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.

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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.

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7 thoughts on “The Problem Is Not With Reverend Wright, But With Republican Operatives

  1. Gee whiz. Well, congratulations on being half right.
    You didn’t bother to mention the fact that if all the GOP had was words, instead of sounds and pictures, this story wouldn’t have the legs it has.
    One picture of Willie Horton was enough to stop Dukakis, the neocons have a slick movie-trailer with Wright.
    Anyone who thinks Obama’s utter rejection of Wright means this thing is over is either deluded or an imbecile.

  2. Patrick

    Why is it okay to post funny pictures of Romney in his ‘mormon underwear’ (I missed the picture of Mohamed in his underwear)but not legitimate to examine the religious views of Obama? If on the one hand it is okay to mock mormons–and thus a candidate who is mormon–why is it not okay to mock Obama for his religious views? Or, Mike Huckabee who you claim is running for “pastor in chief” who has religious views regarding homosexuality that you and I might find “unsettling, thought-provoking, often right and sometimes wrong.”? (personally, I think he is toatlly wrong about homosexuality)

    You can’t balme the GOP for enjoying the flap over the religious views of Obama the way you suggested your readers enjoy the scandal at Oral Roberts University. It takes two to play at this game.

    To compare Wright to Jefferson is ridiculous.

  3. Listen, genius. It’s perfectly legitimate to examine Barack’s religious views. He has stated emphatically, in no uncertain terms, over and over again that he disagrees with Wright on all the controversial crap. That’s the whole damn point. Yet you guys keep hammering away at him.

  4. Patrick – I’m fairly certain no one is suggesting that it was perfectly acceptable for people to tear down Romney for being a Mormon (and where are you finding pictures of him in his undies? What kind of sites are you looking at?). Frankly, I think the GOP had their near-perfect candidate in him, but a good many of ’em couldn’t get passed his faith. Odd, that. So now they’re stuck with a sub-par candidate and left with nothing but vain attempts at character assassination. Desperate flailing.

    Both sides should be focusing on issues and policies and actual actions, not who the candidate once had a conversation with years ago or what their father did or where they went to church. You don’t see a great hew and cry going up for McCain to distance himself from the various super fundamentalist homophobic preachers whose endorsements he’s sought and won, do you? We can and should question the candidates about their beliefs, and their votes, and their actions – but all of this straw man construction and red herring placement has long grown old, sad, and destructive.

  5. Patrick

    Emily:

    I think we’ll see soon enough an airing of the dirty laundry over McCain’s associates. You’ll note that in response to other posts I’ve indicated the respect I had for Obama that he did not abandon his friend and that I did not attribute the thoughts of Rev. Wright to Obama. However, if we are going to claim that the whole Rev. Wright frakus is invented by the right-wing, then I’ll take issue.

    As for where I found a picture of Romney in his undies–well, why not click Romney’s name at the right and see what interesting images show up (at least that’s where I found them yesterday). Please note that my intent is not to criticize Cafeinated Politics–which is clearly one of the most thoughtful liberal blogs–but rather to argue for greater consistency.

  6. Obama cannot and will not be able to run away from this. The fact that you blame the GOP for this is laughable. Obama had the chance to end this association with Wright years ago.

    You don’t form a 20 year association with a man you deeply disagree with. You don’t give over $20,000 to a church per year that endorses statements like “US of KKKA” and “God Damn America” if you don’t agree with it. You don’t let a man that you profoundly disagree with marry you or baptize your daughters. You also don’t let that same man on a committee on your campaign or call him a “spiritual advisor”.

    The country doesn’t know squat about Barack Obama because he’s so new on the scene. How do you expect people to examine him? Just by the things he promises? Nope, people are known by the company they keep. Rev Wright will be the demise of Obama in November.

  7. That is hysterical, Reverend Wright is not responsible for his words, nope its the evil conservatives who are.

    Deke you need to get a little more fresh air, your thought process is a bit foggy here.

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