Is Richard Cohen part of the VRWC/Hillary Clinton cabal against Obama?

I ask that because not only has the liberal Cohen, in the past, called the rabid fanatical Bush haters for what they are, but today he has broached a subject that the Barack Obama campaign and its supporters are sensitive about, and that’s the Senator’s close relationship with controversial Chicago Trinity United Church of Christ minister Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.:

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama’s spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright’s daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said “truly epitomized greatness.” That man is Louis Farrakhan.

Maybe for Wright and some others, Farrakhan “epitomized greatness.” For most Americans, though, Farrakhan epitomizes racism, particularly in the form of anti-Semitism. Over the years, he has compiled an awesome record of offensive statements, even denigrating the Holocaust by falsely attributing it to Jewish cooperation with Hitler — “They helped him get the Third Reich on the road.” His history is a rancid stew of lies.

It’s important to state right off that nothing in Obama’s record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan. Instead, as Obama’s top campaign aide, David Axelrod, points out, Obama often has said that he and his minister sometimes disagree. Farrakhan, Axelrod told me, is one of those instances.

Fine. But where I differ with Axelrod and, I assume, Obama is that praise for an anti-Semitic demagogue is not a minor difference or an intrachurch issue. The Obama camp takes the view that its candidate, now that he has been told about the award, is under no obligation to speak out on the Farrakhan matter. It was not Obama’s church that made the award but a magazine. This is a distinction without much of a difference. And given who the parishioner is, the obligation to speak out is all the greater. He could be the next American president. Where is his sense of outrage?

Cohen goes on to talk about Farrakhan’s hateful history, the current battle between Hillary and Obama over her remarks about MLK, and MLK’s dream. Then he goes back to Farrakhan:

This, though, is not Farrakhan’s dream. He has vilified whites and singled out Jews to blame for crimes large and small, either committed by others as well or not at all. (A dominant role in the slave trade, for instance.) He has talked of Jewish conspiracies to set a media line for the whole nation. He has reviled Jews in a manner that brings Hitler to mind.

And yet Wright heaped praise on Farrakhan. According to Trumpet, he applauded his “depth of analysis when it comes to the racial ills of this nation.” He praised “his integrity and honesty.” He called him “an unforgettable force, a catalyst for change and a religious leader who is sincere about his faith and his purpose.” These are the words of a man who prayed with Obama just before the Illinois senator announced his run for the presidency. Will he pray with him just before his inaugural?

I don’t for a moment think that Obama shares Wright’s views on Farrakhan. But the rap on Obama is that he is a fog of a man. We know little about him, and, for all my admiration of him, I wonder about his mettle. The New York Times recently reported on Obama’s penchant while serving in the Illinois legislature for merely voting “present” when faced with some tough issues. Farrakhan, in a strictly political sense, may be a tough issue for him. This time, though, “present” will not do.

I wrote recently at a political forum I participate in that the back door allegations I’ve seen in certain quarters (coming mostly from conservatives) that Obama must harbor racist tendencies as a result of his characterization of White as a “mentor” really didn’t hold water because, as Cohen suggests, there’s nothing in Obama’s skimpy record to indicate that he identifies and/or relates to that part of Wright’s philosophy. Not only that, but conservatives have a history of praising controversial figures all the time (mostly, ones whose views don’t fall in line with the politically correct) and that doesn’t necessarily mean they share all the views those figures espouse.

That said, it should be noted that in this context neither Wright, nor Farrakhan, are your typical run of the mill controversial figures, a point I think Cohen makes clear in his piece, and Obama’s association with Wright deserves more scrutiny than it has gotten. Not from the Republican candidates, but from the MSM, whose jobs it is to investigate things like this. Farrakhan is, without a doubt, a race purist, and one who has been praised by Rev. Wright, who himself sounds like a black nationalist. Now you can rest assured if this were a top tier Republican candidate who labelled as a “mentor” a man who sounded like a white nationalist who, in turn, praised a white version of Louis Farrakhan, this would be the top story on all the major networks, saturating the news wires for several days until the candidate denounced said mentor and made the standard, sometimes over-the-top overtures to the offended parties. And it wouldn’t be over, even after it was all over – in other words, the accusations would stick with that candidate forever and be brought up often in news pieces and interviews. As it stands, Obama’s relationship with the controversial Wright has seen some attention, but not near the level it would if we were talking about Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee.

As usual, Obama apologists like Andrew Sullivan and Greg Sargent (for others, scroll through this link) are up in arms that Cohen has even brought up the issue, because that means the heat will be turned up some on Obama to the point where he’ll have to forcefully give his viewpoint on the issue, and as we all know by now, it is absolutely shameful for anyone in their right mind to dare try to get to know Barack Obama beyond the image he and many of his supporters – with help from the MSM – have cultivated for the masses.

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy explains why the issue is important, and why it’s perfectly fair for Cohen to bring it up:

Relatedly, one implication of electing a president is that his “circle” suddenly becomes much more powerful and influential. At the very least, if Obama wins, if his spiritual life remains constant, Rev. Wright will inevitably become one of the most influential ministers in the world, and his church one of the most important churches. Remember Rabbi Michael Lerner’s moment in the sun when Hillary Clinton consulted him about the “politics of meaning”? And Hillary, of course, isn’t even Jewish! Rev. Wright is not the most pressing issue facing Democratic voters, but given the relatively small policy differences among the Democratic candidates, it’s certainly worth considering on the margin (as is, for example, the implications of returning to power such lovely members of the Clinton circle as Sidney Blumenthal).

Finally, it strikes me as completely fair to raise this issue, at least given the current accepted role of religion in politics in the U.S., and the widespread importance placed on tolerance. Pres. Bush has (properly) been criticized for giving a speech at Bob Jones University, which had a ban on interracial dating based purportedly on its leaders’ interpretation of Christian scripture. (I say purportedly because after all the bad publicity that attended Bush’s visit, the policy was dropped). Mitt Romney has felt obligated to address the Mormon church’s past history of bigoted teachings and policy. Giuliani and McCain have been criticized for playing footsie with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, respectively; imagine if they had announced that these men were their close friends and spiritual mentors! If there’s some reason Obama deserves a special pass on this, I can’t think of it.

As I was in the middle of writing this piece, I read that, at least in this instance, Barack Obama has responded to the controversy today in an attempt at damage control:

I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decisions with which I agree.

It won’t be enough to quell the valid concerns many conservatives and apparently at least a few liberals have about Obama’s association with Wright, but it’ll have to do.

For now.

I don’t think there’s any question, though, that the media did their customary falling down on the job on exploring the Wright mentor angle. It’s nothing new, as we saw it happen in the media’s coverage of former Nation of Islam supporter Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), which Powerline documented well here and here.

Once again, we see that the rules typically applied to Republicans don’t always apply in turn to Democrats, which Cohen has inadvertently brought to light with his opinion piece. His hate mail for the next several days should be pretty intense.

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