Charles Krauthammer is a real piece of work. Three years ago, I heard him speak at the annual Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado at Boulder. (You may remember last year's conference, following which Bill O'Reilly and other luminaries on the right went ape-shit over statements made by a single panelist--of over 100 in attendance--which seemed to them to have the effect of encouraging high school-age children to experiment with sex and drugs.) Mr. Krauthammer, who was the sole speaker for a plenary, answered a question from a member of the audience, who suggested that perhaps the U.S. was not the best country to be exporting democracy to the Middle East, by reminding the gentleman that the mere fact that he was able to ask such a question of one such as himself was prima facie evidence of how free America truly is. Suddenly feeling myself to be in the presence of a very scary op-ed writer, I scampered to safety outside the building.
Nothing seems to excite the ever-attenuated antennas of the Righteous Right as much as liberals being exposed to free speech without being penalized. Thus it is with Charles Krauthammer, who, in his recent column in the Washington Post titled, ever so modestly, Obama's dereliction, first quotes Obama from his now-famous speech on race:
"There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?"
I would imagine that Mr. Krauthammer is not a church-going person, for the next words out of his pen were, "But that is not the question. The question is why didn't he leave that church?" Is Mr. Krauthammer used to hanging around with people who belong to two or more churches? For myself, I know that I wouldn't be caught dead with someone who attended two churches at the same time. Personally, I think that going to one church for the fiery sermons and another for the kicking potluck dinners is more than a little cheesy.
That being as it may, Krauthammer sees Obama's dereliction as continuing to attend Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago given the things that Rev. Wright has said over the past decades, all of which were condensed into one ten-second sound bite so that the conservatives wouldn't exceed their attention span. Krauthammer must have stopped reading (listening?) to Obama's speech soon after the words he quotes above were spoken. He must have missed the part where Obama pointed out that Rev. Wright is no longer the minister there (he recently retired).
But what really got to Krauthammer--and, I suspect conservatives everywhere--was that Obama suggested that some blacks of a certain age might have some justification for their anger at America, while pointing out that some whites, in turn, might feel justified in being distrustful that blacks may take their jobs under affirmative action. Krauthammer seems uninterested in the feelings of his own race toward blacks; but Obama must pay for suggesting that blacks have any justification for feeling slighted by our society. "This contextual analysis of Wright's venom, this extenuation of black hate speech as a product of white racism, is not new. It's the Jesse Jackson politics of racial grievance, expressed in Ivy League diction and Harvard Law nuance. That's why the speech made so many liberal commentators swoon: It bathed them in racial guilt, while flattering their intellectual pretensions. An unbeatable combination."
So, for Krauthammer, the sins of the past must not be placed or placated. They must be swept under the rug. When it comes to guilt, Krauthammer and his fans are not buying. Could this have something to do with the idea that most movement conservatives have that to admit error or fault is to put the lie to the notion that only they have God's eye and ear? Or does it have more to do with Maoist Mother and Fascist Father, who would smack them but good if they ever admitted to stealing a cookie? Think back to the last time a conservative ever admitted that society owed anything to anybody, that they made an "honest mistake", or that people needed to have an honest and open dialogue about a festering issue. What were people of that day wearing, if anything at all?
Dot of the Day: Claiming that American society owes anything to anybody--outside of tax cuts for those who used to be known as the "landed gentry"--will cause your conservative friends to go into denial faster than you can say, George W. Bush.