Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jonah Don’t Preach

Regardless of what Barack Obama heard in church or what he will say today regarding his former pastor and race in America today, Jonah Goldberg is in no position to dictate to him the terms by which he should speak or run for president.

Barack Obama will reportedly give a major speech this morning at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, addressing the controversy about his extremist pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

Obama needs to do two things. First, he needs to make it incandescently clear that Wright doesn’t speak for him in any meaningful way. If he won’t do that, his campaign is a fraud and he is not qualified to be president.

Second, he needs to explain to black America why Wright’s views are so poisonous.


Obama’s power base is made up of black voters and the upscale left-wingers who condescend to them. Well, it is time he spoke truth to that power. If the eloquent, self-proclaimed truth-teller and would-be first black president can’t manage that, he should go straight from would-be to never was.

Coming from someone who only rose to fame on the back of his mother’s poisonous behavior towards Bill Clinton and the fact that the presumptive nominee of the Republican party has yet to give a major speech addressing the views of his own controversial supporters such as John Hagee and Rod Parsley, perhaps he’d better read what Glenn Greenwald has to say about the matter.

The statement of Wright’s which seems to be causing the most upset … is his suggestion that there is a causal link between (a) America’s constant bombings of and other interference with Middle Eastern countries and (b) the willingness of some Middle Eastern fanatics to attack the U.S. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, we’ve been told that positing any such causal connection is a sign of vicious anti-Americanism and that all decent people find such questions despicable. This week we learned that no respectable person would subject his children to a pastor who espouses such hateful ideas.

But the idea that America deserves terrorist attacks and other horrendous disasters has long been a frequently expressed view among the faction of white evangelical ministers to whom the Republican Party is most inextricably linked. Neither Jerry Falwell nor Pat Robertson ever retracted or denounced their view that America provoked the 9/11 attacks by doing things to anger God. John Hagee continues to believe that the City of New Orleans got what it deserved when Katrina drowned its residents and devastated the lives of thousands of Americans. And James Inhofe — who happens to still be a Republican U.S. Senator — blamed America for the 9/11 attacks by arguing in a 2002 Senate floor speech that “the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America” because we pressured Israel to give away parts of the West Bank.

The phrases “anti-American” and “America-haters” are among the most barren and manipulative in our entire political lexicon, but whatever they happen to mean on any given day, they easily encompass people who believe that the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks, devastating hurricanes and the like. Yet when are people like Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, Inhofe and other white Christian radicals ever described as anti-American or America-hating extremists? Never — because white Christian evangelicals who tie themselves to the political Right are intrinsically patriotic.


The Republican Party long ago adopted as a central strategy aligning itself with, and granting great influence to, the most radical, “America-hating” white evangelical Christian ministers in the country. They’re given a complete pass on that because political orthodoxy mandates that white evangelical Christian ministers are inherently worthy of respect, no matter how extreme and noxious are their views. That orthodoxy stands in stark contrast to the universally enraged reaction to a few selected snippets from the angry rantings of a black Christian Minister. What accounts for that glaring disparity?

The disparity comes because the white right-wing evangelicals have placed the blame for hatred on groups of people that it’s still acceptable to hate — gays and Muslims — and they call it God’s wrath, thereby removing themselves from the equation. They don’t preach the hate, they say; they’re just reporting the truth, so they get a free pass on all of it. As for the political insulation, the Republicans know that these Christianists control a substantial GOP voting bloc, so they dare not disassociate themselves from them for fear of losing their support in the elections.

And of course it also comes down to the foundation of right-wing politics: It’s Okay If You’re A Republican. You can’t even get into the party until you’ve proven beyond all doubt that you can be a hypocrite and hold everyone else up to standards which you don’t even recognize. (Case in point: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) who says that there’s an enormous difference between him and Eliot Spitzer and their patronizing prostitutes: for instance, their stand on illegal immigration.) And as long as you can pull it off with a straight face and not even a tinge of shame or irony, you too can dictate terms to the other guy.