Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Obama Caves on Trinity

Senator Barack Obama, who famously said he could no more disown Rev. Jeremiah Wright than disown his own grandmother, has now disowned not only the pastor but his entire church. I can only assume this was a difficult, perhaps even heart-rending decision made under great pressure... But even so I fear it is a great mistake. It suggests to me that Obama is letting his fears govern his decisions, not his hopes. If Obama imagines this will end the problem, I think that is sadly mistaken: it will only make him appear weak.

This feels to me like exactly the sort of thing Bill Clinton did in his first term that so angered me I did not vote for him in 1996: he cast aside his embattled friends in the face of pressure from conservatives, hoping that would fix the problem... but of course it did no such thing. No matter what you say about George W. Bush, he does not abandon his friends when they prove inconvenient--and for that he earns grudging respect from many Independent voters.

It is too late for Obama to change his mind--one does not want to waffle on matters like this. But I hope he senses this is the wrong decision and learns from it. I want a President who will stand by his friends when they are attacked and misused by the media and the right-wingers. And it is very sad that Obama feels he must leave his spiritual home to gain temporal power. He struck exactly the right tone in his great speech on race relations. I wish he would stick to that. Because if any man were capable of bridging these disparate worlds, I had hoped it would be Obama.


Raised By Republicans said...

Oh come on, Dr. S.

That church was getting increasingly exposed as a den of racially inflamatory demagoguery.

I think that Obama was forced to do this. If he had stuck by that church, I'm sure he would have been continually attacked as a hypocrit who talks about racial reconciliation then excuses racism from his friends.

Raised By Republicans said...

"I want a President who will stand by his friends when they are attacked and misused by the media and the right-wingers."

I find this statement especially disengenuous. Rev. Wright was using Obama's celebrity to further his own agenda - distinct from and even contradictory to Obama's.

This latest statement by the Catholic priest was self conciously racially provocative. It was exactly the kind of thing that Obama has repeated spoken out against.

This was not a case of some right wing hit team inventing a false controversy. Obama had to respond to it.

I think I can guess the actions Bill Clinton took that annoyed you so much and this situation not exactly the same. In this case, the people being shunned by Obama did things that Obama himself has repeatedly spoken out against. It's not like Obama had to change his public position on race to dump these people over the side.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I find this a strange comment. Obama was faced by a provocative and despicable sermon by Karl Pfleger (sp?) that he - and Trinity's leadership as a whole - knew damned well would be on TV. Combined with Rev. Wright's press tour where he made a spectacle of himself riding on Obama's publicity (as RBR points out also), the situation with him and his church had changed since his earlier speech in Pennsylvania.

I think Obama felt - with justification - betrayed.

I also think that Obama had been willing to continue with his longstanding church after Wright's betrayal because he was the ex-pastor. The new sermon by Pfleger or whatever his name is proved that there was no way the relationship with TUCC was going to work going into the future. TUCC would continue to use Obama's celebrity to gain a national audience for inflammatory rhetoric that also undercut Obama.

I do not see this as analogous to Bill Clinton throwing Lani Guinier and Jocelyn Elders overboard (both black women, btw, and perhaps this is a point to remind everyone on this blog that Clinton's relationships with African-Americans were strained as a result of these actions, not wonderful and perfect as has been suggested in the press and this blog). First of all, they were not his private-life associates, but nominees for public office promoted by Bill Clinton. Second of all, Clinton knew when he nominated them (or in Elders' case, got them confirmed), that they had such 'provocative' views. Thus, Clinton threw them under the bus when it became too politically hot for him, when there were plainly other options.

As I see it, Obama was unfairly attacked for a pre-existing relationship with a church and a pastor with provocative views. Obama did not choose to elevate those people and project them into pbulic life. He he then had to break from after they betrayed that relationship.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Look, I just cannot believe Obama when he says he is now shocked, shocked to hear that such things are said in his church. Not when Obama was there for 20 years and knew Rev. Wright very well. Not when the videos were in the public domain long before the Iowa caucuses. Not when--according to Mr. Obama's own excellent speech on race relations--this sort of rhetoric has been part of the African-American church experience for decades.

I think Obama struck exactly the right note in his great Philadelphia speech, and he should have stuck to it. Obama should have continued to condemn certain things spoken from the pulpit, as he did, while still maintaining (as LTG has said so eloquently on this blog) that the relationship between a man and his community of faith is like a family, and one does not disown one's family.

I certainly agree that this situation is a bit different from what Bill Clinton faced with Guinier and Elders... In this case, Obama renounced a relationship that was much older and far more meaningful to him. Let's be honest here: if Obama had stuck to his guns, you all would be praising him for his uncommon honesty and determination.

Do you guys really do not see this as a mistake? Do you seriously believe this move will end any of the criticism?

Raised By Republicans said...

I do not see this as a mistake. He was bound be damned no matter what he did here.

If he did not do something dramatic in response to Pfleger's racially inflamatory (and sexist) mocking of Hillary Clinton, I suspect you would be posting on this blog about how Obama is supporting people who represent the opposite of what he professed in his famous race speech.

I honestly think he'd take flack about this no matter what he did. The least he can do is be consistent with is public statements - the most prominent of which are in his speech on race.

I heard a Clinton supporter on praising the move by Obama. Remember, he's doing this in response to a guy doing the kind of racist/sexist hatchet job on Clinton that Ferraro did on Obama. Had he done nothing he would have been accused of approving of it when it's directed at his opponents.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It's definitely not a mistake. Remember, he already broke his relationship with Rev. Wright a few weeks ago after he made a spectacle of himself on TV.

Is Obama really surprised to be hearing this kind of sermon "after 20 years?" I think Obama was genuinely enthusiastic both about the gospel being preached at TUCC and the tremendous outreach to the community that TUCC is famous for. It's a major church in the black community there with all kinds of important programs. He writes in his book that he found the church community to be uncommonly diverse - doctors and lawyers from the 'burbs and inner city poorer folk. Obama also no doubt agreed with the rhetoric in Wright's sermons that demonized Republicans and, to a lesser extent, a white power establishment that in the '80s and '90s he identified with the Republicans. He likely didn't approve of Farrakhan, but - like Wright and many many other African-Americans, was impressed by Farrakhan's organizing power and proud of his achievements. The "million man march" was more about African-American solidarity and pride than Farrakhan's other views.

And I don't really think Obama has a problem with that kind of church, TUCC. He was fully prepared to do, as he did with Rev. Wright in the first instance, distance himself from the remarks he obviously disagreed with while still embracing him as a person and embracing his church community.

But TUCC decided to capitalize on Obama's fame for purposes he did not agree with - in fact to spread the very words that he disagreed with and disavowed.

Another member of my parish vestry said to me yesterday that she thought that the Rev. Wright flap showed how little media people knew about religion - exactly the same comment I have made on this blog earlier.

Simply put, one should expect a churchgoer to tolerate many a sermon with which he disagrees. I mean, you don't (or shouldn't) go to church just to have your existing beliefs reinforced. You go, in part, to be challenged. Good sermons make you laugh, nod, ponder, and also feel uneasy. And in any community of people so broad-based as a church (not your work friends or relatives or something) there is bound to be a wide variety of views that need to be tolerated. I doubt Obama ever expected Wright's theology to be imputed to him.

I remember a sermon early in my current pastor's tenure that followed the reading of many of the most sexist passages from Paul and Leviticus. The congregation was clearly uncomfortable. The priest then began by saying, "Sometimes it's hard to say 'thanks be to God' "[the traditional response of a congregation upon the conclusion of a bible reading] - then went on to discuss the role of scripture in life. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

Obama has gone through a process of breaking with his community that must have been painful. Plainly, the new leaders at TUCC (lay and ordained) decided that Obama had sold out to Whitey and could be punished. That is sad. And Obama was right to finally break it off after that obnoxious sermon about Clinton that TUCC knew damned well would be on TV.

The Law Talking Guy said...

No, it won't end the criticsm. Of course not. But it should stop any new bleeding, and the criticism will grow stale.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"I honestly think he'd take flack about this no matter what he did. The least he can do is be consistent with is public statements - the most prominent of which are in his speech on race."

But this is exactly why this flip-flop on TUCC is a bad move! You both keep acting like TUCC changed over the past six weeks. All that really happened is that a few more choice video clips from Sunday sermons were stripped of context and shoved onto YouTube. Am I the only one who sees that this latest round of preacher-stuff is just more of the same overhyped nonsense that Obama answered so well with his Philadelphia address?

History Buff said...

When this Pfelger person did the sermon, I imagine he thought he was being loyal to Obama by bashing Clinton. I certainly hear plenty of Clinton supportors saying similar things about Obama. The demonizaton of the otherside is how you get your candidate to win, but when they are in the same party it is very dangerous. I think Obama needed to distance himself from this to keep the Democratic Party from splitting down the middle.

Raised By Republicans said...

If anything, Dr. S., you seem to be arguing now that his repudiation of these folks is long over due not that he secretly supports these kinds of attacks and now appears to reject them for base political reasons.

How is what Rev. Pfleger said or did consistent with anything in Obama's speech on fostering a constructive national discussion on race? Did you see the statements by Pfleger? You can't tell me that when you saw them you weren't offended on behalf of Hillary Clinton supporters everywhere. I'm an Obama guy and I found the statements racist, sexist and deeply offensive - as I'm sure Obama did.

Like LTG pointed out, it's not like Obama ever held this church up as the paragon of racial unity. Nor did he appoint either Wright or Pfleger to public office or suggest that he might ever do so. Rather, these are very public instances where associatese from the Senator's past are cropping up and taking advantage of their connections to him to further agendas in ways that directly contradict everything that Obama has said he stands for. He can't just let that go.

Raised By Republicans said...

Or would you prefer a President who defends the indefensible out of naive loyalty (like Bush does now)?

Dr. Strangelove said...

Obama's Philadelphia address was more subtle than you seem to give it credit for, RbR. Obama condemned certain controversial statements from Rev. Wright but took great pains to explain that he would not (indeed, could not!) disown the man. It was loyal, but hardly naive, and defended the man, not the words.

Of course what Pfleger said was offensive. But he said nothing that had not been said at TUCC before (did you see some of Rev. Wright's sermons blasting Hillary?). Obama should have done as he did at Philadelphia: condemn the sermon while affirming the church and the community.

Raised By Republicans said...

Well, as long as we're parsing words, Obama hasn't "disowned" anyone.

Here is what Obama said about his leaving the church in question:

"The recent episode with Father Pfleger I think just reinforced that view that we don't want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in a church. On the other hand, we also don't want a church subjected to the scrutiny that a presidential campaign legitimately undergoes. I mean, that’s … I don't want Reverend Moss to have to look over his shoulder and see that his sermon vets or if it’s potentially problematic for my campaign or will attract the fury of a cable program. And so, I have no idea how it will impact my presidential campaign. But I know it's the right thing to do for the church and for our family."
( )

USWest said...

Here is my question. If Obama were not running for president, what would his attitude be toward the Trinity Church today? I have no doubt that his actions would have been different because no one would have noticed. The Trinity Church has been a long-standing problem for Obama. I remeber comments in media outlets long before Wrightgate.

I liked the Philidelphia tone. I think he still believes that. But the Church, for reasons I don't really get, isn't helping him at this point. Does the Church want to use Obama for publicity? Why, after the Wright scandal, would a pastor stand up and basically repeat that? And a white guy at that! Was he trying to appear cool or something?

I understand the whole community aspect of church, but Trinity it is a mega church. I guess you have a series of sub-communities within that and it is the sub community you feel linked too more so than the whole. So you pick your peers, I suppose. I imagine a church like that has many preachers. Do you avoid attending services with the more inflamatory preachers? We did that with priests growing up.

I suspect Obama has backed away from the Church for political reasons but also so that the church can be left alone. He's doing what he thinks is best for all parties. Also, if he is placing party unity above all else at this point, then he has to condem the Church because of how it bashed HRC. It is a delicate dance.

I have to make an intellectual effort to understand that he is a part of something that doesn't seem to comport with his stated values. But then, unlike the black and white thinkers of the Bush group, I can understand the gray areas we fall into. I am affiliated with organizations that I don't always agree with, but that I get something out of. There are pratical matters to consider.

Overall, Obama strikes me as the type of pragmatic guy who says, "Ok, I gave you chances. I forgave your weaknesses. I tried to cover for you, But you've done it once to many times and you are forcing my hand." I think it is a straight forward as that.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think that some of the people in the Church (probably not all of them) are interested in using Obama's national celebrity status to get attention.

I think that if he weren't running for President, the latest Wright and Pfleger incidents wouldn't have happened in the first place.

Let's suppose he were just a State Assemblyman and part time Con Law Professor at U. of Chicago (which was his job for most of the time he was a member of this church). If Rev Wright or anyone else gave a sermon that Obama didn't like every once in a while, would we expect him to try to use his position to change the church? Would we expect him to leave a church that (as LTG has pointed out) is the center of a complex network of spiritual and social connections for Obama and his family?

The only reason this is an issue at all is because he's running for President. I think his statement about leaving the church is a fair representation of where he's at with this. His continued membership in the church is forcing him to constantly defend everything that happens in that church and forcing the church to live under the microscope of national media attention.

The Law Talking Guy said...

USWest writes of Obama's involvement with the church, "I have to make an intellectual effort to understand that he is a part of something that doesn't seem to comport with his stated values."

That's my problem with the news reports. The church does comport with his stated values. It's all about community and public service and bridging the class divides in the (black) community. But the pastor also happens to have some pretty extreme views, sometimes outrageously expressed. The "something" Obama was part of is the church, the community of some 8,000 people (it's kind of a megachurch) not the occasional inflammatory sermon.

Now that the community leaders are clearly using Obama's celebrity to help themselves and hurt him, the break with the community has to happen too.

USwest said...

LTG, I have to make an effort because I am Catholic. What a priest preaches in a Catholic Church are the Church's values. And since we are tje Church, then those are our values. That is how you keep the community, the flock, together as a community. Priests who preach otherwise get diciplined. Of course, listening to the media these days, you'd think the Catholic Church was only about anti-sex (unless with pre-pubescent boys), anti-gay, and anti-woman. Why? Because that gets preached a lot. That is the black side of Catholic values. Those aren't my personal values. So, I chose to exit the community.

This Trinity church is, apparently, different. Their preachers can say whatever even if it doesn't comport with the community? It's a hard thing to get. If I were a part of the community, I would dicipline my pastor.