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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

They Hate Him

by tristero

Wow, do they ever:
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. has wriggled out...
Let's stop right there, people. On its front page, The New York Times has just compared Jeremiah Wright to a snake (and it's downhill from there). I sincerely doubt anyone can find over the past 7 years, say, a similar characterization of a white religious leader of Wright's stature in the news sections of the Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, or any other mainstream daily newspaper, including the Wall Street Journal.

Did even a phony like Randall Terry "wriggle" into the spotlight recently when he exploited the hapless Schiavo family? When was the last time anyone can recall the late, unlamented Jerry Falwell described this way by the New York Times? Or Pat Robertson? Or James Dobson? Was John Hagee, McCains bff who loathes Catholics so described?

Now, why do you think that is? It's not because they're conservative. The mainstream media is respectful to all religious leaders. Except when they're black.

Put another way, the mainstream press just proved one of Wright's seemingly most preposterous and narcissistic points. These really aren't attacks on him, but rather on the black church. What Wright calls the "corporate media" wouldn't dare characterize a white preacher like this. Ever.

Dismayingly, you can feel the panic amongst we liberals. Bob Herbert devotes an entire column heaping contempt on Wright for attempting to "bury" Barack Obama. Salon's editor "regrets" that she didn't realize just how narcissistic Wright really is and hastily convened a panel of "experts" to address the urgent question: What should Obama do about Rev. Jeremiah Wright? And guess what most of them suggest? Get some "distance!" What?!!??! They seriously think Obama can "minimize" the issue of race if only Jeremiah Wright will shut the hell up! Todd Gitlin, someone who I often disagree with, is one of the rare exceptions::
Obama should say that he no more associates himself with Wright's remarks than John McCain (by his own say-so) agrees with John Hagee about Satanic Catholics or righteous Armageddon. He should remind his interlocutors that McCain went looking for Hagee's endorsement while he, Obama, did not do the same with Wright. He should also repeat that he's running for president, and that therefore he wants to talk about the awful Iraq war, the awful economy, the awful Bush years and the danger of extending them with McCain. He should say all this with a smile and his customary grace.
Damn straight, especially the ironicaly-mentioned "customary grace."

Assuming that Obama is the nominee, Republicans will make this a one issue campaign: the color of the next president's skin. Oh, they'll do it mostly with dog whistles, but they'll do it. More overtly, McCain's ad in NC (which, wink wink, he had nothing to do with and actually deplored) was just a trial balloon, a proof of concept. The issue is race, stupid, Wright or not.

Democrats and liberals have two choices. They can do as they've done for years with hot button issues, seek to minimize the conversation and change the subject. Well, maybe, just maybe Wright'll go away. But the issue won't. And Obama might very well lose. Not because of Wright's "monomania" (to use another canard from Stanley's article), but because liberals and Democrats are too ashamed of their own slightly crazed grandpas-in-the-attic to understand how important it is to defend them (needless to say, GOPers understand very well). This summer and fall, America will indeed have a conversation about race and the Republicans will make it a nasty, vicious one.

The other alternative is not to run for cover but take a stand. If Republicans want to put race front and center - and trust me, they do so want and they will - then be prepared to confront them on it. I'd suggest starting with Katrina, reminding the country that McCain was doling out cake while his fellow Americans were drowning in shit-filled waters, imploring their government to help them.

In truth the rightwing doesn't have a gouty leg to stand on when it comes to race, unless Democrats are prepared to provide them with the crutch of refusing to address the issue forthrightly. What the Republicans (and their media enablers) are really saying is that Jeremiah Wright is evidence that blacks aren't "ready to govern." Rest assured that if it wasn't Wright, they would just find someone else's words to distort, someone just as unsettling to "the American people" to hang around Obama's neck.

And yes, that is exactly what is going on right now: Republicans are seeking to lynch Obama by using Wright as the rope. And with or without this particular rope, they're still going to find a way to lynch Obama (if we continue to let them). The more that Democrats and liberals seek to "distance" themselves from the issue of race - which is what Wright is all about, not that some of his ideas or batty, or he's a raging egomaniac - the tauter the noose.


Note: Since the msm has decided that Jeremiah Wright is the new Scott Ritter - ie,, that Wright's an uncouth jerk that no one needs to listen to - you can expect a full court character assassination, as if Wright were the issue rather than race. So let's not forget that while Ritter may not be someone you'd like to spend your leisure time getting to know, he was quite right about Iraq and WMD's when all the classy folks were perfectly happy to be bamboozled by Bush's carny barkers.

Of course, there is much I don't like about Wright - you can start with his defense of Farrakhan and go from there - but that is hardly the point. He was made into a campaign issue - and thereby given a national voice - by Republicans and a media who deliberately distorted his words. These are the very same people who had no trouble excusing Huckabee's enthusiastic effort to release a serial rapist and his anti-science initiatives as governor. And who, right now, are burying McCain's actively sought support of a Catholic-hating pastor. Some of Wright's ideas are rotten, but hardly more so than those preached at Bob Jones. What's different is the way those ideas are portrayed and that portrayal - which seeks to link Wright to Obama - stinks of bigotry. This is an unavoidable issue and shame on those who think it shouldn't be raised in this context or can be finessed in general. It will be raised again and again and Obama will lose ground until liberals fight back tooth and nail rather than try to distance themselves.