For supporters who tuned in last week to listen to Senator Barack Obama's A More Perfect Union speech, it was very likely encouraging to hear him take on, finally, the issues raised by his Pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Statements Pastor Wright has made over the years while preaching from the pulpit of Senator Obama's church have dogged his campaign with growing regularity, and a response was long overdue.
At the same time, this speech should serve to reinforce Obama's status as a highly skilled politician. No one delivers a speech like Senator Obama, and this one was no exception.
Unfortunately for all those true believers out there, this speech should also erase any doubt that the Senator is just a politician, not the saviour he is often billed as by supporters. He's just a politician because, in this speech, he did what any good politician would have done: he threw his loved ones under the proverbial bus in an attempt to keep his presidential ambitions alive.
Senator Obama first threw his beloved Pastor Wright under the bus, calling his view of America "distorted" and "racist," rejecting the hate-filled statements that his former pastor had, at various times, uttered. And this was the correct thing for the Senator to do.
At the same time, this was also a pastor who had, as Senator Obama himself admitted, introduced him to the Christian faith, had married him to his wife Michelle, and had baptized his two daughters. Pastor Wright was one of Obama's spiritual advisers up until very recently, and a man who Obama graciously introduced during a speech he gave in front a room of pastors just a few months ago, giving a "special shout out" to the man whom he claims "puts up with me, councels me, listens to my wife complain about me," and whom he declared is "a friend, a great leader; not just in Chicago, but across the country."
It sounds rather like there is true admiration on the part of Senator Obama for Jeremiah Wright. Perhaps not enough admiration to keep the Senator from sending his pastor into immediate exile as soon as he became a political liability.
But this abrupt turn on a pastor who he chose to follow for 20 years was nothing compared with what he was about to do to a member of his own family. Why did the Senator not "disown" his pastor when he heard him utter radical things from the pulpit? As he goes on to say in his speech, "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother. A woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world. But a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
Loosely translated, Senator Obama is giving us the simple argument that, while his pastor at times made racial statements, so did his grandmother. Of course, what he fails to mention — but which we all know anyway — is that you can pick your pastors and your church, but you cannot pick your family members.
But pulling his grandmother into the fray and airing her private statements before the entire nation gives the Senator some cover; so that makes it acceptable — if you're a politician. But was the Senator really accusing his grandmother of racism?
Just a few days ago during a radio interview Senator Obama was asked this very question. His response, in a nutshell, was to call her "a typical white person." Obama's answer to the question was to say, in so many words, "my grandmother is a typical white person, she's racist because it's been 'bred' into her." Too bad the host of the radio show didn't ask him what he meant when he said racism was "bred" into his grandmother.
Does Senator Obama really believe that whites are the only ones who might fear walking down a dark street at night? How might the Senator himself feel walking down the street of a tough neighborhood at night? Jesse Jackson himself said back in 1993, while addressing Operation Push members, that "there is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved"