(Cross posted in the HuffingtonPost)
As a supporter of Barack Obama (and donor), it is hard for me to
bring up issues that will damage his chances of election this year. But
the truth is more important than politics, as Obama's former pastor
hinted at in his speech to the National Press Club this week.
"Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on
electability, based on sound bites, based on polls," said Wright.
"Preachers say what they say because they are pastors. They have a
different person to whom they're accountable."
Wright's comments are certainly ill timed for Obama's election campaign, but he is not wrong.
Obama, although infinitely better than Hillary Clinton and John
McCain, has certainly altered some of his core beliefs in order to get
himself elected. One of the best example of this is his stance on
Israel. Having taken a reasoned and balanced view of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict early in his career, Obama quietly saddled up to AIPAC (America's
Pro Israel Lobby) and sold out the Palestinians for his White House
career. While residents of the Gaza strip are entrapped in virtual
prison, routinely shot at by Israeli troops, tanks and planes (all in violation of international law),
Obama stated publicly that he supported Israeli actions and would not
negotiate with Hamas. When asked whether he would meet with them, Obama
"The answer is no and the distinction would be that Hamas is
represented in the Palestinian legislature, or it was before the
current rift, but they're not the head of state. They are not a
recognized government. So I think there is a distinction to be drawn
there and a legitimate distinction to be drawn"
Having (rightly) lectured Clinton on the need to talk to America's
enemies, Obama wrangled his way out of offending Israel with a
meaningless semantic technicality. Although politicians, including
Obama, routinely refer to Israel as 'the only democracy in the Middle
East', the existence of free and fair elections in Palestine is simply
ignored. The overwhelming election of Hamas in 2006 was certified by
the U.N, then rejected out of hand by the U.S and Europe. Obama
supports democracy, but only when the vote goes the way he wants it to.
Obama's shifting stance on Israel, support for privatized medical care and relatively conservative economic agenda
are signs that Obama has taken the necessary steps to become electable.
Obama knows that he cannot threaten the enormous concentrated power
interest that dominate American life, and has cobbled together a
package that does not offend the business community too gravely.
"As far as political positioning goes, his strategy seems to be to
appear as a sort of ideological Universalist," writes Rolling Stone's
Matt Taibbi. "One who spends a great deal of rhetorical energy showing
that he recognizes the validity of all points of view, and conversely
emphasizes that when he does take hard positions on issues, he often
does so reluctantly."
Obama manages to seamlessly affiliate himself with just about every
political persuasion on the spectrum. He is pro Republican and pro
Democrat, pro 2nd Amendment and pro gun control, pro globalization, and
anti NAFTA, pro tax cut and tax break, and pro universal health care
without enforcing or paying for it. Obama wants to get out of Iraq
while staying there, and wants to change the political system while
As Taibi writes, "You can't run against him on the issues because you can't even find him on the ideological spectrum."
This is of course, the game of politics, and it would be suicidal
for him not to appeal to as many people as possible. However, many
people, including myself, believe that Obama's true beliefs are much
further to the left.
Rev. Wright's views on race and America are certainly outside the
mainstream, and while Obama says he finds them offensive, he did not
find them objectionable enough to leave his church for over 20 years.
Wright is not running for office so has no reason to lie about Obama's
true beliefs. When he implies Obama really agrees with him on core
issues, there should be little reason to doubt him.
Wright may not be accurate when speaking about the introduction of
AIDs to the African American community by the U.S Government, but he is
correct when speaking out about its horrendous crimes committed against
the Black community and the terrorist wars it has waged
internationally. Infecting African Americans with AIDs would be one of
the lesser crimes committed by the U.S government as compared to
slavery and wars of aggression against Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Perhaps we should ask why such mistrust of Government exists within
African American communities, rather than vilifying people like Rev.
Wright. Having gone to Vietnam himself and fought the domestic battles
to ensure people like Obama's equality, Wright's mistrust of government
is completely understandable in context. He should not be painted as an
extremist, and Obama knows it.
There is a deep social conscience present in the former community
organizer from Chicago, one that nobly stood against the attack on
Iraq, and one that has done much to elevate political debate in
America. But Obama cannot align himself with Wright's views for
political purposes, and has essentially left his former pastor out to
As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, "Whosoever desires constant success
must change his conduct with the times." Running for the highest office
in the land requires such a change, and despite a concerted effort to
avoid it, Obama has killed off an integral part of himself in order to
It must have hurt Obama immensely to do so, but it is a task he has
already become adept at. As Rev. Wright said in his speech, Obama is
now accountable to the sound bites and polls that will make or break
him. The sound bites and polls have come out against Rev. Wright, and
now so too has Obama.