Applying dishonest attacks fairly


Updated below

I’ve written a couple of posts about the storm surrounding Obama’s relationship with his ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright. Mainly, I’ve defended Wright’s comments, seeing as how they aren’t as crazy or radical as so many people believe.

But I shouldn’t have to defend Wright’s sermons at all. Just because Wright believes or says one thing, does not mean that Obama agrees. He was Obama’s religious mentor, not a high-level political advisor. The official role Wright played in the campaign seems to have been largely symbolic and confined to the religious arena.

For similar reasons, I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut about McCain’s very public courting of religious nut John Hagee and his self-professed “spiritual guide” Rod Parsely. I don’t personally think that John McCain believes that the Catholic church is the “great whore,” that Katrina was God’s response to homosexuality in New Orleans, or that Islam is the enemy of Christianity and the United States, even if his honored friends say so.

However, it’s more than a bit unfair that Obama has to defend himself from these guilty by association attacks not just relating to his pastor, but other random black people as well, while McCain is given a free pass by the media. As Glenn Greenwald notes, we have two choices. A) Consider ourselves above guilt by association tactics and say nothing about McCain, or B) Use the dishonest standards of the Right and apply them both the Left and Right.

Greenwald clearly has sided with option B:

In a perfect world, presidential candidates (and everyone else) would be judged only by their own words and actions, with a primary focus on what they will do in office. But as we just saw this last week — and as we’ve seen repeatedly over the last many years as Democrats are forced in ritualistic sideshows to “repudiate” whoever the Extremist of the Week happens to be (Michael Moore, MoveOn, Louis Farrakhan) — we don’t live in that world.

Whoever the Democratic candidate is will be subjected to these “guilt-by-association” attacks, leaving as the only question: will that be a one-sided attack or will there be a demand that it be applied mutually, fairly and equally? Those most interested in showing how noble they are will be happy to have it be one-sided. Those most interested in doing what is possible to prevent a John McCain presidency will insist that it be applied equally.

Maybe we should, to use a tired phrase, fight fire with fire. But I’m still not so sure.

Update: From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“He would not have been my pastor,” [Hillary] Clinton said. “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend.”

You also get to choose the pastors you invite to the White House

Flickr photo by cobalt123


  1. Ian

    There’s an episode of Family Guy where Peter is a black slave and Lois is the white daughter of Peter’s owner. So that makes the kids mixed race. Stewie makes the awesome comment with complete sincerity, “You know what’s great about being half black and half white? When I grow up, I will be accepted by everyone!” I mean really… Republicans get to rub elbows with some pretty hateful people and are applauded for it, but a black pastor makes some comments that are half as bad and we have a crisis. Obama should get some credit for not playing the lame ass race card and saying that the media is only beating this story to death because his pastor made light of black issues, even if that is the case.

  2. Chris

    Excellent comment. I agree 100%