The Loss Of Presidential Trust

Today Senator Obama posted at the Huffington Post in an attempt to address remarks made by his former Pastor that have caused a great deal of controversy.  Remarks that have a some people questioning their fealty to Senator Obama’s campaign for President of the United States of America. 

I’ve made no secret of my apprehension toward Mr. Obama.  While he has indeed made many inspirational claims and tapped into some great sentiments shared by a weary nation, statements he has previously made regarding Iran and Palestine have kept me wary even before now. 

Senator Obama has previously indicated that he would be willing to meet with the leader of Iran without any preconditions.  While that statement was noted by the media, and addressed by other democratic candidates, it was the cable pundits on and online personalities that pushed this story aside as “no big deal.”  And by itself, perhaps it was not. 

Michelle Obama, the senator’s wife, has made controversial statements herself.  Just last month she indicated that she was just now, for the first time in her life, proud of her country. 

 What we’ve learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback and let me tell you something, for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.

Now comes the news of the Reverend Wright’s rousing sermon that damns America, damns her for the Atomic Bomb, damns her a third time.

Take, now, Senator Obama’s post today, and let’s examine it a bit:

The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He’s drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.

Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

Alright, I’m listening . . .

Because these particular statements by Rev. Wright are so contrary to my own life and beliefs, a number of people have legitimately raised questions about the nature of my relationship with Rev. Wright and my membership in the church. Let me therefore provide some context.

Okay, here comes the interesting part:

As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It’s a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.

Okay, stop here.  I’d like to address this.  The congregation in the video shown of Rev. Wright making these statements was extremely enthusiastic in their support of what he was saying.  This congregation did not denounce the Rev. Wright or his statements.  And in Obama’s opinion, this congregation is still a pillar of Chicago.  These are the people with whom Obama and family associated on a regular basis.  A congregation that appears to support the tenor of the Reverent Wright’s sermon.  If you take that into account when regarding Obama’s previous statements about Iran, as well as Michelle’s statements about being finally proud of America, a picture begins to paint itself of the mindset behind the public facade–of how the Obama’s think. 

Hold onto that thought, and let’s continue:

Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he’s been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I’ve said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

With Rev. Wright’s retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright’s statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.

And that last is what it’s really all about, isn’t it?  Obama’s values, judgement, and experience.  While I am absolutely certain that Obama is at  heart a patriot who wishes nothing but the best for America, the pattern I see emerging is one that makes me wonder if what he thinks is best for America is what I think is best for America.  Change is good, but not merely for change’s sake.  And the fact that his core Christian belief system was nurtured by such a man as Rev. Wright only helps to call Obama’s values, judgement, and experience all into question.   

Eight years ago all of this wouldn’t have made such a significant impact on my vote.  Today, however, it was the initial statement about negotiations with Iran that gave me pause, and anything indicative of a similar attitude since that statement have only served to increase my worry.  Because I no longer trust the office of the President as much as I did.  We all know whose fault that is.  I do hope for better, and I do believe this nation can change to a better path, but I have seen too much in the last eight years to trust in hope  alone. 

Last time it killed too many people.   


9 thoughts on “The Loss Of Presidential Trust

  1. Well, politically incorrect or otherwise, Wright’s comments about apartheid are at least partially accurate.

    From 1948 to 1986, America supported a renegade regime that oppressed the indigenous population in that region of the world. By the time Congress finally decided to reverse course and impose sanctions (after Botha’s state of emergency declaration, and over Reagan’s explicit objection), the struggle against apartheid had already entered the final stages. Our actions probably hastened the collaspe of that government, but they were going down anyway.

    Yet, Bush Sr. and especially Clinton claimed credit for the whole project, as if noble America was the one responsible for securing Mandela’s release and ushering in democracy. Unfortunately, the truth is far less glamorous. We saw which way the wind was blowing in South Africa…and switched sides.

  2. The accuracy of Wright’s comments isn’t really the point, though. What is most disturbing about this is the relation to Ferraro. And, by proxy, to Clinton, who has been denounced for not being fast enough or harsh enough in her condemnation of Ferraro. In fact, many in the Obama camp have been pointing fingers at her and saying she brought the whole issue on herself because of Samantha Powers and Bill Sheehan .

    Obama’s “apology” is more of an apologist statement almost tantamount to a “I’m sorry if you’re offended” non-apology. While it’s great that Obama is willing to denounce the portion of Wright’s rhetoric that’s gotten attention and gotten him into trouble, the fact is that there is a substantial amount of equally offensive rhetoric that Obama specifically hasn’t touched and if people are going to demand that Hillary drag Ferraro out into the street and beat her to a bloody pulp with a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin before they admit that maybe, MAYBE she’s not a member of the KKK, then I expect the exact same behavior from Obama in regards to the anti-American, anti-semitic Reverend Wright.

    Do I think this approach actually makes sense? Not particularly, but both sides have managed to get themselves to this position and there’s a concerted effort to get themselves out of it and back on track to beat McCain and not each other, they can both roast on the spit for all I care.

  3. No, I agree that they’re similar situations. And it’s clear the pundits have no intention of being even-handed about this.

    But even though there is a double standard, I do think Hillary should’ve been more careful. And I say that for the two simple reasons:

    1- Wright was Obama’s priest long before the campaign, whereas Farraro was brought in specifically to aide Hillary’s campaign.

    2- One of Hillary’s selling points has been her experience over Obama. So, she should’ve seen this coming. She knows the Obama folks were just waiting to pounce on her for “racism”, and she played right into their hands.

  4. Well, number two is an excellent point and I can’t argue with it. Hillary should have indeed known better.

    I can, however, extend on it. While Clinton’s experience should have had her dealing with the situation better, Obama’s constant misstepping gives credence to the point that he’s just not experienced enough to deal with this office. Even in the best interpretation he seems unable to sense these issues emerging, let alone know how to deal with them. This is desperately worrisome given the enormous shit sandwich who ever wins will inherit.

    It’s an interesting situation, both candidates claim they have the requisite experience to deal with the gravity of the office, but neither one has been showing it. Urg, just when I thought I might actually get to vote for someone instead of against someone else.

    On the subject of timetables, I have to say I’m more disturbed by Wright’s long-time influence over Obama than Clinton’s hiring of Ferraro and her subsequent gaff. Wright’s comments are not one-offs. This is his message and he’s been preaching it ever since he was meeting in Libya with Farrakhan back in 84. By Obama’s own admission, this man has been his spiritual mentor for the past 20 years. It then strikes me as disingenuous at best for Obama to act surprised by this sentiment now as if Wright only chose the past couple of days to go all Sistah Souljah. At worst he’s being deliberately obtuse to cover up the fact that he shares Wright’s clearly anti-American, anti-semitic sentiment. Something doesn’t add up there.

    Certainly, Hillary should have handled Ferraro better. Ferraro herself should have handled herself better, truth be told. She’s been in politics long enough to know spin and while I think she had a point, she phrased in in the most god-awful way.

    But I would charge the greater fault is Obama’s as his entire campaign seems to exist on concept and P.R., so if he can’t even avoid that turning into a chain of blunders and disasters, what exactly is he bringing to the table?

  5. Most presidents have had as little experience as both candidates. So that is a non-point.

    The point is: do you want change? Do you want same old same old? 4 More years of the Clinton family? Why not Chelsey after that? We already had years and years of the Bush family. Are Americans yearning for ruling families? No. Washington is corrupt and run by rich whites. Wright was right about that. Let us change it.

    And while we are at it, why not separate church and state? and not be examining 20 years of sermons in a church to try and prevent change? Do you think everybody has to believe what the Pope says if he is a Catholic? Did you ever hear all the sermons Martin Luther King Jr. gave in his fight for change? No.

    And then let us not forget freedom of speech. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, what was preached in churches on that Sunday? Do you have recordings? maybe they might have dared to be angry and express things we whites don’t like to hear. So what?

    Shall we turn candidates into robots, computerized never to say anything but politically correct pre-agreed on phrases and have all the people on the campaign be equally bland? To change things Americans have to have some passion, be whistle blowers, lead marches, fight town hall and say things some people don’t like to hear. Let them. Don’t join in with the lynch mobs. Stand up and fight for your rights as Americans to express beliefs and passions and let others do so.

    We are letting the TV senders set the tone of a three ringed frenzy- they must spend weeks digging for something which will boost ratings for a few days. Maybe they will even find an old politically incorrect “objectionable” speech from one of our heros and have his national holiday taken away.

  6. Most presidents have had as little experience as both candidates. So that is a non-point.

    Like hell it’s a non point because both candidates have gone out of their way to make experience a point of contention.

    do you want change?

    Change to what? For what? Turning the U.S. into a radioactive hole in the ground is “change”, but probably not the sort people are looking for. What I want more than change is an end to conceptual campaigning and endless platitudes without any real transparency.

    Six paragraphs and you manage to say absolutely nothing.

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