Mark Steyn: Obama's pastor disaster





The Rev. Jeremiah Wright thinks that, given their treatment by white America, black Americans have no reason to sing "God Bless America." "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, God damn America," he told his congregation. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."

I'm not a believer in guilt by association, or the campaign vaudeville of rival politicians insisting this or that candidate dissociate himself from remarks by some fellow he had a 30-second grip'n'greet with a decade ago. But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly peripheral to Barack Obama's life. He married the Obamas and baptized their children. Those of us who made the mistake of buying the senator's latest book, "The Audacity Of Hope," and assumed the title was an ingeniously parodic distillation of the great sonorous banality of an entire genre of blandly uplifting political writing discovered circa page 127 that in fact the phrase comes from one of the Rev. Wright's sermons. Jeremiah Wright has been Barack Obama's pastor for 20 years – in other words, pretty much the senator's entire adult life. Did Obama consider "God Damn America" as a title for his book but it didn't focus-group so well?

Ah, well, no, the senator told ABC News. The Rev. Wright is like "an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with." So did he agree with goofy old Uncle Jeremiah on Sept. 16, 2001? That Sunday morning, Uncle told his congregation that the United States brought the death and destruction of 9/11 on itself. "We nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," said the Rev. Wright. "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 to our own front yards."

Is that one of those "things I don't always agree with"? Well, Sen. Obama isn't saying, responding merely that he wasn't in church that morning. OK, fair enough, but what would he have done had he happened to have shown up on Sept. 16? Cried "Shame on you!" and stormed out? Or, if that's a little dramatic, whispered to Michelle that he didn't want their daughters hearing this kind of drivel while rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble and risen from his pew in a dignified manner and led his family to the exit? Or would he have just sat there with an inscrutable look on his face as those around him nodded?

All Sen. Obama will say is that "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." And in that he may be correct. There are many preachers who would be happy to tell their congregations "God damn America." But Barack Obama is not supposed to be the candidate of the America-damners: He's not the Rev. Al Sharpton or the Rev. Jesse Jackson or the rest of the racial grievance-mongers. Obama is meant to be the man who transcends the divisions of race, the candidate who doesn't damn America but "heals" it – if you believe, as many Democrats do, that America needs healing.

Yet since his early twenties he's sat week after week, listening to the ravings of just another cookie-cutter race-huckster.

What is Barack Obama for? It's not his "policies," such as they are. Rather, Sen. Obama embodies an idea: He's a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don't boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do. I assume that's what Geraldine Ferraro was getting at when she said Obama wouldn't be where he was today (i.e., leading the race for the Democratic nomination) if he was white. For her infelicity, the first woman on a presidential ticket got bounced from the Clinton campaign and denounced by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann for her "insidious racism" indistinguishable from "the vocabulary of David Duke."

Oh, for cryin' out loud. Enjoyable as it is to watch previously expert tossers of identity-politics hand grenades blow their own fingers off, if Geraldine Ferraro's an "insidious racist", who isn't?...



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