Politics & Policy

A man in his pulpit, &c.

I know we’re not supposed to talk about Reverend Wright anymore, because Obama and his supporters have declared it off-limits. It is now in bad taste — sort of like showing the video of the Dean Scream quickly became in bad taste. (You remember that episode from the ’04 campaign?) But I’m not quite through with the Rev yet. In fact, I haven’t even started.

And thank heaven we live in a free country, where the Obamites can’t shut us up. Not even McCain — with Senator Feingold — can shut us up (entirely)!

I happened upon a video of Reverend Wright appended to this article. In it, Reverend Wright says — or screams, as that seems his accustomed style — “Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture that was controlled by rich white people.”

Of course Jesus was a black man (in addition to being a poor one). Beethoven was, too — don’t you know? And all the Egyptians, who, by the way, flew airplanes, long before Orville and Wilbur.

Actually, it would be nice if people got their story straight about Jesus. When I was coming of age, in places like Ann Arbor, Mich., and Cambridge, Mass., there was a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus was an olive-skinned gay healer.” The only answer, or one of them: You wish.

At any rate, we see, in the video I have mentioned, that Reverend Wright is a preacher in the Church of Grievance. And, in some respects, the entire country is a Church of Grievance. It is our national church. Everybody’s a victim, everybody whines, in this incredibly free and beneficent and prosperous country.

Wright hollers and prances around, like a clown and demagogue. His congregation is enraptured, as the gullible have been from time immemorial. In the pulpit, Wright mocks Bush as “that C student in the White House.” And then he starts talkin’ ’bout “Jesus” and “my God.” He is a Christian, you see. And if his behavior in the pulpit isn’t Christian — who are you to point it out? You must have an “untrained ear,” as Obama said in his speech.

Odd that Wright goes on and on about how terrible Obama has had it. Seems to me he’s had a pretty sweet deal, to go along with the usual knocks in life: Columbia and Harvard and all. And now poised to become president of the United States. Boo hoo.

What a vile, disgusting, dangerous man, Jeremiah Wright, to judge from this video. He just pours hate and error into the ears of his followers. I thought of an old spiritual: “I met my preacher the other day, gave him my right hand. But just as soon as my back was turned, he scandalized my name.”

‐I know that Obama’s speech has been mightily picked over, and there’s not much I can add. But let me just mention a few points.

Obama said,

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part — through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

Did you notice the Civil War, just tucked into a list? The small matter of the Civil War, in which over 600,000 people died, in a struggle essentially over slavery: a struggle essentially to expunge a great sin and redeem the land?

Like others, I was appalled at Obama’s use of his grandmother. He called her “a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street” — yeah, and do we know for sure those fears were unfounded? That they were racist? And I bet she’s sorry she “confessed” her fear, at least when Barack was around.

Obama went on to say that his grandmother “on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” That is bad, no doubt: but enough to make her a hate-filled counterpart to Reverend Wright? Enough to merit this “outing” by her grandson on the national stage?

Later, we had this, from Obama: “Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends.” Could be. And could also be that those politicians were willing to do what other politicians were not: take crime seriously, instead of excusing criminals and faulting a frightened populace for racism.

Also, have politicians ever exploited fears of discrimination for their own electoral ends? Has Obama ever considered the question?

Okay, I am through with him.

‐Except for one note: A friend wrote me, “The very day the sh** was hitting the fan over Reverend Wright’s sermons, I came across this line, from page 12 of Up from Liberalism [by Bill Buckley]: ‘The intellectual probity of a person is measured not merely by what comes out of him, but by what he puts up with in others.’ Perfect.”

‐Did you-all read that Mikhail Gorbachev has come out as a Christian? He did so in Assisi. And you can read about it here. Utterly fascinating — the last Soviet leader, a Christian . . .

I wonder if he’ll now start talking like Jeremiah Wright.

‐Of course, Reagan suspected that Gorbachev was a closet Christian all along . . .

‐Sometimes, I’m not very proud of my country, and you want to say with Reverend Wright, “G. d. America” — but we have a sense of perspective. How about the deaf-mute couple, who had tried to escape Cuba, with their two children, but were picked up by the Coast Guard, and sent back to Fidel — and Raúl? They are now in a Cuban prison (of course). If you can stand it, read about it here.

‐By now, you must have seen David Mamet’s coming out in the Village Voice — a type of coming out. The famed writer penned an article called “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.’ ” (Here.) In it, he called Thomas Sowell “our greatest contemporary philosopher.” Oh, he did a lot of things.

I had an inkling, about Mamet — because of a cartoon he happened to scribble back in November. I mentioned it in Impromptus (here). The cartoon was about the Hollywood writers’ strike, and it showed two men — two strikers. One said, “Whaddaya think, will we end up on the breadline?” And the other said, “I don’t touch carbohydrates.”

This signaled irreverence, this signaled impiety — and you could have figured that Mamet was disaffected from the Church of Liberalism. Though maybe that is mere hindsight.

I’d like to highlight something from his Voice piece. He said,

Prior to the midterm elections, my rabbi was taking a lot of flack. The congregation is exclusively liberal, he is a self-described independent (read “conservative”), and he was driving the flock wild. Why? Because a) he never discussed politics; and b) he taught that the quality of political discourse must be addressed first — that Jewish law teaches that it is incumbent upon each person to hear the other fellow out.

. . . he is a self-described independent (read “conservative”). There is a deep, deep truth in what Mamet has written there. If you have to keep mum about your politics — you probably dissent from the mob.

‐In Monday’s Impromptus, I talked about the defection of seven Cuban soccer players in Florida. And a reader sent me a remarkable article from an ESPN website. Though not so remarkable, really. A great many people resent Cubans who defect from Fidel’s land — who have the audacity to escape from a socialist paradise. And the people I’m talking about — those who resent — are safely in free countries. This is one of the most repulsive phenomena of our times.

In his article, the writer, Andrew Hush, oozes bitterness toward the defecting Cubans. I’d like to highlight some passages.

The events of the past few days have raised a number of questions. The most obvious one concerns security around the Cuban team. Of course, 24-hour surveillance is neither possible nor preferred — these are free men after all — but their escape seems to have been accomplished with minimum effort. The team bus was given a police escort to and from the stadium for the match against the USA, but it is believed that little extra security was in place at the hotel.

“These are free men after all”? Oh? And Hush seems to resent that they weren’t minded closely enough — that they were allowed to break free.

Furthermore, the decision to place Cuba in Florida for its qualifying group matches is also, in hindsight, questionable. Although the examples of Martinez, Delgado and Galindo suggest that defection is possible wherever you may be in the USA, these are a young group of men that may have had second thoughts about the choice they made had they been in a less familiar environment. It is no surprise that their rumoured destination while they seek to establish themselves is Miami, a city whose population is one third Cuban.

Here is a man in a free country — Hush — begrudging the opportunity of men in an unfree country to escape.

Consideration must also be given to the players and coaches left behind. The fact is that Cuba’s draw with the USA was a result that greatly enhanced the nation’s chance of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. Though the defectors have their reasons for doing what they did, the fact is that they have betrayed the players with whom they boarded the plane to America.

That is always the claim by Communists and other totalitarians, and their apologists: The escapees have “betrayed.”

Cuba has a long history of the defection of its nationals. Many get away on high-risk missions that put their lives in danger. Having enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to their ideal destination, it is perhaps not surprising that these young men have chosen to seek asylum in order to pursue their professional soccer dreams in the ‘land of the free’.

Did you enjoy those quotation marks around “land of the free”?

However, the actions of these young men have implications that go beyond individual ambition. It is only due to the players they left behind that Cuba is not likely to face serious sanctions for failing to fulfill their fixtures. Of course, as this article is being written, there is no guarantee that further defections are not imminent.

Perish the thought.


With hopes of Olympic qualification all but gone following defeat to Honduras, who is to say what happens next? One thing is for sure, the remaining Cuban players will have no better chance to defect. Should they do so, it will be yet another body blow to the world game in one of its most unique nations.

One of its most unique nations. Forget the failure to understand the word “unique.” How about the morality of the statement? And if Cuba is “one of the world’s most unique nations,” is North Korea even more unique?

I ask a question I have asked before: Are there any people in an unfree country treated worse by people in free countries than the Cubans? I’ve often quoted Jeane Kirkpatrick: This is “both a puzzling and a profoundly painful phenomenon of our times.” (I originally quoted her in a piece I wrote in 2001, here.)

UPDATE:  A reader has brought to my attention something extraordinary – an apology written by Andrew Hush.  You may find it here, at the pro-Cuban blog Babalú.  (When I say “pro-Cuban,” I mean, of course, pro-Cuban freedom and democracy.)

‐Let’s have a little language. The other day, I was reading the Bible (instead of listening to Jeremiah Wright), and I came across a word I had never seen — or never noticed: “gazingstock.” What an amazing, pungent word — a companion to “laughingstock.” In Nahum, we read, “I will . . . set thee as a gazingstock.” (Excuse me, I should have said King James.) In Hebrews, we read, “. . . whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions.”

I wonder why this striking word fell out of the language. Or perhaps I have simply been oblivious.

‐Let’s have some music. For a review of Verdi’s Ernani at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. For a review of the pianist Lang Lang in recital, go here. For a review of the soprano Isabel Leonard in recital, go here. For a “spring preview,” concerning concerts in New York, go here. For another preview, concerning opera performances, go here. All of these pieces were published in the New York Sun.

And I’d like to say an additional word about Isabel Leonard. She is just out of Juilliard, and pretty as a picture. There is something of Audrey Hepburn about her. Why do I mention what should be an irrelevant fact? Because, in the vocal world — and, even more, in the opera world — it is not irrelevant, for better or worse. It gives a person a considerable leg up.

And I was reminded of a story about Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the late soprano who was famously described as “the most glamorous woman in Europe.” A regular concertgoer takes a friend to a concert: his first of any kind. Schwarzkopf walks out on stage, and the friend gasps, “And she sings, too?”

‐In a column last Friday, I mentioned a death notice in the New York Times. It ended, “In her memory, please vote Democratic in November.” Many, many people wrote in to say what this reader, in particular, said: “Actually, given the history of Democratic machines, the notice should have read, ‘Join her in voting Democratic in November’ ”!


‐Friends, I have so much more to tell you. For instance, I’ve been meaning to tell you about a visit to Yale — glorious Yale — for almost a month now. But I’ve got to go. Will probably not write in this forum till late next week. But if you happen to be at the Salzburg Easter Festival, and want to hear a lecture on Wagner’s Walküre, don’t be shy. I’ll see you at the Sacher Hotel on Monday morning, 11 o’clock.

But I wanted to leave you with a photo. In last Friday’s Impromptus, I shared a photo of a cute kid reading NR. (A reader’s daughter named Olivia.) Another reader wrote to say,

I enjoyed Olivia’s picture, and it reminded me of the attached. This is Chris, my son who is now a hulking 15-year-old hockey and lacrosse player (he was about 1 at the time, I believe). He got a good start and he’s the school conservative scold! I told him about WFB this week and his famous statement about “standing athwart history, yelling Stop!” — and Chris said, “That’s what I do at school!”

And would you like to see “the attached”? Here you go.



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