Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On Reverend Wright, the Obama family, the Biden pick and Hillary Clinton

Question: I am curious what your opinions are concerning: 1) “The Reverend”..specifically refer to a question of his faith. 2) His relationship with his wife and kids.. 3) His pick for VP…how does Biden compares to Hillary? - Chika

Hey Chika-

I ll start with your first question about Obama’s pastor which I am sure you are referring to Reverend Wright. A lot of people like to look at this as a bad thing for Obama, but I believe it may have helped him a little bit. First of all, it is hard to argue that someone is a Muslim if you are also claiming his “pastor” is racist. I think it was unfortunate Reverend Wright said those things, he obviously comes from a different generation than Barack Obama. It was a blessing this came out during the primaries and not in the general election. I think Obama should have cut ties with him sooner than he did especially when the Reverend Wright came out and did the media circus thing. It had me wondering if he really wanted Obama to lose just so he could say “see I told you, America is not ready for a black president!” The other thing that has helped neutralize the Rev. Wright issue (at least for now), is that John McCain himself in trying to woo the Christian right has aligned himself to the same people he once denounced as “agents of intolerance” way back in 2000. So it is hard to criticize Obama on Rev. Wright when someone like Pastor Hagee who has made derogatory remarks towards the Catholic church and other groups actually endorsed McCain. Finally, the controversy gave Barack Obama a chance to give one of the more memorable speeches on a difficult and sensitive issue in America - race. I believe like most people, Barack Obama's faith is not tied to a particular pastor or person but to the higher power he believes in.

Secondly, I cannot think of anyone who can look at the Obamas as a family and find anything to criticize. Not since the Kennedys has there been a more picture-perfect family so ready to move into the White House. They are intelligent, photogenic and just plain glamorous. But beyond the aesthetics, you have to give a lot of credit to Barack and Michelle. Here you have a kid who grew up all over the world, without a father or a real place to call home. When you look at the family they have created in Chicago, I believe it is a direct response to his childhood - he wants stability. As intelligent middle class lawyers, I believe the Obamas are a role model not just to African-American families but to all Americans. When I look at the Obama kids, they remind me of how the Clintons were able to raise Chelsea and give her a normal childhood amid living life in the public. I believe if the Obamas make it to the White House, they will continue to be great parents first and public figures second.

Finally, the VP pick. Well, I was one of those that really believed he was going to surprise us all by picking Hillary Clinton to be his Vice President. I know a lot of people did not want him to do that, but I thought it would have been the politically prudent decision given her performance in the primaries. No matter what you think of Clinton’s attack on Obama during the last few months of the primary season, she would have given him the firepower he needed and would have excited her women supporters. After seeing her speak last night, I still think she would have been a good choice. Now in comparision to Joe Biden, I must admit I am glad I did not bet any money on Obama’s pick! This is how I ranked my VP picks - Clinton, Bayh, Warner and Biden as a long shot. But after following the coverage of the Biden selection, I can’t help but marvel at the decision-making process of the Obama campaign. The consensus in Washington is that Biden is exactly what Obama needs in all areas. Biden is a guy everyone (including myself) likes. He is known to speak his mind (in Washington that is not a good thing, but the media and voters love that!). As chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, he brings a wealth of foreign policy experience to the ticket. His background complements and reinforces the so called “exotic” one of Obama. He was born in Pennsylvania to a working class family. He works in Washington, but still goes home everyday to his family in Delaware. He will be able to appeal to the same blue collar voters that Hillary Clinton had so much success with during the primaries. He was elected to the Senate at the age of 29 and has been in Washington since. Obama can talk about change all he wants, but most people who know Washington also know you can’t change the place without having someone on the inside to show you the ropes. So in hindsight, I think that my VP picks should have been Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. If there was any candidate who could placate the Clinton supporters (apart from Clinton herself), it is definitely Biden. Still, Barack Obama and Joe Biden do have a lot of work to do in bringing the staunchest Hillary supporters back to the Democratic tent….Clinton’s speech last night did a lot to heal the wounds...but it also reminded people of what could have been...

Additional readings:

A Strained Wright-Obama Bond Finally Snaps (New York Times; 5/1/08)

McCain Cuts Ties to Pastors Whose Talks Drew Fire (New York Times; 5/23/08)

Charisma and a Search for Self in Obama’s Hawaii Childhood (New York Times; 3/12/07)

Though Obama Had to Leave to Find Himself, It Is Hawaii That Made His Rise Possible (Washington Post; 8/22/08)

Barack and Michelle Obama Marriage Profile (

Obama's Hawaiian Vacation - Photos (Huffington Post; 8/13/08)

The Obamas: Portrait of an American Family (Essence Magazine; September 2008) Essence Magazine Cover Photo

Obama Chooses Biden as Running Mate (New York Times; 8/24/08)

Obama's choice of Biden raises stakes for McCain (Washington Post; 8/25/08)

Clinton Delivers Emphatic Plea for Unity (New York Times; 8/27/08)

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