Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Judgment and Electibility

his minister and his twenty-year association with this church, really undermines the message he’s been delivering for the last year, it completely undercuts it

Acolyte Dowd is totally devastated to be let down and her column is predictably disingenous and schizophrenic, both fawning and damning:

The candidate may have staunched the bleeding, but he did not heal the wounds. His naïve and willful refusal to come to terms earlier with the Rev. Wright’s anti-American, anti-white and pro-Farrakhan sentiments — echoing his naïve and willful refusal to come to terms earlier with the ramifications of his friendship with sleazy fund-raiser Tony Rezko — will not be forgotten because of one unforgettable speech. ...

...he was finally confronted by a problem that neither his charm nor his grandiosity would solve.

He now admits that he had heard the Rev. Wright make “controversial” remarks in church, and that he had a “lapse of judgment” when he let the much-investigated Rezko curry favor by buying the plot of land next to his and selling a slice back so Obama could have a bigger yard. Newly alert to the perils of not seeming patriotic enough, he ended a speech in Pennsylvania the other morning with “God bless America!”

...Saint Obama [has] played the politics of character to an absurd extent. For 14 months, his argument for leading the world has been himself — his exquisitely globalized self.

Granted: seeing the speech was mostly impressive and had moments of soaring, possibly historical, rhetoric. (listening only was less so.) I'm just not convinced about the whole electibility issue yet. The most cogent analysis I've heard so far is from Jeff Greenfield:

Jeff Greenfield and pollster Frank Luntz tell Maggie Rodriguez that while Sen. Barack Obama's speech was exemplary on the subject of race, it may not defuse the Rev. Wright controversy.

If Obama only had the courage to have chosen different 'spiritual guidance' or to at least challenge his pastor, and to call his fawning uncritical supporters and the lazy, smug, arrogant bloviating macho-loving media on their sexism and misogyny, I might start to have some growing respect for him. As it stands now, mine is stalling or diminishing with each passing day.

Obama's Speech Was Brilliant, But--
by Michael Crowley
Will the complexity of his message reach the people it needs to?
Barack Obama gave a brilliant, inspiring, intellectually supple speech--but one that may have done little to solve his festering problem with working class white Americans.

Nor am I completely convinced of the campaign PR/spin version nor the media's fawning portrayal of Obama's character, courage and JUDGMENT:

Another Take: William Galston Reviews Obama's Speech"
What, if anything, did Obama do in response to what he now acknowledges he heard Reverend Wright say? Did he raise his concerns with other members of the congregation? With Reverend Wright himself? Was he seriously enough disturbed to consider leaving Trinity for another church? By embedding his own life in the larger narrative of race in America, Obama is implicitly saying that these questions don't matter. But they do, because they present a window on his character and help us judge what kind of president he would be."

Obama's Racial Problems Transcend Pastor
Merle Black, an expert on southern voters at Emory University, said Wright is a “huge, huge problem.”

“The new information, especially about his minister and his twenty-year association with this church, really undermines the message he’s been delivering for the last year, it completely undercuts it,” said Black.

Latinos have been an even tougher obstacle for Obama than whites. The only states where he has carried this group, Connecticut, Virginia, Illinois and Iowa, have relatively small Hispanic populations. Obama has worked hard to break down this bloc’s preference for Clinton, a task that likely is set back by Wright.

“There is an older generation, U.S. born, of the Latino population who can identify more with the black community on these civil rights issues and can identify with where the reverend is coming from,” said Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy. “There are also people who have not been here as long who are going to find the whole mix of the reverends’ words totally alien.”

Obama’s problems with some Jewish voters also predated the Wright coverage. The Illinois senator lost the Jewish vote by double-digits in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. He has been the victim of both an unwanted endorsement (Louis Farrakhan) and a dirty e-mail campaign claiming falsely that he is a Muslim.

In some quarters, his support of Israel has been suspect, despite his outspoken support for the U.S. ally. Wright didn’t do him any favors when he accused Israel of “state terrorism against Palestinians.”

“Wright’s comments make the job of supporting Obama in the Jewish community more difficult,” said a Jewish Democratic leader who asked that he not be identified by name in order to share his views more candidly. “On a rational level, Obama should be an easy sell in the Jewish community. This stuff is based on pure fear-mongering. There has been a concerted smear campaign against Obama that has targeted the Jewish community, in emails and conservative blogs.

“Obama’s speech is a powerful tool to be used in support of Obama,” he continued, “but on balance this is an issue that could have a negative impact on the Jewish vote.”


Will Chuck D Be Obama's Undoing?
Even after yesterday's speech, Jonathan Martin reports that some GOP operatives still thinks Wright will be Obama's undoing.
Here's a description of one of their early efforts to make that so: ...

For some competing views on Obama's savior-like saintliness:

The Obama Bargain
March 18, 2008

TNR: How Team Obama played the race card

Race Man
by Sean Wilentz
How Barack Obama played the race card and blamed Hillary Clinton

A Speech That Fell Short
By Michael Gerson, Washington Post
It was one of the finest political performances under pressure since John F. Kennedy at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960. It also fell short in significant ways.

obama preaching to the choir does not reach white working class voters

Meanwhile the republicans are compiling a seriously inflammatory arsenal with plenty of arrows. One of them is something I stumbled across at Slate online about Obama's father actually being from San Francisco, not Kenya. Huh? Is this something from the rumor mill or another fact the media has not shared? When I find that link again I'll post it. It was something reported by The Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this month as I recall.

Obama’s much-lauded Tuesday speech, which detailed his relationship with his church and focused on the issue of racial reconciliation, failed to shake the notion that Republicans had been given a rare political gift.

“It was a speech written to mau-mau the New York Times editorial board, the network production people and the media into submission. Beautifully calibrated but deeply dishonest,” said GOP media consultant Rick Wilson, who crafted the ad in 2002 tying then-Sen. Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden. “Not good enough.”

Until now, questions about Obama’s allegiance to country had been largely confined to the fever swamps of the Internet and e-mail chains. They took the form of dark whispers about the greater meaning of Obama’s failure to put his hand over his heart during one national anthem, his decision not to wear an American flag lapel pin and, at their most toxic, the outright lie that he’s a Muslim or some sort of Manchurian candidate.

With Michelle Obama’s comments last month that she was, thanks to her husband’s candidacy, for the first time “really proud of [her country],” the topic entered the more mainstream elements of the conservative conversation, ricocheting across talk radio, cable news and blogs.

“All the sudden you’ve got two dots and two dots make a line,” said Castellanos. “You start getting some sense of who he is and it’s not the Obama you thought - he’s not the Tiger Woods of politics.”

But if Michelle Obama’s gaffe caused some ripples in the right-wing pond, the Wright videos have detonated the equivalent of a daisy cutter on the conservative landscape, awakening an otherwise dispirited party base.

“I usually get three or four emails a week on Obama,” said Michigan Republican chairman Saul Anuzis Monday. “Today I received more than 10 - all of them on his minister.”

Among the e-mails Anuzis received was a link to a mash-up video splicing together Wright’s most extreme comments, Michelle Obama’s statement, footage of Obama not putting his hand over his heart during the anthem at a political event and images of Malcolm X and the two black Olympians in 1968 who raised their fists in the “black power” salute set to the iconic rap song by Public Enemy “Fight the Power.”

The video, titled “Is Obama Wright,” is described as being produced by something called “NHaleMedia,” apparently just a dummy Web site set up to produce anoymous and home-made videos.

In effect, the pastor has done what many on the right, quivering even with the anonymity afforded by the online era, had hesitated over until now-thrust highly delicate matters of patriotism and race into the political dialogue.

“It opens up an entire new vein,” said Republican consultant Paul Wilson.

Just as with John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, Republican strategists view the Wright flap as deeply damaging to Obama because it strikes at the message, or set of principles, at the heart of his candidacy.

In Obama’s case, the core of his appeal has been that he transcends race and is more inclined toward conciliation than combat.

“He wants the authentic black image but he also wants to keep all his safe, suburban Obamacans in line,” said Rick Wilson. “Well, you can’t have both - they’re mutually exclusive.”

“This is a guy who associates with some real haters,” he added.

Perhaps most damaging for Obama, his opponents now have the powerful video to make that case.

“It’s harder for people to say it’s taken out of context because these are Wright’s own words,” noted Chris LaCivita, the Republican strategist who helped craft the Swift Boat commercials against Kerry that employed the use of their target’s own language when he returned from Vietnam and returned his medals. “You let people draw their own conclusions.”

“You don’t have to say that he’s unpatriotic, you don’t question his patriotism,” he added. “Because I guaran-damn-tee you that with that footage you don’t have to say it.”


Related: a footnote to the previous post:

"bitch really is the new black."

As is well known: it’s one thing for a person of color to refer to themselves as the “n-word” or any group to use the whatever-word amongst themselves in their cultural and ethnic enclave, quite another when someone outside the group does it, especially in the way Morgan used 'bitch' as a put-down, another 'put the woman in her place' act of hostility and threat. Let's not even get into the issue of calling a gown woman 'girl' or a black man 'boy' .... (which Tina never did).

The parallel comparison would be if Tina had used the N-word referring to Morgan (which she did not); for him to end his commentary (which was perfectly reasonable political humor/satire up until the end) and call her Bitch at all, especially in such a denigrating and condescending, disrespectful tone shows the double standard and the pervasive acceptance of sexism and misogyny in his personal values, cultural values, male values and society at large.

Like I said, I'm just not convinced.


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