Hillary Must Repudiate and Reject This


This video from a Clinton rally is probably funnier than anything Saturday Night Live will run tonight.

Obama Responds to Controversy over Wright

Barack Obama has spend the last couple of days responding to some of the controversy surrounding him. As I’ve noted many times before, including in the previous post, my choice to support Obama is not out of the belief that he is perfect but because of finding him to be the only remaining major party candidate who does not have negatives which make me unable to support them. Barack Obama was not my first choice, but I do find him to be a good choice whose negatives, which do exist, are far less serious than those of Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Obama’s infusion of religion in politics was one major reason why he was not my first choice from the start. I would much prefer a candidate who responded to questions on religion with an answer like that of Arnold Vinick, the fictitious Republican candidate for president on The West Wing:


Unfortunately this is not realistic in the United States, at least this year. I’ve been able to support Obama despite his mingling of religion in a political campaign to a degree far more that I would like due to his strong support for separation of church and state. This, along with his views on civil liberties, is one of the benefits of his experience as a professor of Constitutional Law (and one of the reasons I consider Obama to have more meaningful experience to be president than Hillary Clinton).

In the past few days Obama’s specific church affiliation has also become an issue. Of all the nonsense we’ve heard the last few months, this is one which actually does have at least some substance behind it. As Steve Benen wrote, “questions about Barack Obama’s church pastor had, oddly enough, suddenly become the one political controversy that stood to do the most damage to his campaign. The Rezko story seems pretty thin, NAFTA-gate turned out to be much less than met the eye, the ‘madrassa’ story was complete nonsense, and the ‘plagiarism’ flap was just silly.”


Obama responded to the controversy in the video above and at The Huffington Post:

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.

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.

Obama proceeded to discuss his relationship with Wright and later addressed the controversial statements from Wright:

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.

In addition to answering these concerns in this post Obama made similar statements in interviews with the major news organizations. His words were accompanied by action with the removal of Wright from his ceremonial position on Obama’s African American Religious Leadership Committee.

Steve Benen compared how Obama has handled this situation to John McCain’s courting of religious leaders from the extreme right and found that, in contrast to McCain, Obama has handled the situation correctly:

I’m cognizant of the opportunity for hypocrisy. To be intellectually honest, I’ve been thinking about how I’d react if Obama were a Republican with a far-right pastor with a record of inflammatory rhetoric. Under the circumstances, I’d expect (and probably write a great deal about) the need for the candidate to repudiate the comments, disassociate himself with the pastor, and explain the association in some detail. As far as I can tell, Obama has done all three.

Matthew Yglesias also placed this in perspective:

I’m unsure, in general, of what the standards we’re supposed to apply to the political views of politicians’ favored clergy. I have no idea what the rabbis at Temple Rodef Shalom (where I’ve gone to synagogue the past few High Holy Days) or at The Village Temple (where I had my bar mitzvah) think about political issues, but I assume I don’t agree with them about everything, and certainly it’d be odd to drag up old statements made by any of the relevant rabbis about this or that and then ask me to either endorse the statement or repudiate the entire congregation.

By the same token, we don’t assume that a politician who goes to mass wants to ban birth control nor do we ask Catholics who favored preventive war with Iraq to repudiate the Pope in order to prove their hawk bona fides. In short, we generally assume that a politician’s stated political views express his or her position on political topics, and that affiliating with a religious congregation does not constitute an endorsement of everything the leaders of that congregation have ever said.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that I see this as a basically trumped-up issue. Obama’s enemies have put this Wright stuff out there in bad faith, not because they’re genuinely uncertain as to what Obama thinks, but merely because they think it can hurt him electorally.

Matthew is correct that this issue is being raised primarily because political opponents believe it can hurt Obama, and not because of any of Obama’s actual views. I must still place Obama’s relationship with Wright as a somewhat of a negative. However, as with his overall negatives related to religion, these remain rather trivial. Looking at the actual viable candidates in the race, these issues would not prevent me from voting for Obama while many more serious issues prevent me from supporting Clinton or McCain.

Update: For a more humorous take on this controversy, see Andy Borowitz’s post “announcing” that Obama Concerts to Judaism:

Buffeted by criticism of his controversial Christian pastor while continuing to quell rumors that he is a Muslim, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) took a bold step today to settle questions about his religious faith once and for all.

“I am converting to Judaism, effective immediately,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a press conference in Scarsdale, New York, adding that he would change his middle name from “Hussein” to “Murray.”

As a sign of commitment to his new faith, the Illinois Senator said that he anticipated being Bar Mitzvahed sometime between now and the crucial Pennsylvania primary and that he would no longer campaign on Saturdays.

In a subtle sign of the shift in his religious affiliation, Mr. Obama’s signature catchphrase “Yes, we can,” was nowhere to be found in his speech, replaced instead by “L’Chaim.”

While some political observers praised Mr. Obama’s conversion to Judaism as a shrewd tactic to put the issue of his religious identity to rest, the move raised the ire of one of his harshest critics, former Rep. Geradline Ferraro.

“Barack Murray Obama wouldn’t be in the position he’s in if he wasn’t Jewish,” said Ms. Ferraro to herself.

Update II: Gerald Posner takes a similar view in still supporting Obama but also being troubled by this.

Hillary Clinton and the Liberal Blogosphere

The divisions in the blogosphere over Hillary Clinton can be seen in a diary by Alegre at Daily Kos which calls for a strike by Clinton supporters who are unhappy with how they are treated at the site. This is significant not because of being a dispute at one blog but because it demonstrates the rifts in the liberal blogosphere. Marc Ambinder explains:

Who Hillary Clinton is and what she represents has been THE debate among Democratic activists for years. It is now THE national debate. The Democratic Party may well come together and support its nominee. But the debate about Clinton, her (and his) politics, the legacy, the tactics — will endure.

Bloggers tend to have strong opinions or they wouldn’t be bothering with blogs. Blogs also tend to bring out a number of people who behave quite terribly, even if they represent a tiny minority of the supporters for any candidate. The problem faced by Clinton supporters is that she represents many of the views and the type of politics which many of us are protesting in our blogging. While the dispute at Kos is being framed as being between Obama supporters and Clinton supporters that is not quite accurate. Many Obama supporters, such as myself, are not backers of Barack Obama specifically but have been opposed to Clinton for much of the primary race. The dishonesty of Clinton’s campaign since she was challenged by Obama this winter further reinforces our view that Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president.

Many of us preferred other candidates who are no longer in the race. Some of us now back Obama because of the viable major party candidates he is the only one without strong negatives which prevent us from supporting him, leaving him as our only choice. The dispute isn’t so much Obama supporters versus Clinton supporters but a dispute between the attitudes of the majority of the liberal blogosphere and the attitudes of Clinton’s apologists.

For many of us Clinton’s views and conduct cause us to see her as not being significantly better than George Bush and John McCain. The most obvious example of this is her support of the war. Her efforts to rewrite history regarding her views and the views of Obama do nothing to increase our support for her but do create a great deal of contempt for the Clinton supporters who promote lies of this magnitude.

Another reason many turned to the blogosphere in protest over the policies of George Bush has been the extension of presidential power. Clinton fails as an alternative on the issues of presidential power and executive privilege. Clinton has supported decreased transparency and would be more likely to continue, and I fear abuse, the powers taken by George Bush.

While the conventional wisdom is that Obama and Clinton have similar views, I’ve noted considerable differences after moving beyond party line votes. For example, Clinton opposed needle exchange programs, favored strict sentences for drug use (while Obama has favored retroactive changes), supported legislation to ban flag burning, supported censorship of video games, and opposed the banning of cluster bombs. These are just some of the areas where Clinton has supported the status quo while Obama has been on the right side.

Besides being a supporter of the status quo, the Clintons have shown a disturbing tendency to compromise on matters of principle out of political expediency. After the 2004 election it was revealed that Bill Clinton had called John Kerry advising him to support the Constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage where they were on the ballot, arguing that Kerry would have a better chance of winning such states. Kerry refused to compromise principle in this matter, but does anyone really doubt that Hillary Clinton would have taken Bills advice?

With Clinton being on the conservative side on foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues it is no wonder that many of us do not find Clinton to be an acceptable candidate. The dishonesty of her campaign, and willingness to engage in tactics which many of us see as being tantamount to stealing an election makes Clinton even less tolerable an option.

I’ve reviewed many of Clinton’s dishonest statements in multiple previous posts. For example, Clinton has sent out mailers which were totally misleading regarding Obama’s positions on issues such as Social Security, abortion rights, Iraq, and health care. Clinton’s distortions on abortion rights led Lorna Brett Howard, the former President of Chicago NOW, to drop her support for Clinton and back Obama. Clinton has also raised bogus charges such on plagiarism, distorted the meaning of voting present in the Illinois legislature, and distorting Obama’s references to Ronald Reagan in an interview. Lawrence Lessig made an excellent video summarizing the reasons to oppose Clinton due to her character. I have previously posted both the video and a transcript here. Bill Bradley has also commented on Clinton’s dishonesty recently as as noted here.

Ultimately the democratic process is more important than any individual issue. The mere fact that Clinton campaigns against Obama by repeatedly distorting Obama’s positions in her stump speeches, mailers, and robo-calls is already damaging to the democratic process which is dependent upon voters making an informed choice between the candidates. Clinton’s manipulation of the facts has been every bit as Orwellian, and every bit as disturbing, as the dishonesty we see from the Bush administration. Clinton’s attempts to seat delegates elected outside of party rules in Michigan and Florida, and her more recent talk about going after pledged delegates, are seen as even more serious attempts to break the rules and steal an election.

It was largely a combination of the feeling that George Bush had stolen an election, along with his support for the war, which fueled the early opposition to George Bush and the development of the liberal blogosphere. We cannot simultaneously oppose George Bush and accept the same problems from Hillary Clinton. Those who will write justifications for  Hillary Clinton will inevitably wind up in conflict with the majority of liberal bloggers, making such disputes at Daily Kos inevitable.