Senator Barack Obama’s unequivocal denouncement yesterday of Reverend Wright’s comments and performance was definitive and eloquent. But of course the question many have is “Why did he sit in the pew for 20 years?” Well folks- a lot of well respected people sat in those pews listening to Wright’s sermons for years. It isn’t like Mr. Obama was attending some voodoo ceremony where the pentagram was hanging. He saw a ministry that had a social commitment- he was part of a community of faith that offered ministries to “the least among us”. While Reverend Wright adheres to a “Black Liberation Theology” and every one knew that- it seems clear that part of that theology, the part that spoke to Obama, was outreach to the community and lifting up those with no hope. If one reads Obama’s books and listens to the man- you can see what it was about Trinity – its community work- that appealed to Obama. It was the sense of Christianity being tied to good works in the community that is what brought Obama to Christ and it was that part of Wright that appealed to Obama.
It is clear that Mr. Obama’s relationship with Reverend Wright was complicated. He saw Wright as someone important in his life- and like all of us we have friends who are flawed and we look beyond those flaws to see the good that they do. Did Obama know that his pastor was controversial- sure, did he think that he was a nut case that had views that were so “out there”, no. Even if he had occasionally heard black liberation rhetoric from Wright- it was not pronounced enough to severe his ties. This was a spiritual and emotional relationship- it was complicated.
It says a lot about Mrs. Clinton that she said she would have left the pews of Trinity a long time ago. She either didn’t see or didn’t want to address that these relations are complicated and they are nuanced. No one is totally evil and no one is totally a saint. Mr. Obama was part of a community of faith that was doing good works in the straining neighborhood of Chicago’s south side. Mr. Wright was responsible for building that community of faith regardless of his most incendiary comments- his church has done amazing work.
If Mrs. Clinton sees the world so black and white- with such starkness- I think it tells me that she is not a person of good judgment. Diplomacy, the economy, the disaster where we find ourselves at the present time need someone who can appreciate the nuances and the finer points of these complicated problems. But Mrs. Clinton is a very smart woman- she knows what sort of complexities are involved- but she choses to pander.
Not only did she flippantly remark on a very personal and complicated relationship between a man and his pastor with a quick answer- she said what was politically expedient. She should know how complicated relationships are- she could have thrown Bill under the bus after his lie to her and the country about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but she chose not to. Relationships- especially relationships that are based on either intimacy in marriage or intimacy of faith- are complicated. She was pandering.
But that is just the beginning. Sure she threw the kitchen sink at Obama in Pennsylvania and it apparently worked- but now she is offering everything to the voters including that kitchen sink. Let’s take this gas tax holiday.
Mr. Obama is correct that this is a political stunt being played by both Senators Clinton and McCain. 3 months of gas at a few cents less per gallon that may add up to $30.00 per car over the course of the “holiday”. Yes, Mrs. Clinton says that she would pay for this with windfall tax money from the oil companies. But that strategy only works if she is elected president and she has a Congress that agrees with her. Should she be promoting a policy that would occur NOW without knowing for sure how it will be paid for in the future?
In his Op/Ed piece today in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman wrote:
“This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country. When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.
No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs. Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather than on innovation?
The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”
Good for Barack Obama for resisting this shameful pandering.”
Then there are Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish comments about obliterating Iran if they would attack Israel or any of our friends in the region- creating, in her own mind, a sort of mid-East NATO. Obama said that in response to an attack against Israel (or any other US ally) by Iran, he would act “forcefully and swiftly”. Well, that’s a bit vague, but it’s certainly better than immediately saying “we will obliterate them!” We need a leader who will be forceful and swift, but we also need to know that Obama won’t immediately rush into military attacks or outright war like President Bush did.
Why on earth would Mrs. Clinton begin sabre rattling á la Cheney / Bush? It is probably the same reason she ended the Pennsylvania campaign with an add that featured Osama bin Laden- FEAR. Thanks Mrs. Clinton, I thought we were over that. Playing fear equals pandering in my estimation.
Clearly Mr. Obama is asking voters to think. The times demand hard thinking. Mr. Obama believes that voters will see through fear mongering and pandering on issues like gas taxes. Mr. Obama talk about “us” making change- that we must work together to make change. This point of view challenges us to think and to look at the nuance in policy.
Mrs. Clinton is promising everything to everybody- like the “Forty Acres and a Mule” promise during the Civil War’s reconstruction. Her blantant stunt with the gas tax, her flippant comment about a personal relationship between Senator Obama and Reverend Wright that is as complex as her own with her philandering husband, and her fear mongering and hawk posturing with Iran point to a cynical sense of the electorate.
Senator Obama was racked over the coals for comments he made “It’s not surprising then they get bitter, 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.”
What Obama was saying is true- people use the spectre of destroying faith and guns, immigrants and jobs – gay marriage and gun control state initiatives, anti-immigration legislation, and blaming everything on NAFTA- to stoke the fears of voters. Republican have been very deft at using these wedge issues to manipulate voters from voting in their economic interest. He was exposing the cynisism of the current political system that expolits these issues and fears as a destraction and assumes the lowest common denominator among our electorate.
Clearly Mr. McCain is continuing this well tried tradition in the Republican party, but Mrs. Clinton is using the same tactics in the primary. Who is elitist? The person who is pandering or the person who exposes the pandering? I think the answer is clear.