Posted by: Staff | 05.10.2008

Obama’s Mistakes: The Reverend Wright Controversy

MICHAEL FIRER ’09

Even the most rabid of Barack Obama supporters (you know who you are) would have to admit that, recently, the “candidate of change” has made a few mistakes. The man makes risky decisions and hopes that people will understand his reasoning. Sometimes the risk is worth the reward, and Obama is praised with the buzzwords you’ve all heard enough times that there is no need for me to repeat them. Sometimes, though, Obama’s comments and actions are seen as the shocking follies of an inexperienced and naïve candidate who simply can’t break free of his ideals. The reason I am concentrating on Obama and not Hillary Clinton or John McCain as well is because the other candidates do not have these problems. Obama’s attempts to break the stereotype of the dishonest politician separated from the people and using any means necessary to win have caused unique problems to come up, and his directness and sincerity have only put him in precarious situations. While the risks Obama takes, such as addressing controversial subjects or not giving up parts of himself that are less than savory to the American public, have frequently received a positive response, by acting like other politicians, he could avoid these risks altogether and achieve a more stable and secure lead.

Every politician makes mistakes, but Barack Obama needs to start approaching his own like most politicians do. The best example of what I mean can be seen in Hillary Clinton. Clinton had often claimed that the plane she was in on a trip to Bosnia in 1996 had come under sniper fire, once saying “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” Recently, however, it was revealed that Clinton’s remarks were untrue, and there was even video footage that showed her walking calmly along the tarmac and stopping to kiss a young girl. When questioned about the issue, Clinton did not reaffirm her claims or try to explain the issue away. Instead, she used the classic political tactic of shifting blame (she claimed she was merely repeating what someone told her), avoiding the issue (she never did explain why she spread the story after stepping off the plane and realizing that there was blatantly no danger), and moving on (while it’s become a common joke against Clinton, note how little time the issue spent in the public’s eye).

Now take Barack Obama. He rarely runs attack ads or uses any sort of mudslinging on the grounds that they are shameful things to do. And they are shameful things to do, but Obama can’t expect the campaign for the most important job in America to be civil. He’s been lucky that most of Clinton’s attacks have backfired because if the attacks were more effective, Obama would never have achieved many of his successes. Obama’s sincerity and humanness, and the problems with the two, were nowhere more obvious than in his handling of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy. First off, those entering the political realm are wise to disassociate themselves from anything that could come back to bite them in the future. Obama stayed connected to Wright, the seemingly (I only use seemingly because, at this point, the man’s true beliefs have been muddled beyond comprehension) racist anti-American reverend of a church that said Louis Farrakhan “truly epitomized greatness.”

When the controversy arose, instead of explaining that he technically wasn’t associated with the church anymore or that he should have left it a long time ago, he explained that Wright had been his friend and reverend since childhood, and that he himself does not hold Wright’s beliefs, but does not hate the man. Sure, this was the honest, sincere answer, but it merely added fire to the controversy. His honesty, unusual for a politician, dug him deeper into the hole that the controversy had created. Later, he delivered a speech devoted to the topic of race in America. Groundbreaking for a politician, sure, but not the politically sound thing to do. While clearly not a positive tactic, it is nevertheless true that (to avoid losing votes) candidates must avoid any and all controversial issues. Obama was lucky his speech on race went over well. In making his recent comments that Americans cling to guns and religion, though, he was not so lucky. It may have been his honest opinion, but this honesty certainly didn’t help his campaign.

Understand that I do not think that this idea of a new, honest politician who states his true beliefs, as opposed to merely what is safe, is a bad thing. I support Obama, and it is for that reason that I want him to be more careful, even if that means giving up just a little of the personality and sincerity that has made him the revolutionary candidate he is believed to be. If Obama goes up against John McCain, he’ll need to ease up on his respectable act and start trying to win voters through the use of means that are more standard and less sincere. Unfortunate, yes, but those tactics are also the only ways to stay ahead in a competitive political race for the highest office in the world.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Very interesting. I figure you voted “Yes” to our “Do the ends justify the means” poll? 🙂

  2. I know this comment is late, but I cannot exit this window without saying something:

    Since it’s your personal opinion, I have no problem saying this: your moral compass is disgraceful in this article. Despite the disclaimer at the end, I get the feeling that you believe that dishonesty from politicians is more worthwhile than one being straightforward. Darling, that is one of the most awful things I have heard in a while, and perhaps that’s a reason why our politic(ian)s are so screwed now. I’d rather have a potential leader come under fire for telling the truth than one who eases through life on a foundation of lies. Avoiding controversial issues, to add, only adds onto the ridiculousness of our government.

    What are people so afraid of? Better to lose because someone doesn’t like the fact that you told the truth than to win because someone adores you as a result of your conniving lies.

    “Honesty is the best policy” is not a fairy tale they told us in preschool, hun.

  3. And then your straight-forward guy gets swift-boat campaigned, doesn’t fight back, and the guy making all the decisions for your country is the guy you rallied against. I’m not saying the politicians should be dishonest, just careful.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: