the South Carolina primary to Jesse Jackson’s victory there 20 years earlier. Some black leaders considered that a slight against Sen. Obama’s success.

A few weeks ago, he tried to explain away Sen. Clinton’s remarks about a trip to Bosnia, in which she mistakenly said she faced sniper fire when getting off a plane. Instead of clarifying the matter, Mr. Clinton bungled his explanation of how his wife had made the slip, putting renewed attention on an issue the campaign had wanted to put behind it.

When Bill Clinton makes blunders about race, and then pretends not to know that he has stepped over the line, it is then that it is most obvious that winning at all costs has taken a toll on the long-term image for the former President.  And as others note there is a price to be paid.

“I mean, who ‘played the race card’ on President Clinton?”  House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C Clyburn said, referring to comments made in an interview Clinton gave to WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and later denied making. “What does he mean by that unless he is trying to send some kind of signal on race?”

Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress, has remained neutral throughout this contest, but he has continually expressed concern about the tactics of the Clinton campaign.

“I am concerned … that the conduct of this campaign could very well make the nomination not worth having,” Clyburn told Fox. ““Our party is much bigger than Bill Clinton. It is much bigger than Sens. Clinton or Obama. It is a party that is here to serve the American people. … And I don’t want to see us conduct a campaign in such a way that it does irreparable harm to our being able to do that. When this campaign is over, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she cannot get elected president if 25 to 30 percent of black people vote for McCain. She is going to have … to have that same 92 percent of black people that Obama [has] now. And if [Obama] is the nominee, he is going to need her help and her husband’s help getting white voters that he is not now getting. And I don’t see how you can go back to these people and get them to vote for the nominee if you have done all these things and said all of these things about him during the campaign … because you are not going to be able to reverse field in the middle of general election.”



Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Watch Reverend Wright At NAACP Convention

I have not felt that Reverend Wright had a fair playing field while the continuing loops of news tape repeated endlessly over the past weeks on all-news networks.  Taken in snips, and out of context, Wright was maligned and used as a political tool by the opponents of presidential candidate Barack Obama.  Reverend Wright, who has long had a respected resume for his intelligence and scope in the religious community around the nation suffered the onslaught and slurs in silence.  This weekend he rightfully responded.  First he joined Bill Moyers, always worth viewing on PBS, and then on Sunday night he delivered a speech at the NAACP dinner.

And he deserves to be heard.   I am proud to use this blog as a way to allow viewers to see the NAACP dinner speech.

So here is Reverend Wright.

Technorati Tags: , , ,