It was just another day in the wacky world of politics – – a few shining moments in the midst of mind-numbing bouts of media analysis, bumbling from the White House and delusional ramblings from that strange group of fellow travelers over in Iraq.
The shining moments came in Barack Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia. Pilloried for his membership in a Chicago church where Minister Jeremiah Wright’s fiery style shocked viewers as his most inflammatory sermons played endlessly on TV and the internet, Obama sought to address the concerns of supporters as well as critics. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his speech beyond the quality of his words and the depth of his insights was the sense of honor and decency implicit in his refusal to simply dismiss the man even as he rejected utterances that plainly went too far.
Conceding that at times he heard sermons that expressed controversial points of view, even anger spawned by racial injustice, yet the messages he took away celebrated the efficacy of good works, personal responsibility, family values, the golden rule and “the audacity of hope”. Obama was not present when the particular offensive filmed passages were delivered, but many partisans want to make his church membership the overriding issue, questioning his judgment, his patriotism and his values.
One reference that slipped by very quickly in the speech was the fact that Wright was a Marine. In fact he served two years in the Marine Corps, transferring to the Navy where he served as a medical technician – – more patriotic service than many critics can claim. The point is that dwelling on his more outrageous outbursts ignores an outstanding academic record and a lifetime of service to his people and his country. Sean Hannity, an early and persistent player of Wright’s taped remarks, said outright that he didn’t believe Obama after his speech. The wonder is that people lend credence to such as Hannity and celebrate his patriotism, a man whose intellectual credentials are less than compelling and who can boast of no military service.
It is one of the more disturbing features of today’s political scene that many who talk the talk of patriotism and honor promote agendas that have little to do with either honor or duty. While the right wing tries to bring down candidate Obama because of his church membership, the country’s economy is in free fall and our military is spread thin across the Middle East in situations that beggar rational solutions. Talk of surges, insurgencies, and resurgences in Iraq sound like a latter-day version of Jabberwocky, and our leaders seem incapable of dealing with reality – – an unstable government, civilian displacements and casualties, widespread corruption, and our apparent inability to change things.
In that rarified atmosphere Senators McCain, Lieberman and Graham make their way around designated “safe” areas. Vice President Cheney is there too, having discussions with dignitaries such as exist. In the background suicide bombers exact their deadly toll and roadside bombs explode. But these folks marvel at what they insist is progress and a bright future for the Iraqi people. It may have escaped their notice that in order to take advantage of the oil market local ‘investors’ bribe and bully their way to financial success with scant oversight or law enforcement even when laws exist. And millions of Iraqis are experiencing ‘freedom’ far from their homes or outside their country.
It was said, that while Democrats wrangle over delegate counts and race, John McCain would be in Iraq “looking presidential”. Perhaps, but in a photo op when he said Iran was training Al Qaeda insurgents from Iraq and sending them back across the border Lieberman whispered to him that he should have used the term extremists not Al Qaeda, after which McCain corrected himself – – kind of reminiscent of when Nancy Reagan whispered to her husband “tell them you’re doing the best you can” to answer a reporter’s question – – well that’s sort of presidential; McCain calls himself a Reagan devotee.
Here at home, in what passes for presidential gravitas, Mr. Bush thanked Treasury Secretary Paulson and his team for “working over the weekend” to steady the financial markets. Imagine that, our leaders working overtime to avert an economic disaster – – heroes all.
More shining moments please.