Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama tries to save his candidacy

On the way to work this morning, I caught the first part of Barack Obama's speech in which he attempted to distance himself from the ugly, racist, hateful rhetoric of his pastor of twenty years, the Revagogue Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

The speech did not get off to a good start. In the first paragraph were two glaring errors. You can pooh pooh the errors as trivial if you like, but keep in mind that isn't some middle school history class; this guy is running for President of the United States! All emphasis is mine:

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

Sorry Candidate Obama, the group of men who drafted the Constitution were not creating a democracy. A democracy is the last thing they wanted. If you read the Constitution, you will not find the word democracy or democratic located anywhere in that document. What you will find is this passage from Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government....

This country is (supposed to be) a Republic, not a Democracy. In a Republic, we elect representatives who pass laws that are in accordance with our unalienable, God-given rights. In a Democracy, our rights are whatever the majority of voters deems them to be. In a Republic, your rights cannot be voted away, no matter how popular the urge might be. in a Democracy, your rights can be voted away according to the whim of the majority.

Next, the Philadelphia convention didn't last, "through the spring of 1787." The convention started in the Spring of 1787. It lasted through the summer, and concluded in late September of that same year. A small detail I know, but when you are giving a speech as a candidate for President of the United States - a job that requires you to swear an oath to defend the Constitution - you may want to show that you know when the document was written.

That was just the first paragraph.

Later, Obama got to the gist of his speech:

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

Sorry Candidate Obama, you can condemn, you can castigate, you can denounce, you can criticize Wright's rants all you like. I will always answer this with one phrase: Twenty years. For twenty years, you sat in the pews of Trinity United Church of Christ listening to Wright's crap, tithing thousands of dollars to this church, having the revagogue Wright himself marry you to your wife Michelle, having the revagogue Wright himself baptize your children. Sorry Obama, but you entered into a voluntary relationship with this creep and you never repudiated anything he said until it became politically necessary. And you never did leave the church.

This next quote is where Obama really lost me:
I can no more disown [Reverend Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

Wow! Way to throw your grandmother to the wolves in an effort to save your political career. There is one problem with this analogy. You can't choose your relatives. Your grandmother is your grandmother, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Your pastor however is entirely your choice. Yes, you can disown him. Barack Obama should have done so 19 or 20 years ago.

One of my fellow social studies teachers (a total leftist who grew up in Berkeley) saw me in my car in the parking lot as I was reacting to what I was hearing Obama say during the speech. When I got out of the car he asked me if I was listening some funny statement by one my "right wing talk hosts." I said, "No, I'm listening to Obama make a pathetic attempt to distance himself from his pastor." My co-worker knew about this controversey but tried to minimize it. As we arrived at the doors of our respective classrooms, my co-worker told me, "I wouldn't make too big a deal out of this", to which I replied, "If Obama is elected president, you bet I will!"

Good Day to You, Sir


Anonymous said...

First nitpick, rights in the USA *can* be voted away. It is just that some rights are harder to vote away than others. Second, every single dictionary I have read defines "democracy" in such a way that the USA fits the definition:

de·moc·ra·cy (dĭ-mŏk'rə-sē) pronunciation
n., pl. -cies.

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.


That sounds remarkably like "government of the people by the people for the people" which comes from a speech that most people have very little problem with.

Third: If something starts in the sporing and ends after the spring has finished, then it lasted through the spring.

W.R. Chandler said...

Really? Please tell me which of my unalienable rights can be voted away? My life? My right to free speech? My right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures?

Rather than you or a modern dictionary, I will refer to people who know what they are talking about; namely two of America's founding fathers:

"Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."
--John Adams

"Democracy is the most vile form of government... democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."
--James Madison

Tell me again where the term "Democracy" is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. I know "Republic" is mentioned, but I just can't seem to find this Democracy of which you speak.

Lastly, if something lasted until September 17, I would not describe it as lasting "through the spring."

Either you are an idiot or you are purposely being obtuse, and I wouldn't dream of thinking that you are an idiot.

Now that you have done your nitpicking, I would loooove to hear your opinion about Obama's situation.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Someone needs to stop relying on a dictionary to define government philosophy terms and maybe take a civics class. The political science classes I took in college differentiated between a democracy and a republic. The Constitution specifically states that the people will have a republican form of government, not a democracy.

Natural rights cannot be voted away by government or the people. In the Declaration and writings of John Locke, these rights are inalienable and endowed by our Creator. The Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. In my part of the country that's the fall.

Anonymous said...

Yes, any of those rights could be voted away. It would just take a constitutional amendment. (And the right to life in the USA is most definitely not inalienable anyway, since you have the death penalty.)

And sorry, but dictionaries contain the current definitions of words. And since Obama was speaking in the current day, his use of the word reflects the definition as found in common usage in the English language and so is perfectly fine. As was that "government of the people by the people" guy who used something remarkably close to the dictionary definition of democracy. But hey, what would HE know?

The differences between a republic and a democracy are best summed up as follows:

USA --- Democracy AND Republic
UK --- Democracy NOT Republic
China --- Republic NOT Democracy
Vatican City --- Not Republic NOT Democracy

And if something starts in the spring and ends after the spring, I *would* say it lasted through the spring. It also lasted through the summer and some of the autumn, but it definitely lasted through the spring.

As for Obama's position, it strikes me as being remarkably silly. Some guy who isnt the candidate said some stuff that the candidate doesnt agree with. Elections should be about policies, not this nonsense.

Chanman said...

It would "just" take a constitutional amendment? Good luck on that one.

The Amendment process was put in place precisely to curb the passions of the mob, which is what democracy is.

In the interests of debate, let's say that the Amendment process was used to call for, say, the summary killing of all conservatives like me in the United States; clearly a violation of the 5th Amendment. Ah! That is where the Second Amendment would prove to be useful! To stop totalitarians in government from trying things like that.

As for your references to Lincoln, you might want to venerate him with a little more caution - he wasn't exactly the saint that everyone thinks he is. Lincoln violated more of the Constitution than most presidents I can think of.

China a republic? I believe totalitarian oligarchy is a more proper term. They (and you) can call it a republic all day if you like; put lipstick on a pig and it is still a pig.

Give it up on the whole Spring thing. You wouldn't reference the Spring to describe something that ended in September. Well, maybe *you* would, but I wouldn't know what the hell you would be talking about. Obama (and his speechwriters) were off on the chronology; that's all there is to it.

I figured you for an anti-death penalty type. You give up your unalienable right to life when you murder someone, just like you give up your unalienable right to liberty if you cause injury to someone and go to jail for it.

In your reference to Obama, that "guy who isn't the candidate" was Obama's self-proclaimed "spiritual adviser" whose church Obama attended for 20 years, and still attends! So if Gordon Brown (or Tony Blair before him) had turned out to be a disciple of some white-supremacist pastor, that wouldn't bother you?

Say it ain't so!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it would just take a constitutional amendment. They have happened in the past and they will happen again. Some rights are less likely to be taken away than others though,but that is a factor of how "popular" those rights are within the population.

As for your claims about what a democracy is, I have already posted the definition, so I won't be headed down that route again.

And if a totalitarian government REALLY wanted you dead, you would be dead, the 2nd amendment be damned. Once you have totalitarianism, what is in the constitution no longer matters. What would protect you from such a situation is NOT that you have a couple of guns in your house, but the fact that the US military would not obey such a command and the totalitarian system would not last long.

As for giving up the right to life, if a right can come and go, then by definition it is not inalienable. Under US law I have the right to life, but if I kill someone the courts may take that right away from me. Hence not inalienable.

I do not venerate Lincoln, I am simply pointing out that in one of the best speeches ever made by any politician, he almost the exact phrase that is used to define democracy in dictionaries. Your quibble on that matter is with the good lexicographers and the users of the English language, not just me.

Anonymous said...

And as for Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, if I even knew who their pastor/minister was I would be a little uncomfortable, since that is not something that we in the UK go into at election (or any other) time. But if it came out, I wouldn't care, I would look at the policies and proposals of the CANDIDATE, not his priest. Hell, I *think* my local MP is a Roman Catholic but I still vote him despite what I see as many many odious values of the RCC. (Note, the RCC also has many wonderful values as well, but it has a nasty habit of trying to persuade people that liberty in certain areas of life would be a bad thing)

Apologies for the double post. Long day at school...

Don, American Idle said...

Obama sat there for 20 years and nodded "Right on." 'Nuf said.

W.R. Chandler said...

Nice subterfuge, but you are leaving out an important point in your attempt to say that our unalienable rights are not unalienable. An unalienable right is only yours as long as you do not injure someone else in the process of exercising it.

The most famous example of this is yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. I have an unalienable right to free speech, it doesn't mean I can say whatever the hell I want if it injures someone in the process.

The ultimate injury is maliciously taking someone's life, and in the United States, you are expected to pay for this crime by forfeiting your own life. This only happens after receiving due process in accordance with the 5th Amendment to the Constitution.

Speaking of Amendments, you keep using the qualifier "just" to describe passing an amendment. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to approve a constitutional amendment? It was made difficult on purpose. Two-thirds of both houses of Congress must approve, and then three-fourths of the state legislatures have to approve as well. If you don't count the Bill of Rights, which were all approved in 1791, the Constitution has only been amended 17 times in 217 years. You don't "just" approve an amendment. It is extremely difficult, and rightly so.

It worries me that you wouldn't care if Gordon Brown was a disciple of a white supremacist preacher. Has it ever occurred to you that one's character and beliefs have a huge influence on the POLICY aspect on which you myopically focus?

Your RCC analogy doesn't fly. I don't have a problem with Obama being a member of the United Church of Christ; that is a major denomination throughout the United States. It bothers me that Obama is a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ located in South Chicago whose head pastor was a raving racist lunatic. It bothers me even more greatly that Obama tacitly supported this raving racist lunatic by attending his sermons for the last 20 years.

Anonymous said...

If something is unalienable UNLESS XYorZ, then it is NOT unalienable. UNalienable rights CANNOT be taken away. If they can be taken away under ANY circumstances then they are not unalienable, they just alienable.

And yes, I say JUST in regard to a constitutional amendment because there is a process to do it. You dont need to start a whole new country, you just work within the system that is already set up. The difficulty would depend on how popular your idea was. If everyone in the USA agreed with your proposed amendment then it would be very easy to get it changed. If it was unpopular, it would be harder.

And the RCC is a major denomination in the UK. The head of the RCC in Motherwell (amongst other places) is a raving homophobe. However, if the policies of the politician in question are not homophobic, I could not care less where he spends his sundays. It is when a candidate says he will vote in certain ways on matters that I take an interest.

W.R. Chandler said...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...."

That is from the Declaration of Independence. At the time it was written in 1776, prison and executions existed then as they do now, and yet, somehow it was still possible to describe these rights to life and liberty as being unalienable. Again, as long as you are not abusing your right in such a way to injure someone else, rights are unalienable. Your rights end where someone else's begin. I see you are having a little trouble with this concept.

Anonymous said...

Wow! A political piece of propaganda that is not entirely honest. Colour me shocked. Next you will be telling me that they said that all men are created equal while they also owned slaves.

Chanman said...

I'm a little confused - are you calling the Declaration of Independence a piece of political propaganda?

You ought to read the first draft of the Declaration that was rejected by the southern slave-owning framers. That is because Thomas Jefferson's first draft condemned slavery.

Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course it was propaganda. It was a piece of literature designed to galvanise support for the revolution. I dont know how you can define propaganda and NOT include the DoI. And the fact remains that it is not an honest piece of work since it claims "ALL men are created equal" while the signers held and owned slaves. The fact that a draft condemning slavery was rejected backs up the fact that they were not being honest when they made their claims about equality.
They wanted to gather support for a revolution and so they wanted to make their aims seem as noble as possible to as many people as possible while at the same time making George III look as bad as possible. The claim about equality fitted that political aim very nicely, but it did not fit with the reality of the treatment of slaves and/or Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

England allowed and supported the institution of slavery in the colonies. If they hadn't, they could have abolished slavery by enacting a law forbidding it prior to 1776. But they enjoyed the benefits of slavery while trying to appear morally superior in the practice. And, of course, there is the small issue of the treatment of the native population in India and African colonies by the British.

As far as equal rights for all, every age carries with it the definition of what constitutes an "individual." In 2000, it may seem barbaric when we look back and see that slaves were not considered humans by 18th century standards. Hindsight is 20/20 and even today there are questions of the rights of an individual.

For example, at what point do the rights of a mother end and the rights of an unborn child begin. In 200 years, the practice of abortion may seem barbaric to our future generations.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the practice of slavery was wicked, no matter who is to blame. That is not the issue though. The issue is that they said "all men are created equal" and they owned slaves.

What they said did not match with what they did. That is dishonest. But that is hardly surprising, since it was essentially propaganda.

Anonymous said...

To judge the founding fathers on our mores is ludicrous. They wrote based on what they "knew" to be true within their scope and context. They did not define either slaves or women as "men" under the definition of the times. That does that make them either racist or sexist. Neither of those concepts existed at the time, so it is impossible to judge them as such.

As a man of the Enlightenment, Jefferson looked for reason and logic in his view of the world and its components. He set forth a rational argument explaining the differences of whites and blacks based on the paradigm of 18th century. He wrote that according to "scientific and natural evidences [that] whites and blacks were inherently different." We can look back with our 21st century knowledge and see where he was wrong, but to then jump the the conclusion that he was a racist is unjust.

The Egyptians believed, according to their knowledge, that the earth was square. Today, we know different, but that doesn't mean that we then conclude that the achievements of the Egyptians flawed because of this one erroneous concep.

Anonymous said...

The people of the 18th Century knew very well that blacks were "men". There was no doubt about that. They also knew that American Indians were men.

They said "all men are created equal" but they acted ina completely different way. It doesn't matter what century you are in, that is dishonest. But, as I say, you don't look to propaganda for honesty.

Anonymous said...

To begin with, the word "propaganda" means a method of persuasion. There are many forms of propaganda both negative and positive.

To say the Declaration of Independence was a propaganda piece that supported racism is ridiculous.

Did Jefferson feel that whites were superior to blacks? Without a time machine I can only go by what he wrote. He did see white superior to black in some areas. That does not make him a racist because his views did not draw from a hatred for a race but what he perceive as scientific reasoning.

Anonymous said...

I didnt say it was a propaganda piece that supports racism. Seriously, read what I type, not what you imagine. I said that it was propaganda and that the authors were not honest. Nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous said...

And on what do you base your opinion that those who drafted the Declaration of Independence were not honest individuals? And maybe you had better define the concept of "honesty" according to your Funk and Wagnall in order to have a reference point for what could be a very ambigious perspective.

W.R. Chandler said...

And then donalbain pulls out the "Who me?" act. For you to say that you weren't using the term "propaganda" in a negative sense when describing the Dec of Ind is simply dishonest.

Sure it was a piece of propaganda in that it was meant to persuade the American people and the world that our cause was just. However, you are not using the word in those neutral terms. You are using "propaganda" as an epithet.

So some of the founding fathers were slave owners; not that remarkable a situation for 1776. You used Abe Lincoln's writings to extol the virtues of democracy. Have you ever read what Lincoln thought of the black race? Did you know he wanted to remove the ex-slaves to Central America after the war? No person is perfect donalbain, and no country is either. You have to weigh the + and the - , and ask yourself which countries are flat out evil, and which ones have warts but do their best to be decent.

You are quick to point out the failings of the Dec of Ind - is there anything redeeming about it?

Darren said...

My favorite part of the Declaration is the list of complaints against the king. A bit over the top, but plenty fun to read.

I, too, just did a post on Obama. To paraphrase Shania Twain, he don't impressa me much.

Anonymous said...

Propaganda is neither positive nor negative. The overall outcome of the propaganda in this case was a net positive. If you think that it is a negative word, then you have the issue not me.

As for what was dishonest, I have explained that 5 or 6 times now. They SAID that all men are created equal with the right to liberty but they also allowed (and practiced) slavery. When you say something that does not match with your actions, that is dishonest. I really don't see what is so confusing about that.

And as for Lincoln, I said NOTHING about him other than the fact that he wrote and delivered what is widely considered to be one of the best speeches ever delivered by a politician and he defined the government of the USA in a way that is remarkably similar to the definition of democracy.

W.R. Chandler said...

If you want me to disregard what the founders had to say because they weren't 100 percent in alignment with your modern-day sensibilities, then why should I listen to anything Lincoln had to say, since he was a white supremacist?

Or better yet, how about we just realize that all these men - whether in 1776 or 1858 - were simply men of their times who didn't know any better.

This is what happens when you judge people from another time by today's standards. If we did that, there would be no great people from history that would be worth studying.

BTW, you said that propaganda is neither negative nor positive. You have definitely covered the negative regarding the Dec of Ind, but you have still left out anything positive.

Anonymous said...

Jefferson was very concerned with the issue of slavery. His favored solution was to return all slaves to Africa and let them form their own country.

That not being feasible at the time, he chose his words very carefully in the DofI and used the most inclusive word he could. He could have specifically EXCLUDED slaves and women, but he didn't. He had the foresight to see a time in which slaves might be free and be able to enjoy the same rights as white men. Maybe he even saw the time when women would be equal, but his own writings, not my conjecture, do not reflect that.

You should read his thoughts on the equality issue. Here is a link if you care to be enlightened.


He considered the slaves of the time to be very much like children, Minors do not have the same rights as adults but so under your theory they are not equal either. But there is a logical reason not to give a 5 year old the same rights as an 18 year old and that was the way that Jefferson viewed the slaves of his time.

He also didn't use the British method of disenfranchisement by inserting the worded "landed." There the Reform Act of 1832 still excluded men who were not land holders. Of course, blacks and women were still without rights. Irish men did not have the priviledge of voting until 1922 and Australian aborigines did not have the right to vote until the 1965.

In contrast, New Jersey, home to many of the Founding Fathers, gave the right to vote to both blacks and women in 1776.

Of course it is easy to take shots at the Declaration of Independence since it is the most well known pronouncement of the aspirations of freedom. The Magna Carta is not quoted very often, because it is not a model for a universal suffrage. It refers to rights for all "free men" and blatantly discriminates against Jews.

Here is an excerpt from the document:

"that the subjects of our realm shall have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights and concessions, duly and in peace, freely and quietly, fully and entirely, for themselves and their heirs from us and our heirs,"

In that quote, the word "subject" does not define who is to benefit from the laws established, but in actuality only landed gentry were covered by the Magna Carta. The drafters were not being "dishonest" by using the word subject knowing full well that not all subjects of the crown were entitled to the privileges afforded by the document.

When read in modern context, the Magna Carta is an elitist, anti-Semitic, and sexist treatise designed to continue the oppression of the poor for the benefit of the nobility. But in the context when it was written, it was a forward thinking document that offered rights that, up until then, had not been available.

Anonymous said...

No. I am simply saying that the fact that the DoI says that certain rights are inalienable does not make them inalienable. Especially since the writers patently did not believe what they wrote, since their actions were completely opposite to their own words in that area.

Words: All men are created equal.
Actions: Owning slaves.

The actions are utterly opposite to the words. That is dishonest. They obviously did NOT believe all men are created equal. And, they did not believe that all men are created with inalienable rights since they partook of the practice of removing rights from thousands of Africans.

W.R. Chandler said...

So, uh, donalbain: once again, is there anything positive you can say about the Dec of Ind?

Anonymous said...

I already did. Why dont you read what I type. That way you might not go into your little rants where you whine about things I didnt say.

Anonymous said...

"they partook of the practice of removing rights from thousands of Africans."

By the word "they" I assume you are referring to the drafters of the DofI. However, they didn't remove rights from the slaves, they just didn't allow them in 1776. The Africans had been enslaved by other Africans who then sold them to the slave merchants.

Thomas Jefferson freed his slaves, with a few exceptions, upon his death. The rest he felt would be better served if they stayed on under the protection of Monticello. Jefferson was a complex man who understood the reality of his time.

He could have drafted a resolution using the language he did or one that included concepts that were so out of step with the times that it would stand NO chance of being adopted. Maybe you would have preferred that, but Jefferson was pragmatic visionary.

It is impossible to read and "understand" the meaning of the the words of a writer without considering the social, moral, and political context of the time. But, that has been explained before. The fact that you refuse to believe or accept this is not something I can control.

Apparently it is beyond your cognitive ability to analyze events and documents in the scope of their provenance and not in the terms your parochial attitude.

Chanman: I need a translator, too, because I have not found the positive things he has written five or six times.

Anonymous said...

OK. I will explain the dishonesty one more time. Then I will leave this thread alone.

Words: All men are created equal
Actions: Owned slaves.

It doesnt matter WHAT century you are in, if your words do not match your actions you are being dishonest.What they could have written is not relevant. What is relevant is that their words do NOT match their actions. Hence dishonesty.

Anonymous said...

And the Egyptians were being dishonest when they described the world as being square.

Anonymous said...

No. They were just incorrect. The dishonesty comes when words do not match actions.

Words: All men created equal
Actions: Owning slaves

If you think all men are equal, you do not own slaves. If you own slaves, you do not think that all men are equal. If you SAY you think all men are created equal and you own slaves, then you are dishonest.

If you cannot see that, then I despair. I am now done.

W.R. Chandler said...

I always marvel when I think about which practices we do in this time in history that we think nothing of or think is right (you included donalbain), but 200, 500, or 1,000 years from now, people will look back at us in horror for practicing something we think so mundane.

Does this make you wrong or evil or a liar? No. It simply makes you a product of your time and place. If you cannot see that distinction donalbain, then I continue to be glad that you aren't in charge.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed that the now departed, donalbain, referred to you in terms of "nitpick."

Wonder if he has in idea of the connotation of that word in past centuries?

What sublime irony...hehe