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By Micah Halpern

Monday March 24, 2008


Barack Obama is in trouble, serious trouble. He needs help, real help.

The presidential hopeful doesn't seem to realize the precariousness of his situation, and that's a problem, a big problem.

His reputation has been compromised. His judgment is being called into question. His allegiance to his country, to our country, is under scrutiny. His unwillingness to either confront or truly separate from a man he considered to be his mentor is turning into a political liability.

"A true master of politics is able to calculate, down to the smallest fraction, the advantages to which he may put his very faults," said Napoleon Bonaparte. Obama, I believe, has got his math all wrong.

America, as a whole, may be willing to forgive Barack Obama for his association with Jeremiah Wright, even if many Americans do not forgive Wright himself. But there is one statistically small group of Americans who will not be able to forgive. America's Jews.

I do not know if presidential hopeful Barack Obama will regain his reputation in the Jewish community after the scandal caused by his religious mentor. No doubt, this is a case of "guilt by association" but as Obama full well knows, politics is all about contacts, all about affiliations, all about associations.

Disagreeing with Wright is not good enough. Saying I was not present when those despicable pronouncements by Wright were declared is not denial enough. Explaining that Wright has been an integral part of his life and that separation is difficult is not reason enough. Jeremiah Wright is a liability to the Obama campaign. If the candidate could not see that himself his handlers should have seen it. And his handlers should have forced this separation before the damage was done.

Loyalty to an individual is not a virtue in politics. Loyalty to a nation is a virtue. Loyalty to the people is a virtue. America watched and America listened as Barack Obama eloquently justified the person - not the words, but the person, who had vilified America, preached hate against Israel and against Jews and who stands shoulder to shoulder with, who embraces verbally and emotionally, Louis Farrakhan.

Statistically, the Jewish vote is not significant. Politically, it is very significant. There are a mere six million Jews in the United States - what makes the Jewish vote significant is that almost all six million make their way to the voting booth on election day, almost all six million are active voters. And they are significant contributors to campaigns. And the Jewish community has a strong history of political activism. Forget the numbers, Jews do make a difference. The influence the Jewish community wields in this presidential election is dramatically greater than mere numbers.

If I were advising Barack Obama I would make a concerted effort to woo Jewish America back into his camp.

I would immediately convene a six day to Israel (visiting the Western Wall and Sderot, the city under siege) and to the Mid East (including the Palestinian Authority) region.
How that would help: American Jews need to know that their next president understands the facts on the ground in Israel. Jewish Americans, as all Americans, need to know that their next president has a true understanding of the threats and perils that Iran poses to the West.

I would insist that he condemn (strongly) both the man and his (more strongly) words and publicly announce his departure from Wright's church.
How that would help: Jeremiah Wright is the antithesis of the Obama unity platform. Obama cannot be trusted to "bless America" when his mentor publicly "damns America." Obama must place physical and emotional distance between himself and his past influences.

I would have him clearly explain what he knew and when.
How that would help: Apologizing for a lapse in judgment inspired by close family ties is humbling, but ingratiating. Explaining that there was once a time when Obama believed in the virtues that Wright then preached and they were attractive to the Obama family but that has now changed, that there has since been a divergence in beliefs and thoughts shows that Obama himself can change, that he can push the envelope, that he listens and recalibrates as situations change.

Barack Obama needs to do the right thing. He needs to do what is right for his candidacy and what is right for America whether or not it brings Jewish America and disenchanted America back into his camp.

He needs to do the right thing but I am doubtful that he will do the right thing. The man who wants to be the next president of the United States of America does not really know about Americans. He does not realize the depth of the pain that Americans felt as they watched and they heard Jeremiah Wright. For Barack Obama the man, for Barack Obama the candidate, that is a fatal flaw.

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4 June 2017 12:14 PM in Columns

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