Real change has never been easy. . . . The status quo in Washington will fight. They will fight harder than ever to divide us and distract us with ads and attacks from now until November.
— Barack Obama, Pennsylvania primary-night speech
With that, Obama identified the new public enemy: the “distractions” foisted upon a pliable electorate by the malevolent forces of the status quo, i.e., those who might wish to see someone else become president next January. “It’s easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics” and “trivializes the profound issues” that face our country, he warned sternly. These must be resisted.
Why? Because Obama understands that the real threat to his candidacy is less Hillary Clinton and John McCain than his own character and cultural attitudes. He came out of nowhere with his autobiography already written, then saw it embellished daily by the hagiographic coverage and kid-gloves questioning of a supine press. (Which is why those Saturday Night Live parodies were so devastatingly effective.)
Then came the three amigos: Tony Rezko, the indicted fixer; Jeremiah Wright, the racist reverend; William Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist. And then Obama’s own anthropological observation that “bitter” working-class whites cling to guns and religion because they misapprehend their real class interests.
In the now-famous Pennsylvania debate, Obama had extreme difficulty answering questions about these associations and attitudes. The difficulty is understandable. Some of the contradictions are inexplicable. How does one explain campaigning throughout 2007 on a platform of transcending racial divisions, while in that same year contributing $26,000 to a church whose pastor incites race hatred?
What is Obama to do? Dismiss all such questions about his associations and attitudes as “distractions.” And then count on his acolytes in the media to wage jihad against those who have the temerity to raise these questions. As if the character and beliefs of a man who would be president are less important than the “issues.” As if some political indecency was committed when Obama was prevented from going through his 21st — and likely last — primary debate without being asked about Wright or Ayers or the tribal habits of gun-toting, God-loving Pennsylvanians.
Take Ayers. Obama makes it sound as if the relationship consists of having run into each other at the DMV. In fact, Obama’s political career was launched in a 1995 meeting at Ayers’ home. Obama’s own campaign says that they maintain “friendly” relations.
Obama’s defense is that he was eight years old when Ayers and his Weather Underground comrades were planting bombs at the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other buildings. True. But Obama was 40 when Ayers said publicly that he doesn’t regret setting bombs. Indeed, he said, “I feel we didn’t do enough.”