Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Holding Sen. Obama to Your Standards

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By Nicholas Guariglia

How would someone fare if they were to apply for work at the Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency, or State Department on the heels of a multimillion dollar shady real estate deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko? Would these federal agencies appoint this individual to a position of any responsibility if they knew the elongated list of skeletons in the potential employee's closet?

How long would a potential employee last during an interview at the Department of Defense if it were known this individual was friends with - and served on the same committees as - the infamous domestic terrorist William Ayers? Would the Pentagon hire this person if he or she remained openly unapologetic about associating with someone who bombed the Pentagon (amongst other things) in the 1970s, and today remains unrepentant, bragging he wish he had bombed more and could do it again?

For weeks now, acquaintances and I have discussed the unprecedented nature of Barack Obama's candidacy. Even if he were to somehow lose the election in November, his unsuspecting triumph over the favorite Hillary Clinton, and his unique racial ancestry - which he consistently reminds us about - have already made his surprising bid for the White House historic. No matter what happens from here on out, Mr. Obama will always be the first African-American nominee for the American presidency, a feat for which he should be proud.

But his nomination is historic in other ways, too. Sen. Obama, newcomer that he is, is arguably the least experienced individual ever nominated by an American party. And philosophically, he seems to be the most Leftist ever nominated. Such unprecedented inexperience, combined with such unprecedented Leftism, are phenomena I have touched on in previous articles, pondering if these twin pillars would be enough to make Sen. Obama unelectable in a general election.

I venture they might, but this year, in the aftermath of Bush, with the political climate so toxic for Republicans, and with the attitude of the country so dead-set on change, I suspect perhaps not. It is, and will remain, Obama's election to lose. This might be the only year where a well-known, well-liked commodity like John McCain - with decades of solid public service, broad bipartisan appeal, and a heroic movie-like biography - could lose, and where an unknown upstart from Chicago's Hyde Park is considered insurmountable.

It is interesting, to say the least, isn't it? What constitutes as so interesting, however, is not merely Sen. Obama's petite curriculum vitae - which, at least metaphorically, remains shorter than Danny DeVito - or his borderline Friedrich Engels political ideology.

No, suppose Sen. Obama was not halfway through his first Senate term; suppose he did not run for Congress after a short-stint as a Chicago legislator-social worker; suppose he did not vote along party lines 97% of the time; suppose he did not run for the presidency after 143 days serving in the Senate (I keep leftovers in my refrigerator longer than this).

Suppose, rather, that Obama was instead a bipartisan, seasoned public servant with many legislative accomplishments, or at least one (which would be one more than he has now).

Suppose all this and more. Wouldn't the company that Mr. Obama has kept (and keeps) render him unelectable anyway? If this were any other year, and if Mr. Obama were any other candidate, would not his laundry list of associations tarnish his ability to win - making him unlikely to pass the litmus test for the country's highest office?

I have tried to find an answer to these questions, asking them several times to those who support Obama, and it has failed each time. But I finally might have discovered why, reaching a subtle conclusion - a hypothesis that I believe, if tested, might ring true - which rests on the foundations of perception and reality, abstractness and concreteness, ethics and forthrightness, manhood and responsibility, and standards and expectations.

All one must really do is apply the same standard to Barack Obama, possibly our next president, that one would apply to oneself. If you are unclear as to what this means, use his relationship with Rev. Wright and Trinity United Church as a template.

Bear with me, now.

Imagine, for a moment, that you were a Caucasian male seeking to make a career in local politics. You might consider, as any aspiring politician would, which new religious establishment to attend within your district. If there was one such establishment, whose community support without it would be difficult to get elected, you might opt to join that establishment.

Imagine, now, upon entering this church, pamphlets were handed out, on which listed a "white values system," championing "white separatism," promoting a "white-centric" theology of "white liberation."

Ask yourself if this alone would raise any red flags within your own mind. Would this alone cause some hesitation? Would this alone make you immediately uneasy?

What if the tenets of this white liberation theology, written by its founder, required the destruction of the "black enemy," and declared that if God was not "for us and against black people," then God should be killed? "The task of white theology is to kill gods who do not belong to the white community," and if God should have a favorable opinion of blacks, "then he is a murderer, and (whites) had better kill him," the dogma read.

How would you react if you discovered these were the primary precepts of your church's doctrine?

What if this church granted lifetime achievement awards to the likes of David Duke, Klan members, and other well-known racists? What if this church's principal pastor mocked African-Americans for their facial features and talking habits? What if this pastor screamed Hurricane Katrina was simply "chickens coming home to roost" for the black community of New Orleans? Or that blacks "invented syphilis" to destroy whites, or created AIDS to intentionally kill off the white race?

What if all of this was said not rarely, but often; not privately, but angrily, in church, televised, and to large congregations?

Would you leave that church? Would you stand up and walk out? Would you warn friends throughout the neighborhood to beware of this place of such crackpot racism?

Or would you sit there for two decades, befriend the pastor, frequently have him over your home, creepily pray with him alone "in your basement" - whatever that means - have him preach to and baptize your daughters, have him marry you and your wife, publicly consider him your "spiritual advisor," donate tens of thousands of dollars to his church, and title your autobiography after his hateful sermons?

Which course of action would you take?

Before reading on, take the time to think about that for a moment.

Now, suppose you made the latter decision and stayed embedded in the church. And let's say your political career somehow began to blossom and this pastor started telling his raving audiences that you, a friend of his and a rising political rock star, "Knew what it was like to be a white man living in a country ruled by black people." How would that make you feel?

Suppose this pastor, during his diatribes against blacks, started screaming "God d*** America" every so often. Suppose every time he said things like this, the hundreds of parishioners in the pews stood up, applauding, high-fiving, knee-smacking, and so forth.

Would you stay there? Would you exit? Would you partake in the back-slapping jubilation? Would you sit there, displeased and stone-faced, next to your toddler daughters? Would you at least cover their ears? Would Daddy have to explain to them later on why everyone was so angry during Sunday worship? Would you be the only person sitting there and the only person not to stand and cheer? Would afterwards bacon-and-eggs brunches with fellow parishioners be light-hearted? Or would they be tense?

Suppose you made the former decision, and yet again, stayed entrenched to the church. Then, after law school, and a short undistinguished career as a city street organizer and state legislator - where you vote "present" more than any of your colleagues - you decide to run for Congress. Your eloquence at anti-war rallies in 2002 spurred a speech at John Kerry's Democratic Convention in 2004, and to your surprise and excitement, you start to become something of a media sensation.

You run for the Senate virtually unopposed, which results in your overwhelming election. After a little more than one-sixth of the way through your first Senate term, you discount your previous assertion that you might be too inexperienced to run for national office so soon. So you decide to roll the dice. After a little more than a year in Congress, you're feeling a little lucky, a little ambitious, and decide to make a run for the most powerful position in the world.

The public, understandably, starts to look at your history and credentials; invariably the issue of your church is brought up. Initially, you admit that, if nominated, you will have to distance yourself from the notorious pastor. But then, after a string of electoral successes, and subsequently greater scrutiny of your church's views, you huffily get defensive and suggest your church is "not particularly controversial."

After news outlets release long video footage of your spiritual mentor going on tirades about black people to a screaming congregation of white people, you concede that some controversial things might have been said. But you guarantee the public that you don't agree with it all.

So you first deny having ever been present during any of these racist, anti-black invectives. You deny ever hearing these sermons. You deny knowing that this is what was said for two decades, during your occasional Sunday absences.

Then you come clean and admit you were there and heard it all.

And your excuse?

Your pastor is simply like an "old uncle" who you don't always agree with. You deplore his comments, but implore us to understand that his contemporary contempt for blacks is rooted in historical injustice against whites. After all, there are some blacks that hate whites, too. Therefore, you can "no more disown" him than you can disown the entire white community.

After losing important election primaries, you start to slowly distance yourself from your pastor. This seemingly enrages him, and as the egomaniac that he is, he holds a national press conference and ensures us all that whatever distancing you seem to be doing from him is purely for your own political expediency. You really do dig what he has to say, he swears, but you just can't say it aloud for political purposes.

This insults your integrity, and, coincidentally, hurts your campaign - "I don't think he showed that much concern for me" you complain - so you decide enough is enough. You distance yourself from the pastor entirely and resign from the church - also coincidentally, once you've finally locked up the nomination of your party and the general election begins to heat up.

Ask yourself, would that have been the thing that would have ruffled your feathers? An insult to you, about you? Would it have been your pastor impugning your own personal sincerity that pushed you over the edge, compelling you to leave the church? Or would it have been the two decades of hatred of blacks and race-baiting? Where would your priorities have rested?

Before fainting at one of his next rallies, all clear-minded and proud people ought to ask themselves these questions, and hold Sen. Obama to their own standard of what constitutes as ethical and forthright. Go through this anatomy of circumstance; put yourself in his shoes.

What would a confidant man, a man confident in himself, have done? What would a man of political will and political courage have done? Now, what would an ambitious man of expedience have done? How would you have behaved over the duration of these 20 years?

Would such triangulation, on this one issue of character alone - on which we haven't even scratched the surface - say anything about one's judgment as a person, and in this case, as a man, or as a father? How would this country have treated a white candidate who attended a racket like this?

This is all but a minute critique. Tony Rezko, William Ayers, and Rev. Wright are just three prominent examples - but the list of radical friends, corrupt business partners, and sleazy Chicago political associates is far, far longer (as we will soon see). The general election is just starting and millions of citizens are just beginning to learn a thing or two about the man-who-would-be-president.

Sen. Obama seems like a nice guy, and I'm sure he is. But once you peel back the onion a little, you might start crying. Never have we had someone arise to prominence this quickly, unchallenged by the media and press over what seems like a never-ending kaleidoscope of buddies, donors, and backers who proudly loathe the United States.

So it is ironic, we must admit, that Barack Obama - short and unimpressive record aside - probably wouldn't last three minutes in a vetting process if he applied for lowly employment at any government agency. He wouldn't be hired as a pencil-pushing bureaucrat - he wouldn't be hired to get coffee for the guy who gets coffee - and yet, in all likelihood, in less than a year's time he will be appointing the heads of these government agencies, overseeing the whole conundrum from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It's true what mothers tell their children. In this country, anyone can become president.

1 comment:

marion said...

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