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 April, 2008


 Offering a Defense of Barack Obama

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.
From Barack Obama’s keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention – July 27th, 2004

Now they’re Denouncing the Denouncer?
Al Owens

Nearly four years after an unknown Barack Obama delivered his impassioned speech that lifted him into prominence – one in which he freely discussed his love for America - he still has to prove his love for America.

It’s enough to make Republicans try to re-convene the House Committee on Un-American Activities. After all, he doesn’t wear a flag pin.
Until recently, Obama brushed aside the notions of his supposed intent to take this country straight to hell if he gets elected president. He simply told everybody nothing he’s ever said or done would indicate such an intention.

But by Tuesday afternoon, after the three day speaking tour by Obama’s ex-preacher, the ultra-provocative Rev. Jeremiah Wright, he clearly understood a low key response would not be enough. Obama held a news conference. He disowned, disavowed, repudiated, rejected, disassociated and showed disdain for Wright’s recent words and recent actions.

I figured it was the kind of thing that pundits could blurt out a thousand “Threw him under the buses.” I wasn’t wrong.
But I hadn’t anticipated the degree of silliness that would go on for hours (and possibly days and weeks) after that news conference.

Some pundits claimed that Obama was “playing politics” by cutting his ties with Wright now. That he was left with no other choice but to make a political decision to “save his candidacy.”

Those are, I might add, the very pundits whom I suspect would have claimed Obama was “playing politics” by cutting ties with Wright the moment his inflammatory statements were made public.

Let’s be frank. No matter when Obama would have “divorced” himself from Wright, it would have been considered “playing politics” by people who don’t support Obama.

Those are the people who seem to believe the American voter isn’t quite hip enough to know one of those hard and fast rules of politics in this country.
That only the people we don’t support play politics. The people we do support are moved to do what they do because they only have a genuine interest in making the country better for us all. That is, by the way, pure bunk.

There have been a few voices from the right who’ve questioned Obama’s “judgment” for staying in a church headed by Wright for nearly 20 years.
Those are the very same right leaning people who’ve overlooked the worst “judgment” since the last person bought an Edsel in 1960 – the war in Iraq.
Or, not a single person lost their lives because Barack Obama stayed in a church that is unsettling to a large segment of America. As I write this, those right-wingers keep defending George W. Bush’s “judgment” that has led to the deaths of thousands of Americans. Which bad judgment is worse?

The morning following Obama’s declared separation from Wright, it couldn’t have gotten sillier.
Mika Brzezinski, a host on MSNBC happened to be interviewing two black Republican preachers (Rev. Joe Watkins and Rev. DeForest Soaries) with obvious problems with Obama, whether he wears a flag-pin or not.

They got set-up and mowed over at the same time, and they still had no idea what hit them.
Both preachers claimed Obama’s response to Wright was “too little, too late.” But they also claimed that during Obama’s news conference he didn’t swing back hard enough. That, to both of them, was an indication that Obama simply isn’t “tough enough” to be commander-in-chief.
(One of them even used the inaccurate phrase “commander-in-chief of the country.” The commander-in-chief only commands the military – not the country. Not unless we’ve recently converted to an aristocracy)

But anyway, they wouldn’t have been pleased unless Obama personally waterboarded Wright.
It was then that Brzezinski sprung into action. She asked both of them if she felt Obama had been “furious” when he announced he was stepping away from Wright. Both pundit/preachers claimed he’d only been “measured.” One even claimed he’d been “passive.”

Without missing a beat, Brzezinski held up the front page of the New York Daily News, which pictured Obama and one bold word: FURY!
Brzezinski’s point was crystal clear. That Obama must walk the fine line that black males walk everyday in this country. That the perception (and sometimes misperception) of an “angry black man” is sometimes very hard to shake. And besides, wasn’t it an “angry black man” (Reverend Jeremiah Wright) who’s been at the root of Obama’s problems?

I believe that Brzezinski was wise in making that point. She knows there is certainly a chance that Obama is aware he’s built his campaign on being measured and it has, therefore, attracted white voters who have not seen him as being the least bit angry. Furthermore, anger simply doesn’t seem to be his style.

The two black Republican ministers proved they are more Republican than they are black or ministers, by completely missing Brzezinski’s point and returning to their pre-digested talking points about Obama being too “measured.”

Sometimes, I’ve learned, it’s impossible for common sense to get in the way of mindless political posturing.