[Guest post by DRJ]
Today at RealClearPolitics, Michael Barone published an op-ed entitled “The Rules Change for Obama.” One thesis of the article was Obama’s (and Obamaites’) anger and/or surprise that his relationships with Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers have been questioned by the media:
“Barack Obama seemed puzzled. Angrily puzzled. The apostle of hope seemed flummoxed by the audacity of the question. At the April 16 Philadelphia debate, George Stephanopoulos, longtime aide to Democratic politicians, was asking about his longtime association with Weather Underground bomber William Ayers.
The Weather Underground attacked the Pentagon, the Capitol and other public buildings; Ayers was quoted in The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001, as saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs; I feel we didn’t do enough.”
It was at Ayers’ house that Obama’s state Senate candidacy was launched in 1995; Obama continued to serve on a nonprofit board with Ayers after the Times article appeared.
Obamaites live-blogging the debate were outraged. The press is not supposed to ask such questions. They are supposed to invite the candidates to expatiate on how generous their health care plans are. Or to allow them to proclaim that “we are the change that we are seeking.” Or to once again bash George W. Bush.
There was some of that in this debate. But Obama was asked about his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his remarks about wearing an American flag lapel pin, his comment that “bitter” small town Pennsylvanians “cling to guns and religion” and his “friendly” relations — “friendly” is his campaign adviser David Axelrod’s word — with William Ayers.”
“But Obama’s choices to associate with Wright and Ayers tend to undercut his appealing message — very appealing after 15 years of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — that we must strive to overcome the racial and cultural and ideological divisions which have dominated our politics.”
I agree with Barone’s thesis that Democrats generally believe the media should be on their side, but this is the rare instance where I don’t completely agree with his reasoning. Specifically, I don’t agree that Obama’s associations with Wright and Ayers undercut his message of overcoming divides. Instead, I think Obama’s associations reveal the scope of his message.
Obama’s powerful message is that there should be no divisions between Americans, and he is the person who can overcome any divisions that exist. His message embraces tolerance and acceptance, a message that especially resonates with young people who have been educated to accept many lifestyles and values.
Tolerance is certainly a good thing but excessive tolerance leads to a world that accepts any lifestyle and all values. Obama’s willingness to associate with Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers – people who preach and embrace values that most Americans renounce – illustrates just how far Obama’s tolerance and acceptance extends.
Ultimately, Obama’s message is that – to overcome our divisions – Americans must learn to live with values they renounce. Ultimately, I don’t think most Americans will agree.
EDIT: I’ve been hammered in the comments for what I wrote and deservedly so. I didn’t communicate what I was trying to say because I failed to draw a distinction between accepting people and accepting values, so I’ll briefly try again:
Obama ostensibly preaches the message that all people should be accepted regardless of their values. His message seems more inclusive and tolerant but ultimately it rejects conservatives who believe that all people should be accepted but not all values. Why? Because it’s impossible to accept all people regardless of their values when some values can’t be reconciled.
That leaves conservative values voters with two choices: Renounce their conservative values, or renounce Obama.