Op-Ed: A Few Things I Wish Barack Obama Had Said

On the Charge that He Pals Around with Terrorists 

How is it that I am a traitor to my country for seeking to improve Chicago schools in common cause with a former saboteur of American buildings, while John McCain is a great reconciler for seeking to improve international relations in common cause with the former torturers of American troops? In fact, I do call John McCain a great reconciler for his bold initiative toward Vietnam. In regard to the charges leveled against me, I call him and his running mate fear-mongers and hypocrites.

On the Comments of His Former Minister Jeremiah Wright

The patriotism of many Americans strikes me as similar to the sentiments of a boy who takes offense every time he plays the dozens but who calls his mother a whore every times she says “Good morning.” Whether someone says “God damn America” or whether God indeed damns America cannot have the same immediate concern for me as whether I damn America. If I stand by passively as my neighbors’ children are sent to die in a pre-emptive war over petroleum, I damn America. If I put my key into the ignition of a ten mile-per-gallon SUV, I damn America. If I vote for candidates like George W. Bush and bills like the Patriot Act, I damn America. After such infernal cussing as that, who should give so much as a good Goddamn about the niceties of my table grace?

On Whether Jesus Is A Way or The Way to Salvation

He’s the only way for me—but were I to make the question you have just asked a litmus test for anyone’s presidential qualifications, I would begin to have grave doubts about the health of my own soul.

On His Middle Name 

Whether Hussein identifies me as a Muslim depends entirely on your view of a Muslim identity. If you’re able to hate a Muslim simply because he is a Muslim, then let me assure you that in my case Hussein is a Muslim name. Let me also assure you that it is not the only middle name I have. Among anti-Semites I sometimes go by Schwartz; among opponents of immigration I am called Rodriguez; and to both the delight and good fortune of those white racists who cannot write even their own names, you can simply put me down as X. Without any one of these names how could I claim that the name Barack was given to me in Christian Baptism or that I am fit to be President of the United States?

On Putting Lipstick on a Pig 

I deeply regret that some people took, or claimed to take, my use of this metaphor as a reference to Sarah Palin. Let me say categorically that I do not see Governor Palin as a pig. Let me say no less categorically that if you can see Governor Palin as President of the United States, you are an ass.

On “Spreading the Wealth” 

To my opponent’s repeated contention that this represents the core of my economic program, I have but three words to say: Guilty as charged. Guilty as charged—and worthy to be sent to the same circle of hell in which John the Baptist cries without ceasing, “Let him who has two coats give to him who has none.”

On the Difference Between the Obama Tax-Cut Plan and the McCain Tax-Cut Plan

In keeping with the positive message I’ve tried to project throughout my campaign, I invite you to look past the differences between our two plans and focus on the profound similarity. Both are based on the firm belief that the American electorate regards its suffrage as a thing for sale. Both are based on that time-honored American political tradition of buying votes. You know, people have tried to accuse me of having messianic pretensions. But here is the proof that I am not “the one you’re waiting for.” The true messiah of American politics will be the candidate who is willing to say that enjoying the privileges of United States citizenship means paying the bill for the same—and paying to ensure that those privileges belong to everybody. He or she is the one you seek, not I. He or she is the one whose sandal I am not worthy to unlatch.

On His Own Oratory 

It says in the Bible that “a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” What do we say of a generation that sees a sign of shallowness in the ability to construct a graceful English sentence? If a person moved by my rhetoric is gullible, then what of the person who was similarly moved by the rhetoric of Patrick Henry, Martin Luther King, or the Prophet Isaiah? I don’t presume to put myself in their league, but shame on anyone who presumes to question my sincerity and judgment simply because I aspire to the best expression of the best ideas I have. “In the beginning was the word.” That too is found in the Bible, but it is every bit as true of political change as of divine creation.

On His Senate Vote to Hold Domestic Spying Blameless 

Were I asked to provide a single challenge to the notion that ours is a nation rooted in the principles of the so-called Abrahamic faiths, I would not hesitate to name this one: that the idea of sin and the necessity of confession and repentance are virtually absent from our national discourse. We never do anything wrong, do we? And if we do do something wrong, it is never anything more than a “regrettable mistake.” It never qualifies as wickedness. How does this unassailable innocence sort with the statement that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”? That is certainly what I did—sinned and fell short—when I voted to exonerate those companies who cooperated with our government in illegal domestic spying. One of my first initiatives as president will be an act of public penance for that vote.

On the Pride of His Wife Michelle

I guess Michelle surprised a lot of people when she said that my candidacy marked the first time she was really proud of her country. She certainly surprised me. That something as relatively trivial as having her mixed-race husband run for president could make an African American woman proud of the country that kidnapped, raped, enslaved, lynched, and humiliated her ancestors for generation after generation is a most surprising thing. And I will tell you something I find even more surprising: that so many African American women, men, and children can manage so much as to be proud of themselves in the midst of a culture that continues to telegraph the message that black is ugly, black is inferior, black is dangerous, black is the color of evil incarnate. During this campaign people have asked me about my belief in God. Let me say this: Even if I ceased to believe in God, I would still believe in miracles, because I have found pride in places where no merely rational person could expect to have found it. That includes the miracle we behold in Michelle.