Bring on the Rev. Wright Story

The news burst open about a political Super PAC who supports Romney considering using Obama’s history with the controversial Rev. Wright. No specifics were revealed in what way the relationship would be used. Despite existing in a planning stage, most of the mainstream media went ballistic over the possibility. Romney denounced its use and the PAC scrapped the project.

The reason for this turn around was because a few very loud and usual suspects issued a fatwa . . . I mean, a warning against Mormons. They proclaimed in big bold letters like CNN political analyst Roland Martin that bringing up Rev. Wright would mean, “putting Mormonism on the table… putting on the table how African Americans were treated by the Mormon religion.” Some said similarly other aspects of the faith became fair game. In other words, attacking Obama’s critical 20 year history with a fanatic racialist merits launching an assault on a whole religion.

Go for it! Never mind that Harry Reid and a few other Obama supporters belong to that religion too. Let them get equally hit in the crossfire. It is past time that the Rev. Wright story gets told in more than periphery terms. We Mormons can handle the blowback (throwback?). After all, we survived the 19th Century extermination order, mobs, a hot cold war with the U.S. Government, and a previously intense scrutiny in the early 20th Century that will rival what can happen today. Besides, it appears the discussion meant to harm Romney might help if not be negligible.

The truth is that this “Mormon conversation” that has been warned about has been going on already. This doesn’t mean just in the blog world, but national media outlets. Two of the main pushers (not alone by a long shot) of Mormon talk has been The New York Times and Washington Post. They have even enlisted Mormons to contribute to their non-stop coverage. Not even the LDS Temple is off limits as an TucsonCitizen article (that I won’t link) demonstrated, calling it “surreal,” “incomparable with good mental health,” and states, “Mitt Romney needs to make clear the extent he is willing to use the presidency to advance the goals of the Church’s hierarchy.” As Ed Morrison at Hot Air wrote:

Here’s a fun exercise for Hot Air readers. Go to the New York Times website and do a 12-month search for “Romney Mormon,” and see how many hits come back. I’ll end the suspense — “about 12,000 results,” according to the search I conducted earlier today. Now, do a search on “Obama Jeremiah” in the same time frame, and you’ll get 4,190 hits, which is more than I expected but only about a third of the Romney-Mormon search results. Actually, the same search only turns up 4,330 hits since 1851, which means that before mid-2011 the Times only had less than 200 hits for that search item. The media has been asking questions about Romney’s faith all throughout this cycle’s 365 days, whether it has to do with polygamy (473 hits), racism (501 hits), contraception (265 hits), or contributions (2,040 hits). That’s more than article a day that mentions Romney, Mormon, and polygamy at once.

But when independent groups start asking about Barack Obama’s 20-year association with Jeremiah Wright? Horror!

You want stories of polygamy and Romney? The papers don’t even have to bring the subjects up. They just need to report someone else making a few well placed comments. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer was all over the news about reminding people of Romney polygamy ancestors in Mexico. He even hinted that Romney might very well could be one himself in his heart if not in fact. More recently, Legislative Black Caucus leader and North Carolina Democrat state Rep. Alma Adams, said, “”From what I understand about the Mormon faith you can have multiple wives,” in an attack on Romney in light of the passage to support traditional marriage in her own state. She later apologized, but only after getting reported all over the news and papers. The same mention of Obama’s father and grandfather’s polygamist Muslim past is eerily missing.

You want stories on racism? There was that BYU religion professor Randy Bott flap that bounced around the blog world for about a month. Huffington Post is very much open to talking about Romney, Mormonism, and race. Much of the media continually gets The Book of Mormon view on the subject wrong (hint: it doesn’t mention blacks or a priesthood ban at all). With all this already in the air I don’t see why Rev. Wright should be left out of the light of day.

Not important some would say. It seems Rev. Wright himself would disagree, as reported in the NY Post:

When sermons of Obama’s Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright, surfaced during the Iowa primaries, it threatened to derail Obama’s campaign. ABC aired one where Wright screamed, “Goddamn America!” Edward Klein interviewed Wright, who told him Obama’s team tried to buy his silence.

‘Man, the media ate me alive,” Wright told me when we met in his office at Chicago’s Kwame Nkrumah Academy. “After the media went ballistic on me, I received an e-mail offering me money not to preach at all until the November presidential election.”

“Who sent the e-mail?” I asked Wright.

“It was from one of Barack’s closest friends.”

“He offered you money?”

“Not directly,” Wright said. “He sent the offer to one of the members of the church, who sent it to me.”

“How much money did he offer you?”

“One hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” Wright said.

“Did Obama himself ever make an effort to see you?”

“Yes,” Wright said. “Barack said he wanted to meet me in secret, in a secure place. And I said, ‘You’re used to coming to my home, you’ve been here countless times, so what’s wrong with coming to my home?’ So we met in the living room of the parsonage of Trinity United Church of Christ, at South Pleasant Avenue right off 95th Street, just Barack and me. I don’t know if he had a wire on him. His security was outside somewhere.

“And one of the first things Barack said was, ‘I really wish you wouldn’t do any more public speaking until after the November election.’ He knew I had some speaking engagements lined up, and he said, ‘I wish you wouldn’t speak. It’s gonna hurt the campaign if you do that.’

There are several stories of Romney and Mormonism that have and will continue to be written about. There is a whole book out called “The Real Romney” about his formative and religious leadership years. We know about his tithing. We know a little about his time as Bishop. We have heard stories about his mission to France. We even know, speculative as the reasoning, how his religion shaped his secular business acumen.

We know Rev. Wright was Obama’s pastor for 20 years. He even married him to Michelle. Other than that, we know next to nothing about his faith or formative years. At least nothing that hasn’t been highly polished by him and his friends. Bring on those so-called Mormon “problems” (that are already in the news), as there is nothing to fear. Its a price worth paying to know more about what Obama believes about his Black Liberation Theology and the extent he is willing to use the presidency to advance its goals.

8 thoughts on “Bring on the Rev. Wright Story

  1. And I would disagree with this. I think religion issues will distract from the real issues we need to talk about. This is especially true since Obama claims to now be in a new church.

    Now, if we want to discuss his connections with radical people from the Weather Underground, Van Jones, and others, THEN we have a non-religious area in which to question Pres Obama’s social circles.

  2. Good points Geoff. Mormonism has never been off the table, and never will be. Politics is war, and you can’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Republicans should do all they can to blow the Wright story out of proportion. Unless that is, they can calculate that creating the impression of restraint and “focusing on the issues” will actually be a more powerful weapon in the political warfare, which it sometimes is. Wright could also backfire, since it’s an old story that has already been thoroughly overwrought and may have passed it’s usefulness. It might look too desperate.

  3. I would like to speak out for concentrating on issues that matter during the election. Nixon was a Quaker. This had little to do with him being a horrible president. He was a horrible president because he was a big government tyrant. Obama is an even worse president than Nixon, but not because of his association with Rev. Wright or his religion or questions about where he was born, etc. He is a horrible president because of his ideology and his lack of knowledge about economics and business. Those are the issues that matter. Mormons can “take” the examination of Mormonism — we have dealt with much worse in the last 170 years — but they should not be relevant to the decision on whether or not to vote for Romney, just Obama’s religion should not be central to the decision on whether or not to vote for him.

  4. The Wright matter is not instructive about the Pres.’s religion but rather of his values. Christianity will not be addressed but the values Wright taught and Obama supported will be addressed in any discussion of Wright and that is fair game. The most common definition of politics, coined by James Q. Wilson, is “the authoritative allocation of values.” So values. Dry much ought to be the centerpiece of any political discussion. Like it or not that also places at issue mainstream Mormons’ deference to authority (of any kind) because that is a value commonly and consistently taught on Sundays.

  5. As soon as an Obama super PAC considers airing a series on What was going through Romney’s mind as he sat through years of religious gatherings where it was taught that blacks were a cursed race, well, then I’ll consider it equal.

    The press is gonna talk about Mormon stuff and it’s gonna talk about Wright. How much coordination or non-coordination (wink, wink) that has with the campaigns is up to them.

  6. Trevor: Mitt “sat through years of religious gatherings where it was taught that blacks were a cursed race.” Just a point of reference in case such an ad ever is aired: most of my family were members of the Church in the 1950s and 1960s and early 1970s when Mitt would have been taught this. In fact, my mother and father went to church in Michigan in the 1960s not far from where Mitt went to church. People were not taught that blacks were a cursed race. The issues of why blacks didn’t have the priesthood was mostly avoided and was a subject of discussion among the Brethren (definitely — read the David O McKay book) and among some intellectuals and among certain activists. Your average member simply never even considered the issue. So to claim that Mitt went through “years of religious gatherings” where this was taught is simply not historical. I’d be willing to bet that he was probably not even taught this once. In some ways, this is even worse, I suppose, because it would have been nice for more people to bring it up and discuss it, but it simply was not something most people talked about, and given we have lay teachers, they certainly didn’t teach about it.

  7. Mitt Romney’s father led a civil rights march in 1963:

    Detroit Free Press: “With Gov. Romney a surprise arrival and marching in the front row, more than 500 Negroes and whites staged a peaceful anti-discrimination parade up Grosse Pointe’s Kercheval Avenue Saturday. … ‘the elimination of human inequalities and injustices is our urgent and critical domestic problem,’ the governor said. … [Detroit NAACP President Edward M.] Turner told reporters, ‘I think it is very significant that Governor Romney is here. We are very surprised.’ Romney said, ‘If they want me to lead the parade, I’ll be glad to.’” (”Romney Joins Protest March Of 500 In Grosse Pointe,” Detroit Free Press, 6/29/63)

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