If you want to read a conservative who's not an idiot discussing the Obama speech, click here.
For those of you who prefer your conservatives obtuse and dishonest, there's Krauthammer:
This is the nub of the conservative argument against Obama. Allow me to summarize: "Waaah, you said you weren't going to make us feel bad about black people, waaaah."
(b) White guilt. Obama's purpose in the speech was to put Wright's outrages in context. By context, Obama means history. And by history, he means the history of white racism. Obama says, "We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country," and then proceeds to do precisely that. And what lies at the end of his recital of the long train of white racial assaults from slavery to employment discrimination? Jeremiah Wright, of course.
This contextual analysis of Wright's venom, this extenuation of black hate speech as a product of white racism, is not new. It's the Jesse Jackson politics of racial grievance, expressed in Ivy League diction and Harvard Law nuance. That's why the speech made so many liberal commentators swoon: It bathed them in racial guilt, while flattering their intellectual pretensions. An unbeatable combination.
But Obama was supposed to be new. He flatters himself as a man of the future transcending the anger of the past as represented by his beloved pastor. Obama then waxes rhapsodic about the hope brought by the new consciousness of the young people in his campaign.
Conservatives hate, hate, hate . . . no, not black people . . . but history. Or at least the history of black people.
They love the parts of history that are about winning wars. Also the parts having to do with the Founders ensuring their right to own guns. That's good history. That's history we should all clutch to our bosoms and look to each and every day for guidance and inspiration. History is our guide!
But not the part of history that involves crowds of white people drinking lemonade while stringing up a black man. That part of history has, and should have, no relevance or impact. At all. On anyone.
Conservative history goes like this: the brilliance of the Founders, the courage and gentility of Robert E. Lee, FDR packing the Supreme Court, the John Wayne portions of World War II, CBS surrenders to the Viet Cong just as we were about to win, Roe v. Wade, Ronald Reagan arrives on a cloud to banish the hippies, and Mission Accomplished.
Now for balance, we have the left-wing version of history: White guys enslave blacks, kill Indians, blacklist commie screenwriters, cut down all the trees and shoot all the fuzzy animals, and get rich selling Humvees to the army. And it's all about oil, man. Used to be all about coal, man. And before that it was all about alfalfa, man. Don't be naive, read Chomsky, that's all I'm saying.
In the conservative historical view there was no ethnic cleansing of Indians, the Indians, um . . . relocated. For the weather. They prefer a dry heat. In the conservative historical view we didn't enslave blacks, they were just kind of like Applebee's waitresses: underpaid, sure, but basically kind of cheerful. In the conservative historical view we never stole half the nation of Mexico at gunpoint, or allied ourselves with Stalin, or launched firebomb and atomic bomb attacks on cities full of women and children, or managed by sheer stupidity and military incompetence to lose a war in Southeast Asia.
In the conservative world view there has been zero impact from slavery and Jim Crow and widespread racism because 1) it all happened a long, long time ago, and 2) it never really happened, and 3) only the good parts of history have lasting impact, except for 4) Vietnam, which conservatives still haven't gotten over. Why, black people have the same chance as whites to be Harvard legacies who used Dad's connections to get into the oil business and eventually the White House. Fore!
In the liberal historical view we must, 1) take action to fight The Power, despite the fact that 2) The Power always wins and there's no progress, no, not ever, not even a little, and by "take action" we mean, 3) beating our breasts and the breasts of anyone else standing nearby so that people will, like, understand that, 4) people suck, man, which is why we must, 5) give power to the people. And by "people" we mean a coalition of Berkeley associate professors, lesbians, blacks and Latinos. Right on!
You know who got the history right? Not Charles Krauthammer. In Krauthammer's world there is no racism. Why, he never uses the "N" word. He's never personally lynched anyone, and if he saw it being done he'd call 911. He's never even stopped a black man for driving through a white neighborhood. And his limo driver -- who happens to black, so there -- likes him, and always seems pretty happy.
Gosh. No overt racism at the Washington Post or the American Enterprise Institute, Charles? Then there must be none anywhere. Ever. Poof! All gone.
You know who got the history and its impact about right? This guy:
But for all those [African Americans] who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
. . .
But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
So, yes, it happened. Slavery happened. Jim Crow happened. Profiling continues to happen. There's scarcely a white person over the age of 30 -- set aside what black people hear -- who has not heard the N-word used in earnest. I know I have. So yes, it happened, and it continues to happen, and it didn't all just go away, it hasn't gone away.
It has not gone away.
But it can.