Obama, the appeaser

Michael Goodwin:

For millions of Americans, the major attraction to Barack Obama is his call for national unity, a summoning to our shared values and common interests. With his charismatic eloquence, this inspirational ideal has single-handedly made him a political phenomenon and the Democratic front-runner.

But Obama's unity appeal, it turns out, has a weak link, one that is dangerous in a President. For revealing it, we can thank the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or, more precisely, Obama's tepid reaction to the outlandish, anti-American things Wright has said. The more he talks about Wright, the more troubling Obama's approach becomes. In a word, he is guilty of appeasement.

In a private context, his stubborn loyalty to his longtime pastor might be admirable. But as someone seeking the presidency, Obama has flunked a critical test of national leadership. By continuing to defend Wright even as he criticizes some of his remarks as "offensive" and "stupid," Obama refuses to draw the important value and factual distinctions a President must draw in a crisis. At heart, his is a "peace at any price" approach that has no business in the Oval Office.

Consider, for example, that Obama, alone among all major candidates this year, said he would meet our enemies without conditions, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. If his approach to Wright were applied, Obama would emerge from that meeting by condemning Ahmadinejad's threat to wipe Israel off the map while also condemning American and Israeli policies. This moral equivalency would be tacit support for Iran's warped grievances, and perhaps for its nuclear program.

After all, we have nuclear weapons and so does Israel, so who are we to deny Iran? Or, as Obama put it Friday when talking about race relations, "People all want the same thing."

They don't, but appeasement thinking often credits everybody with equally good and worthy intentions. That was the mistake of the most infamous appeaser of modern times, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who, with France's help, gave in to Adolf Hitler in hopes of heading off war. In exchange for sacrificing innocent Czechs and others living on lands Hitler wanted, Chamberlain famously waved a treaty with Hitler's name on it that he insisted would secure "peace for our time."

Within days, Herr Hitler, as Chamberlain called him, attacked his neighbors and within a year Europe was engulfed in World War II.

Would Obama be so naive or craven? Because of his limited experience, we don't know. That's why the Wright episode, the most difficult issue of his idealistic campaign, takes on huge importance. The lessons are not pretty.

He sloppily compared Wright's virulent anti-Americanism with his grandmother's private expressions of racial prejudice in a way that makes them seem equally guilty. He complained repeatedly, including on Friday on ABC's "The View," that the profane, inflammatory remarks captured on video clips are a mere "snippet" of Wright's many sermons.


What "broader aspect" offsets such hate and lunacy? With new examples emerging of anti-Semitic writings in the bulletin put out by Wright's church, there is no mitigating context.


What the Wright material does is show the hollowness at the core of Obama;s unity message. He can't even bring people he has worshiped with for 20 years together to reject Wright's false charges against this country and whites. They are standing on the side of hate and Obama has not brought any of them to reason.

There is no dialog about race that can span the idiocy of claims that the government invented the HIV virus to create the genocide of blacks. That blood liable is so false, so wrong so hateful that just rejecting it is not enough for Obama. If he continues fellowship and association with that kind of hatred, it suggest that his condemnation really is "just words."


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