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Racial problems transcend Wright
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Barack Obama
Recent controversy and response show that Barack Obama knows how much peril his candidacy faces.
Photo: AP

Barack Obama’s plunge into the race issue in Philadelphia on Tuesday at times sounded more like a sermon than a speech.

But beneath the personal anecdotes and historical allusions, it was a delicately crafted political statement — one that makes clear that Obama understands exactly how much peril he is facing.

Even before the Jeremiah Wright controversy erupted in recent days, voting patterns in several states made clear — for all the glow of Obama’s reputation as a bridge-builder — how uneven his record really is when it comes to transcending deep racial divides.

The Philadelphia speech offered lines calculated to reassure all the groups with which he is most vulnerable.

For working-class whites — whose coolness toward Obama helped tilt Ohio to Hillary Rodham Clinton — Obama spoke with understanding about why they dislike busing and affirmative action. “Like the anger in the black community, these resentments aren’t always shared in polite company,” he said.

For Hispanics, who have sided with Clinton in the vast majority of states this election, he lashed pundits scouring polls for signs of tension between “black and brown” and said the two communities face a common heritage of discrimination and inadequate public services.

Finally, Obama sought to connect with white Jewish voters — potentially one of the rawest nerves of all amid the Wright controversy — denouncing those blacks who see “the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”

It will take weeks, at least until the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, to know whether all of Obama’s political and cultural base-touching succeeded.

Even before that verdict arrives, the speech counts as a remarkable event — most of all for the specificity with which Obama discussed racial attitudes and animosities that politicians usually prefer to leave unmentioned.

Of his own candidacy, Obama said, “I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”

Truth be told, Obama and his most fervent supporters often have acted as if he could end some of the most persistent divisions in American life by proclamation.

When pressed on racial questions, Obama usually invoked his own biography and achievements and appealed to America’s hunger for unity. When pressed on a voting record that the National Journal called the most liberal in the Senate, Obama dismissed ideological labels as “old politics.”

The Wright uproar showed that there is no way to sneak race and ideology through customs, blinding skeptics with his life story and phrase-making. The candidate will need to address these volatile topics directly.

But this was becoming clear even before the Wright story caught fire.

 

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default avatar for user bobbank
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Reply #1
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:23 PM EST

Jim & John-

Excellent writing.

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avatar for user VoteNow
Location: NA
Party: Democrat
Reply #2
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:24 PM EST  updated

Obama thinking he could weather the Wright controversy said this last Saturday:

"But the sermons I've always hear were no different than the sermons you hear in many African-American churches. I had not heard him make such, what I consider to be objectionable remarks from the pulpit. Had I heard them while I was in church, I would have objected. Had that been the tenor of the church generally, I probably wouldn't be a member of the church." - Senator Barack Obama, 3/15/08

Obama after he got hold of reality on Wright's effect on his candidacy:

"Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes." - Senator Barack Obama, 3/18/08

What a difference a few days can make.

The reality is that Senator Obama and his campaign didn't want to deal with Rev. Wright's hate speech until they had to. Doing so at the height of Obama's strength kept them from enduring the backlash during early primaries and caucuses, which would have left him weaker than he is today. Obviously the campaign knew his Democratic rivals would never raise the Wright issue. Obama deserves abounding credit for the candid speech he gave today, which also revealed the reality of a man in deep turmoil, talking about issues he didn't want to address in a delivery that was tight and even a bit resentful, if for no other reason than his candidacy has been based on something other. The conflict between the speech he had to give and the message of his campaign showed throughout Obama's presentation, revealing a man in deep conflict with being forced to confront issues publicly that he wanted to rise above, or maybe just wish would go away. No doubt Barack Obama wants us all to move on now. However, that's not quite how presidential politics works.

"I can no more disown (Rev. Wright) than I can my white grandmother--a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe." - Senator Barack Obama

The inevitable surfacing of Reverend Wright's vitriolic sermons and the fact that Barack Obama was present to hear them opens up questions about the candidate he hasn't begun to answer. And what kind of man throws his "white grandmother" at us in such a way?

Obama LIED repeatedly in the weeks before today's confession. Today, he said, "Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely.

Compare that with what Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times on March 15, 2008, "But the sermons I've always hear were no different than the sermons you hear in many African-American churches. I had not heard him make such, what I consider to be objectionable remarks from the pulpit. Had I heard them while I was in church, I would have objected. Had that been the tenor of the church generally, I probably wouldn't be a member of the church."

But on March 14, when CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Obama if he ever heard from others about Rev. Wright's controverisal remarks, Obama replied with a flat "No."

Obama lied and can't be trusted. He has ZERO credibility! He is UNELECTABLE!

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default avatar for user Brigitte N.
Location: NA
Party: Independent
Reply #3
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:27 PM EST

Senator Obama delivered a powerful speech on the roots and state of Black- White relations in America. Every politician should deal with the divide between African-Americans and Whites in this country. However, because Mr. Obama had to speak before the background of the Reverend Wright's divisive statements, I doubt whether he was able to remove doubts about his candidacy and agenda. While I believe that he has a good chance to win the nomination of his party, he cannot win the general election against Senator McCain. The Republicans will play and replay segments of his long-time pastor's sermons and thereby kill his chances for the White House. Unfortunately, this is what politics is about. For more on this, read: http://www.reflectivepundit.co...
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default avatar for user politicaljunky
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Reply #4
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:28 PM EST

Obama gave a great speech....

a great speech that did nothing to address the problems.

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default avatar for user catalysis
Location: NA
Party: Conservative
Reply #5
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:30 PM EST

Votenow, you are trying way to hard.

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default avatar for user maggieb
Location: FRIENDSWOOD, USA
Party: Independent
Reply #6
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:33 PM EST

Obama Attended Hate America Sermon Sunday, March 16, 2008 By: Ronald Kessler http://www.newsmax. com/kessler/ Obama_hate_ America_sermon/ 2008/03/16/ 80870.html Obama claims he was completely unaware that the Reverend Wright?s trademark preaching style at the Trinity United Church of Christ targeted "white" America. Clarification: The Obama campaign has told members of the press that Senator Obama was not in church on the day cited, July 22, because he had a speech he gave in Miami at 1:30 PM. Our writer, Jim Davis, says he attended several services at Senator Obama's church during the month of July, including July 22. The church holds services three times every Sunday at 7:30 and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time. While both the early morning and evening service allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami, Mr. Davis stands by his story that during one of the services he attended during the month of July, Senator Obama was present and sat through the sermon given by Rev. Wright as described in the story. Mr. Davis said Secret Service were also present in the church during Senator Obama's attendance. Mr. Davis' story was first published on Newsmax on August 9, 2007. Shortly before publication, Mr. Davis contacted the press office of Sen. Obama several times for comment about the Senator's attendance and Rev. Wright's comments during his sermon. The Senator's office declined to comment. ************ ********* ***** Contrary to Senator Barack Obama?s claim that he never heard his pastor Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. preach hatred of America, Obama was in the pews last July 22 when the minister blamed the "white arrogance" of America?s Caucasian majority for the world?s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks.
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default avatar for user jdep3
Location: NA
Party: Independent
Reply #7
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:34 PM EST

I AM WHITE..I AM A MAN..I AM MIDDLE AMERICA, AND...I AM SUPPORTING BARACK OBAMA..PERIOD! JOHN/WINDERMERE,FL
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default avatar for user hlbpolitician
Location: NA
Party: Republican
Reply #8
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:35 PM EST

What Obama did today was insulting each and every one of us American as if we are stupid. I mean how long are people like Wright going to hang the whole slavery over all of us white, brown, yellow or red skin? For Obama to react like he was surprised that most Americans didn’t like Wright and his own association with Wright is sad. Obama even if he knows it or not his political career is an inch from death. Today all he did has trying to breath one last breath into it.

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default avatar for user AndrewBanks
Location: NA
Party: Independent
Reply #9
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:36 PM EST

“In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community……… So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.”

“Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.”

So, he concludes whites should not angry because of the effects of affirmative action, as he clearly states above truly exist, they should instead be mad at corporations.

Got it.

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default avatar for user hlbpolitician
Location: NA
Party: Republican
Reply #10
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:38 PM EST  updated

jdep3: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:34 PM EST

AM WHITE..I AM A MAN..I AM MIDDLE AMERICA, AND...I AM SUPPORTING BARACK OBAMA..PERIOD! JOHN/WINDERMERE,FL

So if there is a video of Obama eating babies you'll still support him? Wake up. As a white man, you approved of what Wright said?

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avatar for user natenyc
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Reply #11
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:40 PM EST

Great leaders dont just lead, they inspire. O/08
natenyc
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default avatar for user GettingInvolved
Location: Washington, DC
Party: NA
Reply #12
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:44 PM EST

We as American's need to face the reality of racial tension in our society. It is there. We can't deny it. I think this is a bold move on Sen. Obama's part. It is more than a simple political maneuver. In fact, I'm sure most political analysts would advise against the candor and specificity shown in his speech. But he has raised the bar for politicians in my opinion. He has said it's not enough to just use race as a political tool. You have to be willing to face it head on when it is politically inconvenient and work to overcome it. As far as the comments of Pastor Wright. No they were not warranted, no Sen. Obama does not agree with them. Honestly, if he thought that poorly of our country why would he run for president? But as the Clinton campaign often notes words are just words...and these words aren't even Sen. Obama's. So I will continue to let his actions, his character, his ability to speak truth to power, and his willingness to acknowledge his mistakes serve as the basis of my judgment.
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default avatar for user tomdavie
Location: NA
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Reply #13
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:45 PM EST

Obama is unelectable. Now they got a tape of him DEMANDING Imus be FIRED. He cited his poor daughters having to put up the INJUSTICE of this. How does he tap dance out of that one now?????? He is FINISHED. He is a LIAR , and cannot have any credibility. Think about this. If Obama gave that speech today WITHOUT the Pastor being exposed, the message would have been MUCH stronger. Now, it pales, and is taken with a grain of salt. This is ALL Obama had going for him was his ability to convince folks thru his speeches. He is TOAST.
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default avatar for user hlbpolitician
Location: NA
Party: Republican
Reply #14
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:45 PM EST  updated

natenyc: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:40 PM EST

Great leaders don't associate themselves with a racist. There was nothing inspiring about that speech. In fact I find it troubling for someone like him to tolerate someone like Wright for almost 20 years. He is no Martin Luther King like he was trying to be today.

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avatar for user Shirlee
Location: NA
Party: Republican
Reply #15
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:46 PM EST

The speech was exactly what the political astute were expecting it to be. Most political speech writer's are good at their craft, and this one was no exception. But, I'm afraid it's just flat too little too late. There's something deaf'n about being caught with your britches down and your bare rear end shinn'n. No matter how fast you try and pull em back up...the sight of that ugly 'ol rear end linger's on and on and on............and so it goes.

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avatar for user McCain2008-SC
Location: Greenville, SC
Party: Republican
Reply #16
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:47 PM EST

TeamPolitico: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:12 PM EST

Of his own candidacy, Obama said, “I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”

This is just more liberal BS to distract us. The racial division has been of his own making by being an unapologetic member of a church that is built upon division. And let me be clear -- there is nothing wrong with that. It's a free country and you can worship how you wish. But when you are a candidate for President of the United States and you are running as a uniter, you cannot have 20 years of your life invested in division.

How unifying is Obama? How well can he work with both parties? He voted with his party 96.7% of the time in the US Senate -- 7th most party-line voter in the Senate. And Hillary? She was straight-up party line 97.2% of the time -- 3rd most party-line voter in the Senate. And my boy, John McCain? He was party-line 88.3% of the time. McSame as George W? I don't think so. He is clearly one of the more moderate members of the Republican party, while HRC and BO are among the most liberal in the Senate.

Who is the more divisive one in the campaign??


If John McCain is a "Maverick," will that make his running mate "Goose"? Click my profile to read more of my opinions in my blogs.
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default avatar for user tomdavie
Location: NA
Party: Independent
Reply #17
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:48 PM EST

Obama lovers on this thread are hilarious.

They all keep saying 'judge Obama by his pretty speeches. IGNORE the reality and his actions. JUST LISTEN TO THE STUPID SPEECHES. Obama is crushed. The republican media will never let him live it down. Pelosi, Kerry, and Kennedy are going to have one heck of a harsh time endorsing this guy. They risk their political careers as they have to answer to their overwhelming white , church going constiuents.

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avatar for user tpowers
Location: NA
Party: Independent
Reply #18
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:49 PM EST  updated

Why does Obama support his pastor for 20 years of hate speech and anti American speech when he called for Imus to be fired for a single "nappy headed hos" comment? This doesn't transcend race.. it's race bating!

Obama: Fire Imus Obama First White House Contender to Call for Imus' Firing Over Racial Slur "I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus," Obama told ABC News, "but I would also say that there's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group. And I would hope that NBC ends up having that same attitude." By JAKE TAPPER April 11, 2007

In an interview with ABC News Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., called for the firing of talk radio host Don Imus. Obama said he would never again appear on Imus' show, which is broadcast on CBS Radio and MSNBC television.

"I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus," Obama told ABC News, "but I would also say that there's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group. And I would hope that NBC ends up having that same attitude."

Obama said he appeared once on Imus' show two years ago, and "I have no intention of returning."

Racial Slur Stirs Trouble for Shock Jock

Last week, Imus referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team, most of whom are African-American, as "nappy-headed hos." He has since apologized for his remarks, and CBS and MSNBC suspended his show for two weeks.

"He didn't just cross the line," Obama said. "He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America. The notions that as young African-American women -- who I hope will be athletes -- that that somehow makes them less beautiful or less important. It was a degrading comment. It's one that I'm not interested in supporting."

Though every major presidential candidate has decried the racist remarks, Obama is the first one to say Imus should lose his job for them.

His proclamation was the latest in an ever-expanding list of bad news for Imus.

Sponsors, including American Express Co., General Motors Corp., Procter & Gamble Co., and Staples Inc. -- have announced they are pulling advertisements from the show for the indefinite future.

Tuesday, the basketball team held a press conference.

"I think that this has scarred me for life," said Matee Ajavon. "We grew up in a world where racism exists, and there's nothing we can do to change that."

"What we've been seeing around this country is this constant ratcheting up of a coarsening of the culture that all of have to think about," Obama said.

"Insults, humor that degrades women, humor that is based in racism and racial stereotypes isn't fun," the senator told ABC News.

"And the notion that somehow it's cute or amusing, or a useful diversion, I think, is something that all of us have to recognize is just not the case. We all have First Amendment rights. And I am a constitutional lawyer and strongly believe in free speech, but as a culture, we really have to do some soul-searching to think about what kind of toxic information are we feeding our kids," he concluded.

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avatar for user Ohio Citizen
Location: NA
Party: Democrat
Reply #19
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:50 PM EST

Aren't these racial problems ours? After listening to his speech today, I am convinced that Barack Obama will be an important figure in American life regardless of the outcome of this race. I believe he already towers above Hillary and McCain as a public figure. He has leadership and authenticity that becomes more and more apparent as the weeks go by. As things stand today, a Clinton nomination will surely diminish her because she will get it in a very unconventional way. That way being via backroom deals with super delegates. Barack Obama is showing that he has the right stuff. Ironically, it is those who seek to prove he does not who are enabling him to show it.
Barack Obama is the right man for our times.
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default avatar for user LeonardNYC
Location: NA
Party: Independent
Reply #20
Date: Mar. 18, 2008 - 8:50 PM EST

"So if there is a video of Obama eating babies you'll still support him? Wake up. As a white man, you approved of what Wright said?" I am a white man, and I do not approve what Wright said. However, we have to recognize that Barack Obama has not endorsed Wright's views. If you look at all the things Hillary Clinton's and John MacCain's friends and colleagues said over the years, it will not be pretty. There are many "skeletons" in the closets of all 3 major candidates. This is not the first and not the last scandal for any of them. Overall, I find Barack Obama's candidacy very inspiring and interesting. Hillary Clinton strikes me as less than honest and not very sincere. I think the stereotype of her as calculating is correct. She seems to say whatever suits her goals, whether she believes it or not.
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