In a previous post I speculated that Barack Obama may not have agreed with the naked racism of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright but that he filed his reservations away in the corner of his brain, between hallelujahs, as the price of doing business in the inner city. Given that Wright and his church were pillars of the community, this very ambitious politician knew when to fold his hands in order to build a base from which to launch his political career.
Wright, who married the Obamas, baptized their children, and was such a mentor to the Democrat(ic) candidate that he suggested the title to Obama's latest book, has become infamous for:
- Calling the this nation of ours the U.S. of KKK-A
- Suggesting that we had 9/11 coming to us
- Blaming AIDS on a nefarious plot to subjugate the black community
- God damning America.
In other words, the standard boilerplate you get from the racial demagogues like the Eugene Kanes of the world with the tacit approval of guilty white counterparts like John Nichols.
Byron York in The National Review quotes an invited member of the Philadelphia audience:
I wasn't offended by anything the pastor said. A lot of things he said were absolutely correct... The way he said it may not have been the most appropriate say to say it, but as far as a typical black inner-city church, that's how it's said.
(Nichols offers some of the worst political advice since Tony Earl advised Walter Mondale to tell America at the 1984 Democrat(ic) convention that he was going to raise taxes. About America's race relations, Nichols writes: "Pardon us if we think there are bigger issues out there." Like... Tibet?)
Bigger issues than Tibet?
Just as only Nixon, due to his once fierce anti-communism, could have gone to China in the early 1970s. Barack Obama may be the only one who can fully address race and confront the issue head-on without the usual charges of "racism" directed at any proposal short of pouring Fort Knox into reparations for past sins.
That would make Obama the next truly transformational president, after Ronald Reagan. (Obama, of course, was roundly criticized by Hillary Clinton for this commonplace observation.)
So far, as the national news media has noted, Obama has tiptoed around the race issue. But the Jeremiah Wright issue demanded that he address it and he did.
Obama's speech on racism Tuesday could have the historic equivalence of JFK's speech to the Houston ministers on religious freedom.
The Third RailBut the speech he gave Tuesday in Philadelphia wasn't it. As Byron York notes:
Obama delivered a well-crafted speech. Has he ever made a truly bad one? But his address at the National Constitution Center did not put to rest the concerns of those Americans who wonder just what he thought as he sat in Wright's church listening to the pastor's 'controversial' statements.
Maybe he cannot give the speech that he needs to give until after he sews up the nomination. And he cannot get the nomination if he gives the speech America needs to hear. Not from the Democrat(ic) party. Not if he wants to keep the heavy breathers, the John Nicholses and Ed Garveys and the racial arsonists from defecting to the crazy man (Ralph Nader) and throwing the whole thing to Hillary Clinton (who would be sure to pounce). That would throw the election to John McCain for sure.
The blame game, of course, is well practiced among those who have made victimization a life's pursuit. Introspection, self-criticism, peer and outside reviews are not welcome.
Because, outside of Bill Cosby, there are not enough black people combating the paranoia that has prompted even black women to place race over gender and cheer O.J. Simpson's acquittal for murder.
Obama needs to quote Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets" "Sell crazy someplace else." He needs to do his own "Come to Jesus" moment with Jeremiah Wright, the Democrat(ic) party, and the whole cult of victimization that has become its raison d'etre.
The speech he must give
Here is the speech Barack Obama should have made today in Philadelphia. Start out with a recitation of the ills disproportionately besetting too much of the black community:
Then review the history of how the burden of being "politically correct" condemned a generation:
The response of liberal policymakers and civil rights leaders didn't help; in their urgency to avoid blaming the victims of historical racism, they tended to downplay or ignore evidence that entrenched behavioral patterns among the black poor really were contributing to inter-generational poverty. (Most famously, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was accused of racism in the early sixties when he raised alarms about the rise of out-of-wedlock births among the black poor.)
This willingness to dismiss the role that values played in shaping the economic success of a community strained credulity and alienated working-class whites, particularly since some of the most liberal policy makers lived lives far removed from urban disorder.
Point out that values are values, regardless of race:
The truth is that such rising frustration with conditions in the inner city was hardly restricted to whites. In most black neighborhoods, law-abiding, hardworking residents have been demanding more aggressive police protection for years, since they are far more likely to be victims of crime. ... black folks can often be heard bemoaning the eroding work ethic, inadequate parenting, and declining sexual mores with a fervor that would make the Heritage Foundation proud.
We should acknowledge that conservatives -- and Bill Clinton -- were right about welfare as it was previously structured: by detaching income from work and by making no demands on welfare recipients ... the old AFDC program sapped people of their initiative and eroded their self respect. Any strategy to reduce intergenerational poverty has to be centered on work, not welfare.
Co-opt the Right by talking about reaping the rewards of work, investment, and delayed gratification:
The biggest single thing we could do to reduce such poverty is to encourage teenage girls to finish high school and avoid having children out of wedlock.
It is through this quintessentially American path of upward mobility that the black middle class has grown fourfold in a generation and that the black poverty rate was cut in half.
Speak the book
I did not write this speech; Barack Obama did -- in his book, The Audacity of Hope. (Yes, I am reading it.) I look forward to hearing it some day from the author's mouth.
That takes courage and, to be honest, I have not heard a whole lot of that from Barack Obama so far in this campaign. He got off a great line Tuesday: "I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."
And an even better line:
To wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns -- this too widens the racial divide and blocks the path to understanding.
But he did not exhibit a surfeit of courage in Philadelphia.
I have seen this courage from John McCain. In the heat of the Republican scrum earlier this year with Republicans from Fred Thompson to Mike Huckabee to Mitt Romney trying to out-conservative each other, McCain:
- Acknowledged his role on an immigration compromise
- Cheerfully admitted he owned no guns
- Allowed that global warming might be real
- Condemned water boarding as torture
- Defended campaign finance reform and his vote against the Bush tax cuts
Agree or not (and I do and I don''t) you've got to admit the man has the courage to speak his mind.
Haven't seen that from Obama. Yet. But I think he's got it in him. I really do.
That's the ticket!
Perhaps Obama and McCain should offer each other the vice presidency. Flip a coin for it. Now that would be transformational!