Wednesday, March 26, 2008

*Corrected* Halfhearted defense of Hillary, general politics roundup

If you asked me, as the press asked Clinton, if I would go to a church where Rev. Wright was the pastor, I also would say that choice of ministers was a personal decision, but I personally would not have kept attending Rev. Wright's church.

I think I've mentioned a few times that I really hate it when ministers preach about politics.

I get that Rev. Wright was very important to Obama. Katy-the-Wise is very important to me and goodness knows I have argued with her when I have thought she was wrong. I've usually lost, but those of you who know Katy-the-Wise know that arguing with her usually leads to that result. She's wicked smart and whatever you're arguing about, she's thought about it more than you have.

I do find it strange that Obama never said "Hey, I think you're wrong on that" to Rev. Wright before he did so in front of the nation. (If he did, I would think he would have mentioned it by now.) I get that in many religions you don't say "Hey, I think you're wrong on that" to the minister, I just didn't think Obama's religion was one of those.

This stuff about Obama's minister in no way lowers my opinion of Obama, but as this is a blog where I argue with ministers fairly regularly, it would be weird if I didn't mention how strange I thought it was.

I also think Hillary should probably concede the race.

But I still don't really understand why people get so focused on ascribing hateful motives to her every action* and in general acting like she's so terrible.

CORRECTION: Lizard Eater provides quotes from a story where he said he did talk to his minister about these things. My bad.

who remembers having to tell some of her liberal friends eight years ago that John McCain, while being a cool guy, was actually quite conservative. She wonders when the demonization of him will start from the same people.

*I've heard over and over that it was racist for her to offer Obama the vice presidency. Huh? Admittedly, the "less charismatic more experienced candidate with more charismatic less experienced running mate" model didn't work out too well four years ago, but it's a common political tactic and I don't see that using it when Obama is in the race makes it racist. If the poll numbers were reversed and Omaba offered to make Hillary his running mate, would that be sexist?


Obijuan said...

CC, are we absolutely certain he didn't voice his objections to Wright before he did it to the nation? I would hope he did, and I also don't think we're entitled to the details of that conversation if he did so.

Chalicechick said...

I wasn't asking for details, I just think it's very odd that he didn't say something along the lines of "the Rev. Wright and I have discussed these issues and we both recognize that people of the same faith can have differing views on them."

After all, he has talked about the frank conversations about race hed had with his grandmother.


Lizard Eater said...

Apparently, he did voice his objections, multiple times:

"I had had conversations with him in the past – in fact from the day I first met him -- about some of his views."

"When some these remarks first came to light were a year ago, and I actually called him and it created some tensions that were reported in the newspapers. He understood that his perspective on some of these issues were very different from mine and hopefully we could agree to disagree on some of these issues. I wasn’t familiar with some of the most offensive remarks that had come up otherwise we probably would have a more intense conversation."

PG said...

What frank conversations on race did he say he had with his grandmother? I thought the only mention of his grandmother was that she had voiced her fear of black men she encountered on the street to his grandfather (an incident recounted in Obama's first book) and that she used racial and ethnic stereotypes in front of her grandson, which made him cringe.

As for whether he's disagreed with Wright, we know for sure that Obama's told Wright that he doesn't want the campaign to be too closely associated with his sermons.

But "we don't agree on everything," Mr. Obama said. "I've never had a thorough conversation with him about all aspects of politics."

When you say having the more experienced, less charismatic candidate with a less experienced, more charismatic running mate is "a common political tactic," what are the prior elections you're thinking of? I think there's a stronger history of getting the ticket elected with the charisma at the top and the experience at 2nd. See, e.g., 1952 (war hero with no prior political experience for president and a veep with 6 years in Congress); 1960 (JFK with LBJ as veep); 1976 (charming four-year Georgia governor with a rather dull veep who had 10 years in the U.S. Senate)...

Bush also benefited from this combination: he won over the type of people who vote based on personality rather than specific policies, while Cheney in the VP slot reassured the economic conservatives in the GOP that this "compassion" thing wouldn't go too far. Since the advent of mass media (radio and TV), I think it's more important to have charisma at the top of the ticket and put the experience in the 2nd place.

And McCain is conservative, but if you were telling people this 8 years ago, presumably the comparison point was Bush. I'm not a big McCain fan, but he's MUCH better than Bush on almost any issue I can think of, even if he was busy selling out those positions to get the GOP nomination.

Ms. Theologian said...

Something about all the Hillary constant critique makes me root for her. And I voted for Obama.

Chalicechick said...

Ditto, Ms. Theologian.


Transient and Permanent said...

The constant lopsided criticism of Clinton is definitely making it hard for me to vote for Obama (my primary is in May). She has sometimes put her own foot in it, but overall I feel like there's been a serious difference in how strongly and bitterly people have gone after Clinton vs. Obama.

The worst part for me are some of the Obama supporters. Obama may be a uniter, but some of his Democratic supporters sure aren't. It's as if in order for Obama to be their anointed messiah they have to portray Clinton as Satan incarnate. They're making it really tough for me to support him, even though I started to tip toward him in the wake of his race speech, which I thought was extremely impressive.

I'm starting to think that it is time for Clinton to concede. I've defended her right to soldier on--conveniently the people who've called for her to stop killing the Party all seem to have been Obamaniacs who would've fought tooth and nail for Obama's right to hold on if the delegate count were reversed--but at this point I'm coming around to the view that she cannot actually win under even the most unlikely circumstances and that therefore it's in her own best interest to retire gracefully and get the media heat off her back. After all, if something awful happens and Obama gets assassinated or something, they can always nominate her at the Convention anyway.

By the way, I've started a mini-series on General Assembly Actions of Immediate Witness over at my blog. You've had some things to say about these things in the past so you might find it interesting.

Jeff W.

Kim Hampton said...

As an ardent Obama supporter, I didn't find it racist for Hillary/Bill to talk of Barack for the VP slot. I thought it was stupid and condescending.

Imagine if the reverse had happened: Obama is behind in delegates and in the popular vote and from all scenarios there is no way for him to win the nomination without the superdelegates overriding BOTH the delegate count and the popular vote total. So on the stomp he says "hey if you vote for me you might get her too". Would anybody have taken that as anything other than being condescending to Hillary Clinton?

While I do think the Clintons injected race into this campaign unintentionally, since it has been in they haven't done anything but play into stereotypes and fears of "black" candidates.

But of course, I think Rev. Wright was right on all counts and that Barack had no reason to denounce him. (and I do know why he did)

Chalicechick said...

You believe that the Government created AIDS to kill black people?


Transient and Permanent said...

Leaving politics, justifiable anger, and possible conspiracy theories aside for a moment, I was troubled by aspects of Wright's theology. Damning anyone for any reason is not kosher in my beliefs. That implies a level of revenge out of all possible proportion with even the most shocking of crimes, and also arrogates powers to human beings that are rightly left to God. Perhaps Wright meant it rhetorically but it's still a big clash with my liberal religious beliefs. It is possible to roundly and righteously castigate persons and whole nations without calling for their damnation, which is out of bounds for me. Damning someone or something is the end of all possible relationship or reconciliation, and I don't think that squares with my understanding of Christianity and Jesus's healing ministry, even for those who have genuinely suffered at the hands of others.

h sofia said...

Did you see Rev. Wright's letter to the NY Times?

I still haven't seen the Wright clips, or heard Obama's response.

Steve Caldwell said...

On 26 March 2008, CC wrote:
"You believe that the Government created AIDS to kill black people?"


I don't think the US Government created AIDS to kill black people.

However, there is historical precedent for the US Government to let STDs go untreated as part of unethical medical treatment (the infamous Tuskegee untreated syphilis experiment).

There is also historical precedent with covert government experimenting with LSD on human subjects.

Given these past events, let's say that Rev. Wright may be mistaken about the origins of HIV and AIDS (HIV is genetically similar to primate immunodeficiency retroviruses found in the wild).

But he's not a bat-shit crazy raving madman either for speculating about the origins of HIV.

PG said...

Maybe people were just reminded by the suggestion that Clinton make Obama VP of Chris Rock's remark in 1996 election that it would be ridiculous for Colin Powell to run as Dole's veep, though many Republicans were saying he should. Rock conceded that Powell couldn't win the overall election (because white people wouldn't vote for him), but "he could beat Dole. They would only ask a black man to do something that f---ing stupid, run with a guy he could beat. They wouldn't ask no white guy to do no shit like that. They wouldn't ask Al Gore to run with Al Sharpton."

Chalicechick said...

Half a dozen scientists in Arkansas letting a small number of subjects suffer something just to see what happens, and if the effects of syphilis are really worse than the side effects of what was being used to treat syphilis at the time, is indeed a horrible thing. (And yes, the study continued after the development of better syphilis medications. But the original goals make a certain amount of sense, which is not to say I in any way approve of the study or its methods.)

Even with the Tuskeegee study in mind, the idea that the U.S. Government purposefully created a disease that has so far killed 20 million people and released it into the population because the U.S. Government wanted to kill black people still does not seem a remotely reasonable inference to draw.

Announcing that to a congregation that trusts you still seems pretty awful to me.

But I am generally not a believer in large, secret conspiracies and Rev. Wright seems to believe in several of them, so it's not surprising that we would be approaching this from different places.


Chalicechick said...

I just read Wright's letter for the first time and yes, the NYT reporter probably shouldn't have lied to him to get him to talk about the subject the reporter really wanted to write about.

But I don't think liberals usually mind when Micheal Moore pulls that, so I'm not sure why it's so awful when then NYT does it.


Steve Caldwell said...


Before you attempt to minimize the Tuskegee experiments, you may want to check out these two links:

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Wikipedia Article on Tuskegee Experiment

Personally, I don't see how doing medical experiments on human subjects without informed consent and denying penicillin as an effective cure after it became available makes any sense medically, scientifically, or morally.

Chalicechick said...

I agree with you that the Tuskeegee Experiements were morally reprehensible and they don't seem to make a lot of sense scientifically, though I'm less comfortable making the science call as I don't know the details.

That said, the government doing something morally reprehensible on a small scale, at least starting with a reasonable goal is not evidence that they did something on a much, much larger scale with a crazy goal, particularly when there is scientific evidence available that disputes the second claim.

I don't intend to minimize the Tuskeegee project. That said, any comparison of the Tuskeegee project and a government conspiracy to invent and spread AIDS is by its nature minimizing to the Tuskeegee project, and that's the comparison you set up.


ms. kitty said...

To piggyback on T&P's comment, the use of "God damn America" as an oratorical device is quite logical, considering how much the "God bless America" device is used. As a preacher, I can understand Wright's use of this device. It's a powerful way to get across a point that obviously resonated with his congregation because of their history.

"Damn" in this sense doesn't actually mean "send them to hell", it means "blessing isn't what the situation deserves". But taken out of context, of course it's going to inflame people.

Wright is a dramatic guy, which is a good thing in a preacher; unfortunately his chops, which were well-received in context, don't play so well taken out of context.

PG said...

That said, the government doing something morally reprehensible on a small scale, at least starting with a reasonable goal is not evidence that they did something on a much, much larger scale with a crazy goal, particularly when there is scientific evidence available that disputes the second claim.

That the government historically has not treated blacks as equal human beings or as desirable members of the American polity seems to inform Rev. Wright's views. I agree that he does his congregation a disservice by fostering conspiracy theories instead of a desire to discover truth through rational means. But I think it's a sign that we need a lot more transparency and education about the scientific evidence. People come up with bad theories due to distrust of the Official Dispensers of Facts, and/ or a lack of access to comprehensible facts. There are (even white!) scientists who don't think HIV causes AIDS, most prominently the UC Berkeley virologist Peter Duesberg.

Chalicechick said...

IMHO, conspiracy theorists are as least as old as the gnostics and will always be with us, no matter how overall trusted the dispensers of facts are.


h sofia said...

As far as black Americans being targeted and abused by medical practitioners, the Tuskegee trials were not isolated. There's a book called "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present" by Harriet Washington, which details more examples. It is no accident that black Americans are more reluctant to seek medical treatment, participate in clinical trials, etc. than their white counterparts.

Harriet Washington was interviewed last year by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The transcript can be found here.
Prior to writing the book, Washington - who is African American - was an Ethics Fellow at Harvard Law School.

Chalicechick said...

I'm sure you're right, H sofia.

But my point still stands.


Robin Edgar said...

"I get that in many religions you don't say "Hey, I think you're wrong on that" to the minister, I just didn't think Obama's religion was one of those."

Why not CC? After all, oh so liberal U*Uism is one of those religions where U*Us don't say "Hey, I think you're wrong on that" to the minister. . .

Chalicechick said...

I mentioned in the post that I do sometimes. LinguistFriend is notorious for doing so as well.


Joel Monka said...

Here's a question I've had about the AIDS conspiracy theory for a long time- in general, I mean, not specifically about Rev. Wright: stipulate that AIDS was created as a biological weapon. How much self-loathing does it take to say "here is a disease so difficult to catch that it only affects drug addicts and the insanely promiscuous- obviously it was aimed at me and mine!"

kim said...

it only affects drug addicts and the insanely promiscuous-

and hemophiliacs and the only slightly promiscuous but unlucky. Also doctors and nurses who accidentally stick themselves, dental personnel who get splashed in the eye, and various other unlucky people. Oh, and teens apparently.

CC -- you were right about McCain.

Joel Monka said...

I was remembering the early days, when I was working for the county health department, and investigators telling me they couldn't do a real epedemiolgy track because some of the victims had as many as 500 encounters the previous year. But ok, let's say that over the years it has become as easy to catch as the common cold. By what logic does one claim it's so perfectly targeted against a single race that it must be a biological weapon created to commit genocide?

Chalicechick said...

Would that be 500 different people?

How is that even logistically possible?


Will said...

Ms. Kitty--

I agree with you that folks have misunderstood what Rev. W was trying to say. What I think he was trying to say is that America should be damned for doing wrong. But saying "god damn America"--which is what he really said--is something completely different.

And to say it was taken out of context will simply never stand up to the video power of YouTube.

The question is, will the general election voter put this on Obama? And, if so, will that be an acceptable position to hold to the general election voter?

CC--I agree with everything you've said in this string. To suggest that HIV was invented and spread as some sort of racist plot is sheer lunacy.

Joel Monka said...

Far easier than you might realise, CC. While people think of NY or SF when bathhouses, saunas, and other forms of sex clubs are mentioned, every big city has them. At the time we're speaking of, Indianapolis had, counting both straight and gay, 11 such clubs that the health dept. was aware of, most of whom had special rooms or provisions for group sex. In the course of an entire evening spent in such a place, 5-10 contacts would not be extreme. Many people spent more than one night a week at their clubs; some practically lived there. Some of the clubs catered to travelling businessmen and VIPs, and had a lot of turnover. Over the course of a year, it adds up.

PeaceBang said...

Awesome thread. I have nothing to add, just thanks for getting it going.

Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
"I think I've mentioned a few times that I really hate it when ministers preach about politics."

I guess you're going to hate this historical example of a famous religious leader preaching about politics:

Water cooler conversation

[Hat tip to Rev. Dan Harper for providing this religious context to Rev. Wright and the context of religious rhetoric.]

PG said...


"By what logic does one claim it's so perfectly targeted against a single race that it must be a biological weapon created to commit genocide?"

You might want to read about what's been understood more recently about the spread of AIDS in Africa. You may consider such people "promiscuous," but it seems to be an existing cultural pattern. So far as I know, the conspiracy theory about HIV having been created to harm black people did not arise until after the period when the disease was diagnosed almost entirely among the homosexually-active and IV-drug users.