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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

POLITICS: Obama, Hillary, Pennsylvania and terrorists

For Pennsylvanians, today is the day to tell the rest of us what you want. All of the polling and punditry goes out the window starting at 7:00 AM EST. For residents of North Carolina and Indiana, your time is coming shortly.

The question is what do you want?

We’ve spent a lot of time in the past six weeks hearing about issues manufactured and real. Much of the political discussion has not been about how to make America a better place, but about how Obama’s association with Rev. Wright will hurt him in the general election, or how about Hillary’s lying to the American Public on the campaign trail only serves to remind voters that there is a general perception about the Clintons in general, and her in particular, that you can not trust what they say.

Let’s take a look at these issues for a moment, shall we? Let’s start with Barack Obama. The big issues about Obama that have surfaced in the past six weeks are the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his past association with Bill Ayers of The Weather Underground (so deftly referred to as John McCain as The Weathermen), and the so-called “bitter-gate”.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright – Hillary Clinton has stated, particularly in ABC New’s laughable “debate” of last week that Obama should have left his church because of the controversial comments of Rev. Wright. At issue is a particular line from one of Wright’s speeches that is certain to be general election fodder for the Republicans “God Damn America”. There were also comments about the US bringing 9/11 upon itself and being responsible for the start or spread of AIDS in the black community.

The AIDS issue has long been debated. There is significant literature available out there that suggests that AIDS may have crossed into humans through vaccine research experiments performed in Africa. Vaccines are generally developed in cultures that involve organs from Animals (pigs are most common), but monkeys have been used in the past. SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) is thought by some to have been introduced into human populations through such experiments, many of which were funded by the US Government and the CDC.

I am not taking a position on the truth of this thinking, simply stating that this is a not-uncommon belief that is passed around in circles of parents who decide to forego or delay vaccinations for their children. Official statements from the CDC belie such ideas, but official statements from the government should always be viewed with a critical eye within the politics of the moment.

As for America bringing 9/11 upon itself, this is also a not uncommon thought in some circles. The thinking is that the US has long practiced an international interventionist military strategy, and that some folks around the world don’t want us involved in their internal affairs. The thinking is that if you mess with people’s interests long enough, sooner or later one of them will find a way to attack you. Kind of like if you pester the family cat long enough you’re liable to walk away with a scratch on your nose.

Again, I am not taking a position on such thoughts, just trying to explain the thinking.

As for leaving the church, this is not doctrinally sound. The individual Church is a family of parishioners. If a member of that family (even the priest/pastor) is acting out of line, you don’t leave. Instead the family pulls together around that person and tries to bring them back to the path of the righteous, if you will. The thoughts expressed about HIV and 9/11 are in themselves protected by free speech. You can disagree with them; you can disavow them (as Obama has done), but such ideas are not the basis of deciding to leave a church. They are also not necessarily a reason to cut ties with an individual. Obama has likened Wright to a crazy uncle. Who doesn’t have a relative or family friend with some unusual ideas about the political process, the government or the world? Who doesn’t have a relative or friend who expresses ideas that might be distasteful at times (whether racist, sexist, ageist, or some other ill-thought category).

Do we necessarily cut ties with such people? No – we take them on balance. There are people out there with nutty or even disturbing ideas that also have some great qualities, or mean something to us because of our family lives and history. We can disavow what they say but still find value in them (love the sinner, hate the sin).

As for the “God Damn America” part of the speech, this is not in any way unpatriotic. What you have here is a message from a pastor that has been told in almost every church pulpit in America at one time or another, just in very blunt terms that make us uncomfortable (and if you’ve ever been to an evangelical church you know that there are no mincing words from the pulpit). What Rev. Wright was saying is that America is on the wrong path. America condones and conducts acts internationally that allow for the killing of people for no good reason (he cited various examples of military operations either conducted by or supported by the US). He’s talking about the neo-conservative idea of pre-emptive military actions. He is stating that we are all responsible for what our country does or doesn’t do. Whether you agree with the specific instances that he sites, he is basically saying that America is full of sin (again, this message has resounded in every evangelical pulpit since there’s been an America). So “God Bless America? No! God Damn America!”

Again: very brutal and blunt language from a priest, but it conveyed the message that he was trying to get across to his flock. Does it make us uncomfortable? Yes, it certainly does. No one wants to think of themselves, or their country, as being damned. People do not want to think of themselves as being responsible for the actions of their country, but on some level we all are.

Bill Ayers: Bill Ayers was a member of the 1960’s radical group the Weather Underground, a protest group that, among other things, bombed the Pentagon. The Weather Underground conducted and supported homegrown terrorism as a way to bring attention to issues. Bill Ayers has even said that he wished they’d done more bombing.

He is now a liberal democrat who is active in Chicago party politics, as well as being an English professor. He lives in the same Chicago neighborhood where Barack Obama was living when he first decided to get into politics. When Obama was running for State Senate, the then-incumbent whose seat he was running for took Obama to a meet-and-greet to get to know some of the players of Chicago politics. Mr. Ayers was part of that group. Because of their involvement in local politics, they know each other. They have even worked together on some projects over time, but there is no formal relationship between the two. Mr. Ayers is not an advisor to Mr. Obama, he is not part of the campaign, and he would not be part of an Obama administration. This is an instance where the Clinton campaign is grasping at straws for anything they can find.

“Bitter-gate”: I’ve already written on this previously. To sum it up: Mr. Obama gave a speech to San Francisco fundraisers about how to lift up people economically. He addressed why people will vote for politicians who will not work in their best economic interest. Obama stated that people believe that their economic concerns will not be heard by politicians, and so voters turn to and cling to wedge issues as a way to be heard. Those issues can include religious issues, gun rights, abortion, and things of that nature.

The McCain/Clinton campaign has tried to portray this (successfully it seems) as saying Obama said people cling to their religion for comfort because they are bitter (rather than because of the tenets of their faith). Obama said no such thing. Go out on the net and find the speech (the link is in my previous post on the subject). If you hear the whole speech it was quite uplifting and addressed real economic issues and ideals. But one or two lines taken completely out of context have been twisted into something that Obama has never espoused (or believed).

As for Clinton, I think there are two things that have come out of late which are of significant concern. One (the Tuzla sniper-fire issue) has received a lot of airtime; the other (her terrorist fundraiser ties) has not received much attention.

Sniper Fire: Hillary lied – plain and simple. She can say she misspoke, she can say she was tired, but she used the same story five or six times during her campaign. Hillary said she landed in Tuzla under sniper fire and they had to run from the plane in flak jackets etc., etc. Only when CBS news produced file footage from the landing and the ceremony that followed did Clinton recant her story. There was also a story that Clinton told on the stump about a young woman who died because she had no health insurance. When the truth came out the woman did in fact have health insurance and it appears that she delayed treatment for a condition for other reasons not relating to her insured status. These issues highlight a long known fact about the Clintons in general – they’ll tell you what they want you to think, and they’ll repeat it until it’s such a part of the collective consciousness that no one doubts the veracity.

It’s called lying.

Terrorist Ties: Dick Morris wrote an interesting opinion piece along with Eileen McGann over at I know this is not everyone’s favorite outlet, but Morris was a longtime advisor to the Clintons and knows their business better than most people who talk about her publicly. Check out the article here. It talks about all of the terrorist money that has gone into her campaigns, and how many of the major terrorists organizations actually want Hillary to be president. (That’s something to think about, isn’t it?)

In the end, Pennsylvania, it’s all about what you want (you too, North Carolina and Indiana). I think the big question is do you want to return to the lies and poll-driven politics of the Clinton years, or do you want someone who envisions a better life for all of us?

You decide.

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