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Contentions

Drawing Lines

I just came across these comments from former Congressman John Kasich: “So, Obama says he doesn’t want to vet his pastor. Why not? I mean, I vet my pastor all the time.” And: “Why not just denounce this guy and say this was crackpot stuff?” Well, doing this–assessing the content of your pastor’s character and rhetoric and then denouncing what is hateful and false–would pose two problems for Barack Obama.

First, he might lose support from some African Americans and some on the Left who sympathize with the general sentiments, if not the particulars, of Wright’s sermons. He would risk forfeiting whatever ever street cred he built up by associating with Wright’s church in the first place. Moreover, these Obama supporters would not be pleased and would likely see this as capitulating to his opponents.

But most importantly, this would mean Obama would himself have to draw a moral distinction, to take sides and say “no more.” Every indication we have suggests that he’s not comfortable doing this. He craves acceptance and adulation. (The recent Newsweek cover story on Obama implies he has been on a near-lifelong search for identity and belonging.) He sees his highest calling as being Reconciler in Chief. Indeed, one of the buzz phrases of his campaign is that he will “bring people together.” On “The View” he explained:

Part of what my role in my politics is to get people who don’t normally listen to each other to talk to each other, who [say] crazy things, who are offended by each other, for me to understand them and to maybe help them understand each other.

Hence, it’s not productive for him to dwell on calling out proponents of “crazy” things (a less judgmental way of saying “false” or “morally repugnant”) or to disassociate himself from such people. Likewise, there is no dictator he won’t speak to because his job is not to take sides. He is not interested, you see, in enforcing any criteria for who deserves the attention and status a Presidental visit would entail. His job is bridge-building.

In marriage counseling or labor mediation this attitude is all well and good: the goal there is not for either side to “win” but for both sides to survive and continue in a mutually beneficial relationship. But is the world of geopolitics like that? Sometimes. But there are moments when “understanding” is not the highest calling. We don’t really want to “understand” Raul Castro, for example, or boost his self-esteem so he might survive and flourish. Whether at home or abroad, most Americans really don’t want to tolerate, let alone encourage, those who propound vicious lies about whites, Israel, and America.

If someone can’t and won’t draw any line in the sand (even a relatively easy one), he’ll have a hard time defending America’s interests against those that don’t want to understand us, but destroy us. What he will be very good at is leading the country and the world into a morass of moral equivalence. And maybe that is why so many see great meaning in the Wright affair, and remain deeply troubled by it.


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