Monday, August 27, 2012

Ryan and Rand Vs Obama and Wright

Ever since Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate op-ed writers, bloggers and talking heads are all abuzz with talk of Ayn Rand. Paul Ryan had said in the past that Ayn Rand was his greatest inspiration to come to public life. Ryan gives Rand's tome 'Atlas Shrugged' as Christmas gifts to staffers and others.

Paul Krugman the unofficial town hall crier of the democratic party declared in his column "Galt, Gold and God", "what does it say about the party when its intellectual leader evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novel?". Another blogger seized on the fact that Ayn Rand, according to Jennifer Burns's biography 'The Goddess of the market: Ayn Rand and the American right", expressed admiration for a grisly serial killer and wrote a column titled, yes, titled "Paul Ryan's guru Ayn Rand worshipped a serial killer who kidnapped and dismembered little girls". Jennifer Burns herself took  to op-eds to ask if Ayn Rand, who disapproved Ronald Reagan, would approve Paul Ryan. Burns wrote two op-eds.

Paul Ryan told an interviewer that for all his love for Ayn Rand her militant atheism is not something he agrees. Ryan's another mentor is Friedrich Hayek. Hayek, Nobel laureate in economics, is revered for his polemical book that argued about the evils of socialist/communist model of economics in 'The Road to Serfdom'. Hayek nevertheless had voiced support for a government run health care program. An idea that Ryan and Romney now oppose. Another columnist pulled up Ryan for 'cherry picking' ideas from Rand and Hayek.

Liberals and the Press would have drooled 'intellectual' if Obama talked about philosophers and economists so passionately. They drool so even when he does not talk serious ideas and offers his 'Robinhood' as a choice against what he calls 'Romneyhood'.

Ayn Rand did indeed express some admiration for a serial killer from the perspective of a man who defies society's mores. As repugnant as it may seem let us not forget that Truman Capote's 'In cold blood' is considered a classic despite the fact that Capote did indeed almost admire two very gruesome murderers. Jennifer Burns does trace how Rand obsessed with Nietzchean idea of 'super human' did fashion her heroes mostly as anti-heroes first and only then progressed to stylizing her heroes as defying society in a positive way.

No human being ever picks up a book and accepts all that is said, even for the Bible. If Ryan as a Catholic said he believed the Book of Genesis these same liberals would chortle. We all read and love many books. We imbibe cherry picked ideas to create the most complex phenomenon in the world, our own composite identities. Ayn Rand hated Friedrich Hayek exactly for Hayek's concession that government could still have some legitimate role. If Krugman thinks 'Atlas Shrugged' is just fantasy he needs to take some classes in literary appreciation. Maybe his employer, Princeton University, will give him a discount to attend its humanities courses.

Jennifer Burns's biography details the strife between Ayn Rand and the intellectual vanguard of the right, particularly its rising intellectual lodestar William F. Buckley Jr. The conservatives ridiculed Rand for her atheism and for idolizing strident unbridled individualism. Liberals scorn conservatives use of religion as a yoke for their ideas. It is a topic for another blog. We all read great works of literature without agreeing with all of the ideas or the personal ideologies of the author. Tolstoy was a philanderer. Does it mean that we condone or look to emulate that part of Tolstoy when we lose our hearts in his immortal works?

Compare all this brouhaha to how quickly the media and opinion makers were eager to pass over discussion of Obama being influenced by Jeremiah Wright.

After a month of unbroken string of crushing victories as the 2008 primaries ground towards three big states PA, OH and TX. ABC broke news about Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright's incendiary sermons. The week after 9/11, Wright, in elaborate embroidered dress, thundered "America's chickens have come home to roost". In another sermon he intoned at high pitch "no, no, no. Not God bless America but God damn America and that's in the Bible".

America was stunned. Obama campaign went into a tail spin. Hillary archly said "if he had been my pastor I'd have changed my church". The news was not broken by Fox News and hence even Obama loving liberal media had to sit back and take notice. Questions of 'does Obama share these views' dominated the airwaves. Obama the orator rode to the rescue of his own candidacy. Obama's belief that he could mesmerize audiences and make them suspend logic proved, by hind sight, a great prophetic gamble that paid off handsomely.

Obama confessed that Rev. Wright used to speak critically of USA in his sermons while Obama sat in the pews for two decades. Rev. Wright presided presided Obama's marriage and baptized his children. Obama nevertheless added that these remarks, now looped on national TV, were 'incendiary'. The remarks, Obama said in his landmark address, had "the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but view that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike". He then went on to say that this was not all there was to Rev. Wright and why he can no more abandon his pastor than he could abandon his white grandmother who raised him but was prone to racial stereotyping. Obama gave a carte-blanche good conduct certificate to Rev.Wright, "not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms".

More of Rev. Wright's sermons tumbled out. Rev. Wright himself chose to address the country at a 'National Press Club' event. The press conference was sheer circus. Obama advisers showed him a taped video and told him to make the final decision of what to do. In a brief terse address Obama repudiated the pastor and severed all connections with Rev. Wright's church. In the general election when GOP surrogates raised the Wright issue John McCain, a gentleman, forbade any discussion of that saying that such a topic is beyond politics. Big mistake.

Obama's assertion that he has never heard such 'incendiary' remarks from Rev.Wright is a facetious claim that was eagerly lapped up by his enablers in the media and propagated for consumption to his adoring masses. The night before his announcement in Springfield, IL, for his candidacy Obama campaign was worried. Rolling Stones magazine had run a profile on Rev.Wright the pastor supposed to offer invocation at the historic ceremony. Obama personally called Rev. Wright and said 'you have a way of saying things' and suggested that Rev.Wright offer a prayer away from the public eye in the basement before the chosen 'One' ascends the stage.

Rev. Wright was known for such remarks and known to make anti-semitic remarks in sermons. Long after the election when asked if he had spoken to Obama Rev.Wright said "them Jews will not allow me to talk to him". Obama's then chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel was a Jew. Afro-American community and their leaders have a fraught relationship with Jews and Israel. Malcolm X, according to his Pulitzer awarded biographer Manning Marable, would recount the words of Saudi emperor referring to New York as 'Jew York'.

Sarah Palin's 'palling around with terrorists' helped the Obama campaign to ridicule any legitimate criticism. Lost in the mind numbing adulation of Obama was any discussion of intellectual influences on the candidate.

Obama's recent biographer David Maraniss says he referred to his first employer as 'working for the enemy'. That was Obama's vision of corporate America decades before he called Wall Street CEO's 'fat cats'. This view was strengthened and deepened in the crucible of Rev.Wright's church. From W.E.B. Du Bois to MLK Jr to Rev Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, criticism of capitalism is an article on faith amongst Afro-American leaders especially in church sermons.

 Everyone talked about MLK Jr's comment that 'Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America' referring to how whites and blacks have separate churches. No journalist or magazine thought it fit to write articles about black churches and their ideologies. Jodi Kantor, NYT journalist, wants to visit Mitt Romney's Mormon church and talk to fellow Mormon church goers. Recently Mitt Romney invited journalists to his church and a CNN columnist wrote asking for more such invitations.

Obama spoke in his address about being referred to as 'not black enough'. That's true. But what he failed to mention was that that whisper campaign was what the black political leadership used to destroy his run for becoming congressman in Chicago. Pulitzer winning author David Remnick recounts Obama's testy relationship with black leaders in Chicago in 'The Bridge: The life and rise of Barack Obama'. Obama needed a foothold in Chicago politics amongst Afro-Americans and the door for that was Jeremiah Wright's influential church.

Oprah Winfrey was another congregant at Wright's church. When her show started being noticed Winfrey, knowing Wright's incendiary attitude, withdrew herself from the church. It is little wonder that Obama followed her example.

Recently Rev.Wright claimed that he was offered a bribe during 2008 election to disappear and not cause a problem for Obama. Of course the press acted like they never heard the interview.

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