Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama Is Not JFK

Tomorrow, Obama has stated that he will address race and his two decades of close association with Rev. Jerimiah Wright during a speech in Philly. I have seen several commentors on other blogs say they expect this to be Obama’s Kennedy – Catholic speech moment. It cannot possibly be.


Tomorrow, Obama supporters are hoping that their candidate - already compared to JFK by many in the press - will assuage the national consciousness about racism in the same way JFK did on the issue of his Catholic faith. But JFK's issue with Catholicism and Obama's issues with racism are fundamentally different.

John F. Kennedy was baptized a Catholic at his birth. Unlike Obama, who made a conscious decision to join Rev. Jerimiah Wright and Trinity United Church as an adult, JFK’s religion was simply a part of his inheritance. Obama's adult choices reflect upon his judgment and character in a way JFK's Catholicism never reflected on JFK.

At issue with JFK in 1960 was the question of whether his Catholicism would dictate how he would lead America on social issues and the issue of religious freedom. JFK had to give assurances that as President, he would make decisions based on what he felt was best for America, not on the basis of Catholic dogma. There was no inherent dissonance between his religion and his duties as President. As he put it in his 1960 speech, "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic."

The situation with Obama is quite different. The central promise of his candidacy lies in his promise to be a post racial candidate who can heal the black white divide and, indeed, all other divides. It is a utopian promise indeed – and it is in direct contradiction to the fact that he has spent twenty years in a close relationship with a man who is an ardent, anti-American and divisive racist. It is in direct contradiction to the facts that he described Rev. Wright as a mentor on spiritual and secular matters, and that one of Obama's central themes - the audacity of hope - is based on a racist sermon given by Rev. Wright.

There is inherent dissonance between those facts and Obama's carefully crafted persona. I simply do not see how this can be "contained" with anything approaching intellectual honesty. What Obama cannot say is "I am the post racial candidate for President who happens also to have a decades long relationship with a man I chose as my pastor and whose raison d’etre is racism and claims of victimization by whites and jews."

As I said, I will wait for the speech. But all I expect from Obama is pure dissimulation. More and more, I am convinced that he is nothing more than an incredible con man.

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