It used to be the case that the measure of a person's affection for someone -- or some thing -- was what he wouldn't ask of those who loved him. A man might borrow money from a stranger or go without before asking the woman he professed to love for a loan. Perhaps its most famous literary example was the refusal of Michael "Beau" Geste to ask his aunt Patricia point-blank if she had pawned a family heirloom to pay for their life at the estate. There were some things one did not ask of those you cared for.
But those days of delicacy are long gone. Today you grab what you can with both hands -- never mind who gets hurt. Still, perhaps the cruelest thing about President Obama's "evolution" on the gay marriage issue was the element of cold calculation. Trapped between alienating the white, liberal gay establishment and dissing the black churches who were anti-gay marriage, he decided to curry favor with the white, gay and moneyed constituency because deep in his heart he knew that no matter how hard he stepped on them the black community would not abandon him.
Having now sided with the people who call these black pastors and congregations “bigots,” especially in North Carolina where two-thirds of black voters supported Amendment One, Obama is not at risk of having them flip to Mitt Romney — but he does risk losing that enthusiasm, fundraising, and organization.
It would not of course have worked the other way. Had he sold out the gay community there would have been hell to pay. The lesson everyone should learn is this: cheat on the girl who loves you the most. She'll forgive you. Ask Elizabeth Edwards.
Calculation was always part of Obama's rise to power. His priorities appear to have been him, him, him and himself. Anything else was a distant second. After the contents of Jeremiah Wright's sermons were revealed to his embarrassment, the candidate denied ever hearing anything while attending his church. Then Obama sent an emissary to pay Wright to clam up and avoid the press. The New York Post recounts the incident as related by Edward Klein.
“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.
That "friend" turns out to be Eric Whitaker, according to author Edward Klein who had Wright on taped record. The Hot Air site notes that Whitaker was a long time and close associate of Obama.
That’s the same guy who runs the Urban Health Initiative at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Michelle Obama got her big six-figure promotion coincidentally shortly after The One was elected to the Senate; the same guy who got a “glowing” reference from Obama for Tony Rezko, which led to Rod Blagojevich hiring Whitaker to be the state’s public health director; and the same guy whose UHI program just got nearly $6 million from HHS as one of 26 grantees in an applicant pool of 3,000.
But why is Wright spilling the beans now? If you listen to the audio of Klein from the 2:30 minute mark at the Hot Air Site, the book author believes that Wright felt betrayed. If so, Wright is timing his revelations with supreme acuity. Here are Hannity and Klein on audio discussing the personal visit made by candidate Obama to dissuade Wright from embarrassing him further.
Klein: About ten days later he made this secret meeting with the Reverend Wright after he'd already denounced him and begged him not to speak any further. Now we know this is true not only because the Reverend Wright told me so but because the Secret Service logs logged in this meeting. So we have confirmation that it actually took place.
Hannity: Now so they offered him -- and this is all on the tapes that you have with Reverend Wright -- Reverend Wright said this, so Reverend Wright, am I reading this correctly -- is angry at Obama?
Klein: Reverend Wright is more than angry. He is absolutely fulminating. He feels that he's been thrown under the bus by a man who he mentored for 23 or 24 years. You know we -- all of us -- complain about the fact that Obama sat in that church and listened to that hate speech for 20 years. But what we don't realize is that even before he became a member of the church he was very close to the Reverend Wright who was like a second father to him and who was his spiritual advisor, his political advisor and in fact the Reverend Wright told me on tape that Obama came to him and said "I need some spiritual advice. I don't know exactly who I am."
And the Reverend Wright said -- and this is on tape -- "well we know your Islam background and you have that. But what you need now is some coaching on Christianity." And I asked the Reverend Wright: "did you convert him from being a Muslim to a Christian?" And he said, "well I don't know if I could go that far. But I can tell you that I made it comfortable for him to accept Christianity without having to renounce his Islamic background."
Hannity: And this is all on tape?
Klein: This is all on tape.
In that conversation with Wright is compressed the whole of Barack Obama's problematic process of evolution. Things that are to most people fixed points of life are garments to be thrown on and off with him. He changes his name. Adopts a definite racial identity when he might have claimed a more mixed ethnicity. He changes religions -- though Wright is ambiguous on the point -- shedding one persona only to adopt another like a shape-shifter assuming a new form. He does all this with alacrity of a man changing his shoes.
All of us change over the course of our lives, but for most of us it is gradual and nothing like the frenetic transformations that the President of the United States puts himself through. Barack Obama's latest evolution on gay marriage shows that he is not done shape-shifting yet. He is still a work in progress.
But the conversation with Wright illustrates the perils of too rapid a change. Someone gets left behind holding the empty clothes. In this case it was Jeremiah Wright who found himself on the floor like a piece of used Kleenex. For the trajectory of Obama's personality changes do not describe a Random Walk. The paradigm shifts he undergoes are directed. They never go from a position of greater power to lesser. The changes may alter all else, but in the respect of power the progress goes only one way.
And whatever blocks the way had better yield.
"Love", spy author John LeCarre once wrote, "is whatever you can still betray." Perhaps the sincerest compliment President Obama can pay to the black churches was he knew their love was true. Only thus could he sell them out knowing they would still stand by him. In Jeremiah Wright however, Obama may find someone who will pay him back in his own coin. There is no flattery so sincere as imitation.