It took several years in the Oval Office before it became apparent George W. Bush was not the “uniter” he promised he would be when running for office. Being a young, energetic fellow, Barack Obama (D-IL) has proved it even before he secured his party’s nomination. The Dems are so polarized along gender, racial and socioeconomic lines that a significant portion of women and white working class men are threatening to vote for John McCain (R-AZ) for president if Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is not the party’s standard-bearer (video link).   

In part, this is the hand that the Dems dealt themselves because their identity politics deck includes so many Victim Aces, it’s hard to figure out which ace trumps another. But a wild card – Trinity United Church of Christ – turned the high-stakes poker game into Three-Card Monte: Voters are trying to figure out whether Obama is a closet racist and uncommitted superdelegates are trying to figure out whether enough voters fear that he is, that his prospects in the Fall are irreparably damaged.   

Former Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-NY) gives voice to what many women and white, working class voters in key swing states are thinking in this op-ed published by The Boston Globe:  

Perhaps it’s because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn’t an issue, but reverse racism is. …

 [F]or Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama’s historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white. It’s not racism that is driving them, it’s racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don’t believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory “Our Time Has Come” they believe he is telling them that their time has passed. … 

They may lack a formal higher education, but they’re not stupid. What they’re waiting for is assurance that an Obama administration won’t leave them behind.

Hope, change, and inspiration don’t do it. A speech on racism might persuade editorial boards, but to these voters it’s “just words.” Obama has less than six months to make the case.

It’s not just that Obama’s repeatedly been playing the race card to deflect criticism (“distractions,” in his parlance). It’s that while he and his surrogates are busy branding other people racists, he is surrounded by friends and mentors who are seething with racial animus, the latest example of which is the vicious race-baiting “sermon” delivered at Trinity United Church of Christ on Sunday, May 25th by Fr. Michael Pfleger.

Rev. Otis Moss III, who succeeded Rev. Jeremiah Wright as senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ – and whom Barack Obama has warmly praised as “a wonderful young pastor” – introduces the radical Roman Catholic priest:

We are delighted … he needs no introduction. He is a friend of Trinity. He is a brother beloved. He is a preacher par excellence. He is a prophetic, powerful pulpiteer. He is our friend, he is our brother, he is none other than Fr. Michael Pfleger. We welcome him once again.

The two men of G-d hug before Pfleger launches into a screed during which he calls Hillary Clinton and her supporters white supremacists who feel entitled to the presidency because of their race (video link), and insists that we can’t “move on” from the injustices of slavery because white people have “repeatedly raped” people of color “over and over and over and over and over and over,” and that “America has been raping the people of color, and America has to pay the price of rape” (video link). He also said, “I believe that America is the greatest sin against G-d” (video link).

At the conclusion of this rabidly racist, anti-American rant, Otis steps back up to the pulpit and says: “We thank G-d for the message. We thank G-d for the messenger. We thank G-d for Father Mike.” Remember, Obama thinks Otis is “wonderful” – and probably still does, despite having had to resign from Trinity for the sake of political expediency.

An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily bluntly lays it on the line: “[Obama’s] … judgment and his honesty, even his true beliefs, are in question”:

Everybody knows the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his bigoted anti-American rants. We’ll soon get to know the Rev. Michael Pfleger. With Barack Obama, you’re not only waiting for the other shoe to drop. You’re following a centipede. [Emphasis, The Stiletto.]

In April 2004, Sen. Obama told a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times that he had three spiritual mentors or counselors: Jeremiah Wright, James Meeks and Father Michael Pfleger. …

Obama was quicker on the draw than he was with Wright, saying last week that he was “deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric.” Maybe, maybe not. But if Obama doesn’t share Pfleger’s views, Trinity Church – Obama’s church – obviously does. …

Obama said he realized Wright wasn’t the same man he had known for 20 years. Will he say the same thing about Pfleger? Or will he admit that his church is a bastion of black liberation from whose pulpit routinely comes vitriol worthy of a David Duke or, for that matter, a Louis Farrakhan? …

If the Rev. Pfleger helps open the public’s eyes about the enigmatic Obama, he will have also done an awful lot for the people of this country. …

Does Obama have any spiritual mentors who don’t hate America and think all its people are racists? We don’t believe in guilt by association, but these are the only associations he seems to have.

Obama supporters – and their good buddies in the media – protest that linking the candidate to statements by the people closest to him is “guilt by association.” For 20 years he went to a church that preaches “guilt by skin color.” According to the teachings at Trinity – which Obama called “fairly conventional” – it matters not whether you are a new immigrant or your family came here after the Civil War, if you’re white you are born guilty and you have got to pay.

Here’s what else Obama said about his newly former church at a press conference in Aberdeen, SD, on Saturday: “We don’t want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in that church” and that “It’s not a church worthy of denouncing.”

By now, white Americans think Obama has plenty of ‘splainin to do about what he, his wife and his daughters were taught in that church. And his refusal to flat-out denounce the hateful white-bashing from the pulpit (AKA “sermons”) begs the question whether sizing him up by taking into account his racist – and actual – bomb-thrower friends and mentors is not “guilt by association” but “birds of a feather.” The American people will answer this question come November.

Hillary’s supporters are convinced they already know how this is going to go down. On Saturday, when the 28-member Rules and Bylaws Committee decided to seat the delegates from FL and MI at the party’s convention in Denver, but give them each half a vote – effectively leaving Obama’s delegate lead over Hillary intact – members of the audience started shouting:

“We just blew the election!”

“This isn’t unity! Count all the votes!”  

“McCain in ’08! McCain in ’08!”  

“No-bama! No-bama!” 

And then it really got ugly, The Rocky Mountain News reports: 

Security officers forcibly removed several hecklers, including 62-year-old school teacher Debra Foster of Long Island, N.Y., who showed off bruises on her arm that she said were left from the officer’s grip.

“I was chanting, ‘Denver!’ because that is the next place,” she said. “We’ll be chanting: ‘Madam President, or else!’”

“I’ve been voting Democratic for 40 years, and I end up with a bruise and a really sad heart, that I don’t recognize my party anymore,” Foster said, crying.

Rules Committee member Harold Ickes, one of Hillary’s senior advisors, told CNN the campaign is contemplating an appeal to the party’s Credentials Committee, which meets in July. Hillary’s supporters in the audience clearly wanted to take it all the way to the convention floor.

Meanwhile, Hillary beat Obama 2:1 in Sunday’s Puerto Rico primary (68.4 percent to 31.6 percent), but turnout was puny – 58 percent lower than the 900,000 she had hoped for – and she beat Obama by 140,000 votes, according to Talking Points Memo. Had turnout been more robust, her popular vote total could have jumped by three times that number. She will get 38 of the territory’s 55 pledged delegates and he will get 17, but he still has 174 more than she does.   

In her victory speech, Hillary changed her message to the superdelegates in a subtle, but significant way:

You voted for the person you believe will be the stronger nominee [emphasis, The Stiletto] and the strongest president. …

More people across the country have voted for our campaign, more people have voted for us than for any candidate in the history of presidential primaries.

We are winning the popular vote. Now, there can be no doubt, the people have spoken and you have chosen your candidate.

And Hillary again reminded the superdelegates that at the close of primary season, neither she nor Obama will have clinched the nomination and that it falls to them to push the party past the impasse and towards victory in November: “I do not envy the decision you must make, but a decision has to be made.”  

But what the decision really boils down to is not whether to go with the candidate who has more delegates as opposed to the one who has more votes, but which voting bloc the party can safely get away with alienating, blacks or women. Women are making it clear that if they get shafted, they will make sure that the next time the party is on the horns of this particular dilemma everyone will remember the consequences of appeasing the wrong voting bloc in 2008.

Clarification: According to an item by The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund published in “Political Diary” (E-mail subscription required), the sermon in which Pfleger said “I believe that America is the greatest sin against G-d” was delivered on May 25th, but at his own church, Saint Sabina Catholic Church, and not in his guest sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ that same day.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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