Patterico's Pontifications

3/19/2008

More on Obama’s White Grandmother

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 9:09 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

In an earlier post on Barack Obama’s March 18 speech, I linked without comment to James Taranto’s Best of the Web in which Taranto discussed Obama’s white grandmother. Taranto focused on a section of Obama’s speech in which he compared his white grandmother and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The comparison occurred halfway through Obama’s speech in consecutive paragraphs:

“And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

Here is an excerpt from Taranto’s WSJ Best of the Web from the same day:

“So here we have, on the one hand, an old white woman who would be completely ordinary and anonymous but for her grandson’s astonishing political success, and who harbors some regrettable prejudices; and, on the other, a leader in the black community who uses his pulpit to propagate an ideology of hate.”

Taranto concludes by wondering how Obama can heal racial wounds when he can’t even speak up against the bigoted rhetoric of his own spiritual adviser. I agree with that, and I’d like to add these thoughts:

In the first paragraph above, Obama recounts a close, 20+ year relationship with Wright. In all that time, Obama can’t recall ever hearing Wright say anything derogatory about an ethnic group. In contrast, in the very next paragraph, Obama clearly remembers details and conversations with his white grandmother in which she “confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street” and “on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes.”

Obama’s memories of his grandmother are vivid and detailed and yet he can’t recall ever hearing Wright engage in derogatory rhetoric over the past 20 years. Is it possible that, despite documented examples of Wright’s inflammatory rhetoric, Obama simply can’t remember whether Wright said anything derogatory about an ethnic group? Given his strong mind and keen memory, that seems highly unlikely.

The other possibility is that Obama never heard Wright say anything controversial; however, Obama has now admitted that he already knew about “one or two statements” but did not realize this was “happening with more frequency.”

Thus, the question becomes: Why would Obama willingly overlook inflammatory statements by Wright when he so clearly remembers the details and feels the pain of his grandmother’s slurs?

Let’s face it. It’s easier to remember offensive statements than statements you agree with or believe are true. Thus, even though he heard at least “one or two” of Wright’s statements, Obama’s grandmother’s words were more memorable and offensive because they hurt.

However, Wright’s message of hate, anger, and white guilt was easy to overlook because it didn’t hurt. That’s something to remember when a candidate like Obama promises he is the best person to heal differences among us.

Finally, one last political thought: Obama’s speech, which I think was masterfully crafted, may ultimately do him more harm than good because it keeps the focus on race. Obama’s speech pays lip service to the notion that it’s time to put racial divisions behind, but in fact he has refocused the debate on whether racial groups are treated fairly in America. That is a return to the 1960’s and ’70s, a time of black power, white guilt and anti-war activism. Some may be glad to see those days return but the average voter won’t see that as change we can believe in.

— DRJ

50 Responses to “More on Obama’s White Grandmother”

  1. My guess (and it is just that) is, that in addition to being a warning shot to MSM to backoff , that the Barak camp that this will go over so well in Philly and Pittsburgh that they will be able to close the gap in PA – at least enough so that super-delegates will not feel the need to jump ship.

    seaPea (75b9b4)

  2. So much for the Obamessiah’s post-racialism. I guess a man that made his bones in Chicago’s filthy politics can’t really be clean.

    Demetri (c3f397)

  3. I don’t suppose it occurred to Obama that if 90% of the people who mug old ladies in your neighborhood are young black men, it’s not actually racist for an elderly lady to be concerned about young black men.

    Doc Rampage (01f543)

  4. I have a slightly different take. I think that when you agree with something you hear, you rarely hear that statement as controversial. Whereas, because he did believe in stereotypes, albeit the white stereotype, he couldn’t hear what his Grandmother said without taking offense. A person who doesn’t think in stereotypes wouldn’t see racism or prejudice in the Grandmother’s remarks as a first choice. They would see an elderly woman who is smart to be cautious about any male strangers, black, brown or white and they would hear how controversial and offensive Rev. Wright’s sermons really are.

    Sara (3337ed)

  5. he threw his white grandma under the bus in order to exalt his america-hating pastor. is grandma still alive? is there any evidence whatsoever beyond the candidate’s own self-serving statements that this woman made the statements he attributed to her?

    assistant devil's advocate (9bf1fa)

  6. The grandmother is still alive, and Obama is still a jackass. He’s a total amateur riding on the media’s bias to favor him aggressively. It won’t be hard at all to portray him as a dangerous phony.

    ADA, Obama described these comments in a book years ago, and I’m sure someone out there has talked to granny about it. Apparently she was aggressively panhandled by a black man and felt threatened and Obama saw racist undertones.

    I personally am just as cautious around white guys (that look like thug criminals) as I am cautious around black ones. Are there more black thugs out there? I don’t really know or care, but the horrid racist stereotype came from somewhere. Fact is, many blacks are poor and lack opportunities and whether it’s whitey’s fault or not, a lot turn to crime. There is a rational reason, knowing that such a high proportion of african american males are criminals, to be wary of a stranger who is black, young, and idle on the street. But really I just follow my gut, which is just as scared of white thugy dudes idle on the street.

    Jem (4cdfb7)

  7. On the other hand, maybe he knows his grandmother better than he knows Wright. ‘Spiritual advisor’ vs grandmother. Which is more important to you?

    Cobb (d077c2)

  8. By the radio-quote of his book, his granny was scared of a really aggressive panhandler.

    Not even a random spooky black on the street, but a guy who verbally harassed a little old lady for money.

    Yeah, totally equivalent to someone who sells videos of their top ten anti-whitey hits….

    Foxfier (74f1c8)

  9. Jem — I must say that I’m really, really cautious around those who look like “gang-bangers”, or anyone who looks highly out of place.

    During high school, I was assaulted multiple times by those who glorified the ideal of rap music. In the case of the two men, I beat the @$#@# out of them because I knew how to fight– thanks to my uncles. In the case of the women, they stuck to verbal abuse, such as thinking that any pants that didn’t hang half way down one’s behind were “too tight” or that talking to the geek guys made one a “pathetic slut.” And that was in a school with only 45 kids in my grade-level.

    Foxfier (74f1c8)

  10. Thus, the question becomes: Why would Obama willingly overlook inflammatory statements by Wright when he so clearly remembers the details and feels the pain of his grandmother’s slurs?

    I guess I missed the part where he “willingly overlooked” anything. Where did Obama, or anyone (other than you) say he “willingly overlooked” inflammatory statements?

    Now, he didn’t leave the church and condemn Wright as an evil madman. Because Obama doesn’t condemn people as evil madmen just because he disagrees with them.

    But “refusing to condemn/disown as an evil madman” is not the same as “overlooking.” I know that’s the current Republican logic, and I know it’s hard to imagine someone behaving differently when that’s all you see on Fox News. But there it is.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  11. But “refusing to condemn/disown as an evil madman” is not the same as “overlooking.” I know that’s the current Republican logic, and I know it’s hard to imagine someone behaving differently when that’s all you see on Fox News

    Bush gave one speech at Bob Jones University, and was pilloried in the press for weeks over it. But Bush never gave money to the school, and he didn’t listen to Bob Jones preach for 20 years. It seems Republicans are just holding Obama up to the same standard.

    Steverino (e00589)

  12. Bush gave one speech at Bob Jones University, and was pilloried in the press for weeks over it. But Bush never gave money to the school, and he didn’t listen to Bob Jones preach for 20 years. It seems Republicans are just holding Obama up to the same standard.

    OK, I’ll give you that — this may be the same stupid mistake other people have made in the past. That’s not a great justification, but if that’s all you got, fine.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  13. OK, I’ll give you that — this may be the same stupid mistake other people have made in the past. That’s not a great justification, but if that’s all you got, fine.

    If the Dems would admit it was a mistake to pillory Bush, then you’d have a point. Until then, to quote Shakespeare: “Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure;
    Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure.”

    It’s amusing that Republicans use the same tactics against Democrats that the Dems have used on Republicans for years. It’s even more amusing that the Dems suddenly cry that it’s not fair.

    By the way, it’s not a “justification” so much as holding Dems up to the same standards they have for Republicans. Don’t like it? Tough.

    Steverino (e00589)

  14. If you wholeheartedly agree with the philosophy of the subject matter 100% and agree with the messenger, you cannot disown or repudiate it because you would clearly make yourself a LIAR!! He can throw his grandmother “under the bus” because in the majority part of himself, he hates her for being white. If she and his mother were not white, he thinks, this would be a cake walk. Selfish? Irresponsible? Narcissistic? Certainly. But the need to grab for power and money corrupts as you grab and ultimately corrups absolutely!!

    Sue (a42428)

  15. Yes, maybe he remembers his grandmother’s comments because he didn’t agree with them, but I think it’s more probable he’s using the rhetorical device often used by blog commenters here and elsewhere: “Yeah, but your side did such and such…”

    They compare situations that are not equivalent at all, but do serve to send the argument off on a tangent that’s not related to the original issue. Here, that would be Wright’s overt racist philosophy and the damage it’s caused his congregation.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  16. Oh, one other thing: Obama called for Trent Lott’s resignation when all Lott did was try to say something nice about a colleague on his 100th birthday.

    So, Obama should hold others to the same standard. He should have demanded his pastor’s resignation immediately, since what his pastor said was far worse than what Lott said.

    Steverino (e00589)

  17. Poor Barry! Imagine having to be responsible for his poor choices and blame-shifting.

    I’d sure like to hear a discussion with his grandmother on what she thinks about Barry blaming her for his listening to Revrund Wright for 22 years.

    steve miller (3a9833)

  18. As several have noted, there is reason to doubt that Obama’s grandmother made any racial slurs at all. In any event, citing his grandmother as the moral equivalent of “Reverend” Wright is despicable.

    Tim K (7e41e8)

  19. In fact, we need a Chris Crocker-type YouTube video for this: “Stop picking on Barry! He was just going to church where the pastor called for God to damn America, a church whose pastor blames Whitey for AIDS in the black community, a pastor that praises the Nation of Islam – what’s wrong with that? Barry’s a nice guy. Leave him a-LONE!”

    Yeah, that would be cool.

    steve miller (3a9833)

  20. And you know, Barry should have used the same standards on his grandmother that he used on Lott – called Child Protection Services to have his grandmother arrested. I mean, even though it’s been over forty years, there should be no statute of limitations over racism. That lady should be put in jail, or at least publicly shamed and humiliated.

    Oh wait, he’s done that last part.

    steve miller (0574db)

  21. Considering that his mother abandoned him when he was eleven and he was raised and educated by his “racist” grandmother …. Well, draw your own conclusions about this empty suit’s character.

    nk (34c5da)

  22. Didn’t Barack Obama have a You Tube video about how WORDS MATTER???

    Can’t link it from here, but with some help from others…

    If WORDS MATTER, then doesn’t the words he heard for 20 years matter also???

    reff (bff229)

  23. Words matter in others.

    When it’s Barry, then it’s something else. What he said in the past is the past, and is therefore irrelevant.

    What matters now is what he says today.

    In the past, he claimed never to have heard those words of Wright. Today, he admits it. Tomorrow, who knows?

    He’s pretty brave to diss an old, sick lady. Not so sure why he can’t stand up to a pastor who speaks racist lunacy, but then, I don’t think Barry is a model of consistency or integrity.

    steve miller (0574db)

  24. Considering that his mother abandoned him when he was eleven and he was raised and educated by his “racist” grandmother …. Well, draw your own conclusions about this empty suit’s character.

    Or how damaged he ended up by it. He did graduate from harvard Law, after all. Such suffering he’s known. Hawaii? Torture. As bad as waterboarding…

    Scott Jacobs (fa5e57)

  25. “Obama called for Trent Lott’s resignation when all Lott did was try to say something nice about a colleague on his 100th birthday.”

    What Lott said wasn’t nice. People who think that have problems.

    stef (d60816)

  26. Obama called for Imus to be fired, and said he himself would fire anyone who talked like Imus.

    Then he proceeded to go to church where his pastor continued his sermon series “Why the CIA invented AIDS to kill black Americans, part 262″

    steve miller (0574db)

  27. The grandmother is certainly getting public thanks for raising him, isn’t she ? No good deed…

    King Lear comes to mind, since we’re quoting the Bard today.

    Mike K (f89cb3)

  28. Maybe she didn’t endow him with a big enough trust fund.

    nk (34c5da)

  29. Well, we have the last word on her, anyway. She’s just a typical white person.

    QED

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  30. What Lott said wasn’t nice. People who think that have problems.

    What Lott said wasn’t evil, and it certainly wasn’t intended to be so. He was trying to compliment Strom Thurmond on his 100th birthday. It didn’t deserve the uproar it got in the press.

    However, no matter how you slice it, what Lott said was nowhere near as evil as Wright’s numerous diatribes. And the fact that Obama called for Lott’s resignation but refused to hold his pastor to the same standard shows that Obama his a hypocrite.

    Nice ad hominem at the there, but you’re in the big leagues now, so can it.

    Steverino (e00589)

  31. “He was trying to compliment Strom Thurmond on his 100th birthday.”

    It’s not a compliment to say someone was right to be a segregationist. Its not a compliment to say someone was right to run on a ticket that opposed anti-lynching laws. Its not a compliment to say someone was right to support Jim Crow.

    If people think that today, they got problems. If people think that, then I’m afraid that people like rev. wright may be correct when they continue to be angry about the past. Because it seems that some continue to be wrong about the past.

    stef (450379)

  32. Stef,

    Are you saying that Trent Lott is proof Jeremiah Wright is right? In other words, do you think blacks today are subjugated in America?

    DRJ (a431ca)

  33. Now Stef is just lying: “It’s not a compliment to say someone was right to be a segregationist.”

    That’s the kind of utter fraud that makes Trent Lott look good – lying about what Lott said. I guess what he actually said just wasn’t juicy enough, eh Stef? Had to make up out of whole cloth.

    Sheesh, I despise Trent Lott but you make him look good, Stef.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  34. Stef, there is an entire school of thought, often called alternate history, that considers what might have happened had a turning point in history gone the other way. One of these examples is what if Lee had won at Gettysburg? The studies consider that slavery might have persisted for some time in the South and consider the consequences. Some of this literature theorizes that Mexico might have been partially incorporated into the Confederacy, for example. Those kinds of speculations are not racist, they are just historical queries. They all agree that slavery was not going to persist because it was not economic. The South in 1860 was a throwback to cultures like ancient Athens in which slavery was a standard economic practice. In fact, in places in Africa, it is to this day.

    What Lott said was along that line. If Thurmond had had his way, history would have been different. I would not like it but there might have been another way to resolve the racial crisis in the South. It is just speculation. The most important of these alternate history scenarios concern what would have happened if Lincoln had not been assassinated.

    I think what Lott said was dumb, especially given he is a politician. Still, it is no worse than what Wright said and he is being given a pass.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  35. Trent Lott (whom I find little to love) made a clumsy statement in an attempt to honor a man who’d lived a long life. While Lott might be foolish and shallow, he’s no segregationist, and said something that was construed to mean he supported segregation. With that, Lott was bounced out of leadership.

    Don Imus, who’s said many outrageous things over the years, made a comment that, according to Barry Obama, made him ripe for firing, with Barry’s approval. Barry went on to say he’d never allow one of his own staff members to say something so egregiously wrong & hurtful. So out you go Don.

    Barry’s pastor of 22 years makes repeated statements about the evilness of AmeriKKKa and calls for God to damn AmeriKKKa (the same AmeriKKKa that Barry serves through his office). Barry doesn’t speak out against it, of course, because he’s a politician, but he also doesn’t even stop going to that church & rewards it with tens of thousands of dollars.

    I’m not sure how that shows the fresh new face of hope. It looks like Barry’s sense of outrage is for one race only, and that’s Whitey.

    Uniting AmeriKKKa, Barry?

    steve miller (0574db)

  36. Steverino:

    Bush gave one speech at Bob Jones University, and was pilloried in the press for weeks over it. But Bush never gave money to the school, and he didn’t listen to Bob Jones preach for 20 years. It seems Republicans are just holding Obama up to the same standard.

    Not even close. If Obama’s association with Wright were anywhere near as fleeting and tenuous as Bush’s with Jones, we wouldn’t be talking about Wright at all.

    Xrlq (b71926)

  37. The thing that gets me about Obama and Wright is how could a guy say “trust me on my judgment” be able to sit through 22 years of those sermons and never once appear to ask himself, “Is this guy nuts or what? The CIA didn’t create AIDS.”

    Didn’t Barry ever think to ask his staff, “Hey, Wright made some crazy statement about AIDS – can we see if it’s true? Quietly?” But instead of displaying any common sense or even a sense of intellectual curiosity, he did – nothing.

    steve miller (0574db)

  38. And the fact that Obama called for Lott’s resignation but refused to hold his pastor to the same standard shows that Obama is a hypocrite.

    This shows he’s a racist. Will young voters realize this before November? The dinosaur media clearly loves it.

    Vermont Neighbor (a8a46e)

  39. Not even close. If Obama’s association with Wright were anywhere near as fleeting and tenuous as Bush’s with Jones, we wouldn’t be talking about Wright at all.

    That’s true, Xlrq, and my point is that Bush was nailed even though his association with Bob Jones University was fleeting and tenuous. And now Obama supporters are complaining he’s getting nailed for a much closer association with Wright. I find their complaints more than a little ill-founded.

    Steverino (e00589)

  40. Stef:

    What Lott said wasn’t nice. People who think that have problems.

    Lott didn’t say anything not nice. What he did do was make nice, general statements about Strom Thurmond while discussing a part of Thurmond’s life in which Thurmond was actually preaching offensive, racist crap.

    In other words, Lott did exactly what Obama is doing now by making general statements about what a great guy Jeremiah Wright supposedly is. The only difference is that Thurmond eventually outgrew his racism, while Wright hasn’t, and probably never will. That, plus the fact that Lott’s careless statements cost him his position as Senate Majority leader, while Obamapologists insist Obama’s statements should cost him nothing.

    Xrlq (62cad4)

  41. xlrq, nice point.

    You’ve nailed it. Lott, bad; Wright, good.

    steve miller (0574db)

  42. Found the You Tube clip…

    Obama on Words Matter…

    reff (59b2ad)

  43. I’ll try again…

    Obama on “Words Matter”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgMcht-EW6I

    reff (59b2ad)

  44. “In other words, Lott did exactly what Obama is doing now by making general statements about what a great guy Jeremiah Wright supposedly is.”

    Obama didn’t say we’d be better off following Wright’s views. Obama didn’t say we’d be better off with Jim Crow. Obama didn’t say we’d be better off with segregation. Obama didn’t say we’d be better off without anti-lynching laws.

    If people think those things are ‘nice’ then frankly its not that surprising that Wright still acts as if Jim Crow is alive. Its a problem. Because apparently there are still leaders who think that it would have been a good idea to keep Jim Crow, keep segregation, and be without federal intervention in the lynching-based terrorist states of the south.

    stef (48e229)

  45. “Are you saying that Trent Lott is proof Jeremiah Wright is right? In other words, do you think blacks today are subjugated in America?”

    I find it unsurprising that people still fear and decry and are suspicious of Jim Crow at a time when our leaders are still praising and saying we’d be better off by electing people who were running on the Jim Crow ticket.

    stef (2c9b5c)

  46. Because apparently there are still leaders who think that it would have been a good idea to keep Jim Crow, keep segregation, and be without federal intervention in the lynching-based terrorist states of the south.

    And your proof of this blanket assertion would be … ?

    JD (75f5c3)

  47. “And your proof of this blanket assertion would be … ?”

    The fact that we have a leader who said: “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years.”

    About the candidate who ran on this ticket:

    “This means the vicious FEPC — anti-poll tax anti-lynching, and anti-segregation proposals will become the law of the land and our way of life in the South will be gone forever.”

    That was the ticket of segregation. Of opposition to lynching laws. Of opposition to federal intervention to destroy the terrorism of jim crow.

    It don’t mean Lott is racist. It does mean he is dated and a product of his time. But the fact that a dated product of his time is in power (Lott) makes it unsurprising that a dated product of his time (Wright) is still preaching about that time.

    stef (dfd808)

  48. Actually stef, you did mean to say that Lott was a racist – and when you got called on inventing something that Lott did not actually say, you retreated.

    Cute trick, but we did not fall for it.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  49. “Actually stef, you did mean to say that Lott was a racist ”

    Like i said. Things aren’t so simple. Its not a simple case of Lott being a bigot or not. Its a case of him promoting an ugly past.

    Now, what did I get called on inventing?

    stef (861715)

  50. Maybe Obama is upset with his grandmother because being the “typical white woman” she is … she supporting Hillary Clinton 😉

    Swannie (60f64a)


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