Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moyers Interview of Wright

Here is a quote from a recent New York Magazine article by John Hellemann that reflects what I am reading in a number of other places as well:

And Obama isn’t merely losing godly ground among white Catholics. Whereas in Maryland and Wisconsin he outpaced Clinton by as much as 30 points among regular churchgoers of all stripes, in Pennsylvania she whipped him by double-digits among the observant, while he did best among those who never attend religious services. At the same time, whereas Obama used to routinely thump Clinton among voters describing themselves as conservative, moderate, and somewhat liberal, in Pennsylvania the only ideological cohort he carried was the self-described “very liberal.” In a flash, a candidate who once was hailed as post-partisan, post-ideological, and post-racial was looking like a typical secular lefty, with a base comprising college students, African-Americans, and upscale “progressives.” No wonder, then, that [the political writer John] Judis—but not just Judis—has started to wonder whether Obama might just be “the next McGovern.”

Helleman points, of course, to the Jeremiah Wright problem as being one of the difficulties that moved Barack into this situation. Carol and I watched the Bill Moyers interview of the Rev. Mr. Wright on PBS Friday night. It was worth watching, despite the uncritical way (to be generous to Mr. Moyers) that Moyers conducted the interview. (For example, he didn't bring up Wright's charge that AIDS is a US government conspiracy against black people.)

About the most we can say in Wright's behalf is that he seemed much more human to us during the interview than we thought of him before. However, it is patently obvious that he is profoundly outside of the mainstream of US political and religious culture and he preaches a "Black liberation theology" that appears to me to be plainly racist. He tried to explain the "sound-bites" on the basis of his theology, but that made matters worse for us. Furthermore, when Moyers asked him about Obama's remarks that sound like a repudiation of Wright's point of view (at least to me), Wright smiled gently and said something like "Barack is a politician and he has to say what he needs to say. I am a minister, and I have to say what I need to say". This sounds like we are dealing with two different worlds here, the political world, on the one hand, and the religious/cultural world, on the other, where there are two truths or, at least, there is license to say whatever is expedient to say at the time.

On the other hand, it is important to become acquainted with Wright's perspective, not simply to be able to make a decision regarding Presidential politics, but to understand what a significant part of the Black community is saying to each other, to see that there is a view of history shared by a significant group of our fellow citizens, abetted by left-wing academia and American Christianity, that holds that the US is no better than any other "empire" in history, no better, for example, than slave holding Rome or the Soviet Union. Their reading of history concedes nothing, for example, to the progress our country has made in racial justice over its history. It visits the sins of the slave-holding fathers (without qualifying that group by observing that slave holding was not universal nor universally approved) to the succeeding generations, that is, to those generations that were able to be born because their fathers were not slaughtered during the Civil War, among other American wars we could call just.

I have mentioned Clarence Thomas' memoir, My Grandfather's Son, before. He dealt with a racism that was as harsh as anything with which Wright might have dealt. He was terribly angry about it and was involved in radical groups while he was at Holy Cross. But he made his way out of that trap, as the memoir indicates, and it is a fascinating part of his story. Rev. Wright's way is not inevitable. But it may be inevitable that Obama's association with him and his church will lead to Obama's loss of the Presidency.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse has a much more thorough review of the Moyers' interview.

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