Less than a month ago the media was still in mid-swoon over Senator Barack Obama, as he got massive coverage which was massively positive. But this past week the tide may finally have begun to turn. Over the past few days Obama's close connection to his "former" pastor, Jeremiah Wright, has come under increased scrutiny as video like the above has been uncovered raising a host of questions. Did Wright preach the sort of hate exemplified in the video in front of Obama? If he did, what did Obama think? Say? Do?
Despite all the positive press Obama has gotten the Wright controversy is not the first time troubling questions have been raised about him. Obama’s attempt to portray himself as a new kind of politician, almost beyond politics has been hampered by a number of facts that don’t square with this image.
Obama’s claim that he represents change becomes considerably harder to sell in light of the fact that the National Journal found him to be the most liberal Senator; more liberal than Kennedy, Kerry, Reid or even Clinton. All the talk about change becomes considerably harder to believe when every plan you advocate has been advocated by Ted Kennedy for the past forty years.
His relationship with Antoin (Tony) Rezko is troubling on another level. When you’re trying to prove that you’re above politics having murky financial dealings with an indicted potential felon are not helpful. Tony Rezko is a real estate developer and has been a friend of Obama’s for over twenty years who is now on trial for extortion. While Obama is not implicated in Rezko’s charges, eyebrows have been raised by a real estate deal in which Obama bought his house, after consultation with Rezko for what appears to be an unusually low price, while on the same day Rezko’s wife bought a lot adjoining Obama’s for $625,000, selling a portion of it to Obama a few months later for (yet another low price) $104,500. Nothing illegal has been charged in the deal but it has the smell of a thousand other buddy/buddy, wink-and-a-nudge deals indulged in by so many other completely conventional politicians who are seen as slimy by the public.
Some of the glow of Obama’s newness was also removed by Hillary Clinton's commercial pointing out Obama’s possible lack of preparedness in facing the by now expected “Are you prepared for a crisis at 3 AM” question. The commercial was effective not because it is obvious that Obama isn’t prepared, it is damaging to Obama because people just don’t know if he is prepared. And the commercial may have given enough people pause that it helped Hillary to have a good day in the Super Tuesday II primaries, preventing Obama from landing a knockout blow.
But the Wright problem may well prove to be when all the questions about Obama reach a critical mass. The difference between the Jesse Jackson campaign of 1984 and one of the predicates for the success of the Obama campaign has been Obama's ability to appear to be beyond race. But the Wright issue could well start to peel the bark off that appearance. Wright’s videoed comments aren’t just about Black empowerment; they talk about the US being behind a plot to introduce AIDS into the Black community for the purpose of genocide. They accuse Israel of carrying out a genocidal policy against the Palestinians. They blame the US for 9/11 and even for the attack on Pearl Harbor! His beliefs place him comfortably in the fever swamps of the lunatic fringe. Jeremiah Wright appears to hate the US. Is it really credible that a man whose feelings about this country are so strong never talked to his close friend, Barack Obama about those feelings even after Obama was running for and winning a Senate in that evil entity, the US? When Obama is running for the Presidency of that same “criminal” nation? Wright runs the risk of removing Obama from the mainstream, potentially stripping him of his “trans-racial” appeal.
Barack Obama now has a significant advantage in delegates to the Democratic convention in August. In order to prevail the percentage of delegates Hillary needs to win in order to gain the nomination may be higher than she can reasonably be expected to achieve. Barack Obama, despite all of the above questions about him, is still the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. Perhaps neither he or Hillary will have enough delegates to win on the first ballot at the convention at which point it may come down to a battle for the so-called Super Delegates, delegates who aren’t committed to any candidate by virtue of vote count, but who can decide on their own where to go. It could get ugly.
Should he survive all that Obama will then enter the general election, not quite the trans-racial, squeaky clean, brand new, agent of change he has tried to sell himself as being. What he and we can count on is that once he enters the general election those questions are not going to go away. The Republicans are not in a very strong position in this upcoming election and they know it. They are not likely to let these questions about Obama drop. Why should they; especially since they didn’t even have to go hunting for them on their own? They have had them handed to them by Clinton and Obama themselves.
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Monday, March 17, 2008
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