Obama on the campaign trail isn't practicing what he preached (pun intended) in last week's widely praised speech where he sought a more open, honest dialogue about race in America. Barack Obama was in North Carolina yesterday, giving a new version of his stump speech. The senator has apparently found the Lord, and wants to share with his audiences just how pure and mainstream a religious man he is. He's on a new strategy to downplay his 20+ year association with Reverend Wright of the Trinity United Church in Chicago. The four-part spin goes something like this:
(1) Minimize it: In comments to one crowd, Obama called this whole issue of Wright an unnecessary "distraction" from the real problems people face in this country. "We can't lose sight of America's real issues -- like the War in Iraq -- every time someone says something stupid".
Now, calling Wright's sermons simply "stupid" is, in my view, a significant back-track from the major speech he gave last week on the issue of race, when he rejected Wright's views and condemned them.
Obama also stressed that Wright has given three sermons a week for 30 years and that those opposed to his candidacy had found "five or six of his most offensive statements" and "boiled" them down to play over and over. "I hope people don't get distracted by that."
Why should people get distracted by the fact that the spiritual adviser to the presumptive Democrat candidate for President of the United States should blame white America for 9/11, the Palestinian problem and all the problems of blacks in this country?
(2) Mainstream it: Yesterday, Obama spoke of the Trinity United Church as if it were the most tolerant, open congregation in the country. "Everybody is welcome to come to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street. It is a wonderful, welcoming church," he said. "If you were there on any given Sunday, folks would be doing the same things in church at Trinity as they do everywhere else. They're praising Jesus. They've got a choir singing. It's a very good choir. And the pastor is trying to teach a lesson to connect scripture to our everyday lives."
Unfortunately, Obama stopped short of citing the specific scriptures that tells us that the U.S. government created AIDS to destroy the black community, or that introduced drugs into black neighborhoods.
(3) Backtrack from it: Though in his widely reviewed speech on Race last week Obama admitted to having attended some of the Wright sermons that were universally found offensive, yesterday he backtracked, saying that Wright had said some "very objectionable things when I wasn't in church on those particular days."
I guess it depends on what the meaning of the word "in" is...if it means "in church" as actually sitting in the pews, or if it means "in church" as in standing in the parking lot where he couldn't really hear the sermon going on inside. Bill Clinton would be proud of such practiced dissembling.
(4) If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em: In Greensboro, Obama's campaign staff has found the Lord as well, now using prayer before his events, something that began since the controversy over Wright and his remarks. "Thank you for this time of excitement and enthusiasm," a local reverend prayed. "I pray a special blessing, oh God, a special blessing, on Barack Obama." The audience was then led in the Pledge of Allegiance. And if there was any question that Obama is a religious and patriotic American, he ended his speech with a "God bless America."
So, the candidate who wouldn't wear an American flag on his lapel pin is now cloaking himself in both the bible and the flag at his campaign events. Does this not strike you as a cold and calculating way of actually avoiding that real discussion of race that he says he so desperately wants in America?
This strikes me as disingenuous, and I hope most of America will not buy what Obama is selling now: a "slick Willie" style attempt to triangulate his position and his beliefs, with an obvious hope that the public will eventually be so confused by the ever-changing position that they will simply remember the last thing that the candidate says.
We've had enough dissembling in the White House. It is time for some straight talk!