For Obama, Not All Hateful Rhetoric Is Equal
The Illinois senator's campaign persuaded a delegate to step down after she called her neighbor's African-American children "monkeys." Was the remark just a poor choice of words — or was it more insensitive than Reverend Jeremiah Wright's controversial sermons?
April 12, 2008 - 2:03 am
If you are homicidally-minded, (not too famously) anti-Semitic, white-bashing, and prone to attacking the United States, Barack Obama can forgive you. There are some lines, however, that it seems even the Obama campaign doesn’t want crossed.
This past weekend, Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski — a Carpentersville, Illinois village trustee elected as an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention — was encouraged by the Obama campaign to resign for inflammatory speech. Ramirez-Sliwinski did not assert that America was run by hate groups. She did not state that the country deserved terrorist attacks; nor did she indict our government with conspiracy theories of racial genocide. And she didn’t try to goad followers into snuffing out a man’s life for running a legal business she does not like.
What Ramirez-Sliwinski did do was tell children to stop playing in a small magnolia tree “like monkeys.” The two children are African-American. The mother of one of the two children called the police over the slight, which Ramirez-Sliwinski insists was not racial in nature. Ramirez-Sliwinski was issued a citation for disorderly conduct, even though she claimed to have acted on behalf of the safety of the boys.
For the weekend slight, the Obama campaign convinced Ramirez-Sliwinski to resign on Monday. She has since reversed her decision, and decided to fight the disorderly conduct charge and remain a delegate. The mother of one of the children has stated that if Ramirez-Sliwinski fights the disorderly conduct change she will “involve” the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, though it’s unclear what purpose would be served by having the civil rights group take sides in a case pitting one minority it serves against another.
Barack Obama’s presidential campaign been pounded for weeks for revelations that his pastor of 20 years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, used inflammatory language in sermons that have been characterized as being anti-American, anti-Semitic, and racist. Wright has retired, but Obama’s current pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Otis Moss, wasted no time in using race to defend Wright by equating criticism of Wright’s language with a public lynching. Obama has publicly refused to sever ties with Wright or Trinity United Church of Christ.
Another Chicago minister strongly supportive of Obama is James Meeks, who is also an Illinois state senator. Meeks has come under fire for his own choice language and positions. The minister has drawn the ire of gay rights advocates for his strident stands against homosexuality, which some critics categorize as homophobic. Meeks has refused to denounce the bashing of whites, even referring to white American mayors as “slave masters.” He has also called African-American ministers he sees as working for the current system “house n*ggers.” Despite these points of friction and intolerance, the Obama campaign has not severed ties from Meeks. Instead, it has sought to merely downplay his statements.
Then there’s the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has helped set Barack Obama’s “moral compass” for 22 years — which is longer than Obama has known Wright. Pfleger also happens to be a radical apologist for the Nation of Islam, and he has asked followers to murder (his exact word was “snuff”) a firearms retailer because he’s against the ownership of firearms. Despite calling for the death of John Riggio for engaging in lawful commerce and his own history of anti-Semitic diatribes, Pfleger is still featured on the campaign’s People of Faith for Obama page.
Infamous anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan is one of the few radical Obama supporters who has been rejected by the presidential candidate. Although this only happened after Obama was badgered about that support in a debate with Hillary Clinton.
Considering Obama’s historical support from radicals and his record of hesitatingly distancing himself from them (if at all), it was curious that Ramirez-Sliwinski found herself in discussion with Obama staffers Monday about her status as a delegate for the campaign. Especially since it was over a statement that most are willing to write off as an unfortunate word choice.
Or perhaps it isn’t surprising at all.
Although the controversy over Jeremiah Wright’s sermons still resonates across American society, Obama will not risk damaging his long-established relationships with local Chicago firebrands. This is because they assure his future after this one long-shot presidential election bid. Wright, Meeks, Pfleger, and other Obama supporters like them in Chicago are part of the local power base that assured his assent from local politics to the U.S. Senate. No matter how venomous their rhetoric, these acidic relationships also protect his reelection. Obama is wise enough to plan for the long term.
People on the edges of Obama’s campaign like Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski may make mistakes and be guilty of nothing worse that a poor vocabulary choice. But with the candidate’s judgment and relationships already in question, “just words” may now be enough for his campaign to throw supporters to the wolves.
Bob Owens blogs at Confederate Yankee.