He's Toast II

A reader writes:

Your quotation of the day for March 15 gave me pause. It is possible to subscribe great and true motives and reasons to mundane, and in reality much less impressive actions. Barack Obama has spent twenty years listening to his pastor’s sermons. He knows who he is, understands his anti-American rhetoric, and remains a member in good standing of the congregation. If one begins with the assumption that Obama’s motives are, no matter what, perfect, or at least impressive, then all of his actions can be justified. But Occam says otherwise. The simplest answer to the question, “Why has Barack Obama remained in his church despite the vile rhetoric of his pastor,” is that Barack Obama accepts that rhetoric, or at least is not sufficiently bothered to go find another church.

We left our synagogue recently, the synagogue at which both of our children were Bnai Mitzvah, and whose previous rabbi officiated at our wedding. Why? Because we did not like the political tone that was being created by the new rabbi. Simple. We chose not to be associated with it! And neither of us is running for President!

I think Occam is largely but not entirely right. The full record of Wright's oratory is much broader, more complicated and more nuanced than the handful of quotes from a few inflammatory sermons. Obama has explained why he was drawn to this church and why he found its empowerment of many urban African-Americans an important part of his education. My sense is that he saw this ugliness and extremism as well but overlooked it, and understood it as part of the ugliness that pain -especially in the black inner city - sometimes evokes. He can fairly be criticized for not walking out or protesting. And maybe this kind of conditional tolerance of extremism simply will not wash with many white voters. But to say his worldview resonates with the ugliest of Wright's statements is not borne out by the record.