If you listen to too many right-wing commentators such as Glen Beck and Sean Hannity (as I tend to do), you would have the impression that this whole Jeremiah Wright debacle is actually a legitimate concern for the American people in choosing the next President. Even though, I’m for Obama, I always want to see things from the other perspective and quite frankly I’m not buying the other side’s arguments.
1) Glen Beck and Sean Hannity’s main argument against Obama is that it is a question of his character who he hangs out with. They believe in the axiom, “birds of a feather, flock together”. In other words, they argue that Barack Obama shares similar beliefs as Jeremiah Wright, particularly, the controversial beliefs Wright has espoused, such as “the U.S. government created AIDS”, “It was America’s fault for 911″ and that “Hilary has never been called a N-word”. They argue that because Obama knew Jeremiah Wright for twenty years, he was married by them, and his children baptized by them as evidence of Obama sharing those controversial views. [Sidebar: They also have upgraded Jeremiah Wright as Obama's "spiritual mentor", when before they referred to him as his "spiritual adviser".]
2) Their second sub-point is that by attending Jeremiah Wright’s church for the last twenty years it shows a “fundamental lack of judgment and calls his ability to lead into question” (Glen Beck). Beck goes on to say that,
The best way for voters to know the kind of decisions a candidate is going to make in the future is to look at the one’s he made in the past. If Barack Obama couldn’t see what kind of man Reverend Wright was over a twenty year period he’s a shamefully poor judge of character. How does he expect us to trust him when he has to meet with Ahmadinejad, Castro, Chavez -all the men he wants to meet -trust is earned.
Basically, Beck’s point is that Barack’s judgment should be questioned for who he chooses as a Pastor and where he attends church at. And because, he made such a bad decision of attending Wright’s church, he will make a bad leader and hence a weak President. Now let’s try to refute these two points.
Firstly, is it true that your friend’s decide who you are? And secondly, is it possible to classify Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright as good enough friends, where Wright’s controversial remarks are also shared by Obama? On the first front, as a grown man, your friend’s beliefs do not necessarily reflect your beliefs. As I’ve said in the past, just because one of my friend’s, who I’ve known for twenty years, is against gay marriage doesn’t mean I am.
When your a kid or a teenager, your friends are all you got, so of course the argument can be made that the opinions of your friends would also be held by you. But when your an ambitious grown man, married with children, as Barack is, you no longer care about fitting in and sharing the same views as the company you keep. In fact, you like to hear differing opinions from yours and we can see an open minded scholar such as Barack, whose entire campaign has been about listening to all points of view, would be willing to give anyone a listen. Now going based on what we know about Barack’s relationship with Rev. Wright could we reasonably say Barack shares the same controversial views as him?
It almost seems silly to answer such a question, because the answer is a resounding ‘NO’. Aside from completely denouncing Rev. Wright’s controversial remarks, not once, but twice, everything that we know about Barack Obama; from his two best selling books “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope”, from his long history of community organizing, as a professor of constitutional law, graduating from Harvard Law School, being the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review and his fourteen years in politics, all suggest Barack doesn’t believe the controversial remarks made by Rev. Wright.
Barack has never come off as a “blame the white man” black guy, and in fact has shown a lot of people such as myself that playing the blame game only deters your motivation to succeed, because you are hindered by the belief “Hey the white man’s holding me down, I can never make it, why try?” Barack’s very upbringing as a half white person raised by white people far from the “blame the white man” black folk provides further evidence of this point. To say Barack Obama believes anything close to the controversial remarks of Jermeiah Wright is a grotesque stretch of the imagination and I challenge anyone to come up with a plausible explanation for how Barack Obama believes the following;
1) The U.S. Government created AIDS
2) The U.S. Government is responsible for the attacks on September 11th, 2001.
3) Hilarly Clinton doesn’t know what it’s like to be a Black person living in America. (I’m not sure why this is controversial, because she doesn’t, and she probably has never been called a “N-word” before. Though Bill is credited as the first “Black” President, and I have heard comedians refer to him as “Nigga” a few times.
Now let’s look at the second sub-point, which is, because Barack Obama attended a church lead by a pastor that made the above “controversial remarks” for twenty years that he has poor judgment skills and thus cannot be trusted to meet with America’s enemies. Remember Glen Beck said, “The best way for voters to know the kind of decisions a candidate is going to make in the future is to look at the one’s he made in the past.” Now of course, this statement makes sense when you apply it to political decisions you have made in the past such as your voting record in the legislature. For example if you voted to go to war in Iraq or voted for Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthy, then you should be held accountable for them because they are indicative of your political beliefs. But to base one’s ability to lead and be President on where they attend church is analogous to basing one’s ability to lead on what television shows you watch or what music you listen too.
It appears that some Americans are having their belief systems severely questioned at the prospects of Barack Obama becoming President as they believe that U.S. Presidents’ are to look a certain way, come from a certain background, and have friends and associates of certain beliefs. Obama has totally bucked the status quo as he is not the “blame the white man” black guys who generally enter politics nor is he the privileged white man that has been bred into political life (word to George W.). Barack Obama is a self-made leader that if you look at his life history has sought to further his leadership experience rather than fatten his pockets. He went to Harvard Law and instead of doing corporate law where he would have made tons of money, he went back to inner city Chicago to run voter registration drives and write his first novel. To say that Barack Obama’s ability to make sound judgments is a “fundamental lack of judgment and calls his ability to lead into question” totally neglects Barack Obama’s entire lifetime of making the right judgments on decisions that actually mater to the electorate.
Another side note to point out (and this wouldn’t be a partisan essay if we didn’t sling some ad hominems in here) is that Glen Beck out of all people is making the “You lack judgment because of a poor decision you made in the past”. Weren’t you a drug addict and alcoholic on the verge of self-destruction before you found God? Should we not take your judgment seriously because of your past? You don’t have a degree in political science nor have you ever run for any kind of office, why should we take your political analysis seriously? Oh wait, we don’t.