Obama says he's outraged by former pastor's comments
By MIKE GLOVER,
Tue Apr 29, 2008
Barack Obama angrily denounced his former pastor for "divisive and destructive" remarks on race, seeking to divorce himself from the incendiary speaker and a fury that threatens to engulf his front-running Democratic presidential campaign. Obama is trying to tamp down the uproar over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright at a tough time in his campaign. The Illinois senator is coming off a loss in Pennsylvania to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and trying to win over white working-class voters in Indiana and North Carolina in next Tuesday's primaries. "I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Obama told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
His strong words come just six weeks after Obama delivered a sweeping speech on race in which he sharply condemned Wright's remarks but did not leave the church or repudiate the minister himself, who he said was like a family member. After weeks of staying out of the public eye while critics lambasted his sermons, the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago made three public appearances in four days to defend himself. On Monday, Wright criticized the U.S. government as imperialist and stood by his suggestion that the United States invented the HIV virus as a means of genocide against minorities. "Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything," he said. And perhaps even worse for Obama, Wright suggested that the church congregant secretly concurs.
"If Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected," Wright said. "Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls." Obama stated flatly that he doesn't share the views of the man who officiated at his wedding, baptized his two daughters and been his pastor for 20 years. The title of Obama's second book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a Wright sermon. "What became clear to me is that he was presenting a world view that contradicts who I am and what I stand for," Obama said. "And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that I am about trying to bridge gaps and I see the commonality in all people."
Although Obama leads in pledged delegates, no Democrat can win the nomination without the support of the superdelegates, the elected officials and party leaders who can vote their preference. The Wright furor forces those Democrats to wonder about Obama's electability in November. Facing that reality, Obama sought to distance himself further from Wright. "I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992, and have known Reverend Wright for 20 years," Obama said. "The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago." The Illinois senator said of Wright's statements Monday: "All it was was a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth." "Obviously, whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed," Obama said. "I don't think he showed much concern for me, more importantly I don't think he showed much concern for what we're trying to do in this campaign."
Obama said he heard that Wright had given "a performance" and when he watched news accounts, he realized that it more than just a case of the former pastor defending himself. "His comments were not only divisive and destructive, I believe they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate," Obama said. "I'll be honest with you, I hadn't seen it" when reacting initially on Monday, he said. Wright had asserted that criticism of his fiery sermons was an attack on the black church. Obama rejected that notion. "He has done great damage, I do not see that relationship being the same," said Obama. Wright recently retired from the church. He became an issue in Obama's presidential bid when videos circulated of Wright condemning the U.S. government for allegedly racist and genocidal acts. In the videos, some several years old, Wright called on God to "damn America." He also said the government created the AIDS virus to destroy "people of color."
Obama said he didn't vet his pastor before deciding to seek the presidency. He said he was particularly distressed that the furor has been a distraction to the purpose of a campaign. "I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia explaining that he's done enormous good. ... But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS. ... There are no excuses. They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced." While Obama said he remains a member of the church "obviously this has put a strain on that relationship. "There wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday," said Obama. "All it was was a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth." At one point, Obama said he understood the pressures Wright faced but wouldn't excuse his comments. "I think he felt vilified and attacked and I understand him wanting to defend himself," Obama said. "That may account for the change but the insensitivity and the outrageousness of the statements shocked me and surprised me."
VIDEO TO WATCH :Reverend Wright at NAACP
Rev Jeremiah Wright Interviewed on Bill Moyer's Journal
What Rev. Jeremiah Wright Really Said
By George E. Curry
Updated Apr 20, 2008
The Attack on Black Theology
The Chicago Tribune recently transcribed some controversial sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former pastor. As can be seen below, many of his remarks were taken out of context.
SEPT. 16, 2001 Sound bite: "We've bombed Hiroshima, we've bombed Nagasaki, we've nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. . . . We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
Wright in context:
"I heard Ambassador (Edward) Peck on an interview yesterday, did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox News. This is a White man, and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. Did you see him, John? A White man. He pointed out, an ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true, that America's chickens are coming home to roost.
"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Iroquois, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism. We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism. We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel; we bombed the Black civilian community of Panama, with Stealth bombers, and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. We've bombed (Muammar) Gadhafi's home and killed his child.
"Blessed are they who bash your children's heads against the rocks. We bombed Iraq; we killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back an attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day, not knowing that they would never get back home.
"We've bombed Hiroshima, we've bombed Nagasaki, we've nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.
"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards.
"America's chickens are coming home to roost. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism. A White ambassador said that, y'all, not a Black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism.
JULY 2003 Sound bite: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America?' No, no, no, not 'God Bless America,' 'God Damn America.'"
Wright in context:
"The United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on the reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of the racist bastions of higher education and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America?'
"No, no, no, not 'God Bless America,' 'God Damn America.' That's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human, God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent."
JAN. 13, 2008 Sound bite: "Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain't. Bill did us just like he did Monica Lewinski. He was riding dirty.î
Wright in context:
"There is a man here who can take this country in a new direction. 'But he's a black man.' There is a man here who is empowered by hope to usher in an era of change in a country that is in desperate need of a change. 'But he ain't Black enough.' There is a man here who can get Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and persons of no faith to sit down at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood and talk about our common humanity and our common future. 'But I ain't gonna vote for him 'cause I don't want to waste my vote.' 'But Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us.' No he ain't. Bill did us just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty."
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. This commentary was distributed by NNPA.
FCN is a distributor (and not a publisher) of content supplied by third parties. Original content supplied by FCN and FinalCall.com News is Copyright (c) 2008 FCN Publishing, FinalCall.com. Content supplied by third parties are the property of their respective owners.
Further articles about Rev. Wright/Race on this blog
Obama’s ‘Race Neutral’ Strategy Unravels of its Own Contradictions
The world views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Sen. Barack Obama were incompatible from the start, just as the mythical American Manifest Destiny world view is directly at odds with the facts as perceived by Blacks in the United States. Wright finally forced Obama to choose sides in theconflict of racial/historical visions, and in doing so, performed a service on behalf of clarity. Obama lashed out in a startlingly personal manner, calling Wright a "caricature" of himself and linking the minister to forces that give "comfort to those who prey on hate." Rev. Wright exposed the flimsy tissues of so-called "race neutrality" in a nation founded on racial oppression
Things fall apart; some things, like an ill-tied shoelace, sooner than others. Barack Obama's strategy to win the White House was to run a "race-neutral" campaign in a society that is anything but neutral on race. The very premise - that race neutrality is possible in a nation built on white supremacy - demanded the systematic practice of the most profound race-factual denial, which is ultimately indistinguishable from rank dishonesty. From the moment Obama told the 2004 Democratic National Convention that "there is no white America, there is no Black America," it was inevitable that the candidate would one day declare the vast body of Black opinion illegitimate.
That day came on Tuesday, April 29, when a battered and (truly) bitter Barack Obama made his final, irrevocable break with his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose televised Black Liberation Theology tour de force the preceding Friday, Sunday and Monday had laid bare the contradictions of Obama's hopeless racial "neutrality." It was the masterful preacher and seasoned political creature Wright - not the racists who had endlessly looped chopped snippets of the reverend's past sermons together in an attempt to make him appear crazed - who forced Obama to choose in the push and pull of Black and white American worldviews. Obama was made to register his preference for the white racist version of truth over Rev. Wright's, whose rejection of Euro-American mythology reflects prevailing African American perceptions, past and present.
"Rev. Jeremiah Wright laid bare the contradictions of Obama's hopeless racial ‘neutrality.'"
Obama was less than eloquent. "All it was is a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth," said Sen.Obama, low-rating Rev. Wright's remarks at the National Press Club, in Washington, the morning before. Rev. Wright had become a "caricature" of himself, said the wounded candidate - another way of calling the minister a clown. Under questioning from reporters in Winston Salem, North Carolina, Obama swore up and down that he had never before, in 16 years as a member of Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ congregation, observed his pastor behave in such a way. The declaration rang patently false, as even a red-state Republican white evangelical observer would have recognized Wright's Press Club performance as that of veteran pulpit-master with a vast repertoire of church-pleasing moves and grooves to draw upon, all of them honed over decades for the entertainment of his parishioners - including Obama. But the senator was intent on giving the impression that Rev. Wright was - unbeknownst to Obama - a Jekyll and Hyde character, whose statements "were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate."
An amazingly Bush-like turn of phrase! The man who married Barack and Michelle and baptized their children is now rhetorically linked to Osama bin Laden or the Ku Klux Klan. Clearly, this is what panic looks and sounds like when Obama's flimsy tissues of "race neutrality" are stripped away. He berates Rev. Wright and other Black voices for self-centeredness in failing to strike a balance between African American grievances and whatever ails white people. "When you start focusing so much on the historically oppressed," said Obama, "we lose sight of the plight of others." Obama is desperate to convince these "others" that he rejects anything that smacks of an Afro-centric worldview, as represented by Rev. Wright. "What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for."
Rev. Wright succeeded in drawing a line in the sand, whether that was his intention or not, daring Obama to take his stand on one side or the other. Race "neutrality" - an impossibility in the actually existing United States - went out the window as Obama in extremis positioned himself at the political/historical fault line alongside the defenders of the Alamo and American Manifest Destiny. As dictated by the logic of power, Obama furiously maneuvered toward "white space," shamelessly taking cover in a kind of populist white patriotism that has always branded Black grievances as selfish, even dangerous distractions from the larger national mission. Rev. Wright's "rantings" amounted to "a complete disregard for what the American people are going through," said Obama. "What mattered to him was him commanding center stage."
"Obama's flimsy tissues of ‘race neutrality' are stripped away."
Obama had belabored the same theme in his Philadelphia speech on race, a few weeks earlier - a widely applauded piece of oratory that was at root an exercise in moral equivalence that equated white and Black grievances in the U.S., as if history and gross power discrepancies did not exist. Obama is as quick as any smug corporate commentator to dismiss as the ravings of extremists and those who "prey on hate" the very idea that U.S. imperialism is an historical and current fact. Chickens cannot possibly come home to roost in terroristic revenge as a response to American crimes against humanity, since "good" nations by definition are incapable of such crimes. It is beyond the pale to contemplate that the United States has Dr. Deaths on its covert payrolls dealing in ghastly biological warfare - the AIDS genesis theory.
In order for his race-neutral strategy to appear sane, Obama must constantly paint a picture of an America that does not exist. This cannot be accomplished without mangling the truth, assaulting the truth-tellers, and misrepresenting America's past and present.
Since Obama's candidacy is predicated on minimizing the pervasiveness of racism in American life, it is necessary that he cast doubt on the legitimacy of those with race-based grievances. Otherwise, he would be morally compelled to abandon his neutrality and side with the oppressed minority. Thus, he announces in Selma, Alabama that Blacks "have already come 90 percent of the way" to equality - a non-truth by virtually any measurement. He says the "incompetence was color-blind" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, thereby deracializing all that occurred in New Orleans from the moment the winds died down to this very second. He claims that 1980s Ronald Reagan voters had understandable grievances due to "the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s," in the process cleansing the Reagan victory of any racist content.
Race neutrality requires that Barack Obama become a cleanup boy for racists, historically and in the present day. At the same time, Obama is driven to loath most those people and facts that might lead to divisiveness. America's worst enemies are not the racists, but those who point out the facts of racism, as Obama explained in mid-March in Philadelphia: "Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all."
Rev. Wright and his ilk, by this reasoning, are Public Enemy Number One, standing in the way of the racial harmony that is the natural order of things in Obama's mythical America.
"Obama must constantly paint a picture of an America that does not exist." Ironically, in practice, race-neutrality also requires that Obama disarm himself in the face of racist attacks. "If I lose," he told reporters with a straight face, "it would not be because of race. It would be because of mistakes I made along the campaign trail."
Perhaps it is fitting that, having absolved American racists of all manner of crimes against others, Obama also holds them blameless for their assaults on himself. That's his prerogative, as long as he's the only one being assaulted. But Obama was also dogged over the long weekend by the ghost of Sean Bell, whose death in a 50-shot New York City police fusillade was held blameless by a white judge. Many African Americans anxiously awaited Obama's reaction to the three police officers' acquittals on all charges. "We're a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down," said Obama, when asked about the case by reporters in Indiana. "Resorting to violence to express displeasure over a verdict is something that is completely unacceptable and is counterproductive." That was it.
Hillary Clinton, aware that the Sean Bell verdict was an outrage to Black America, issued a prepared statement: "This tragedy has deeply saddened New Yorkers - and all Americans. My thoughts are with Nicole and her children and the rest of Sean's family during this difficult time. The court has given its verdict, and now we await the conclusion of a Department of Justice civil rights investigation. We must also embrace this opportunity to take steps - in our communities, in our law enforcement agencies, and in our government - to make sure this does not happen again."
It is difficult not to conclude that Obama distanced himself from the facts of the acquittal - except to counsel against violence and urge folks to "respect" the verdict, whatever that means - while Clinton had the sense to prepare a statement that sounded sensitive to Black anger and on top of developments in the story. The Sean Bell police and judicial atrocity revealed with horrific clarity that Black life continues to be systematically devalued by police in the United States, even when the officers involved are of African descent, as were two of the three shooters in the Bell case. The New York verdict shows that Black lives are devalued by all actors in American society, including Black actors: the essence of institutional racism.
"Black life continues to be systematically devalued by police in the United States, even when the officers involved are of African descent." Institutional racism is alien to Barack Obama's version of the nation, a fantasy place where racial oppression has never been so endemic to the political culture as to overshadow the "promise" of America. In Obama's public vision, his Democratic caucus victory in 98 percent white Iowa, which began the cascade of Obama wins, proves that the U.S. is ready for profound racial "change." Left unnoted is the fact that Iowa incarcerates African Americans at 13 times the frequency that it locks up whites, the worst record in the nation.
For people like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, mass Black incarceration and slavery are seamlessly linked, part of the continuity of racial oppression in the U.S. Most African Americans see the world the way Rev. Wright does - that's why he's among the top five rated preacher-speakers in Black America. This Black American world view, excruciatingly aware of the nation's origins in genocide and slavery, is wholly incompatible with the American mythology championed by Barack Obama. When the two meet, they are mutually repellant. The relationship between Rev. Wright and Sen. Obama has undergone "great damage," says Obama, understatedly. But the break was inevitable and is no tragedy, because it reveals the incompatibility of Obama's adapted world view with the body of knowledge amassed by African Americans since before the landing of the Mayflower. The truth is always a revelation.
McCain calls Obama insensitive to poor people
By RASHA MADKOUR,
Sun Apr 272008
Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Sunday called Democratic rival Barack Obama insensitive to poor people and out of touch on economic issues. The GOP nominee-in-waiting rapped his Democratic rival for opposing his idea to suspend the tax on fuel during the summer, a proposal that McCain believes will particularly help low-income people who usually have older cars that guzzle more gas. "I noticed again today that Sen. Obama repeated his opposition to giving low-income Americans a tax break, a little bit of relief so they can travel a little further and a little longer, and maybe have a little bit of money left over to enjoy some other things in their lives," McCain said. "Obviously Sen. Obama does not understand that this would be a nice thing for Americans, and the special interests should not be dictating this policy."
The Arizona senator deflected questions about his record on the Bush administration's tax cuts — he initially opposed them but now supports extending them — by again criticizing Obama. "Sen. Obama wants to raise the capital gains tax, which would have a direct effect on 100 million Americans," McCain said. "That means he has no understanding of the economy and that he is totally insensitive to the hopes and dreams and ambitions of 100 million Americans who will be affected by his almost doubling of the capital gains tax."In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Obama said McCain "not only wants to continue some of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, he actually wants to extend them, and he hasn't told us really how he's going to pay for them. It is irresponsible. And the irony is he said it was irresponsible."
Obama also said he would not raise the capital gains tax higher than it was under President Reagan and added, "I'm mindful that we've got to keep our capital gains tax to a point where we can actually get more revenue."
Indiana Black Voters Feeling Ignored
By STEVEN GRAY
Wed Apr 30, 2008
For weeks, Delores Smith, membership coordinator at the Madame C. J. Walker Theater in Indianapolis, has e-mailed and called Sen. Barack Obama's representatives, hoping he'll hold a campaign event at the 937-seat theater. It is, after all, named in honor of one of the nation's first black millionaires. And its place in the heart of one of Indianapolis' oldest black neighborhoods makes it a key stop for candidates seeking this city's nearly quarter-million African-American voters - the largest concentration in Indiana. But so far, Smith says, "I haven't heard anything."
Even before the major distraction this week caused by the remarks of black liberation theologist and former Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright, black voters in Indiana have been feeling ignored. While both Democratic presidential candidates have been jockeying for the rural, working-class white voters who make up much of Indiana's electorate, they have been largely absent from predominantly black neighborhoods that have historically been among the party's strongholds. For much of the campaign in Indiana, as well as around the country, many black voters feel there has been little effort to engage them on issues that have particular impact in the black community, such as the home foreclosure and HIV crises.
Amos Brown III, one of Indianapolis' most popular black talk radio hosts, says many African Americans here, like elsewhere in the country, were buoyed by Obama's success in overwhelmingly white states like Iowa and Idaho. Obama generated even more local excitement with his March 15 visit to a suburban Indianapolis high school. But since then, Brown says many of his listeners are asking, "Where is he? And, is he going to come to the 'hood or not?' Hoosiers, black or white," Brown adds, "like to be courted. It's important to go to the smaller towns, but it's just as important to go out into the neighborhoods of the big city. I haven't seen that with Barack or Hillary."
Except for a brief visit last Sunday to Country Kitchen, a popular soul food restaurant here, Obama hasn't made a significant appearance in any black neighborhood in Indianapolis, or elsewhere in the state. Last weekend, Sen. Hillary Clinton assembled a modest crowd at a Bennigan's in largely black Gary, in Indiana's northwest corner. Chelsea Clinton has been dispatched to many of Indiana's colleges, but not Martin University, a small, predominantly black school here. "If her job is to work the college crowd," says Brown, "why not go there?" Cornell Burris, the 72-year-old president of the 1,000-member NAACP branch in Indianapolis, said he couldn't bring himself to be present at Sen. Obama's visit last month to Plainfield. "To be honest," Burris said last week, carefully choosing his words, "I didn't like the idea that it was out there in that particular sector of Marion County. It's a predominately white neighborhood. I'd hoped to see him in the inner city of Indianapolis, not in the suburbs."
To some degree, Obama has been constrained by a desire to not be marginalized as a black candidate - a concern, of course, that lay behind his distress over the comments by Rev. Wright. Furthermore, speaking about black-specific issues to African-American audiences carries some risk. "If he starts talking about these things in meaningful terms directly to the black community, white people will be disaffected by that," says Ron Walters, political science professor at the University of Maryland.
Some of Obama's support among black voters has been driven by comments by Sen. Clinton and her surrogates that have been interpreted as both racially inflammatory and an attempt to curry favor with conservative white voters. David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank specializing in black issues, said that last fall he estimated Clinton had the potential to win about 50% of the black vote nationally. After Obama's dramatic performance in Iowa, he put the figure at 33%. Now, he believes she will take only 10% to 15%. So far, in Indiana, the Clinton campaign has made little significant effort to court black voters. To some, it's as if Clinton's campaign has written off blacks because they are not, in the words of one of her campaign's volunteer, part of the New York senator's "natural orbit," like Latinos, women and older voters.
Much is at stake for the Democrats. While blacks account for barely 9% of Indianans, they are a crucial constituency neither candidate can afford to alienate, or take for granted. Indeed, some locals are pointing to the way Obama conducted his campaign in Pennsylvania as an object lesson. At one point, the Illinois Senator was asked about his lack of activity in Philadelphia's black neighborhoods and told the Philadelphia Daily News, "I'm a big believer in going to places where you're weak, not where you're strong, and reaching out to people you might not otherwise expect to vote for you." Days later, after Obama failed to carry Philadelphia by a large enough margin to compensate for losses elsewhere in the state, the newspaper ran a story with the headline, "Did Obama blow the election by blowing off Philly?"