Friday, March 21, 2008

Jack Kemp rebukes Hannity on Obama-Wright issue

You know, it's almost enough to give you faith in democracy in our republic. Jack Kemp is a former NFL quarterback who became a Republican Congressman from upstate New York and who was Bob Dole's running mate in the 1996 Presidential election. He appeared tonight on Fox News Hannity and Colmes, not normally a bastion of intellectually well-founded political discourse. Jack Kemp was appearing on behalf of John McCain, trying to persuade Sean Hannity that John McCain is a candidate worthy of his active support. That much is par for the course. However, it seems he has been taking Hannity to task for the way he is mischaracterizing the situation with Rev. Wright as it relates to Barack Obama's candidacy.

A portion of the video in question, ©2008 Fox News, via

Here is the exchange I found most noteworthy, starting at about 2m43s into the video clip (about 40%):

Sean Hannity: I want to go back to your comments about Reverend Wright, because —

Jack Kemp: Okay. [slight chuckle]

Hannity: This is really important here, though. I don't know — should I call you Quarterback or Congressman? I never know what to say, but, ah —

Kemp: Sir.

Hannity: Sir.

Kemp: Recovering politician.

Hannity: Okay, but there you go. Here's what's important: this comes down to — and you've seemed willing to give Barack Obama a pass that I'm not willing to give him, and let me explain this. This was his pastor for 20 years, the most incendiary anti-American language you would ever hear from the pulpit. He claims that he didn't know, but that he did know, but that he disinvited him to the invocation when he was announcing he's running for President here. Jack, I don't believe him, number one, and secondly, I question the judgment of this man.

Kemp: He denounced the racism. He denounced the anti-Israel statements of Rev. Wright. He denounced the off-the-wall belief that America is the worst killing machine —

Hannity: Yeah, but he sat there twenty years; do you really —

Kemp: He didn't believe that. I don't believe he — The Wall Street Journal, no "soft on liberals" editorial, said they don't for a minute think that he believed any of that stuff. So, look —

Hannity: No, no, no, no, that's not the question. [Barack Obama] is saying he didn't know. Now, this church, his pastor went to Tripoli with Louis Farrakhan

Kemp: [loud sigh]

Hannity: No, Jack, this is important. They gave him a lifetime achievement award and said Farrkhan "epitomized greatness," and he didn't know any of this?

Kemp: Barack Obama didn't do any of that. Barack didn't do that.

Hannity: His church did. He didn't know his pastor was like this?

Kemp: [sigh] Sean, I can't do this every night with you. I mean, you and I disagree with this. I think he's denounced it. I disagree with so many of his positions. For instance, he blamed the lack of economic opportunity that young black men and women have. You know what? I agree with him. We have not done enough to democratize our capitalistic system, to make more capital available to start businesses. He wants to raise taxes on capital gains, dividends, income tax by 52%. He's gonna squeeze — not me, I'm already wealthy at 72. He's gonna squeeze the young black entrepreneur. He's hurting them.

Hannity: Let's go down this road, because I think this is important, and I know I'm pressin' ya —

Kemp: I don't want to stay on ad hominem attacks.

Hannity: I don't want an ad hominem argument here. I find it — I'll use the term that Hillary Clinton used about General Petraeus — this, for me, is the willing suspension of disbelief. And what I mean by this is, if he really didn't know his pastor had these associations with Farrakhan, he went to this church for twenty years, the pastor was saying these controversial things, as he would have us believe — We discovered and broke the story last night that he's friends with another pastor who has used "the N-word" repeatedly, talked about the mayor of Chicago as a "slavemaster" — It's very — I'm hard-pressed to think maybe he has some agreement with this, which is a scary scenario for a President.

Kemp: I don't think he does. He's in a tight spot, 'cause he's gotta answer this, again and again and again, particularly in the general. Having said that, I told you on your radio show this week that I hope that, if he is defeated, it's on the basis of bad economic policy, raising taxes, waving a white flag to our enemy in the Middle East, and things like that, not what Pastor Wright said.

Hannity: I think you've taken on the role of the "external conscience" of Sean Hannity. Boy, you've been after me a lot lately.

Kemp: I'm not "after you"; I'm a fan of yours, but I want to hold you accountable!

Hannity: I am accountable. I know my facts.
In closing, let's just highlight a couple more points of what Sean Hannity said. Barack Obama has never said that he was not present for any of Reverend Wright's controversial sermons. He has said — and in at least one case the claim has been corroborated — that he was not present for the specific sermons that have been so popular on YouTube. Obama did in fact disinvite Rev. Wright from the official announcement of his candidacy. Barack Obama played no role in the decision by the church to give an award to Minister Farrakhan, nor did he have any role in Farrakhan and Wright's trip to Libya. At least Hannity didn't harp on his foreign-sounding name or try to pretend he is or ever was a Muslim.

I don't agree with Jack Kemp's reasons for not supporting Barack Obama, but I do agree about — and I salute him for speaking out against — some red herrings that are not reasons to oppose Obama. If Barack Obama, the golden-throated orator, cannot convince the American people that he has the better plan for America, then he does not deserve to be President, and ditto for Hillary Clinton and John McCain. If more Republicans were more like Jack Kemp, we could at least have a civilized national political conversation, and talk about things that really matter.

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Partial video embed and partially overlapping partial transcript below the fold...