FORUM: OBAMA'S CONTRADICTIONS OVER WRIGHT
By Alan Nathan
Published May 2, 2008
On Monday April 28th, I was seated directly in front of Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the National Press Club as he recommitted himself to the very bigotry-laced anti-Americanism that his most famous long-time parishioner, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, had contended were feelings the reverend no longer possessed. Exactly one month earlier on ABC Television's “The View,” Mr. Obama argued that he wouldn't have stayed with Trinity United Church of Christ had the reverend “not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people” and was “inappropriate.”
Contrasting this summation in his address to us, Mr. Wright made it abundantly clear that he agreed with his friends who claimed that, “If Sen. Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected.” Firing back in his press conference Tuesday, the senator insisted, “What I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing.”
Had this been the singular focus of Mr. Obama's more final distancing, he may have been able to retire the matter. However, he also asserted that he was especially appalled by the reverend's claims that the government started AIDS, that Nation of Islam's Minister Louis Farrakhan is one of the “greatest voices” of the 20th and 21st centuries and that America's wartime efforts have parity with terrorism. This is a problem for the senator because these were comments with which he had previously disagreed in Philadelphia. This naturally triggers a question: Why the delayed passion in condemning that which is hardly new?
This awkwardness in judgment seems to have dogged him over the last two weeks. During his debate with Sen. Hillary Clinton at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama characterized questions about his relationships with Mr. Wright and terrorism advocate William Ayers as “distractions” from the real issues facing Americans. He was also asked about his April 11 statement in San Francisco in which he defined Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners as being so bitter over job losses that “they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” About this he argued: “It's not the first time I've made, you know, a statement that was mangled up.” I'm sorry, Senator, but a well-honed declarative sentence of almost Dickensian structure does not a “mangled” statement make. You were caught expressing your feelings.
Welcome to the world of moveable standards wherein once you've been caught failing to meet an expectation, you rename that expectation so as to neutralize the aforementioned failing. Consequently, your wrongdoing now doesn't matter.
Note to Mr. Obama: Because you have had a not-blind but informed association with a racist — that matters. Because you have had a not-blind but informed association with a terrorist — that matters. Finally, when you refer to an entire state's population as having “an antipathy to people who aren't like them” (i.e., the very bigotry and racism for which you had demonstrated excessive tolerance when perpetrated by your friends) — that most especially matters.
Were it not for a news-reporting media that has developed all the neutrality of a tampered jury on crack, Mr. Obama's opportunism would have already received its richly deserved sentencing: political demise. When I was a television correspondent in the early 1990s, the media was almost as liberal as it is today. However, the standards were different in that reporters had a greater allegiance to their craft than they did to their politics.
As I have often reminded guests on my show, media bias has become unabashedly devoid of neutrality. In 2004, the Pew Foundation found that there was a 5-to-1 ratio of liberals to conservatives in the news reporting media. In 2007, MSNBC did an exhaustive analysis of the public records at the Federal Election Commission and found that there was a 9-to-1 ratio of reporters donating to liberal candidates over conservative ones. Sadly, this often occurred while those candidates were the subjects of correspondents' reports! Now we have the Business and Media Institute reporting some bizarre comments by Time Magazine's managing editor, Richard Stengel, reinforcing long-established suspicions about media bias. Mr. Stengel said, “This notion that journalism is objective — or must be objective — is something that has always bothered me.”
It seemed equally bothersome to the press surrounding our table at the National Press Club. Many were defiantly standing and clapping for Mr. Wright.