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April 28, 2008

Jonathan Schwarz Is Irritated By Jeremiah Wright

Jonathan Schwarz finds that a certain way of speaking pisses Jonathan Schwarz off. Jonathan Schwarz instinctively mistrusts anyone who does this. Jonathan Schwarz suspects such people are Moes, even if much of what they're saying makes sense:

WRIGHT: I stand before you to open up this two-day symposium with the hope that this most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church...

You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles...

As I said, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.

Jimmy Carter called it apartheid. Jeremiah Wright didn't liken anything to anything. My position on Israel is that Israel has a right to exist, that Israelis have a right to exist, as I said, reconciled one to another...

This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright...

Jonathan Schwarz has spoken.


Posted at April 28, 2008 09:46 PM

Why are you speaking of yourself in the third person? Are you trying to be the Jimmy from Seinfeld?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at April 28, 2008 10:19 PM

Jonathan Schwartz. If you're going to make such sweeping assertions about Sun Microsystems' CEO, at least get the spelling right.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 28, 2008 10:24 PM

That's Reverend Wright to you, bucko.

Posted by: RobWeaver at April 28, 2008 10:57 PM

Incidentally, the Rev managed to avoid this verbal tic during the Moyers interview, so perhaps it's just something that comes over one when addressing the National Press Club.

Posted by: RobWeaver at April 28, 2008 11:18 PM

I'm kinda irritated by you, frankly, for the first time that I can remember. Probably because what little time I've spent online today I've seen jackasses, some of them "liberal", bashing Wright for saying things that all of your regular readers take for granted and then I come here and you focus on trivial bullshit. I don't care for people referring to themselves in the third person, but here you've got someone with a national audience who can reach more people in a couple of days than most bloggers will reach with their blergs in a lifetime, and he's saying the kinds of things you say and that's why he's being bashed.

But whatever. How he rubs you is obviously the crucial point here, because he clearly fits into the wrong category of your Three Stooges theory of history, based on his irritating preacher style rhetoric.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 28, 2008 11:23 PM

Donald, fair enough. I'll expand on why this irritated me whenever I have a second. It wouldn't have bothered me if it weren't connected to other things he said that I consider more serious than referring to himself in the third person.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 28, 2008 11:33 PM


Like Donald, I was a bit flummoxed by this post, given your usual jerimads. If there is something 'more serious'...unpchuck it.

Posted by: bobbyp at April 28, 2008 11:40 PM

Well, I wish you'd posted a line or two about whatever the serious issues are. On the rhetorical level, I've always disliked it when people compare themselves to Old Testament prophets or to Jesus (Chomsky has done this too, btw), but it's a fair comparison in some cases--Old Testament prophets were extremely critical of their own societies and shocked the good religious folk of their time with their nasty comments. Still, comparing oneself with them does come across as a little grandiose. I think it's a congenital hazard in the preacher business, from what I've seen. It might indicate a bit of megalomania or it might not--his congregation would know, one way or the other.

On a substantive level, I wish he'd stop making the HIV claim. Yes, he's right that the people in power are often extremely callous, but there are plenty of real examples he could point to.

Elsewhere, though, I see liberals outraged that he's making it tougher for St. Obama, especially with the claim that Obama might be taking some positions for "political" reasons. For the first time I almost hope Clinton does become President-she's not that much different than him on substance and at least people won't have any starry-eyed illusions about what they're getting.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 29, 2008 12:07 AM

The NYT run a "news" story on the Rev. which irritated me more than the Reverent's comments irritated Jonathan. It is basically an editorial passed as news -not that this is the first time this happens nor is it the first time I am irritated by its occurrence. The author accuses the Rev. for all sorts of things but does not bother to put his comments in context or quote any relevant parts of his speech. Compared to the BBC story, it looks like an article that belongs in People's magazine.
Why do I keep going back to the NYT? I ask myself that every day.

Posted by: at April 29, 2008 12:22 AM

i am pissed off that every single white liberal blogger who's had anything to say on the issue has been wholly critical of wright.

this WAS an attack on the black church.
9/11 WAS the result of american state-terrorism.
israel IS an apartheid state.

black america continues to suffer under an oppresive, unapologetic, WHITE government. a black churchman shows his anger, and white bloggers (conservatives and liberals alike) react by sliming him in any way possible.

you didn't disagree with wright's points when he made them. nonetheless, you felt the need to say something negative. you opted to focus on something fluffy and stupid (oratory style). then when a reader called your focus fluffy and stupid, you hinted at a few more coherent objections you had.

no time to say what they are of course. there's a power structure to protect.

by all means, though, keep us updated on any other black public speaker whom you "mistrust". wouldn't want anyone else sneaking up on us and being honest like this.

Posted by: free whitey! at April 29, 2008 01:16 AM

Well, Jon, that'll teach you to let your guard down. In the wake of this teapot cyclone let me just say that I don't 1) feel disappointed that you chose to write about something as trivial and human as a pet peeve, 2) require any intellectual window dressing from you to justify it, or 3) think you're surreptitiously trying to protect the white power structure. Please don't let this foofaraw stop you from posting about cats, minor irritations, or any of your other mental bric-a-brac whenever the mood strikes.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 29, 2008 01:58 AM

Yeah, if my name were "Jeremiah Wright", I would keep repeating it over and over a thousand times a day and writing it on pieces of paper everywhere - it's such a beautiful name. "Jonathan Schwarz"? Sorry, not so much.

Posted by: abb1 at April 29, 2008 02:17 AM

NO-ONE should worry about Israel anyway, they have I AM THAT I AM and I guess their business is with HIM. Whether they love their neighbor as HE requires? I guess that's between them and HIM also. I just know I don't want MY dollar spent on either side. As far as anybody hating Jews, hell I can find ten Jew that hate Jews in no time at all, YOU can too. Check out the local country club, YOU'll find them there with a drink in one hand and a golf club in the other and a non-Jewish name on the register.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 29, 2008 03:06 AM

I agree with anonymous above--I just read the NYT and the "news story" about Wright contains not one single substantive point that he makes. Bob Herbert's column is the same way. It's all about his "vanity" and "ego". Wright has been given a golden opportunity to talk about leftwing issues, and of course the focus of the news is entirely on his egomania.

That sound familiar to you, John Caruso? Whatever one thought about Nader's campaign or Nader himself, he was undeniably substantive and had a lot to say, yet virtually every mainstream liberal and news story focused exclusively on his ego, and stayed well away from the substance of what he was saying, except when he said the two parties were the same, because that they could dispute on factual grounds. These stories become about vanity whenever someone with genuinely leftwing views starts getting a nationwide audience. Funny how that works.

BTW, I loved the catblogging and don't think Jon is trying to protect the white power structure. I'd be an even bigger fan of this site if he did a lot more of that. But this particular post, coming on a day when the mainstream liberals are all in a tizzy because someone is pulling attention from their progressive hero and actually saying something progressive, showed really bad timing.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 29, 2008 07:29 AM


Posted by: me at April 29, 2008 07:29 AM

Oh lord. I mean I'd be a much bigger fan of this site if Jon did more catblogging, not protecting the white power structure. Though perhaps in my subconscious those two notions are linked in some strange way.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 29, 2008 07:33 AM

"except when he said the two parties were the same, because that they could dispute on factual grounds."
They didn't, though. That was the whole point of Nadir. To appeal to the left who might otherwise choose the Democratic party by default by offering "something different" (rather than the reality: worse than nothing at all) and thus peel off votes.

Posted by: me at April 29, 2008 08:19 AM


Posted by: catherine at April 29, 2008 09:08 AM

Until anyone in the "white power structure" (say a hedge fund manager in Greenwich or GE vice president in Cincinnati or Burson Marsteller account exce) worries even a little about the Left reaching and influencing "the people," might as well blog about diabetic cats (a touching story) or "third person" grandiloquence.
And nobody in the old power structure, from Harvard's endowment chief to K Street lobbyists seems to be worried. Right wing populism, once in a while, unsettles the power structure for a short spell. But the Left? Successfully marginalized.
Gets a few shots in at 2AM on TV or on blogs. The rest is frustration.
How to break out? You tell me.

Posted by: donescobar at April 29, 2008 09:10 AM

donescobar sums it up in his usual depressingly accurate way. But I think the power structure must worry at least a tiny bit--every time someone comes along in an election year with a few progressive things to say and manages to acquire a bigger than usual audience for a brief time, out come the accusations of egomania--it can be someone running as a Democrat (Jesse Jackson in 88 or Kucinich in early 08), as an independent (Nader), or even just a private citizen who momentarily gets the spotlight (Wright).

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 29, 2008 09:19 AM

It's clear to me that he's not on an ego trip, or at least not any more than anyone else in the news, but is mocking those who make it about him, Jeremiah Wright, rather than about the racist nature of American history and the convictions of a whole lot of black Americans today. A whole lot.

You blew this one, Jon.

Posted by: catherine at April 29, 2008 09:23 AM

Yeah,I agree.
Those accusations seem to work mighty fine, too.
Now, "egomania" is acceptable in the likes of Jack Welch because he's "earned it," made himself and others some pretty big piles of money. But for progressives, the same characteristic turns into sour grapes egotism. America? America.
Progressive ideas smell of European style socialism, welfare state intrusion and power.
Can't rinse that myth out of the American fabric.

Posted by: donescobar at April 29, 2008 09:32 AM

i am pissed off that every single white liberal blogger who's had anything to say on the issue has been wholly critical of wright.

Tristero at Hullabaloo just posted something in his defense.

Posted by: at April 29, 2008 09:32 AM

Having worked with a lot of West Africans, it's not hard to figure out where some of Wright's more ego-driven rhetoric comes from. Yes, it is an acquired taste, and nothing I'm overly fond of. Fortunately, it doesn't blind me to the truths Wright speaks.

Otoh, it took me decades of my Iowa-Minnesota life to get used to the space-violating intimacies of Jews and Arabs.

If you try, you get over it. If you don't try, well, houses are cheap down South and no one cares how much you trash talk uppity preachers.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at April 29, 2008 10:17 AM

For shame. Not quite up to par like the NYTimes' "wriggled out from under sound bites" goody.

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at April 29, 2008 11:19 AM

I think Reverend Wright is a non-issue, but so long as we're discussing him, how can anyone deny that the guy is a narcissist?

He had a perfect opportunity to reach a large mainstream audience, and what did he do? Did he give a reasoned discourse on, say, imperialism?

No, he just stood up there and preened himself, obviously delighting in all the attention he received. You could tell by his face that he LOVED the sound of his own voice and he relished the opportunity to strut and swagger.

He clearly did not give a shit about using his once in a lifetime opportunity to make the world a better place.

Yeah, some of things he said were truthful, and, yeah, it would be nice if the media focused on those things. But that doesn't make Wright any less of an asshole.

Posted by: Sarah cornbone at April 29, 2008 11:23 AM

I am sick and tired of this commercial with Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton. I tried to adjust the color on my set but it does not seem to help.

BTW, the interview Bill Moyers did with Jeremiah Wright was very good. Check it out if you have not already.

Posted by: cemmcs at April 29, 2008 11:33 AM

I saw Wright on Moyers and he didn't come across as vain there. I read the transcript of the press conference and there's a fair amount of substance. If people want to focus on his preening and so forth, then that's what they'll do. I'm sure if Chomsky had given one of his trademark talks in a non-preening way to a national audience he'd have received lots of really respectful attention. See, that's the problem--we lefties just haven't found the perfect spokesman and if only we could find someone who is free from any personal flaw people could focus on what is being said.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 29, 2008 01:08 PM

Err? Having been to many Chomsky talks, I think I can fairly state that he rarely, if ever, preens. His discussion focuses almost entirely on issues, and he doesn't even bring himself into matters by name-dropping, etc. And he usually underscores his points by saying, "All of this is easily available to any of you, and you can all learn this same stuff if you look in these places. I did nothing special."

I do NOT think we're lacking the proper spokesman. As usual, we lack power. The reason someone like Jonah Goldberg gets a dais from which to broadcast bullshit, and Bill O'Reilly gets to stroke his ego every night on national television is not because these people are more credible spokesmen than the left has got - it's because they're saying the right things. The left loses because the right has all the wealth and power, period.

Back in the day, we had our own sort of wealth and power - working-class solidarity, trade unionism, etc., and the ruling classes weren't as well organized as they are today (with think tanks and so on). Which let us push people like Eugene Debs into prominence. But now we haven't got that, either - so why be surprised that we lose? Why be surprised that the national media can pick apart our spokesmen? There's no power making them do otherwise.

Posted by: saurabh at April 29, 2008 01:58 PM

Aaron Datesman would like to remark that Aaron Datesman is pleased to see Jesus B. Ochoa back in the comments section here. Back in the day, Aaron Datesman thought he was the best commenter.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at April 29, 2008 02:13 PM

Saurabh, I was being sarcastic. My point was that it doesn't matter what the personal style of the person--if he or she says something too radical, the MSM and the mainstream liberals will find some reason for dismissing them. You probably know as well as I do what sorts of reasons people have for saying that Chomsky can't be taken seriously. There's always something.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 29, 2008 02:19 PM


if you want have an idea of the Italy's situation, please go here:

and see the post "Sweet dictatorship"

thank you

bye ;)

Posted by: Ermes at April 29, 2008 02:34 PM

Ermes, man, I wonder if we could trade you our media. It might be an improvement: you get (a?) media not already beholden to the Italian power structure, and we get one that writes and broadcasts in a language we don't understand.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at April 29, 2008 02:55 PM

See, that's the problem--we lefties just haven't found the perfect spokesman and if only we could find someone who is free from any personal flaw people could focus on what is being said.

Yeah, every once in a while I get the idea that Left Blogistan is the side that isn't in love with blaming the victim, and then an election rolls around and it's like oh okay, that was totally wrong.

Posted by: Dan at April 29, 2008 03:52 PM

donescobar 9:32: Just change the name and call it Internetism or some such. Its what the right would do in the same position.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 29, 2008 04:14 PM

RACISM WINS AGAIN, one can easily see what the problem is with Rev. Wright, first is, he's black, second is, he's right(TRUTHFUL). (may be PROUD of being black and is therefore egotistical)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 29, 2008 04:24 PM

IF it was Pat Robertson or Jimmy Swaggart, why YOU'd be sending him YOUR lunch money.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 29, 2008 04:29 PM

Decades in the pulpit may condition certain people to slide easily into the third person. Ralph Hitchens, though, believes this is something that would never happen to a guy who confines himself to commenting on blogs.

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at April 29, 2008 04:39 PM

The Rock is going to lay the smack down on some candy asses if you keep talking bad about the use of the third person.

Posted by: The Rock at April 29, 2008 04:46 PM

Donald Johnson: man, my face is red (well, brown, but if you bleached away the melanin it would be red). Anyway I hope my rant contributed to other dim-witted people's understanding.

Posted by: saurabh at April 29, 2008 05:39 PM

No problem, saurabh. My face has been red all day, reading all the mainstream liberals who are shocked, shocked, by what Wright has said to make things difficult for St. Obama.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 29, 2008 07:27 PM

Sorry, but Wright did come off as a self-righteous ass more concerned with making his 15 minutes not look bad than actually accomplishing a damned thing.

I know everyone wants to see a Chomsky go up on that thar TeeVee and say all the things the white left says to itself and it's friends, and that's great. Unfortunately, you come off as a kook---or if your prefer, a Neptunian. As a pointed aside, dog-whistle references to Cornell West are completely lost on most of the 15% of white people who self-describe as "the left," let alone the majority of people--regardless of race. The fact you can throw up a flag doesn't mean shit: everyone just looks around and wonders what the hell you're talking about now.

The cold bottom line is this:

0. Wright frightens or baffles most of the American public, because they do not have any fairly presented background in what he's talking about.
1. If, as Wright claims, Obama really doesn't believe in the American mythology and is just saying what he has to to get elected, then Wright is harming the chances of putting that myth to rest by having someone like Obama as president (See #0).
2. If Obama does believe in the American mythology, then Wright is wrong, and it's a contest of evil lessers, among which only Obama was smart enough to say invading Iraq was fucking stupid.

Lastly, you have to be a huge douche to seriously refer to yourself in the third person. If you're not being serious and doing it to make a point, you must realize that just as nobody knows what the fuck the prophetic tradition is, they aren't going to get it that you're being clever either.

Racist underestimation of Afro-American intellectual culture? Probably. Still a fucking reality that you need to deal with in order to win elections? Yep.

Posted by: James Cape at April 29, 2008 10:55 PM

James Cape,

Reading the transcript I don't get that impression at all. Would you care to quote the parts that you think are particularly self-aggrandizing? The majority of his speech was about real issues, and it was only when the moderator directed questions at his own self that he talked about himself - and only in a FEW instances did he refer to himself in the third person. And I don't find those uses particularly egotistical - more a rhetorical flourish.

Also, I think your (1) is wrong. Wright doesn't say Obama disbelieves in the American mythology. There is a lot of difference between "I agree with Rev. Wright and disbelieve in American mythology," and "I repudiate Rev. Wright and all that he says." The latter is the statement Obama was (according to Wright) forced to make; that Wright believes this not to be true does not imply he believes the former to represent Obama's viewpoint. And I'm not quite sure how Obama being elected puts the American myth to rest, anyway...

Lots more to say, but probably no one will read this.

Posted by: saurabh at April 29, 2008 11:50 PM

That's not true! Tell us more, saurabh!

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at April 29, 2008 11:59 PM


I'm very sorry to say, but with this post you may have lost a great deal of the credibility you've otherwise deservedly gained in the eyes of at least one longtime and very regular reader of your blog (namely myself; I'll try to avoid even indirectly speaking of myself in the 3rd person).

Perhaps once you inform us what these "other things he said that I consider more serious than referring to himself in the third person" are (which I hope you will do sooner, rather than later), this post will seem less indecent. I, however, doubt this will be the case, and not simply because the fact that you chose to first post about the most trivial of things, rather than the more substantial problems that you claim to have had with Rev. Wright's speech, will still seem childish, even if your points, whatever they might be, will be well taken, after they have been aired. More important than this, though, is the fact that I found the talk given by the Reverend to be one of the more inspirational things to have been aired on a major network in forever, and I have a hard time imagining what serious issues any truly progressive thinker might have with it, at all.

Nevertheless, though I will wait to hear out your criticisms of the lecture, it must be said: your trashing of Rev. Wright for the most inane of reasons is really the last thing we need in the current climate.

Posted by: matthew at April 30, 2008 05:16 AM

Wright is not my idea of an ideal spokesman for the left, but I think that's irrelevant. In fact the very idea that "hey, I've got my 15 minutes of fame so I'd better say things in exactly the right fashion" tells us exactly what will happen to anyone who doesn't have the magic formula--they'll be vilified.

You'll notice if you go visit mainstream liberal blogs that one person's narcissism goes completely unnoticed--that of St. Obama. He is literally perfect in many liberal eyes. He's not a mere politician and the suggestion that he's changed his position on some issues because he's a politician is one of the unforgiveable things that Jeremiah Wright has implied. I've abandoned a liberal blog I've been reading faithfully for this reason--a lot of very intelligent people have made themselves think this, which is so bizarre I can't interact with them without having my head explode. Also, whatever one thinks of Wright, it's inconceivable that any sentient being could attend his church for decades and be his friend and not know his positions on the US government, yet Obama claims to have been in that position and some of my online liberal friends seem to believe this.

Also, if Obama just condemned the HIV statement and even if he merely misrepresented Wright's statements about Farrakhan, I'd be inclined to sigh and say "Well, Wright is screwed up on HIV and Farrakhan has said some really disgusting things." But he didn't stop there--he went on to express disgust with Wright's denunciation of US terrorism. In short, Obama (and the "liberal" NYT) have united in vilifying Wright for what every reader of this blog knows about this country's record. You don't have to be a fan of Wright to see what's at stake here--it doesn't matter who the spokesman is, the liberal establishment is not going to allow the notion of American terrorism into the political mainstream. Obama is just another politician manning the barricades against dangerous rabble-rousers.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 30, 2008 07:18 AM

I think catherine is correct.
Wright was purposely using his name the same way the media has been in order to take a dig at his audience. This guy has gone from anonymity to notoriety overnight through an advertising campaign of the right (and their usual cohorts in the media) with JEREMIAH WRIGHT packaged and branded as the latest version of ungrateful-America-hating-black-radical.

Posted by: BobS. at April 30, 2008 09:23 AM

"I'm not anti-American, and I didn't come here to condemn America - I want to make that very clear. I came here to tell the truth - and if the truth condemns America, then she stands condemned."

Malcolm X

Posted by: cemmcs at April 30, 2008 11:49 AM

a) I got the feeling that the Jeremiah Wright to which the rev referred was the fictional character created by media.

b) Substitute I, me, my, mine for JW and you get a boring text.

c) Thank The Fates the U.S. has no more pressing problem than its European stock being shocked at a member of its African stock speaking truth; this absence allows media to feed the Cult of Personality truckloads of manufactured tripe to stem its cerebrum-damaging malnutrition.

d) If Rev Wright had merely said that Will & Grace and Merka's tolerance of Satanic Popery angered the airplane and hurricane gods, he'd be able to next call with aplomb for nuking Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad.

e) Anyone more than mildly irked by Jon's dislike of the 3rd person use (which I entirely understand) is going to be seriously disconcerted by the travails of life and love.

Posted by: cavjam at April 30, 2008 01:42 PM

John--It's the audacity of hope. Semi-seriously. I voted Nader in 2000 and regretted what happened and have felt like I had, in a small way (and in a non-swing state, so it didn't matter anyway) contributed to a situation where a worse than average President was given an opportunity to show just how many murderous things he could do. I thought "Well, maybe these pragmatists aren't entirely wrong." Also, sometimes when you read the liberal blogs (especially the comments) you find people who are sort of stuck halfway between, say, a NYT view of the world and a Chomsky view. Some liberals recognize the existence of American imperialism and not all of them think it only started with Bush. So anyway, I've come to think that there's some hope in this country of getting some people in the left part of the mainstream to shift further leftwards. It's not like I'm 100 percent sure we on the far left are right about everything anyway, so I'd learn from them too.

But the Obama cult and this Wright thing--it's left me much more surprised and bitter than I logically should be, because I know this is how things work and this is what mainstream liberals are like.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 30, 2008 02:48 PM

Donald Johnson: Just left a righr wing blog (Yes I left Nan's no.1-202-225-0100) and it looks to me the left and the right have found COMMON ground, at last. Apparently, The Moonbats and The wingnuts have close to the same opinion of the Good Rev. (not as erudite a conversation, of course, but none the less the VERY same euphemisms)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 30, 2008 03:46 PM

Perhaps we're in danger of derailing this thread from the subject of Wright (I'll try to bring my ramblings back on track by the end), but:

The argument made by Nader, that the "two parties are the same", certainly could be disputed on factual grounds. And I think part of Nader's failure was due to the fact that he was passing a shallow argument on to people who really could appreciate nuance. What I think his argument should have been (and why I hold little truck with 'pragmatists') is on fundamentals.

Obama fails as a candidate for me on these same lines. He seems bright, he clearly has some progressive and compassionate ideals, but there are some basic parameters that he holds as sacred. I'm not sure what causes that - maybe it's deeply-ingrained indoctrination, and maybe it's 'pragmatism' of a different sort, the sort mentioned by Wright above (without accepting those parameters, you won't be given any kind of authority by the real holders of power). But Obama clearly accepts some basic premises - US exceptionalism, militarism, corporate power, and so on. And those are the bedrock which allow people like Nixon, Reagan and Cheney to do their thing. There WAS a continuity between Bush Sr. and Bush Jr., maintained by Clinton. We can trace many of the threads of Bush's invasion of Iraq right back into the Clinton presidency.

Round my parts we would call the alternative perspective the "revolutionary" one - that is, the pragmatists, by accepting the fundamentals, will never be able to rid us of the Cheneys of the world. In fact, they ensure that we'll always end up with them. Things will be unquestionably better under an Obama than under a Bush. But there's still only one body to the hydra, and you won't kill it until you destroy both its heads - if you don't, the other one will keep growing back, again and again.

Wright is clearly a revolutionary - and this is what makes him anathema to the pragmatists. Again, I can't speak to what makes those people pragmatists, since I just don't fathom their perspective. I think Wright, in the above transcript, is recognizing that he and Obama share a lot of common ground, and he believes that Obama also feels this way. But Obama (along with all pragmatists) has to prove he believes in the fundamentals - he has to repudiate Wright entirely.

Posted by: saurabh at April 30, 2008 03:53 PM

An excellent illustration of the above is the video Jon posted a few weeks back of Joe Biden smirking at Nir Rosen's labeling of US invasion and occupation of Iraq as imperialism. To Biden, whatever else the US's activities in Iraq might be, they could *never* be imperialist, because that contradicts the shared mythos. Whatever differences he has with Bush can't possibly extend that far. But for me (and I think most people who visit this site would agree) the shared mythos is the real problem.

Posted by: saurabh at April 30, 2008 04:00 PM

Donald Johnson:
"for what every reader of this blog knows about his country's record..."

But that is precisely what must be denied. If we admitted to pieces of our record as dark as pieces of the German, British, French or Belgian records, we could no longer claim to be different, better in the eyes of history or god.
And then we would be forced to take the next unthinkable step, to admit that we are just another nation among nations, another people among peoples, that our way is not the "exceptional" American way, but the way others took for which we have judged them.
And there we would be, no longer the hope of the rest of humanity, but chubby chumps staring at our strip malls and unlivable cities and gated communities and Wall Street crooks and corporate thieves at the top of a pyramid we pretended was "opportunity for all."
And who is going to propel us to go there and maybe, maybe start all over? Neither the Prince of Hope nor the Princess of Policy.

Posted by: donescobar at April 30, 2008 04:19 PM

saurabh: Excellent comments. One nit, though: Nader never said that the two parties were the same, and the inability to hear that was due to a lack of nuance on the part of those who heard it that way (though actually nuance had nothing to do with in it many was just easier to deal with that straw man than his actual points). So he was making a deep argument, and was attacked for it on shallow grounds—not the other way around.

Donald: I've come to think that there's some hope in this country of getting some people in the left part of the mainstream to shift further leftwards.

I've spent lots of time in the past in various mainstream liberal forums with the same motivation, with mixed results at best. Still, yeah, I agree that that's worthwhile.'s left me much more surprised and bitter than I logically should be, because I know this is how things work and this is what mainstream liberals are like.

2004 was like that for me. In that case it was particularly bad because the disease was universal, striking both mainstream liberals and progressives, all rooting for one of the worst Democratic presidential candidates in my lifetime. Seeing the complete surrender of progressives in 2004 made me shut down politically for over a year. Having fully accepted that lesson, though, nothing they do fazes me now.

By the way, I apologize if I tweaked you with my earlier comments. Now that I've taken a look at some of the execrable liberal blog reactions to Wright, I can see where you'd have been sensitive to any form of Wright-bashing here, even if it was coming from a different place.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 30, 2008 05:54 PM

Wright is a PREACHER. Preachers, especially Protestant Preachers, preach "Hell Fire and Damnation". That's what one goes to church for is to hear where YOU've sinned and need to change YOUR ways, the Fires of Hell if YOU keep on the path YOU're going. THAT'S the reason for SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. What is preached from the pulpit should not even be part of campaigns for any office.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 30, 2008 07:45 PM

No problem, John.

I think part of the problem here is (to use an overly grandiose term) the totalitarian mentality that people adopt in an election season. That's what disgusted me about the mainstream liberal response to Nader in 2000. It wasn't enough to argue that "Okay, Nader makes many legitimate points, but his candidacy is the wrong solution to the problems he identifies--it'll actually do more harm than good. Here's a better approach..." I would have listened to that and might even have been persuaded not to vote for him then. It's not like I have any answers, then or now. But no, what one usually got then and now was a root-and-branch all-out attack on Nader, his claims, and rarely any acknowledgment of the seriousness of the problems he identified. It was all "There are tons of differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. How can he say there are none? He's vain, egotistical" Etc... No attempt at meeting people halfway and this from the apostles of political pragmatism--they were more fanatical in their approach than most Naderites.

It's the same with Wright vs. Obama. With a lot of liberals, once Wright reappeared and made his statements, for them it was all-out war. Wright must be destroyed. He's vain, egotistical...
No attempt at fairmindedness--no questioning about whether Wright might be making some legitimate points. Obama is the Saviour, the holy bringer of political redemption, conceived without sin. All the blame in any conflict between the two men is entirely the fault of the evil preacher man. Not all liberals have been like that, but it's a pretty common response.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 30, 2008 08:20 PM

Yeah, completely agreed. I looked far and wide in 2004 for a liberal who could talk about Nader with any kind of equanimity, and found none. And as I say, the really depressing part was watching so many progressives get in on the action as well. Sadly, it's human nature to identify with my team, no matter who my team may be or the reasons that they're my team at this moment. Trashing Nader seemed like a rite of passage for many progressives, to prove their sincerity to their new Democratic friends.

You're right that the same mechanisms apply in Wright's case, and for the same reason: he's a nobody who dares to threaten the anointed Democratic savior.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 30, 2008 08:49 PM

Well I thought this particular post was pretty lame, but certainly not in a way that caused Jonathan to lose any credibility.

Why diss JS over a trivial failure to identify church style? Wright's day job involves sucking up all the attention in a very large room full of people. Chew on that for a minute please. I'll wait.

You can't hold down a job like that for any length of time without being narcissistic. Or at least not without presenting symptoms of narcissism.

Compare it to the Moyers interview and the only reasonable complaint here is that he misread his audience. He was talking to the National Press Club (who, you'll note, were hooting and hollering by the time it got to Q&A). Chew on that too. The press club audience was fired up.

Done chewing? Okay then...

A lot of otherwise perfectly sensible people, including JS, apparently wanted Wright to make a reasoned case for principles that you happen to agree with, and you're legitimately disappointed that he didn't do it your way. But do you really think that shit would have gotten on TV if he had been making a reasoned case? No fucking way.

If he had done what you wanted him to do the way that you wanted him to do it you would never have heard about it in the first place.

Nader still pisses me off though. I'm not under any obligation to be rational about that. Ain't doin' it and you can't make me.

Posted by: radish at May 1, 2008 12:16 PM

Maybe I should 'fess up that I'm down on Nader in almost exactly the way that I'm declining the opportunity to be down on Jonathan or Rev. Wright. Back in 2000 I was pretty mad at Clinton the First, and didn't think Gore was any sort of special, but I did a bit of risk assessment and decided that my early absentee ballot in IL, while probably totally meaningless, had to go to Gore just in case. I had read Molly Ivins, see. And seen the debates.

That assessment turned out to be a lot more prescient than I imagined. I don't blame Nader for the theft of the election. And while I certainly wouldn't blame anyone for treating their own life as disposable for the sake of principle, I do blame Nader for treating other peoples' lives as disposable for the sake of principle. I didn't think Junior's reign was going to be anywhere near as bad as it turned out to be, but I could see, with no better tools than Molly Ivins and dumbass televised debates, that it was going to be genuinely bad.

Nader played the contradiction-heightening hand all-in, but with other peoples' lives as the stake. For me, that was a confidence-killer.

Posted by: radish at May 1, 2008 12:32 PM

radish: Be mad at the SCOTUS and election fraud. Nader just spoke his mind, much like YOU, that's all.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 1, 2008 01:17 PM

I wouldn't be so sure Gore wouldn't have done something monumentally stupid and bloody if he'd been in office after 9/11. It's a lot easier for a politician to be (somewhat) principled when he's out of office. Carter is an example and I think Gore is another.

Not that I don't regret that Gore didn't win (or wasn't allowed to win). But lots of people are responsible for that, not just Nader, and it's the Democrats who gave Bush the power to be the mighty war president. Nader's actual argument, as I recall, was that Bush wouldn't be able to do that many horrible things anyway if he got in--even he underestimated the spinelessnesss of the Democrats.

Anyway, I'm not urging people to join the Nader fan club--I brought him up because the reactions to him and his criticisms of the Democrats by mainstream Democratic liberals are virtually the same as the ones aimed at Wright and at Jesse Jackson in 88 and even at Kucinich, who in the minds of some was cluttering up the debates with his irrelevant presence before there were even enough votes cast to establish a frontrunner (not that he had a chance). The liberals don't want to hear from leftists at any time except when nobody will listen.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 1, 2008 01:23 PM

Obama is the Saviour, the holy bringer of political redemption, conceived without sin.

That's pretty literally true as well - Digby actually said that James Carville was wrong to call Bill Richardson "Judas" recently...because Wright deserves that label for his betrayal of Obama.

Barack H. Christ, I guess? Unfuckingbelieveable.

Posted by: at May 2, 2008 04:59 PM