Ted Cruz Flunks the Reverend Wright Challenge

If you, like many Americans, spent Saturday morning in your pajamas watching old Westerns on a black and white TV, you’ll recognize this scenario-

The bad guys have ambushed a hapless citizen and are preparing to hang him up by his toes as his mother begs for mercy. Jimmy Stewart appears on his white horse and the bad guys fall back. “We was just funnin’,” they say before they vamoose. I think the general idea was that those guys were bad. Jimmy will have to teach them a lesson before the movie is over.

Perhaps you, like many Americans, have had to deal with someone who said something really obnoxious and then claimed it was a joke. If played right, provoking someone and then blaming them for reacting is a 2-for-1. You get to be hostile and aggrieved at the same time. Sound like any Party you know?

Anti-government activist and Congressman Ted Cruz is the son of an immigrant businessman and evangelist, Rafael Cruz. The Congressman uses his father’s life story and activism in his political career, but some of Cruz Senior’s hymns don’t play so well outside the revival tent. From Mother Jones…

Rafael Cruz, speaking to the North Texas Tea Party on behalf of his son, who was then running for Senate, called President Barack Obama an “outright Marxist” who “seeks to destroy all concept of God,” and he urged the crowd to send Obama “back to Kenya.”

Unfortunately, living the immigrant experience does not automatically create a sense of solidarity with other Americans who have been treated as outsiders. You need character for that.

So, what kind of leadership do we see so far from Ted Cruz?

A spokeswoman for Cruz Thursday declined CNN’s offer to respond to the controversial comments made by the Senator’s father.
Instead Cruz’s office pointed to the statement Cruz Communications Director Sean Rushton gave to Mother Jones.
“These selective quotes, taken out of context, mischaracterize the substance of Pastor Cruz’s message. Like many Americans, he feels America is on the wrong track,” Rushton said.
But Rushton added that, “Pastor Cruz does not speak for the Senator.”

I’d love to know more about what context explains, “go back to Kenya.”

In 2008 Senator Barack Obama faced a moral and political challenge when his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, was quoted harshly condemning US foreign policy and citing America’s history of racial injustice.

Wright spoke of the United States taking land from the Indian tribes by what he labeled as terror, bombing Grenada, Panama, Libya, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and argued that the United States supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and South Africa. He said that his parishioners’ response should be to examine their relationship with God, not go “from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents.” His comment (quoting Malcolm X) that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” was widely interpreted as meaning that America had brought the September 11, 2001 attacks upon itself.

Candidate Obama had to respond to both the words and the speaker-

On March 18, in the wake of the controversy, Obama delivered a speech entitled “A More Perfect Union” at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the course of the 37-minute speech, Obama spoke of the divisions formed through generations through slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws, and the reasons for the kinds of discussions and rhetoric used among blacks and whites in their own communities. While condemning the remarks by the pastor, he sought to place them in historical context by describing some of the key events that have formed Wright’s views on race-related matters in America. Obama did not disown Wright, whom he has labeled as “an old uncle”, as akin to disowning the black community. The speech was generally well received. Obama said that some of the comments by his pastor reminded him of what he called America’s “tragic history when it comes to race.”

Our internet-fueled news cycle has done a great deal for the free flow of information, but also revved up a game of ‘gotcha’. How much better to use these incidents as a teachable moment. That is what Senator Obama did. If Congressman Cruz can use this time to unite instead of divide he will have shown some of the character we need in anyone who aspires to higher office.

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