April 30th, 2008

Obama’s judgment: was he really the last to know?

Obama did what he had to do yesterday. He spoke out more forcibly than ever before against Jeremiah Wright’s road show, saying:

[Wright’s comments] offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced, and that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

But Obama’s own remarks yesterday raised as many questions as they answered. Most of these concern Obama’s judgment or lack thereof.

In other words, he did nothing to resolve that question that Thomas Sowell asked in this piece written after Obama’s first race speech a month ago, “What did [Obama] know and when did he know it?”

If Obama hadn’t noticed Wright’s vile views before, then Obama is an undiscerning fool who should not be in any position requiring judgment, much less the Presidency. If he had noticed them before, then he is a self-serving liar when he insinuates that he was shocked by Wright’s disclosures now.

Because the only thing new in Wright’s speech was his unequivocal branding of Obama as a hypocrite.

Obama says he didn’t vet his pastor before deciding to seek the Presidency. Well, maybe he should have.

But if he didn’t vet him, what was this all about? Why did he ask him to give the invocation at the start of his campaign back in February of 2007, and then disinvite him? Once again, it’s Wright who manages to shoot Barack in the foot by saying that Barack had called him with the following message, “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.”

Sounds an awful lot like vetting to me.

Fact is, Wright used to be a political advantage to Obama in the context of the Chicago and Illinois politics in which he got his start. It’s only on the national stage—and when Wright took to the stage himself—that he became such a liability.

The time when Barack’s Sister Souljah moment might have been more effective would have been his speech a month ago. But he failed to deliver. It was disingenuous of Obama to claim back then that he didn’t know what Wright had been unequivocally stating for many years, in sermons and in print. It remains disingenuous now.

This controversy hits Obama where it hurts for two central reasons. The first is that, as Byron York writes, it calls into question “whether Barack Obama is telling the American people the truth about himself.” Does he secretly agree with Wright, as the pastor slyly insinuates?

And if not, why did it take him so long to denounce Wright? How could he not have noticed who and what Wright was? It only took a few moments of watching a You Tube video for most of America to make up its mind.

So if one believes Obama’s telling the truth about having only recently noticed just how pernicious the Reverend Wright’s message is, that brings up the second question: does Obama lack judgment, and maybe even common sense? Just how bad is he at sizing up people?

These questions are especially damaging to Obama because he has so meager a public track record on which to be judged. Therefore his character must be evaluated by the company he keeps, and by his reaction to crises that arise in the course of the campaign itself. The Wright entanglement—and especially Obama’s reaction to it—remains highly damaging on both scores. Whether it has dealt a fatal blow to his Presidential hopes remains to be seen.

[ADDENDUM: The Doctor has a somewhat novel take on Wright’s motivation in throwing Obama under the bus (hat tip: American Digest).]

34 Responses to “Obama’s judgment: was he really the last to know?”

  1. Occam's Beard Says:

    Consistent with my handle, I believe the simplest explanation is the most plausible. Obama knew perfectly well, but because of his inexperience didn’t appreciate how bad Wright’s rants sounded outside the cocoon, and he misjudged how forcefully he’d have to denounce them.

    Instead he’s been slowly ratcheting up the denunciation meter. At this point, he’s probably considering whether punching out Wright on national TV would undo the damage.

  2. gcotharn Says:

    Consistent with my love handles, I would extend Occam’s advise: I advise Obama and Dr. Wright to go on WWF and battle it out in the ring. Dr. Wright would revel in the attention. Obama would bond with my peeps. Obama can’t win with status quo. He may as well memorably up the ante.

  3. Robert Says:

    One question, Mr. Obama. If you become president, when you appoint racist Marxists to cabinet positions will you caution them before hand not to let their anti-American opinions become too obvious, or will you simply justify their attacks on this country until it becomes politically untenable to do so, then force them to resign and appoint someone else just like them?

  4. gcotharn Says:

    I have “and one other thing” disease:


    And they[Dr. Wright’s statements] should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

    What kind of speaker has to explain, as if from on high, that he is denouncing someone? What kind of speaker has to explain he is “clearly” denouncing someone? If you or I “clearly” denounce someone, they are then clearly and obviously denounced, and further explication is unneccessary.

    Obama’s parsing is so habitual, and so strategic, that even he understands he must explain his own speaking in order to be certain everyone understands. He doesn’t even trust himself to clearly and understandably denounce somebody who sorely deserves it.

    And what’s with those repetitive verbal hesitations?Sheesh. It’s enough to make me want to invite him into the WWF ring. Hesitate some of this, Barack…

  5. Mike Says:

    I really want to like Obama, but it’s becoming obvious that he knew exactly what Wright was all about from the get-go. It’s kind of sad, because he is a likable fellow. It seems that the price for admission into Chicago politics is coming back to haunt him.

  6. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    It only seems like this campaign has lasted forever. Obama’s ascension into national stardom was pretty rapid, and its not surprising he arrived there with Wright and a lot of other stuff clinging to him.

    I suspect Obama’s afiliation with Wright was about what he first said–Wright says “Son, I can deliver votes, money, and power.” Obama smiles and nods. The years go by, and all goes well. Then the act suddenly goes national. Not so good. That which geared up the voters of his local domain didn’t work. Problem: how to get out from under. A media event. Crisis, drama, transcendence–with a lot of help from Wright–and Obama walks tall. If you believe it.

    An American poet, Kenneth Fearing, wrote of what he’d learned writing for the ilk of True Confessions: The heroine not only must fall, but she must fall upwards. Americans are suckers for the redemption story. Next stanza: Obama learns his lesson and resolves to go forward, a better, wiser, warmer, person for the experience. I think the major question for the senario–hard not to get sucked into these soap operas–what will be Barnabus Wright’s next move? Will he hang around Michelle Obama’s window at night, or will he go to Portland for the curative V. transfusion?

  7. Vince P Says:

    gcothm: I thought the same thing when I heard his little speech. I was thinking to myself.. what other speaker has ever said that he is clearly and unequivically denouncing someone… i never heard anyone describe what they’re doing .. .they just do it.

    oh well, i dont believe a word from Obama’s lips, i distrust everythign he says.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    I didn’t write this in the original post, but I believe the care with which Obama said he is clearly and unequivocally denouncing Obama is another example of parsing. Remember when he said, in the first speech about race, that he could not “disown” Wright? He is still not disowning him, he’s denouncing his words. This is consistent with the idea of hating the sin but not the sinner. It’s also, even at this point, psychologically difficult for Obama to disown a man he seems to have regarded as a father substitute.

  9. saintknowitall Says:

    Dare I say that those of us of a certain age can see past the political doublespeak? We know who Obama “is” and we know who Rev. Wright “is”. In my 52 years, I have run into many like them. Nice to my face, but hating me (because I am whitey) in private. Disingenuous is the polite term. (To be clear there are whites who are the same way to blacks, so there is enough blame to go around.)

    I believe Obama went to the church to get “street cred” as they say. He was a half white/half black politician who needed to be “all black” to win his Senate seat. His black theology church provided him with the “street cred” he needed. So he sat in the pew, listened and nodded, maybe even stood and applauded.

    Did he truly believe in the racist black theology movement, in the anti-Semitic attacks, in the attacks on the evil of the white man? I am sure his fellow church members thought he did.

  10. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    I think he’s setting the scene for the media. It’s quite common at “events.” We are gathered here today . . . ” even though everyone knows why they are gathered. To overtly, and redundantly, label the event gives it something of a formal, consensual seal.

  11. Gringo Says:

    Regarding Obama being out of the mainstream of American life: Hawaii, Indonesia, Ivy League, Hyde Park. Here is another one. Unless he went to public, kindergarten in the US, he has never attended a publicly funded educational institution in the US.

    I doubt all this brouhaha will make much difference. The true believers in Obama will keep on believing. Those of us who have decided to not vote for Obama will most likely have made the decision independent of Obama’s drawn out tales with the Reverend Wright. Wright’s association with Obama will simply be icing on the cake regarding our decision to not vote for Obama.

    Obama in these escapades reminds me of JF Kerry, who made decisions according to how he saw the political wind blowing. JF Kerry didn’t need to be a Weatherman to figure that out. All that Obama has said in the last two months regarding the Reverend Wright was done with regard to creating a certain effect. I never got the impression that he was speaking from the heart. From these escapades I get the impression that it is impossible for Obama to speak from the heart, because he has none. Obama is the Tin Man come to life.

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    Obama knew, but spent his time talking to who he was sitting with so there is no record of the associations..

    With Obama, it’s the Communism, Stupid

    many have forgotten the games, many others neve knew them, others think they are tall tales, but not, all you have to do is not read only what the msm tells you.

    on another note. here is another piece about davis.

    Obama’s Red Mentor Praised Red Army

    the “duping delight” is multiorgasmic by this time.

  13. Artfldgr Says:

    P.S. its also interesting to read the indonesian press.

  14. Zhombre Says:

    Obama presented himself as the candidate who could transcend race and politics as usual. Only drawback is he came up through the ranks in Chicago politics,where race is a paramount factor, and somebody like Wright is a political patron, and the fashionable academic leftism treats Bill Ayers like just folks. In Chicago, nobody transcends squat.

  15. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    Well, Obama also transcended substantive politics as well. Hope & change, Hope & change. Few specifics. There was no vetting process their either.

    I’ve already summed this all up nicely for you guys a couple of posts ago, but to recap: Obama hoped good intentions alone would win people over, and Wright would gently fade into the background; his purpose in helping Obama get where he is served and dismissed. Bill Ayers too. Not really dismissed. Just somewhat forgotten. to Obama, Wright and Ayers aren exactly bad people. Just inconvienient.

  16. cSimon Says:

    re: Gringo and
    ” I never got the impression that he was speaking from the heart. From these escapades I get the impression that it is impossible for Obama to speak from the heart, because he has none. Obama is the Tin Man come to life.”

    I agree. I don’t think his visible lack of passion for the most part is attributable to a quiet, studied manner. I think it’s from a certain emptiness he feels inside, the identity confusion he experienced growing up. When I say I agree that he doesn’t have “heart,” I mean that figuratively: I am not saying that he is a heartless man. I do not think that of him. I think he still constantly evaluates and questions — but the problem is, he questions himself. I think it’s since, or rather, after, the explosion of the whole Reverend Wright deal and what has become known as Obama’s “Philadelphia Speech,” there has been a very perceptiple change in Obama — an unsureness in his extemporaneous speech, an increasing fade of that arrogance most of us found so untenable…. Maybe it’s an overactive imagination or empathetic sensibilities run amok, but I think he’s found that the emptiness he thought he had banished is still there. I’m not even sure if he wants this anymore. Maybe this is temporary; maybe he is realizing the cost of the game he chose to play and with whom. The only time I think I have seen him appear to be sure, to really show a spark, and light, is when he talks about his 2 daughters — I think THEY bring to him the real identity he sought for so long. and I have this feeling that with recent events, with all the handlers and advisors who have surrounded him and have been telling him that he must do this, and then that, this way, and that way… (and I include his wife, because I think she has very specific ambition AND agenda…and I don’t think SHE envisions political life and the White House as a way to “give back,” but rather as a means to her ends. Likewise I think she regarded Reverend Wright and Trinity Church in the very same way.) (I sure would have liked to be a fly on the wall the last few evenings as Michelle told Barak just exactly what she was thinking about Rev. Wright now!)
    All that being said, none of this is to say I think Obama is anyone’s victim! As I’ve said before on this site, Obama picked all these people: Wright, Ayres, Reczko, and so on. He threw in with them for what they could do for him (and by the way, that’s just as much a liability as accepting campaign donations from special interests: there’s debt incurred, and that debt WILL have to be repaid at some point in time). We’ll see if he bounces back. I wouldn’t be surprised though if his wondering what the h___ he got himself into. He probably would be happier going back to private life and being a happy daddy to those girls that he loves so, making a fabulous living practicing law and/or continuing to write books, and contiributing to the black community personally. As neo pointed out, it takes a certain kind of character and personality to WANT to be president of the U.S. As so many of us feel our questions about Obama’s character, judgement, and integrity have been validated by recent events, I have to wonder if Barak Obama, himself, isn’t considering the very same things……….

  17. gcotharn Says:

    DuMaurier-Smith: I understand what you are saying about setting the scene, but I don’t think that was Obama’s purpose in describing what he was doing.

    Although neo placed Obama’s description of what he was doing came at the top of her blogpost, in Obama’s actual presentation the comments came in the middle, after many words and sentences were already expended. This is likely why the comments struck Vince P and I, as we watched video of Obama’s presentation, as being so unusual.

    I did idly wonder if Obama was trying to have it both ways: i.e. assuring/selling everyone on the over-riding idea he had denounced Dr. Wright’s words, meanwhile not having said anything which overtly bashed Rev. Wright. However, Obama did eventually get around to specifically denouncing the AIDs comment, the America is like terrorists comment, and the support for Farakhan.

    Two things about Farakhan:

    1) This is maybe the most cynical and blatantly false Obama has ever been, as OBAMA HAD TO HAVE KNOWN, OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS, OF WRIGHT’S SUPPORT FOR FARAKHAN. It is IMPOSSIBLE that Obama did not know about this at least in the 15ish years since the Million Man March. It is BLATANT FALSEHOOD for Obama to pretend he suddenly discovered this aspect of Dr. Wright on Monday. Obama needs to be called on this: he is feeding a blatant lie to America. America should wonder: why this particular blatant lie?

    2) I have read that most news reports of Obama’s speech omit reference to Farakhan. Sure enough, my local paper: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, quotes Obama’s specific denunciation of the AIDs thing and the America is like terrorists thing, then suddenly ends without quoting Obama’s mention of Farakhan. I’ve sort’ve marinated this in my brain all day, and I simply do not believe it is an accident. I suspect someone, be it the writers or an editor, consciously omitted or cut out the reference to Farakhan. I suspect they did it to help Obama, though they might not be willing to admit that to themselves that that was their motivation. The more I’ve marinated it, the more suspicious it seems to me.

  18. Vince P Says:


    He’s right there in the middle with them.

  19. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    gcotharn Says:

    As they teach you in frosh comp 101,, always go to the original. You are right; he is not scene-setting.

  20. TmjUtah Says:

    Obama is bad enough that I’ll show up to vote against him.

    As time goes by, and McCain drifts deeper and deeper Left, I don’t see any overriding impetus to vote against Clinton.

    If the wheels have to come off, there will be at least style points for the Republicans if they aren’t in the White House.

    The real tragedy: we’ve arrived here with these three candidates.

  21. FredHjr Says:

    Marxists will throw each other under the bus, or kick each other to the curb, as suits their ambitions. Look what Stalin did to Trotsky. They do it all the time. Nuthin’ new here.

    Obonga really wants the Oval Office. But, he has an extremely steep uphill battle to convince the middle muddle that he’s not at all a Hard Left Man.

    Outside of the Hard Left and the more passive members of the middle muddle, many of us are very well-read about Obonga’s career and what he thinks. We know his associations are not accidents or oversights.

  22. DuMaurier-Smith Says:


    I finally got around to the original. Interesting. My take is this: Obama is trying to set up a dichotomy of past and present. Wright in the past has had his rough edges and all (not that I ever heard him say all those bad things, though I have previously denounced such ideas as I didn’t hear). However, he’s now gone off the compound, and I am now “clearly and unequivocally” [so I don’t want to hear any more about it] denouncing this new Wright that is so offensive (as opposed to those lesser things I never heard by the earlier Wright.]

    I’d agree with neo that he’s doing some parsing, I think in an effort to diminish the toxicity of the old Wright and relocate it in the “new.” Thus, he can be forgiven for not “clearly and unequivocally” denouncing Wright before and praised for doing so now. That make sense?

  23. gcotharn Says:


    You had me at “dichotomy”.

  24. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    gcotharn: I’ve been to your site; don’t kid a kidder. But . . . point taken. Although I’m too old to change, even if I wanted to.

  25. gcotharn Says:

    Oh, no! I was just having fun!

  26. strcpy Says:

    “You had me at “dichotomy””

    Bah, he is simply attempting to keep his past and present lives totally orthogonal to each other. I rather suspect that his run for the presidency to be where the two vectors meet.

    BTW, that is one of my favorite words and I use it all the time that I can, it’s a really fun word to say too. As a software engineer I get to use it from time to time for real too!

  27. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    Well, “orthogonal” is good too. But the orthogonal relationship of his past to his present image-crafting seems to be what he is trying to explain away with all this rhetoric. Isn’t he trying to bring his past into line with his present to create an unbroken and unidirectional line. Or is that what you mean “when the vectors meet?”

  28. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    Sorry. Should be “where the vectors meet”.

  29. gcotharn Says:

    I love to say dichotomy. There is a lake in East Texas called Tawakanee. The pronunciation emphasis is on the second syllable, as with dichotomy. I love to say such words: Dichotomy. Dichotomy. Tawakanee. Tawakanee!

    And I love to be in a conversations where someone uses a word such as dichotomy in a sentence. Or orthogonal. Or duende! I don’t get to be in such conversations nearly as often as I like. This is one reason I like neoneocon’s blog. I like to be in this conversation – even if it is cyber. It’s still a more interesting conversation than can be had most anywhere else – tactile or cyber.

    And, when I said “You had me at dichotomy”, I was just riffing a reference to “Jerry Maguire” dialogue: “You had me at hello”. Nothing more.

  30. Vince P Says:

    I can’t stand Obama’s voice. It’s so inconsistant… he’s been slipping into the Black Minister Rhetorical more and more when he’s addressing the press.. but then when he’s at a campaign speaking event and going into attack mode, he sort of goes into an informal inarticulateness.. but then there’s also a slight South-Side Chicago Italian/Irish/Polish accent too.

  31. Artfldgr Says:

    whoa… new word hits the bloggosphere…


  32. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    gcotharn: I haven’t seen Jerry Maguire; I’m something of a film illiterate. But riff all you want; I’m too dumb to offend easily. Are you a musician?

  33. gcotharn Says:

    I’m not a musician – but my son is an aspiring professional musician, and is a music composition major at his university. He plays a lot of instruments, but his best instrument is trombone.

  34. DuMaurier-Smith Says:

    That “riffing a reference to Jerry Maguire” struck me as very apt; I’ve not seen that usage.

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