The racist, anti-American rantings of Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's spiritual mentor and pastor of the church Obama attended for 20 years, raise many red flags about Obama's supposedly best selling point: his unique capability for healing societal divisions.
Considering our deep-seated societal disagreements over cultural and political issues, promises by politicians to end societal divisiveness are dubious enough on their face. But when the promisor's personal history contradicts his promises, even further scrutiny is required.
It's difficult to gauge Obama's genuineness in standing on this kind of platform because he has such a short political history to evaluate. Stories have been written, pointing to his extreme liberalism and scant record of reaching across the aisle, that cast serious doubt on his unifying claims. Until now, his lofty speeches have obscured these inconsistencies.
But with reports of his pastor saying "blacks should not sing 'God bless America, but G-- d--- America," and, concerning the 9/11 attacks, America's "chickens are coming home to roost," the burden of proof has now shifted to Obama. He must demonstrate not only that his claims to offer healing are sincere but also that he does not actually share his pastor's and, manifestly, his congregation's deeply disturbing views on race and America.
What can Obama say to meet this burden of proof?
Before this story heated up beyond the mainstream media's ability to suppress it, Obama casually dismissed the pastor's tirades merely as "controversial" remarks -- as if they had some legitimacy and were not outright indefensible but in any event should not be taken too seriously. Now he appears to be saying he was unaware of the offensive statements. But if Obama's deepest passion in life is to heal, wouldn't it follow that he would make it his business to know -- taking the willing suspension of disbelief here to new heights -- what driving passions stir his pastor?
We must recognize the double standard that liberals typically apply to immunize themselves from accountability for bigotry. When the remotest connection can be inferred between a conservative and a bigoted supporter, there is always hell to pay. No excuses are permitted. Guilt attaches -- not even by so much as true association but by passive receipt of an endorsement from anyone the left believes to have bigoted views.
Liberals, on the other hand, can be overtly racist toward conservative blacks like Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas and earn accolades rather than condemnation. And in Obama's case, we have more than passive receipt of an endorsement. We have more than guilt by casual association.
Obama chose this pastor and picked this church and has been attending for two decades, presumably because he embraced its message and its approach. His wife's curious statements about America, such as when she told the New Yorker that our country is "downright mean," provide further grounds for our skepticism. It will not do for Obama to claim he was unaware of Wright's racism and anti-Americanism.
A brief review of the Wright videos shows that his race-driven spirit was one of the animating forces in that church. We didn't see congregants spilling toward the exits in protest but instead gesturing in participatory approval. It stretches credulity to deny that such vitriol was central to Wright's worldview or to suggest that Obama was unaware that it was. It is thus silly to quibble over the irrelevant distraction of whether Obama happened to be in attendance at this or that particular hate exhibition.
Viewing all this in a light most favorable to Obama, if he chose this church for political expedience rather than spiritual nourishment, he must tell us what principles he wouldn't compromise in furtherance of his ambitions. If he somehow clears that hurdle, he must next explain how he can possibly deliver on his promises to unite us publicly en route to a post-racial and post-partisan society, when he's obviously willing privately to benefit from the energy of divisiveness and racism. This takes the ends-justifies-the-means approach to new extremes.
Democrats, including Clinton supporters, are quick to defend Obama because they realize he is still their likely nominee and they can't afford this issue to have legs into the general election campaign. They insist we should look at "the issues" rather than this side story. Besides, Obama has denounced the pastor's remarks.
The denunciation is hollow, given Obama's long voluntary history with this pastor. And the Democrats' attitude toward character has always been specious. They want it to be an issue only when they are claiming Republicans lack character -- as with the falsely alleged lies of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
We all know that one's character cannot be separated from his actions, as the latter springs from the former. Voters must satisfy themselves about a candidate's character since his character will have an impact on their lives.
Instead of giving us answers to supplement our negligible knowledge of his character and history, Obama has given us only more questions -- many alarming questions.