Barack Obama’s Crazy Pastor

My colleague Alex Knapp has pointed out some outrageous comments made by John Hagee and Rod Parsley, nutball preachers whose endorsements McCain has courted and received.

McCain’s not alone, apparently, among our major presidential hopefuls in having associations with religious crazies. By far the hottest story on memeorandum today is an ABC News piece headlined “Obama’s Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11.”

Barack Obama’s Crazy Pastor Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor says blacks should not sing “God Bless America” but “God damn America.”

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is “inflammatory rhetoric,” including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.”

In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

Obama’s association with Wright is, one might reasonably conclude, closer and of longer duration than McCain’s with Hagee and Parsley. But I have shrugged off all these stories along with those about Obama’s association with Tony Rezko and McCain’s relationship with Rick Renzi (indeed, I’ve conflated Rezko and Renzi in my mind and had to look them up) for the simple reason that they don’t seem to shed much light on the candidates.

Do any of us believe that Obama or McCain are secretly conspiracy theorists who have repressed a lot of whacky ideas? Or that, even if they actually believed this nonsense, they’d try to enact it into policy? Of course not.

Unfortunately, the process of building a winning national coalition means appealing to some unsavory types. Politicians walk a fine line when accepting endorsements from these people and expecting them to denounce every nutty idea any of their supporters might harbor is asking too much.

That’s not to say that the words of Hagee, Parsley, Wright and others aren’t worth looking into. They’re influentials who voice — and shape — opinions that many Americans have. Understanding that the shared consensus of polite society is not universal is worthwhile and illuminating. But we should stop short of assuming guilt by association.

Alex is in the process of digging into Wright and his relationship with Obama and I’ll be interested to see what he finds. My hunch, though, is that he’ll find that Wright is a whackjob and that Obama regards him as a crazy uncle. (Perhaps he’s related to that crazy aunt Ross Perot kept in the basement?)

UPDATE: Steve Benen quips, “I guess there’s a political upside for Obama: he can’t be a Muslim and a Christian with a radical pastor at the same time.”

Meanwhile, Jim Geraghty takes exception with Wright’s claim regarding Obama “he ain’t white, he ain’t rich, and he ain’t privileged” by pointing out “Obama’s mother was white, the Obamas’ income hit $1.7 million in 2005 and $991,000 in 2006, and he went to Columbia University and Harvard Law School.”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, General, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He's a widower and father of two young daughters. He earned his PhD from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DL says:

    What is interesting to watch is that some otherwise astute people are actually schocked by Obama’s love affair with a racist America hating pastor and is cleverly hiding his own feelings. (20 years of support equals belief in the message in my book)
    What did these people thing would be the result of white liberals and black race-baiting leaders pumping and agitating an entire community, in order to stay in power?
    If nothing comes out of this election but the destruction, through exposure, of the black as victim of white America, mentality, it will be worth it – and will work in the long run for the good of the black community. This is not the time for “sensitivity about these issue, but it is the time to address the issue candidly and not be intimidated by PC and the usual suspects. Time to get courage and “speak truth to the man”
    It is time to call the Democrats on the degrading result of what they promote, while blaming “racist” Republicans.




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  2. just me says:

    For the most part I think these kinds of gotcha politics are pretty lame. When surrogates or those offering endorsements say stupid things, that doesn’t mean the candidates believe those stupid things.

    But I do have to wonder why a person would attend the church of a crazy uncle who says a lot of things you don’t agree with for 20 years. I don’t think it means Obama is some kind of secret racer hater or anything, but if I disagreed with a lot of stuff my pastor was saying, I would probably look for a different congregation that had a pastor I agreed with.




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  3. Brian says:

    THIS IS LAME! I know all kinds of Southern Baptist Preachers that say all sort of B.S. People are in fact racist if they think every black man thinks the same. In short, go to hell.

    From a white guy




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  4. Cernig says:

    You gotta watch those Mad Mullahs. You think it’s a religion of peace and then next thing, whoops Apocalypse! (/snark)




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  5. J. Hanley says:

    Obama has for years claimed that Wright was/is his spiritual mentor–not his associate or casual friend–HIS MENTOR! Now, of course, he claims Wright is like a crazy old uncle. That’s quite a dubious fall for the reverend who facilitated Obama’s awakening. I have little doubt that, during Wright’s indoctrination of him, the reverend was speaking the same platitudes of America’s path to hell. And I must suppose that Obama came to agree, otherwise why would he refer to him as his mentor?




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  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Joyner so you are equating the endorsement by Hagee of McCain as somehow equal to Obama’s 20 year attendance at a church pastor-ed by a hate spewing minister? There must be some part of “if one walks like a duck, talks like a duck and is seen in constant association with ducks” that you fail to grasp. The country took a chance on a serial sex addict in 1992 and found out the depth of depravity a President could stoop to. Do you really want to put the leadership of this nation in the hands of a man who has such limited experience at anything except rhetoric, in these times. I question your ability to reason.




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  7. Cernig says:

    So is Obama a Manchurian black Muslim or a racist black Christian? Or doesn’t it matter as long as everyone is reminded he’s black? I’m confused by the duelling narratives here.

    Regards, C




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  8. Bithead says:

    I’ve said this before, as regards William Ayers and HIS link to Obama…

    –>

    The damage that is inflicted on Obama by this association is decidedly not that he is stupid enough to directly support terrorism, but that he is willing to suborn the radical leftist politics which lead to it. This in fact is the elephant in the room, where Democrats are concerned. Their linkages to radicals. Radicals who say things like:

    “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at,” Ayers was widely quoted as saying at the time (though he told the Times he couldn’t remember if he said it).

    Well, yes, drugs will do that for you. But look closely at the politics being espoused by both Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, and in fact, the bulk of the Democratic Party today. Explain to me how the proposals they’ve been pushing.. tax the rich, et al, is really so much different. The only difference that I can see between this idiot Ayers, and the Democratic presidential candidates, is the latter have a tendency to use a weapon that is far more powerful than the explosives Ayers used: They use the more destructive weapon we call “Good Government”.




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  9. Bithead says:

    Post got truncated.
    What I’m suggesting here is that it’s these associations with very anti-American types that should make us all wonder where Obama’s heart is… and I’ve come to the conclusion it isn’t in the America we love.




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  10. yetanotherjohn says:

    20 years is a long time to be listening to racist comments and not speak up or walk out.

    Let’s take a look in the way back machine.

    Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said the campaign disinvited Mr. Wright because it did not want the church to face negative attention. Mr. Wright did however, attend the announcement and prayed with Mr. Obama beforehand.

    “Senator Obama is proud of his pastor and his church, but because of the type of attention it was receiving on blogs and conservative talk shows, he decided to avoid having statements and beliefs being used out of context and forcing the entire church to defend itself,” Mr. Burton said.

    According to the pastor, Mr. Obama then told him, “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.”

    Nope, nothing to hide here. His pastor just gets “kind of rough”. Of course a suggestion that Obama being the front runner for the democratic nomination is at least in part due to being black is racism, but Wright is just “kind of rough”.

    The senator “affirmed” his Christian faith in this church; he uses Wright as a “sounding board” to “make sure I’m not losing myself in the hype and hoopla.” Both the title of Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, and the theme for his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 come from Wright’s sermons. “If you want to understand where Barack gets his feeling and rhetoric from,” says the Rev. Jim Wallis, a leader of the religious left, “just look at Jeremiah Wright.”

    Obama could have picked any church — the spare, spiritual places in Hyde Park, the awesome pomp and procession of the cathedrals downtown. He could have picked a mosque, for that matter, or even a synagogue. Obama chose Trinity United. He picked Jeremiah Wright. Obama writes in his autobiography that on the day he chose this church, he felt the spirit of black memory and history moving through Wright, and “felt for the first time how that spirit carried within it, nascent, incomplete, the possibility of moving beyond our narrow dreams.”

    So Obama’s message of hope is rooted in Wright. Isn’t that nice. And Obama is using him as a sounding board to make sure he is not losing himself. Think about that. Wright is what is keeping Obama’s head screwed on straight. No go back and listen to Wright and read what he has said.

    In his acceptance speech, he thanked Wright by name.

    After 20 years of Wright, no wonder this is the first time in her adult life that his wife can feel proud about America.

    Now let me ask you, if McCain turned out to have been a member of Phelps church for the last 20 years, would you just blow that off?




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  11. Scott_T says:

    What I don’t get regarding this, even if Obama treated him as his ‘crazy uncle’. Obama was indirectly paying his salary.

    Lets say the Obama family paid 1% tithing on Barak’s salary to the ‘crazy uncles’ church. Say about $10K a year. Certainly a portion of that money they (the Obama family) contributed, pays the Crazy Uncle, to keep saying crazy stuff.

    To those of us from the “Two Americas”, John Edwards, Al Gore, and Barak Obama’s being one, and all of us non-millionaries being the other. That’s a lot of money to be spending to support a “Crazy Uncle”.




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  12. Michael says:

    So is Obama a Manchurian black Muslim or a racist black Christian? Or doesn’t it matter as long as everyone is reminded he’s black? I’m confused by the duelling narratives here.

    Not too long ago people were saying he wasn’t “black enough”.




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  13. Michael says:

    Scott_T, I’m pretty sure the “Don’t vote for someone who tithes” meme won’t quite catch on among the Republican base.




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  14. grampagravy says:

    Here’s what I came away from most of these comments with: The United States of America is perfect. We should always get up and walk out on criticism or dissent. Let’s not debate the sources of discontent, or listen to voices we disagree with, but rather proceed immediately to the pompous awesomes downtown whose sycophantic messages will shield us from uncomfortable ideas.
    But, what can be expected from people who think our BILLIONAIRES and multi-billion dollar corporations shouldn’t put more back into the country whose resources, industry, and people made their phenomenal successes possible?




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  15. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Grampagravy, I think you held those sentiments long before you read any of these comments. I must ask you, who do you think employs the vast majority of people who work in this country. Is is the poor, who have no money, or those who have the ideas, dreams and plans? Putting those things into action and employing others. It is called capitalism, and it is a system that allows any and all to gain success if they have the right stuff. I guess you prefer to live off the works of others. If B. Hussein Obama has attended that church for 20 years, he must be hearing something he agrees with. His wife spews the same vile hate his preacher does. Do you really want a black racist as President?




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  16. Scott_T says:

    Michael, it’s not “don’t vote for someone who tithes.” It’s “Obama tithes, therefor Obama pays to support the pastor” (and keep him in that position).

    If enough people don’t tithe, any church’s “higher ups” are going to get the hint that maybe that pastor “isn’t bringing it in” like other ones, and quietly move him from the forefront.




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  17. sam says:

    Dear Mr. Head,

    I’m not sure I see the equivalence between “kill all the rich people” and “tax all the rich people.”

    Could you clarify?




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  18. grampagravy says:

    Sam, it goes like this: If you tax a Billionaire a million dollars, he is reduced to only being able to spend a million a year for 999 years without going broke. What would be left to live for at that point?




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  19. just me says:

    Obama has for years claimed that Wright was/is his spiritual mentor — not his associate or casual friend — HIS MENTOR!

    I think this is a valid point.

    When you claim a person as your mentor, that is one step closer to the attack line than accepting an endorsement from them.

    But I still for the most part this line of attack from either side of the aisle is silly. Unless a candidate has actually said or done something to indicate they feel or believe the same way, I think it is mostly political rhetoric.




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  20. grampagravy says:

    The very idea that “as the mentor thinks and believes, so does the student” is patently stupid. If this were the case, we’d still be living in caves.




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  21. Bithead says:

    I’m not sure I see the equivalence between “kill all the rich people” and “tax all the rich people.”

    Could you clarify?

    Why, sure!

    Why are we killing them? Why are we taxing them?
    Because they’re rich… that’s something to be looked down on, certainly, by socialists. ANd either way, the grater good of society is satisfied; Society is rid of the rich. And given the death tax, the government gets to redistribute all the money.

    Are you getting this yet?




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  22. Christopher says:

    Hold on, James! Obamessiah sits in a church pew Sunday after Sunday after Sunday listening to this man for spiritual and moral guidance. He is married by the guy, and his children baptized by him. By this racist hatemonger!!! Any you don’t think this has any bearing on his candidacy for president?!?

    Friggn’ incredible!




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  23. Scrapiron says:

    Someone explain the difference in a David Duke KKK meeting and a J Wright black KKK meeting. Hussein Obama has a 20 year relationship with this slime ball and has dragged his children to listen to this slime. Some hero the democrats dragged out of the sewer.




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  24. Anderson says:

    The Rev. Wright, preaching about 9/11:

    “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.

    Great. Obama’s preacher is the black Ward Churchill.

    At this point, converting to Islam might be a net plus for Obama.




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  25. Dave Schuler says:

    Hasn’t anyone here ever heard of a hierarchy of values? Clearly, Sen. Obama feels that the good things about his present church outweigh the bad things. Look at the good things before condemning him for not rejecting that particular faith community because of the bad things.




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  26. yetanotherjohn says:

    I’ll ask it again. If McCain was going to Fred Phelps church for the last 20 years, calling Phelps a mentor and using Phelps to make sure his head was screwed on straight, do those on the left really think they wouldn’t be making this a campaign issue? They wouldn’t see any possibility that soaking up such garbage for 20 years might not raise questions about what sort of president you would make?

    When Michelle Obama said this was the first time in her adult life that she felt proud of America, I couldn’t understand that world view. After imagining 20 years of moral and spiritual leadership like this, I don’t agree with her, but I do understand where it is coming from. And I really wonder how much of that world view has seeped into Obama’s head.




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  27. Bithead says:

    Hasn’t anyone here ever heard of a hierarchy of values? Clearly, Sen. Obama feels that the good things about his present church outweigh the bad things. Look at the good things before condemning him for not rejecting that particular faith community because of the bad things.

    LOL… See also, the history of the German train schedules.




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  28. Hillary All the Way!!!! says:

    Barrack Obama along with his America hating wife and their America hating, racist preacher who HATE America and white people are NOT what America needs! VOTE FOR HILLARY!! Before it is too late. THIS is an OUTRAGE.

    Obama’s Mentor –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAYe7MT5BxM




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  29. Michael says:

    So this guy has been Obama’s pastor for 20 years, right? That means as many as 1040 sermons while Obama was attending (let’s say 1000, allowing for vacations). I’m not sure if his guy was the church’s pastor prior to Obama attending, so we’ll just focus on those ~1000 sermons. Out of that, I have seen objections made to two (2) things, which I will assume are from two different sermons, making his preaching 0.2% objectionable.

    Now my current pastor has only been at our church for about 6 years, or about 300 sermons. In that time, he has said more than 2 things that I found quite objectionable either in terms of truthfulness or morality, and would most certainly not want those things to be associated with my own beliefs and opinions. That being said, I still consider him a good, honest man who’s opinions I respect, especially on moral issues.

    Does anybody here have a pastor that has never said something they disagree with, or has anybody here ever cut contact with said pastor and/or the church when they did?




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  30. yetanotherjohn says:

    Michael,

    The two things are the tip of the iceberg. Unless they have a transcript of the 1000+ sermons, we can’t know if they are typical or unusual. Even Obama seems to recognize an issue as he described the pastor as getting “kind of rough” in his sermons.

    But let me ask you this. Of those two things for your pastor, do they rise to the level of accusing the US of causing AIDS? That 9/11 is a consequence of US terrorism? That the US is irredeemably racist such that it is better referred to as the US of KKKA? That you shouldn’t ask for God to bless the US but rather to damn it? Those are not relatively minor issues.

    But to follow your point to the logical conclusions, how many racist remarks would your pastor have to make before you would consider leaving? Just how racist does one have to be to decide that you will no longer support them with time and money? How racist do they need to be to not want them as your mentor or as your moral compass. And would you let a republican off who went to a pastor for 20 years that was as racist as Wright?

    There seems to be a reason why Michelle Obama was never proud of the US until now. And it isn’t related to here promotion with 150% raise after her husband got elected or the company who gave her the promotion getting $1 million in Obama’s first year as senator.




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  31. mannning says:

    Somehow, that .2% objectionable sermons estimate seems to be off the mark, if only because we have not analyzed the other 99.8% sermons adequately, nor have we seen what is taught in their Sunday Schools to the adults and the kids. Or have you? I have doubts.

    This preacher is not the only “associate” of Obama that needs to be vetted adequately, and I seriously question whether the American public wants a First Lady that expresses such hatred for the nation in public or private. In my opinion that would make us look infantile and comical in the eyes of the world.

    If some are trying to assuage their inner racial or gender guilt by supporting a black or a woman for president, that is their right, but it is not enough of a reason in itself to select the person.

    Nor is fine rhetoric a good reason, if the ideas are not sound or are too gloriously high, even platitudinous, and both the details and the convictions behind them are highly suspect. Nor is a compelling persona in itself sufficient, if behind that fascade is a jumble of presidential goals and directions that are not brought out for public consumption, because they would alienate a large number of voters.

    I do believe that “what you see is not what you get” on the democratic side. It is, after all, a Clinton on the one hand, and a virtual unknown on the other.




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  32. Michael says:

    Unless they have a transcript of the 1000+ sermons, we can’t know if they are typical or unusual.

    And your immediate reaction is to assume the absolute worst of him.

    Of those two things for your pastor, do they rise to the level of accusing the US of causing AIDS? That 9/11 is a consequence of US terrorism? That the US is irredeemably racist such that it is better referred to as the US of KKKA?

    Being a SB preacher in a mostly white congregation, your exact examples are unlikely and you know it. However, he (and the pastor before him) has blamed America and the government for any number of failings. Both, I believe, have said that God would/should destroy America because of it’s liberal social views. These may not be equivalent in your book, but they are in mine.

    How racist do they need to be to not want them as your mentor or as your moral compass.

    My grandmother doesn’t trust Mexicans, does that make her racist? I don’t think so. There is a difference between distrusting someone because of their race and hating them because of their race. I don’t think Obama’s pastor hates white people.




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  33. Michael says:

    Somehow, that .2% objectionable sermons estimate seems to be off the mark, if only because we have not analyzed the other 99.8% sermons adequately, nor have we seen what is taught in their Sunday Schools to the adults and the kids. Or have you? I have doubts.

    Again, even though we only know about 0.2% of them, your reaction is to assume that those are the rule, rather than the exception. I have no reason to think this was the common theme at that church, and my experience with people from all walks of life leads me to believe that they are the exception.

    seriously question whether the American public wants a First Lady that expresses such hatred for the nation in public or private.

    I’m sorry, that must not have been picked up by the news, when did Michelle Obama say she hated America?




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  34. mannning says:

    At last, Michelle Obama proud of America – BostonHerald.comMichelle Obama proclaimed yesterday that for “the first time” in her adult life,” she was proud of America, as she spoke during a rally to support her …
    news.bostonherald.com/news/national/politics/2008/view.bg?articleid=1074519&srvc=home&position=0 – Similar pages –

    She has not been proud of America for virtually all of her lifetime, and is not proud for the right reasons.




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  35. Michael says:

    manning, there is a world of difference between lacking pride and hating. Please tell me you understand that.




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  36. mannning says:

    That was the first comment I found documented. I recall another that used the word hate, but couldn’t track it down on Google quickly. My memory is that she said she hated America in public not too long ago. So I stand by that. (It would not surprise me if her comments of that kind have been redacted by a favoring Obama press, but I will look further.)

    In any event, she states her lack of pride in the nation for virtually all her life very clearly, until, as she says, her husband became favored, and the public wanted change. How very self-serving, and lacking in pride for what America has always stood for. It smacks of BDS among other things.




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  37. ERIC says:

    Regardless of Obama’s campaign saying that Obama does not agree with all that his pastor has said we have to look closer at a couple of things.First, if Hillary Clinton belonged to a church, group, or organization where the leader made the same type of statements that Obama’s pastor has made the calls for her to leave that church, group, or organization would be deafening.Second, Senator Obama has stated in the past that this pastor is his “spritual advisor” and an inspiration for one of his books. This pastor has made comments such as these in the past so why is someone like this Obama’s spirtual advisor? Is this the judgement that we should be enstrusting in Obama?Obama should be asked why he did not leave the church years ago when he knew of his pastor’s comment history and why he is so closely associated with someone such as this. It is one thing to disagree with some comments and statements and something else to be such a close friend of the same person.As for Obama’s comment about the “uncle” there are in fact plenty of people who have family members who say inappropriate things but if someone is using that person as a role model then perhaps we should call into the judgement and character of that person and not just the “uncle”.




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  38. mannning says:

    Come to think of it, why shouldn’t we probe as deeply into the thoughts of Michelle Obama as we can? She has been described as an America hater, I remember one report that she said this in public not long ago, and if she really, deep down, does hate America, I for one would not want her near the White House.

    Apologists have tried their very best to cover her gaffes up, explain them away, or keep her muzzled. I do not want to have to shudder every time the First Lady has a speaking engagement, so let us pay strict attention to her every word from now on.

    Better yet, vote for McCain and avoid both of these problem people.




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  39. khan says:

    Obama is done!

    What his pastor is doing inside that building is disgraceful! Obama still loves that guy and consciously stayed in his church for 20 years, dedicate a book for this dangerous pastor?

    Do you really want a guy like this in the most powerful office in the world? who prays with this dangerous and racist pastor, who are friends with slumlord chicago mafia? who was born as a muslim and changed to christianity for political gains?

    This is a bigger problem than the Iraq. The guys who listen to this perverted pastor may potentially become dangerous to our society. Now he dare to say all this without any power! Imagine what will happen to white people when these folks gain power in the world’s most powerful office!

    Even now the mainstream media is mum! Rediculous and shame on CNN/NBC/CBS what are you guys doing?

    Do you think we public still rely on you for news! get this, You are WRONG! we get news as it happens on Internet.

    God bless America!




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  40. Bruce Moomaw says:

    It’s rather disconcerting that a lot of the commentary on this business involves excusing McCain on the grounds that he’s obviously just whoring for votes from the extreme Right, whereas Obama — having been associated with this church for 20 years — might (shudder) sincerely BELIEVE what Wright is spouting. For the moment, I’m in a holding pattern on this whole business myself; but if Obama doesn’t think he has some ‘splaining to do (and much more than McCain politically has to, alas), he’s living in a dream world. This could easily wreck him.




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