"Words crack and break . . . will not stay in place." (T. S. Eliot)
Here's what I wrote prior to Obama's Tuesday remarks on race: I expect the usual "deep baritone filibuster," loaded with self-serving rhetoric. Rev. Wright's anti-American statements are similar to many Obama heard -- and probably internalized -- in his years at Harvard (where Michelle also attended). He will talk about his "love" for America, but I fear the country he loves is one most of us wouldn't recognize. He will discuss how he "profoundly disagrees" with some of Wright's comments, but he won't discuss exactly which ones or why precisely he dissents.
Also, I wrote the following yesterday to an important Black conservative, Lloyd Marcus, whom you'll hear a lot more about on this site: I believe in his speech Obama is going to do what he called recently the "okie dokie," an exercise in deception. In his first book, he talks basically about being ashamed of his (white) mother, whom he should be portraying as the heroine of his life story. Brought up by a white mother and white grandparents, he will somehow proclaim his expertise about the "Black experience in America." In short, he'll talk out of both sides of his mouth.
The notion that Obama "had no idea" what America-hating Rev. Wright was up to is the candidate's version of "the dog ate my homework." He's a little bit like novelist Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man." We don't know him -- or know what he believes. We fear he may share many more beliefs with Wright than he lets on.
His wife Michelle, who apparently has spent her entire adult life being ashamed of her country, is a typical Princeton/Harvard graduate, convinced of her superiority to her countrymen and countrywomen. Her point seems to be: How can she be proud of a country which isn't run by people (Ivy-League graduates) like them? The general view is: "America is a terrible place, but if I ran it, the country would be a much better one."
Here's how Shelby Steele, of Stanford's Hoover Institution describes the "Obama phenomenon":
". . . Now, the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America's television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.
"No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His [Obama's] is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself."
Steele is suggesting that one reason we don't know Obama is that he doesn't know himself. Coming from faith and community traditions of Black separatism, he claims to be the man who can transcend racial polarities. He wants to become President of a country that his pastor and his fellow congregants abhor. It makes no sense.
What Shelby Steele means by "bargaining" is that Obama is making a trade with white people: in exchange for their votes and money, he'll enable them to feel good about themselves. Basically, he'll allow them to assuage their guilt over past racial sins by a single act: supporting his candidacy.
Obama is now engaged in a desperate balancing act: his long-time minister and his wife both despise their native land, America. Whether Obama disagrees with them remains uncertain.
Again, he's the Invisible Man, someone we'll never be able to pin down on his beliefs. He will "disagree" with Rev. Wright, the man who claims the U.S. government "invented HIV" to kill Blacks, but he will not disown him, as he should. The most liberal member of the Senate, Obama claims to have a special ability -- one never demonstrated -- to reach across the aisle and bridge political divides.
Is he just lying to us? Or is he truly uncertain of the contrast between what he says and what he does?
Again, we don't know Barack Obama -- and we probably never will. That's the real message of Tuesday's speech.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Press Office
Tuesday, March 18, 2008