Guest Opinions

'The Speech' a deficient answer

Imagine moving to a new town. You find a church that reflects your culture and beliefs, people at work attend, including friends and neighbors.

As a Christian you feel it is important to worship in a place that echoes your values, knowing this will play an important role in shaping the moral foundation of your children.

The sermon begins and the preacher is charismatic, uplifting and inspiring. Then, caught up in the fiery rhetoric he goes into a tirade about the evils of America, going so far as to say, “God damn America ... The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide.”

What do you do?

My wife and I would take our child to another church, where hatred and lies are not included in the sermons. This is good judgment.

The parishioners, perhaps even family members might come to us and explain how the pastor is really a “great man,” that sometimes he goes overboard. They might talk about all the people he has helped in the community.

None of this discounts the fact that as a minister of God, a person who is supposed to teach forgiveness and reconciliation, he was fermenting hate and untruths.

The Speech, as some in the media are calling it, by Barack Obama was certainly “Lincolnesque” in eloquence and literary quality.

However, it was deficient in answering the central question regarding Obama’s judgment — his decision to stay in a church for 20 years where racially and historically distorted and divisive rhetoric was a part of the agenda.

Obama attempts to make race the central question rather than judgment, claiming that the rage and anger in the black community, expressed by some church leaders like his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are part of the Black Social Gospel.

He repudiates Wright’s controversial comments, yet defends Wright, maintaining he is a man of the ’60s who harbors the old rage and anger of that era.

Obama also goes on to say he could no more “disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me ... a woman who loves me ... on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

This racially charged rhetoric is a reminder of the racism that exists in our society. Yet this is an unreasonable comparison. He had a choice where Wright is concerned.

Why not find a minister who is passionate about social justice and doesn’t use hate-filled language in sermons? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is perhaps the most notable minister who practiced Black Social Gospel.

His ministry and leadership in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference are arguably the most important contributions to the civil rights movement.

Most Americans know and respect his inspirational words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Compare that with The Rev. Wright’s comments: “The chickens have come home to roost (referring to 911) ... US of KKKA.”

Obama’s speech, now quoted and praised by editorial boards throughout the nation, was an opportunity for the Obama campaign to re-direct the focus of the media.

The Tri-City Herald’s editorial, “A call for reflection from Obama,” described as “shallow” commentators who focused on Obama’s association with Wright.

Across America, the mainstream media angle seems to be that anyone critical of Obama’s relationship with his pastor is ignorant, insensitive or outright racist. The dialogue and questions about judgment have stopped.

Many in the media have called Obama courageous for his speech. In reality, The Speech is part of Politics 101. If a scandal causes a drop in the polls, take the initiative and redirect or control the narrative. With the help of the mainstream media, Obama has certainly redirected the narrative.

The media love affair with Obama is no mystery. He represents change that is ideologically in line with the reporters who are supposed to ask the tough questions. Obama is perhaps the most articulate and inspiring presidential candidate we have had for years.

President Bush, the “Cowboy,” as some editorial staffs dubbed him, and the very “Machiavellian” Clintons are obviously not the media darlings.

It is true that Obama can quote lines from Faulkner and Lincoln and use them intelligently and even poetically in contemporary context.

The fact remains that great presidents must demonstrate not only the ability to communicate effectively, they must also demonstrate good judgment.

* Jason Kintner teaches history and American government at Prosser High School. He lives in Kennewick with his wife and daughter.