Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Tough Old Business

The past couple of weeks or so, we've had this kind of roiling controversy regarding Barack Obama, his religion, his pastor, and what, if anything, one tells us about the other. I personally feel that this issue does not have the importance to carry into the general election season, but that it's a good idea to get it down so that we can see how it once was viewed. If nothing else, it shows us that politics at the presidential level can be a tough old business, with few rules except to do whatever it takes to win.
Six months or so ago, the internet filled with stories that alleged that Obama had been raised a Muslim, and that his candidacy represented the blackest kind of plot - to take over for Islam the government of the USA in the only legal way possible. By election.
Those stories petered out when it was found that the Obama family have been long time members of an African American Christian church in Chicago.
New stories started to appear. This church's minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, it is alleged, is a black hate monger, a purveyor of anti-American, race-baiting verbal dynamite who had put the Obamas under his spell. Never mind that Obama had already written two books without a word of hate, that there are no gangs of young Wright followers terrorizing white Chicagoans in his name, or that his church members seem to be like other black folks, living and working in the mostly white world without a hint of rebellion. No sir. They had some pretty awful-sounding (to white ears) stuff on YouTube proving that Obama himself must be full of hate, or else he would have left the church and taken his family, too.
You've heard of "guilt by association", the technique that was used by the Far Right in the 1950's to ruin the careers of a good number of Hollywood writers who had any earlier connection to the Communist Party. You may have heard the phrase "tarred with the same brush". Obama's been on the receiving end of the 2008 version of these terms. The surprising part is that this smear tactic has changed so little over the years. Of course most of the accusers are simply mainstream Republicans, anxious to turn the race issue , which has torpedoed a good many Republican candidates in this decade, against a popular Democrat who, up to now, had enjoyed an almost spotless image.
The circumstances required that he make a reply to the charges, and he did, in Philadelphia. The speech he gave has been widely and highly regarded. Obama seems very much at ease when speaking, a trait many office holders wish they had. He removed himself from the most controversial of the Rev. Wright's statements, but did not renounce their friendship.
I have to think that Americans will realize in time what sort of attack this has been. Of course, the Right got away with some sleazy stuff in the last two elections ( in my humble opinion) without enough people noticing. I'd call this little skirmish a postage stamp-sized attack on someone who neither had nor will attack them. If Barack Obama was a racist we would certainly know it already. You can't hide what you really are when you're running for president. Too many people are watching. Closely.
As I repeat, I feel this "issue" will disappear, either from lack of new information or just the realization that there was nothing there to begin with. But here it is, on record, waiting to be exploited in some other way on another day. When it happens again, you'll notice, won't you?


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