On Obama and Wright

In response to Pete Abel’s post this morning concerning Senator Obama, I wrote the following response:

While I wouldn’t say it as brash as RickMoran did, I have to agree somewhat with his statements. It does seem a bit elitist to say that Obama is being brought down by “simple-minded” folks. For one thing, it’s too early to say his campaign is toast. Politics can change and he still could turn this whole Wright affair around. Also, you seem to be implying when you say there is too much fear and bias, that this has to do with the fact the Obama is black. I’m not going to pretend that race and racism isn’t present, but again, I think it’s wrong to assume that any criticism of Obama or Wright for that matter, means one is a bigot.

As for not holding Obama to the same standard, I would say that there has also been an argument that the press and others have given Obama a pass and have not been really being as critical as they should be concerning a potential presidential candidate. (Witness the ABC staffers who wrote a letter to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopolos for their questioning of Obama.)

Part of me sees another thing happening here: sometimes people have withheld judgment of a black person because of fear of being labeled a racist when sometimes judgment is necessary. There is a difference between being a bigot and asking some tough questions.

Finally, I think there is a case to be made about the associations of political candidates. While knowing someone doesn’t mean you agree with them, it could provide a window into how this person will operate as a president. If this were John McCain and it was about some association with a known homophobic pastor, we would be asking questions and rightly so. Just because Obama and his pastor are black doesn’t mean they get a pass.

I have to add that there is something worrisome about stating the public might not be ready for the junior Senator from Illinois.

It seems to say that if Americans aren’t warming to his message, then it must be because of his race. I’m not going to pretend that it might be a factor, but people could be against him for other reasons that are valid. Just because people don’t like Hillary Clinton doesn’t make them sexist, they might not want her to be president for valid reasons. If we can treat Hillary like a normal human being, than we can do the same for Obama.

One more thing about Rev. Wright: since his campaign began, Obama has highlighted his faith in the campaign. Like the GOP has done, Obama has made sure that his religion is up front and center. When you do that, you are going to invite questions because you made something about your life public. The problem with politicians of all stripes is that they think they can have it both ways: to talk about their faith and make it a hallmark of their campaign, but yet keep it from public scrutiny. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.