Custom Search

Friday, March 21, 2008

Politics, Religion and Terrorism- Blurring the Lines

Watching the chaos within the Democratic party in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's battle for the nomination is definitely a sight to see.

One campaign releases something that will hurt the other, the other campaign rushes to shift the spotlight to the other candidate and then the supporters of both campaigns jump into the fray and pound home the talking points.

In the meantime, both camps, in their fierce battle, are forgetting that every document, ever rumor proven true, every photo and every argument they are using against each other, is out there now, to be used against the party or eventual nominee for the November elections.

Lets take a walk through the events of the past couple of weeks.

Religion and Politics.

Recently there has been a firestorm in the news, blogosphere, forums and discussion groups about Barack Obama's association and his membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ and the words of his longtime pastor, friend and man Obama calls "like family", Jeremiah Wright, who has been in the news with snippets of some of his sermons shown, saying "God Damn America".

To be clear, some of his comments, such as the one I just mentioned, were offensive to many and the fact that Obama first denied hearing any of those comments, then admitted to hearing them but said he disagreed with them, led to questions of his own ideology and why he would continue to go to that church of he did not agree with the majority of what Wright was saying.

Legitimate questions all.

Other snippets from Wright's sermons were taken out of context and blared across America without bothering to separate the legitimately offensive racists words from the portions where Wright was simply quoting other people.

Obama then gave a speech, 30 plus minutes where he distanced himself from his Pastor's remarks, but to which he was criticized because he did not distance himself from the man himself.

Hillary Clinton supporters, specifically Lanny Davis, via the Huffington Post, then challenged Obama to answer a couple questions that were not answered in that speech.

1. If a white minister preached sermons to his congregation and had used the "N" word and used rhetoric and words similar to members of the KKK, would you support a Democratic presidential candidate who decided to continue to be a member of that congregation?

2. Would you support that candidate if, after knowing of or hearing those sermons, he or she still appointed that minister to serve on his or her "Religious Advisory Committee" of his or her presidential campaign?

I hope my message gets to someone in the Obama campaign -- or to a reporter traveling with the Senator -- who can persuade Senator Obama to answer them directly. As I just wrote, he will have to do so -- either now or perhaps in the fall.

Again, legitimate questions, but Hillary Clinton had still not jumped on that same bandwagon and has remained suspiciously quiet, at least publicly, about the Obama/Wright controversy.

The reason I say, at least publicly, is news reports show that according to "key allies", the Clinton campaign was "privately pushing the issue with key party members to lift her candidacy."

That same New York Time article reports that the Obama campaign, in an attempt to shift focus from his relationship with Wright, supplied The New York Times with a picture of Mr. Wright and President Bill Clinton at the White House in 1998 at a breakfast meeting with religious leaders hours before the Starr report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal was made public.

(A photo from the Obama campaign of President Bill Clinton with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. at a breakfast in 1998.)

They further provided a letter from Bill Clinton thanking Wright for his "kind message" and saying they were touched by his prayers.

Blurring the lines.

In politics it is easy to blur the lines between legitimate questions and associations and what many would call illegitimate questions and association.

This morning's news is full of what many would and are categorizing as the latter of the two.

One example of what many are citing as a blurring of those lines is in a story that is creating some talk about Obama.

The Obama buzz is about a Trinity United Church of Christ, Obama's church, and a newsletter that was published on July 22, 2007, where the church reprinted an article by Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook in which he justifies Hamas' withholding of recognition of Israel's right to exist. The article originally appeared as an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

The reason that many are calling this an illegitimate association is because the World New Daily published an article about the Church reprinting that op-ed, yet WND did not get a response from Obama...... someone else did though and his response clearly denounces the op-ed, the fact that it was published in the churches newsletter as well as harshly condemning his pastor's views about Israel.

In a statement emailed to JTA late Thursday, Obama said, "A pro-Hamas op-ed printed in his church's bulletin is "outrageously wrong."

Obama's continues, "I have already condemned my former pastor's views on Israel in the strongest possible terms, and I certainly wasn’t in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin. Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community's conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor.

He concludes his statement with, "The story of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai saving the Jews of ancient Persia from destruction. Even as the parties are held, the songs are sung, and the noisemakers are rattled, the history of a people that has had to fight for its survival, remains at the heart of the Purim story. In our day, the celebration is mingled with a determination to ensure that Israel remains safe and strong, that we fight anti-Semitism wherever it occurs, and that the American Jewish community continues to play such an active and vital role in the life of our nation."

The problem with blurring the lines between legitimate questions about Obama's association with Wright and publishing a piece such as the one above without also publishing Obama's response and clear condemnation causes difficulty in allowing people to see the whole picture.

In politics the statement "all is fair in love and war" can be applied but without context, without providing full disclosure of information available and without acknowledging Obama's full and stringent denouncement of Wright's pro-terrorism sympathies, the lines between legitimate and illegitimate criticisms are becoming blurred to the point where the public cannot separate truth from rumor.

If the public cannot separate the questions that need to be asked about why Barack Obama would continue a 17 year relationship with a racists, terrorist sympathizer, like Wright, from intellectually dishonest questions and associations that imply that Obama himself is a terrorist sympathizer, when he has made it clear he is not, then it is the public at large, the citizens and voters that lose out the most by not having the full range of information available to them.