Commentary Magazine


Topic: Trinity Church

The Lady Is Not For Turning. . . Yet

She isn’t Margaret Thatcher, but Hillary Clinton is not “for turning”–that is, she is not going anywhere. At least not yet. If the speech last night did not convince you, her interview with The Washington Post should. Not until the final vote is cast on Tuesday, and maybe not even then, will she exit. Why should she, after all? Superdelegates could still change their minds, so there is no reason to depart quite yet. Does she know something, does she “have” something or is she just hoping against all odds at this point that her vaunted research team will turn up something or that some unforseen event will fundamentally alter the race?

Well, many eyes are turned toward Trinity United–actually toward YouTube–to see what else shows up. Obama’s resignation is unlikely to remove the doubts and concerns perculating even among Democrats. As a Baptist minister quoted in the Wall Street Journal put it:

The fact is he benefited from his relationship with that church early on and he talked about it a lot. When the same church becomes somewhat of a burden, rather than a blessing, he decides to separate himself from it.

It is not as if Obama has improved over the last few months or solved these nagging issues; Clinton just fell too far behind before the public learned of the Trinity Church cast of characters and Bittergate. As Juan Williams explained:

It seems to me that the problem is people coming to know Senator Obama at this point — and you know, when Father Pfleger goes off about, you know, white people this, and Hillary Clinton is this kind of white person, and white — she’s crying and he’s mocking her, and it’s not just her crying, it’s white people all over the country are crying — you know, Nina, I hope that Christ is a liberation figure for black people, for white people, for everybody. He should stand for the oppressed. But when it’s put in these terms, it’s divisive and it suggests that Barack Obama for 20 years was willing, out of political expedience, to embrace that kind of talk. And then it says, “Well, what kind of guy is he? Is this really the guy?” . . . I think the New York Times this morning said he’s wheezing to the finish line. He’s had less votes. He’s won only, I think, less than half of the most recent primaries. And he’s won less in terms of the popular vote.

But none of this in and of itself is likely sufficient to deprive Obama of the nomination, absent some major new event. The general election is another matter, however. And if he falters and fritters away the Democrats’ “no way we can lose” 2008 election Clinton will certainly say, “It’s not like I didn’t warn you.” (That’ll fit on her 2012 bumper sticker.)

She isn’t Margaret Thatcher, but Hillary Clinton is not “for turning”–that is, she is not going anywhere. At least not yet. If the speech last night did not convince you, her interview with The Washington Post should. Not until the final vote is cast on Tuesday, and maybe not even then, will she exit. Why should she, after all? Superdelegates could still change their minds, so there is no reason to depart quite yet. Does she know something, does she “have” something or is she just hoping against all odds at this point that her vaunted research team will turn up something or that some unforseen event will fundamentally alter the race?

Well, many eyes are turned toward Trinity United–actually toward YouTube–to see what else shows up. Obama’s resignation is unlikely to remove the doubts and concerns perculating even among Democrats. As a Baptist minister quoted in the Wall Street Journal put it:

The fact is he benefited from his relationship with that church early on and he talked about it a lot. When the same church becomes somewhat of a burden, rather than a blessing, he decides to separate himself from it.

It is not as if Obama has improved over the last few months or solved these nagging issues; Clinton just fell too far behind before the public learned of the Trinity Church cast of characters and Bittergate. As Juan Williams explained:

It seems to me that the problem is people coming to know Senator Obama at this point — and you know, when Father Pfleger goes off about, you know, white people this, and Hillary Clinton is this kind of white person, and white — she’s crying and he’s mocking her, and it’s not just her crying, it’s white people all over the country are crying — you know, Nina, I hope that Christ is a liberation figure for black people, for white people, for everybody. He should stand for the oppressed. But when it’s put in these terms, it’s divisive and it suggests that Barack Obama for 20 years was willing, out of political expedience, to embrace that kind of talk. And then it says, “Well, what kind of guy is he? Is this really the guy?” . . . I think the New York Times this morning said he’s wheezing to the finish line. He’s had less votes. He’s won only, I think, less than half of the most recent primaries. And he’s won less in terms of the popular vote.

But none of this in and of itself is likely sufficient to deprive Obama of the nomination, absent some major new event. The general election is another matter, however. And if he falters and fritters away the Democrats’ “no way we can lose” 2008 election Clinton will certainly say, “It’s not like I didn’t warn you.” (That’ll fit on her 2012 bumper sticker.)

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Less in Sorrow Than In Anger

A young Democrat quoted in the Wall Street Journal says of Barack Obama’s association with Trinity Church: “I wouldn’t want to be associated with people who say things like that.” Many have tried to rationalize Obama’s continued presence at Trinity United. But now Stanley Kurtz come along to detail exactly why and how deeply Obama was associated with Wright, Pfleger, and liberation theology in practice. It seems clear that Obama very much wanted to be associated with these people precisely because his “long-held and decidedly audacious hope has been to spread Wright’s radical spirit by linking it to a viable, left-leaning political program, with Obama himself at the center.” Kurtz’s article is a must read, and the bottom line is disturbing :

So Obama’s political interest in Trinity went far beyond merely gaining a respectable public Christian identity. On his own account, Obama hoped to use the untapped power of the black church to supercharge hard-left politics in Chicago, creating a personal and institutional political base that would be free to part with conventional Democratic politics. By his own testimony, Obama would seem to have allied himself with Wright and Pfleger, not in spite of, but precisely because of their radical left-wing politics. It follows that Obama’s ties to Trinity reflect on far more than his judgment and character (although they certainly implicate that). Contrary to common wisdom, then, Obama’s religious history has everything to do with his political values and policy positions, since it confirms his affinity for leftist radicalism.

So if some were disturbed by the implication that Obama had “played” the black churches and put up a front to gain political acceptance and support for his blossoming career, it may come as a bigger shock to learn that his embrace of the radicals and their extreme rhetoric and agenda was sincere.  His current post-racial, moderate sounding themes may be a front. It would be ironic if those supposedly know-nothing hicks (according to the mainstream media) from West Virginia who told exit pollsters in overwhelming numbers that they believed Obama shared Wright’s views were exactly on the mark.

This explains, perhaps, why Obama took such great personal offense at being called out by Rev. Wright as insincere and acting like a politician. As nutty and vitriolic as he may be, Wright was witness to Obama’s deep involvement in the milieu which Kurtz describes. Wright’s willingness to pull back the curtain and reveal that Obama’s “signature theme” (as Kurtz put it) was in lockstep with Wright’s and Pfleger’s views struck at the heart of Obama’s efforts to win the nomination and the presidency. Because, after all, if Americans came to believe that Obama did not merely tolerate Wright and Pfleger, but agreed wholeheartedly with their outlook and approach then Obama’s chances for the presidency would likely be dashed. That’s enough to get a denouncement from the man who does not do denouncements.

A young Democrat quoted in the Wall Street Journal says of Barack Obama’s association with Trinity Church: “I wouldn’t want to be associated with people who say things like that.” Many have tried to rationalize Obama’s continued presence at Trinity United. But now Stanley Kurtz come along to detail exactly why and how deeply Obama was associated with Wright, Pfleger, and liberation theology in practice. It seems clear that Obama very much wanted to be associated with these people precisely because his “long-held and decidedly audacious hope has been to spread Wright’s radical spirit by linking it to a viable, left-leaning political program, with Obama himself at the center.” Kurtz’s article is a must read, and the bottom line is disturbing :

So Obama’s political interest in Trinity went far beyond merely gaining a respectable public Christian identity. On his own account, Obama hoped to use the untapped power of the black church to supercharge hard-left politics in Chicago, creating a personal and institutional political base that would be free to part with conventional Democratic politics. By his own testimony, Obama would seem to have allied himself with Wright and Pfleger, not in spite of, but precisely because of their radical left-wing politics. It follows that Obama’s ties to Trinity reflect on far more than his judgment and character (although they certainly implicate that). Contrary to common wisdom, then, Obama’s religious history has everything to do with his political values and policy positions, since it confirms his affinity for leftist radicalism.

So if some were disturbed by the implication that Obama had “played” the black churches and put up a front to gain political acceptance and support for his blossoming career, it may come as a bigger shock to learn that his embrace of the radicals and their extreme rhetoric and agenda was sincere.  His current post-racial, moderate sounding themes may be a front. It would be ironic if those supposedly know-nothing hicks (according to the mainstream media) from West Virginia who told exit pollsters in overwhelming numbers that they believed Obama shared Wright’s views were exactly on the mark.

This explains, perhaps, why Obama took such great personal offense at being called out by Rev. Wright as insincere and acting like a politician. As nutty and vitriolic as he may be, Wright was witness to Obama’s deep involvement in the milieu which Kurtz describes. Wright’s willingness to pull back the curtain and reveal that Obama’s “signature theme” (as Kurtz put it) was in lockstep with Wright’s and Pfleger’s views struck at the heart of Obama’s efforts to win the nomination and the presidency. Because, after all, if Americans came to believe that Obama did not merely tolerate Wright and Pfleger, but agreed wholeheartedly with their outlook and approach then Obama’s chances for the presidency would likely be dashed. That’s enough to get a denouncement from the man who does not do denouncements.

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Who Has Obama Disowned?

On Saturday afternoon, in a move perfectly timed to coincide with the DNC’s raucous rules committee hearing about its Florida and Michigan delegations, Barack Obama announced that he and his wife had withdrawn as members from Trinity Church. Remember back in March, when Obama announced that he could “no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community?” Well, does this severing of ties mean that Obama has “disowned” the black community, or that his original speech established an entirely false and craven analogy?

On Saturday afternoon, in a move perfectly timed to coincide with the DNC’s raucous rules committee hearing about its Florida and Michigan delegations, Barack Obama announced that he and his wife had withdrawn as members from Trinity Church. Remember back in March, when Obama announced that he could “no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community?” Well, does this severing of ties mean that Obama has “disowned” the black community, or that his original speech established an entirely false and craven analogy?

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Obama Acts Like Obama

True to form, Barack Obama’s explanation yesterday of his reasons for leaving Trinity Church are a model of double-talk. (And the remarkably passive media pack doesn’t make it very hard for him to avoid further scrutiny.) He has, he explained

“tremendous regard” for the church community, but said he could not live with a situation where everything said in the church, including comments by a guest pastor, “will be imputed to me, even if they conflict with my long-held, views, statements and principles.”

And he would have remained in a church for two decades where regularly people spoke out in ways which conflicted with his principles because . . . why, exactly? We don’t know. And no one in the press thought to ask.

But it gets worse. ABC reports:

He insisted that Trinity itself is not a church worth denouncing. “I’m not denouncing the church and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church, because it’s not a church worthy of denouncing, and so if they’ve seen caricatures of the church and except [sic] those caricatures despite my insistence that that’s not what the church is about, then there’s not much I can do about it.”

Yes, remember Obama does not do denouncing. There is nothing a Wright or Pfleger or Ayers can do which deserve condemnation. Unless, of course they visit the National Press Club and critique his sincerity.

And Obama concedes that:

[A]t the start of the campaign he never would have expected this much scrutiny to be put on his faith, “which we knew there was going to be some things that we didn’t see coming, this was one. You know I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny. Initially with emails suggesting that I was a Muslim, later with you know the controversy that Trinity generated.”

This one gets the trifecta for dishonesty, or perhaps cluelessness. First, it is, of course, not the case that his Christian faith is being questioned. I know of no commentator, critic, or political opponent who has done that. What is at issue is his propensity to hang out with hatemongers who suggest his current post-racial theme is a pose. Second, he apparently lacks any cultural or political compass if he really believed that Wright et al. would not become an issue. Was it self-delusion? Or is he so out of touch with average Americans that he was unable to predict what would be deeply offensive to millions of Americans? And finally, notice how he impugns the motives of those who raise concerns about his association with Trinity. They are on a footing, in his book, with those perpetrating the “He’s a Muslim” canard. But the former are not perpetrating a lie. They are discussing and probing the beliefs, sincerity, and character of the man who wants to be President.

The Trinity cast of characters and Obama’s reaction to them have been more revealing than more a dozen-plus debates, all the speeches, and just about anything that has happened in over a year of campaigning. It might be even more revealing if the media would take their role seriously and press Obama on some of these obvious points. But Obama, however inadvertently, has done a fairly good job of letting us know how he makes both political and moral judgments. And that is perhaps the most important thing to know about a potential President.

True to form, Barack Obama’s explanation yesterday of his reasons for leaving Trinity Church are a model of double-talk. (And the remarkably passive media pack doesn’t make it very hard for him to avoid further scrutiny.) He has, he explained

“tremendous regard” for the church community, but said he could not live with a situation where everything said in the church, including comments by a guest pastor, “will be imputed to me, even if they conflict with my long-held, views, statements and principles.”

And he would have remained in a church for two decades where regularly people spoke out in ways which conflicted with his principles because . . . why, exactly? We don’t know. And no one in the press thought to ask.

But it gets worse. ABC reports:

He insisted that Trinity itself is not a church worth denouncing. “I’m not denouncing the church and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church, because it’s not a church worthy of denouncing, and so if they’ve seen caricatures of the church and except [sic] those caricatures despite my insistence that that’s not what the church is about, then there’s not much I can do about it.”

Yes, remember Obama does not do denouncing. There is nothing a Wright or Pfleger or Ayers can do which deserve condemnation. Unless, of course they visit the National Press Club and critique his sincerity.

And Obama concedes that:

[A]t the start of the campaign he never would have expected this much scrutiny to be put on his faith, “which we knew there was going to be some things that we didn’t see coming, this was one. You know I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny. Initially with emails suggesting that I was a Muslim, later with you know the controversy that Trinity generated.”

This one gets the trifecta for dishonesty, or perhaps cluelessness. First, it is, of course, not the case that his Christian faith is being questioned. I know of no commentator, critic, or political opponent who has done that. What is at issue is his propensity to hang out with hatemongers who suggest his current post-racial theme is a pose. Second, he apparently lacks any cultural or political compass if he really believed that Wright et al. would not become an issue. Was it self-delusion? Or is he so out of touch with average Americans that he was unable to predict what would be deeply offensive to millions of Americans? And finally, notice how he impugns the motives of those who raise concerns about his association with Trinity. They are on a footing, in his book, with those perpetrating the “He’s a Muslim” canard. But the former are not perpetrating a lie. They are discussing and probing the beliefs, sincerity, and character of the man who wants to be President.

The Trinity cast of characters and Obama’s reaction to them have been more revealing than more a dozen-plus debates, all the speeches, and just about anything that has happened in over a year of campaigning. It might be even more revealing if the media would take their role seriously and press Obama on some of these obvious points. But Obama, however inadvertently, has done a fairly good job of letting us know how he makes both political and moral judgments. And that is perhaps the most important thing to know about a potential President.

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What Took Twenty Years?

John, as you just noted, Barack Obama is leaving Trinity Church. Here’s the ABC News report:

Sources tell ABC News that Obama felt that as the campaign continued, the media would continue to focus on the church, to the detriment of the church community, that Obama would be held responsible for what happened in the church, and that the Church would be held responsible for his campaign. It would be best, Obama felt, to simply cut ties. He has not yet joined a new church. (Emphasis added.)

Well, we can now call Obama’s claim that he is devoted to the church and not Wright “inoperative.” This seems to undermine the argument of his apologists that there was nothing wrong Trinity United and lots of people attend places with rabbis or ministers with whom they “disagree.” Now that it is plain that this church welcomed and celebrated anti-white, anti-woman and anti-Semitic hate speech it is fair to ask why now, why only now would he leave? Well, he’s got a general election to run and the old Obama – the one with Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger as mentors – needs to be pushed out of view.

Imagine if the roles were reversed and John McCain had attended a white separatist church for twenty years. Would his resignation after two decades cure the concern that he had lived some sort of weird double life, cavorting with racists but talking about equal opportunity in his public life? I would imagine he’d have been forced out of the presidential race by now.

So the question remains: was Obama the least observant church congegrant on the planet (racism and anti-Semitism at Trinity? No!) or a hypocrite? Let the voters decide.

John, as you just noted, Barack Obama is leaving Trinity Church. Here’s the ABC News report:

Sources tell ABC News that Obama felt that as the campaign continued, the media would continue to focus on the church, to the detriment of the church community, that Obama would be held responsible for what happened in the church, and that the Church would be held responsible for his campaign. It would be best, Obama felt, to simply cut ties. He has not yet joined a new church. (Emphasis added.)

Well, we can now call Obama’s claim that he is devoted to the church and not Wright “inoperative.” This seems to undermine the argument of his apologists that there was nothing wrong Trinity United and lots of people attend places with rabbis or ministers with whom they “disagree.” Now that it is plain that this church welcomed and celebrated anti-white, anti-woman and anti-Semitic hate speech it is fair to ask why now, why only now would he leave? Well, he’s got a general election to run and the old Obama – the one with Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger as mentors – needs to be pushed out of view.

Imagine if the roles were reversed and John McCain had attended a white separatist church for twenty years. Would his resignation after two decades cure the concern that he had lived some sort of weird double life, cavorting with racists but talking about equal opportunity in his public life? I would imagine he’d have been forced out of the presidential race by now.

So the question remains: was Obama the least observant church congegrant on the planet (racism and anti-Semitism at Trinity? No!) or a hypocrite? Let the voters decide.

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Another Ranting Preacher?

Barack Obama has another spiritual leader ranting and raving about whites, Father Michael Pfleger. The vitriol is familiar. This one was also a mentor, as well as a political supporter. The kicker: Obama gave him — that would be a political donor – a $100,000 earmark. Perhaps that’s a story.

Stanley Kurtz explains that the relationship between Obama and Pfleger is as close as Obama’s with Wright:

There is a kind of informal nexus between Wright, Farrakhan, and Pfleger, each of whom are bound by an allegiance to black-liberation theology, or to the black Muslim nationalism that inspired James Cone to create black-liberation theology to begin with.

Obama was a part of this nexus. Despite current attempts to rewrite history, Obama was close to Wright for years, and fully entangled with him, both theologically and politically. Pfleger’s influence over Obama, whose work as a “community organizer” had him in frequent contact with South Chicago’s churches, is second only to that of Wright. Obama has worked on a great many political causes with Pfleger, and Pfleger was a key early backer of Obama’s failed 2000 bid for a seat in Congress.

As to the Pfleger outburst, Obama professes to be “disappointed.” With each additional ranting hate-monger the impact may lessen, but it is fair to say that Trinity Church was just the type of place for these folks to come with their material. It is harder and harder to pretend that Rev. Wright and Father Michael Pfleger were anomalies, or deny that this was standard operating rhetoric at Obama’s church. It is still harder to believe that Obama did not know and countenance the views of people with whom he shared political, social and spiritual ties.

People who think no one cares about any of this will yawn. People who view this and say “He hangs out with a strange crowd” will file this away as one more piece of evidence. And lots of Democrats will toss and turn wondering: Who else is out there?

Barack Obama has another spiritual leader ranting and raving about whites, Father Michael Pfleger. The vitriol is familiar. This one was also a mentor, as well as a political supporter. The kicker: Obama gave him — that would be a political donor – a $100,000 earmark. Perhaps that’s a story.

Stanley Kurtz explains that the relationship between Obama and Pfleger is as close as Obama’s with Wright:

There is a kind of informal nexus between Wright, Farrakhan, and Pfleger, each of whom are bound by an allegiance to black-liberation theology, or to the black Muslim nationalism that inspired James Cone to create black-liberation theology to begin with.

Obama was a part of this nexus. Despite current attempts to rewrite history, Obama was close to Wright for years, and fully entangled with him, both theologically and politically. Pfleger’s influence over Obama, whose work as a “community organizer” had him in frequent contact with South Chicago’s churches, is second only to that of Wright. Obama has worked on a great many political causes with Pfleger, and Pfleger was a key early backer of Obama’s failed 2000 bid for a seat in Congress.

As to the Pfleger outburst, Obama professes to be “disappointed.” With each additional ranting hate-monger the impact may lessen, but it is fair to say that Trinity Church was just the type of place for these folks to come with their material. It is harder and harder to pretend that Rev. Wright and Father Michael Pfleger were anomalies, or deny that this was standard operating rhetoric at Obama’s church. It is still harder to believe that Obama did not know and countenance the views of people with whom he shared political, social and spiritual ties.

People who think no one cares about any of this will yawn. People who view this and say “He hangs out with a strange crowd” will file this away as one more piece of evidence. And lots of Democrats will toss and turn wondering: Who else is out there?

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Obama’s Pastor Rejects “Middleclassness,” All Right

A March 2007 New Republic article has surfaced in which the piece’s writer, Ryan Lizza, asserts that Jeremiah Wright was once a Muslim:

But Wright was a former Muslim and black nationalist who had studied at Howard and Chicago, and Trinity’s guiding principles–what the church calls the “Black Value System”–included a “Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.’

I’m not terribly interested in the spiritual evolution of Rev. Wright. Muslim Americans have the same rights as Jewish Americans, Hindu Americans, and Christian Americans—including the right to worship freely and be left alone provided their worship doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights. (Although the implication here is that he might have been a Nation of Islam member, and the NOI is, at best, a racialist organization.) In any case, the Democratic primary has provided enough identity fodder to last several lifetimes.

What’s far more interesting is that Trinity Church’s guiding principles include a “Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.’ Keep that in mind. Yesterday in Slate Christopher Hitchens gave this account of the Rev. Wright’s retirement booty: “a $1.6 million home, purchased in the name of his church and consisting of more than 10,000 square feet, in a gated community in Tinley Park, a prosperous white section of the city.” This deeply spiritual man has demonstrated that rarest of qualities in modern preachers: the ability to live up to one’s professed ideals. After all, there’s nothing middle-class about a 10,000 square foot home.

A March 2007 New Republic article has surfaced in which the piece’s writer, Ryan Lizza, asserts that Jeremiah Wright was once a Muslim:

But Wright was a former Muslim and black nationalist who had studied at Howard and Chicago, and Trinity’s guiding principles–what the church calls the “Black Value System”–included a “Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.’

I’m not terribly interested in the spiritual evolution of Rev. Wright. Muslim Americans have the same rights as Jewish Americans, Hindu Americans, and Christian Americans—including the right to worship freely and be left alone provided their worship doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights. (Although the implication here is that he might have been a Nation of Islam member, and the NOI is, at best, a racialist organization.) In any case, the Democratic primary has provided enough identity fodder to last several lifetimes.

What’s far more interesting is that Trinity Church’s guiding principles include a “Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.’ Keep that in mind. Yesterday in Slate Christopher Hitchens gave this account of the Rev. Wright’s retirement booty: “a $1.6 million home, purchased in the name of his church and consisting of more than 10,000 square feet, in a gated community in Tinley Park, a prosperous white section of the city.” This deeply spiritual man has demonstrated that rarest of qualities in modern preachers: the ability to live up to one’s professed ideals. After all, there’s nothing middle-class about a 10,000 square foot home.

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