Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wrong About Wright - Or How the Punditocracy is Making Suckers of Us All

Cross-posted to Raising Kaine

Show of hands - who here has actually listened to the Moyers interview, the NAACP speech, and the National Press Club speech WITH its follow up Q&A session?

Me, me, I did!! Really? Okay, anyone else? How about you David Gergen? How about all you other media pundits? What's that, you only heard the "highlights", but you didn't have time to listen to all the rest of it? Oh, you liked the Moyers interview because the Rev came off as such a nice, polite, man but you can't deal with the firebrand, the jack in the box, the bouncing around getting in your face version of the Rev? Apparently it's okay to listen to a few highlights, to decide to focus on the one or two outrageous sounding statements, and then to pontificate and pound the table and DEMAND that the Rev stop saying what he's been saying all these years, and that he take cognizance that he may be harming Obama's campaign, and that Obama not only distance himself and denounce those outrageous statements as not representative of his personal views, but that he also denounce, strongly and without reservation, the Rev, notwithstanding that the Rev ain't running for public office, that the Rev isn't part of the Obama campaign, that he views the Rev as his pastor and not as his mentor, and that the Rev has made clear that he sees himself as a religious figure and Obama as a political figure and that these are indeed two different species.

Question(s): WHY are we allowing people opposed to Obama to define the parameters of this debate? WHY are we allowing to go unchallenged the assumption that this guy is nothing but a hate-spewing, attention-seeking, racially divisive fruitcake and that Obama owes it to the nation to apologize for even knowing him? WHY are we even assuming that Wright owes it to Obama to curtail his activities in order to promote Obama's chances? Wouldn't that mean Wright really IS a part of the Obama campaign after Obama and company just finished explaining that he isn't? WHY aren't we demanding that our beloved "liberal" MSM stop focusing on the guy who is not running for public office and focus instead on those who are? I've asked this in a couple of other forums, but am I just being stupid or is it just possible that we, the Obama supporters, have also allowed ourselves to become distracted by a non-issue? I cringed when Obama said the Rev was a legitimate campaign issue - NO HE'S NOT! He's your former pastor, not a political adviser, and he fills a totally different role, one outside of politics, which has to do with your relationship with Christ and the church. Sheesh, when did it become acceptable not only to impose religious tests on our political candidates, but now upon the religious figures in their lives? How can we even tolerate this incredible diversion from the real substance of this race?

As to Reverend Wright himself, I've been astounded at the response of so many in the media who thought the Moyers interview went just fine, but are all over him for being animated, angry, and just plain active in his speeches before the NAACP and the National Press Club. He didn't change his statements, he just made them more forcefully. His answers to questions did not deviate at all between the Moyers interview and those two speeches, but his audiences did. Moreover, he stayed for a lengthy Q&A session yesterday at that National Press Club speech and took on all comers. The questions were written on note cards by the dozens of journalists in attendance and he answered them all. He looked positively gleeful at times, which I heard denounced as arrogance by the pickle-puss pundits scrutinizing him. He committed the unpardonable sin of having a lot of fun during that session, so rather than review the Q&A for its substance, CNN and MSNBC viewers were treated to frowning commentators talking about his arrogance and the looming horribleness of his effect on the Obama campaign. Why, they found him downright uppity. They showed him saying that when Obama gets the nomination on November 5th he'll be in Obama's face the next day wagging his finger because Obama's the representative of a government he finds oppressive. Ohmigod, said our pundits, he "threw Obama under the bus. How appalling." Yes, something's appalling, I'd say.

If I'd known one does not need either sense or brains or cultural understanding in order to become a pundit I would have become one years ago - except for the dress-up part. I just hate dressing up and trying to look like I have gravitas and understanding surpassing that of mere mortals on my stern mien - ick, maybe I'll stick with blogging. Anyway, what the punditocracy appears not to understand is that not only does Obama not consider the Rev to be his man, but the Rev does not consider Obama to be his man. He thinks Jesus is the man. That's what he meant when he said Obama was a politician while he is a pastor. Their roles are different, and in the great scheme of things he sees the master he serves to be infinitely greater than the one Obama serves. He's obviously an extraordinarily intelligent and articulate individual, notwithstanding his rather bizarre belief in the origins of the drug war and AIDS, and he's trying to get it across to all those self-important and self-appointed commentators that his first obligation is to his God and his church and his people. This is hard for pundits to understand because while many of them consider themselves religious they actually mean that they go to church from time to time and might believe in God, but not, you know, in that weird way of the evangelicals they secretly love to mock. Wright's trying to say that God transcends politics and other earthly considerations and is not impressed with the politically powerful. This is why he is not calculating his appearances and his statements to what the pundits perceive to be Obama's needs. He said it himself yesterday. He believes that if God intends for Obama to be the nominee, then it will be so. He does not believe Obama's candidacy is either his responsibility or his duty. Maybe we should take a page from Wright, not only the page wherein his devotion to the poor, downtrodden, addicted, abused, abandoned, and sick may be found, but the page wherein he tells us it's his job to utter the truth as he sees it, and to serve the truth. His truth may be off when it comes to AIDS and the drug war, but it's on target when he's addressing the history of the black church, when he's talking about this country's history and the great stain on its soul. He points out that God and Country may not be one and the same, that the real arrogance may be our belief that we have all the answers and only our way of doing things will do. Isn't that what we criticize this Administration for believing?

So, let's step back, take a deep breath, and the next time some media moron says "hey, look at the crazy pastor" we respond with "uh huh, and what exactly did Obama and Hillary and McCain say about the economy today? That pastor's not running for office, so why are you focused on him and not the people who are?" Just a suggestion.

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