There have been so many personal attacks in this long campaign season that it is hard to keep count. My usual opinion is that those who are offended, shouldn't be, and that virtually everything is stretched to the limits of its possible meaning.
All the front runners are at fault. The worst of it has been the absurd claims of racism. Last week we went to new heights with targeting the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, because she said that Obama was lucky to be black at this time, and that's why he was doing so well. I don't remember her exact words, but she also said that if she was named Gerard instead of Geraldine in '84 she would not have the VP candidate. I saw a clip on her on another show and she was choked up that people were calling her racist. It was neither fair, nor sensical.
She repeatedly has said that she was not talking about his qualifications, just the circumstances. There was more she could have said, but since she is in the public eye, she can't. I'll do it for her. I would be upset if people think that I'm racist too, but here it is.
Obama is a phenomena. When people say he is the most talented politician of his generation, they have good reason. Even people in the other party (except for the far right) like him. I've compared him to a combination of Dean Martin and Martin Luther King, Jr. Cool, passionate and charismatic all at the same time.
The truth is, were he not half black and half white, he probably would not be anywhere nearly as popular. By his manner, his dress, his diction and political mission (get rid of the old divisive politics) AND his half white looks and skin color, he is not threatening to many whites he otherwise might have been. This would be, in public, completely unacceptable to say. Many people, black and white, would determine that such a statement was racist. The media is very ready to find almost anything racist that doesn't just say, Obama is the most talented politician of his generation. And, of course, he is.
Here's a further example of these claims of racism. Tonight I watched as Chris Matthews supported a Harvard professor on his program who was arguing that the famous 3:00 a.m. ad was racist. What? The argument goes (although it is just absurd) that it was not an ad about foreign policy; it was about crime. The 3 a.m. phone call was to report a crime and what if it was a black president who answered. Again, let me say, what? Somebody was reporting a crime to the White House? And expected the president to answer? Yet this is considered the likely interpretation by a number of people.
Of course, tonight the shoe is on the other foot. For quite a while quotes from Obama's pastor, friend and mentor, Jeremiah Wright, have been surfacing, mostly on talk radio. They are overtly racist. Today a slew more came out in the media and there is a feeding frenzy. The statements are not only racist, they are anti-America (such as "Go to Hell, white man" and "God damn, America").
I'm very much against this whole guilt by association thing. Frankly, when someone society doesn't like gives money to a candidate, the candidate should be able to say, "Well, he (or she) is a moron (or detestable) but I'm keeping the money. I hope he gives me more." What possible difference does it make that the money came from the wallet of an evil or criminal person? When someone is friends with another person who may have said or obnoxious or racist things (if they were, in the real world, racist), then the candidate might disagree, but still maintain a friendship with the person. I personally know people who are racist. I might even argue with them (and on one occasion, at least, yelled about it). I haven't stop being friends over it. Although I wouldn't go as far as saying that everyone is prejudiced to some degree, as conventional wisdom has it, virtually everyone seems to be. But we are all not going to stop being friends, are we?
All that being said, I believe that this very well may be Obama's undoing. I remember all too well the divisiveness of the OJ trial. Polls showed that black people overwhelming believed in his innocence, and white people in his guilt. Obviously, reason was out the window, whatever you think happened. The same thing may well happen here. Black people will understand the frustration and bitterness out of which Wright spoke and feel that Obama need only reject the particular statements made, without rejecting the pastor completely (as Hillary insisted with respect to Obama and Farrakhan). Obama has now clearly said that he will not completely reject Wright outright, who is, at least, tenuously associated with his campaign. I understand him doing that as a person. I respect it. Politically, it will disasterous.
Without batting an eye, Hillary and, eventually, McCain, will use this to devastating advantage. Probably the media will do it for them. If not, their supporters will. It will drive a wedge between many blacks and whites. The party has not been doing well with this, and will not in the future.
It has been quite clear for a while that if Obama is not the candidate, there will be bitterness and divide based on racism charges. The Democrats know they need the black vote to win the general election, just as the Republicans count on the evangelist vote.
I personally do not believe that Obama shares Wright's views any more than I share the views of people who are among my best friends on the left and the right. This is a lousy way for him to lose. Although I would not have likely voted for him, I believe he means what he says -- that he wanted a less divisive politics. Unfortunately for him, neither his opponents, nor his own supporters, will sit still for that.
I have no problem with waffling when I am not convinced on a subject. But I feel strongly that today marks the beginning of the end for Obama. It will first show itself in the polls, and then in Pennsylvania. The mainstream media is not yet aware of it.
Obama will then have the choice that Hillary had up till now, with many calling for her to give up for the good of the party. He can throw in the towel, taking many young people of all colors and many black votes with him. Or, like Hillary, he can fight it out and hope the tide turns. We will see if he is as ambitious as she is.
p.s. On a totally different note, tonight was the last episode of Tucker on MSNBC. I could not tolerate Mr. Carlson when he ruined Crossfire and never imagined I would like his show. Without qualification, I think he has the most unbiased, fairest, most reasonable show of any of the evening pundits on MSNBC, CNN or FOX. He is opinionated (conservative/libertarian), but kind, and lets his guest say whatever they like. Only once did I hear him say something unkind and unreasonable (suggesting that someone he disagreed with had mental problems) but he backed away from it in the next segment (maybe because the producer made him). His decency and fairness were probably his undoing. With Chris Matthews making bizarre charges in front of him, and Keith Olbermann doing his extreme partisan dance behind him, his show must have looked tame, perhaps boring to some. I hope I am not the only one who emailed him to tell him of my appreciation.
- I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .