Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama?s lofty, landmark candor


By PAT MURPHY

The most compelling revelation of Barack Obama's powerful speech Tuesday was the pitiable state of presidential politics and the minimal mentality of television news in America today.

Yes, Obama denounced his former Chicago pastor, the now retired Rev. Jeremiah Wright, for "incendiary language" and his "distorted view of this country" that has obsessed television for weeks as a grainy snippet of a Wright sermon was played and replayed.

Then, with powerful allusions that even the least politically sophisticated adult American should understand, Obama compared Rev. Wright's bitter reflections on the undeniable mistreatment of black Americans of his generation to the outspoken bitterness of white Americans who utter racial slurs among themselves about affirmative action programs that benefit black Americans; who're bitter about jobs being outsourced to people of color overseas in India and the Philippines; who resent their children being bused to achieve racial integration in schools; who complain about blacks on welfare.

He's heard his own white grandmother—Obama is the child of a white-black marriage—utter racial slurs about her fear of black men on the street. Should he disown her, the woman who raised him, sacrificed for him, and gave him much of the fiber of his character, any more than he should disown Rev. Wright for bitter words that offend him?

White America has its own Rev. Wrights, pleading the case for white Americans in suggestive, inflammatory words.

Think CNN's Lou Dobbs, the self-proclaimed champion of Middle America, whose poorly concealed contempt for illegal Latino immigrants is the implacable theme of his nightly demagoguery with racist coloration.

And finally, Obama challenged television to stop replaying the Rev. Wright snippet that has given anti-Obama critics fodder for their scurrilous agenda, and think a united America and move on to truly more demanding and grander issues that are debilitating the nation—the Iraq war, a collapsing economy, an environment poisoned by industrial pollution, corporate greed.

But just as there's profit in industry's pollution, there's profit for television in playing and replaying the Jeremiah Wright sermon tape. It provides easy controversy for simple-minded viewers with visceral needs and for fluff-over-stuff TV commentators lacking any vision of the country's ambitions, and whose journalism skills are better suited for covering a warehouse fire.

One wonders whether Obama's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, will reduce his moving words to just another "speech," the way she ridiculed his speech denouncing the Iraq war as his only qualification to be president.

Sen. Clinton should be so lucky to have Sen. Obama's gift for lofty vision.




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