The Cognitive Gap
Defending Obama.


Conservative commentators, with a few exceptions, have spent the last few days picking apart Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech on the problem of race in American history, politics, and culture. The consensus seems to be that even though the speech was well-crafted and included several memorable turns of phrase, Obama came up short on substance.

Their criticism tends to focus on two points: 1) Obama did not once and for all disassociate himself from Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years and spiritual mentor, whose incendiary, grotesquely paranoid statements about America necessitated the speech; and 2) The remedies favored by Obama to bind up the nation’s racial wounds and address lingering disparities amounted to a laundry list of big government same-old-same-olds.

The second point can be set aside with the observation that Obama is not, and doesn’t pretend to be, Thomas Sowell. He’s a liberal senator running, as a Democrat, for the presidency. If elected, he’ll likely toe the party line on all major issues — which, of course, will be bad news for African Americans. So, for example, he’ll be steadfast in his support for affirmative action in higher education, which means that promising black students will continue to be channeled into colleges for which they’re unprepared, rather than into colleges indicated by their standardized test scores, ensuring another generation of higher drop-out rates. He’ll also find himself beholden to Democratic contributors and thus in the pocket of teachers unions, so he’ll continue his party’s tradition of fighting tooth and nail against school choice and any hint of accountability in education. Oh, and Obama is certain to push for universal health care — i.e., the creation of another nightmarish adventure in socialism that will function much like public education. You know the drill there . . . those who can afford to do so will quickly opt out, taking with them the best physicians and nurses, leaving behind a wrecked bureaucracy of underpaid, unaccountable, marginally competent medical providers going through the motions until their retirements kick in.

That’s just Obama being Obama.

The problem of Obama’s loyalty to Wright is another matter, however, and here conservative criticism of Obama’s speech has been, by and large, unfair. Unless you’ve spent the last few weeks in a cave, you already know a scattershot of the gospel according to Reverend Wright: that America is “the U.S. of K.K.K. A” and brought upon itself the attacks of September 11, 2001; that America “put Nelson Mandela in prison” in South Africa and “supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there”; that the American government “lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color”; that America is “only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty”; and that America, through its Zionist proxy Israel, “has supported state terrorism against the Palestinians.”

Such statements are beyond wrongheaded. They’re delusional — a point Obama himself acknowledged: “The remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”