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Hate is Not to Be Endlessly Analyzed

By Mark Davis

Barack Obama has done a noble job, as he's run for president, of stressing that he seeks to move beyond our old race battles, unlike the divisive candidacies of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

But when one comment from his wife and years of diatribes from his pastor smacked of outdated racial anger, Barack Obama had questions to answer.

Does he share any of wife Michelle's insulting view that her life is barren of reasons to be proud of America? Does he agree with any of his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright's racist, America-hating tirades, delivered over the years of the Obamas' membership at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ?

I spent much of last week suggesting that only a sharp repudiation of Mr. Wright's legacy of venom would solve this problem; Mr. Obama did indeed deliver weekend remarks intended to distance him from that rhetorical cesspool. Yesterday, he did it again.

But those reassuring remarks lose some value when attached to flimsy attempts to excuse that legacy. It is proper to identify righteous anger as the historic source for black evangelical rants. But there can be no room in 2008 for that anger to take the shape of poisonous references to an America where "rich white people" infect blacks with AIDS and bring on 9/11.

Mr. Obama urges us not to reject such anger without "understanding its roots." Sorry, no sale. Hate is not to be endlessly analyzed, it is to be rejected without reservation, whether from an Islamic mullah wishing death to America or a black preacher stuck in decades past.

Mr. Obama has now begun blaming the messenger, as if the media had somehow made Rev. Wright's words more noxious than they actually were. He referred to "snippets" of sermons serving to misdefine a man who deserved a kinder assessment. Well, senator, welcome to the America where people of your race and your politics have foisted such "death by snippet" on undeserving figures from Trent Lott to Don Imus.

Mr. Wright has spent years infecting congregations with sick obsessions about an evil, racist America. That congregation has largely responded with cheers of agreement. Yet Mr. Obama insists he has absorbed only the "loving" portions of Rev. Wright's Christianity, not the portions that have heaped condemnation on our country, on white people, on Israel and on specific political figures he reviles.

How conveniently selective. Can you imagine a conservative politician able to skate away from decades of association with a pastor who spent frequent occasions spewing fiery condemnations based on race and politics?

Mr. Obama tried to suggest that his quandary is common, that many of us have remained in congregations shepherded by clergy issuing tirades that offend the flock. I doubt that. There are a lot of churches out there, and life is too short to be spent in houses of worship where repulsive precepts are routine.

But Mr. Obama said he could no more disown his pastor than he could disown the black community or his own white grandmother, a woman guilty of occasional racial insensitivity.

That is simply ridiculous. We understand that he can retain some affection for a man who has meant so much to him in other ways. But if indeed Dr. Wright's church embraced "the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang banger," we need only one thing from Barack Obama - the strong message that none of those is well served by the spreading of racial hatreds.

My wish is to give Mr. Obama credit and benefit of the doubt as the first black presidential candidate striving to move beyond the 1960s. But if he is to continue to earn such goodwill, he must risk alienating some in his base by delivering only rejection, and not excuses, for hate speech from those he loves.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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