Obama the Wise Calls for "National Discussion About Race," But....

Headline, same page: "Obama Works to Shift Campaign Back to Domestic Issues."

Reporters Larry Rohter and Michael Luo added to the stack of glowing Times' reportsrelated toBarack Obama's speech Tuesday speech, crediting him with trying to start a conversation on race, in Thursday's "Groups Respond to Obama's Call for National Discussion About Race." (Wasn'tObama's post-racialcampaign supposedly one of the strongest parts of his appeal?)

Actually Obama may be exempting himself from that conversation, judging by a report on the same page by reporter Jeff Zeleny, who found Obama determinedly not conversing on race, in "Obama Works to Shift Campaign Back to Domestic Issues." North Carolina voters and party officials told Zeleny "they hoped that race would not stay at the forefront of the nomination contest." (The Times apparently doesn't see a contradiction between its two headlines.) Zeleny, the skunk at the party, pointed out that the speech "did not provide detailed answers about his relationship with Wright."

By contrast, Rohter and Luo treat Obama as a wise teacher, even though the "race" speech was aimed only to get Obama past questions about his ties to his anti-American preacher Jeremiah Wright.

Religious groups and academic bodies, already receptive to Mr. Obama's plea for such a dialogue, seemed especially enthusiastic. Universities were moving to incorporate the issues Mr. Obama raised into classroom discussions and course work, and churches were trying to find ways to do the same in sermons and Bible studies.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of a mostly white evangelical church of about 12,000 in Central Florida, described Mr. Obama's speech, in which the Democratic presidential candidate discussed his relationship with the former pastor of his home church in Chicago, as a kind of "Rorschach inkblot test" for the nation.

"It calls out of you what is already in you," Dr. Hunter said, predicting that those desiring to address the topic would regard the speech as a spur, while those indifferent to issues of race might pay it little heed.

Dr. Hunter said the Obama speech led to a series of conversations Wednesday morning with his staff members. "We want for there to be healing and reconciliation, but unless it's raised in a very public manner, it's tough for us in our regular conversation to raise it," he said.

The paper's usual labeling disparity also crept in. See how the Times labeled the left-wing Hispanic separatist group National Council of La Raza in benign terms. BTW, "La Raza" means "The race," (not "the People" as a Times' blogger confidently stated). Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly was simply a "conservative commentator" (although O'Reilly is not conservative on all issues).

The Obama speech was also a topic of discussion on Wednesday at the Washington office of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy and social welfare group. Hispanics can be white, black or of mixed race. "The cynics are going to say this was an effort only to deal with the Reverend Wright issue and move on," said Janet Murguia, president of La Raza, referring to the political fallout over remarks by Mr. Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., which prompted Mr. Obama to deliver the speech.


Some conservative commentators, including Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, found positive elements in the Obama speech, which Mr. O'Reilly called "a mixed deal." He criticized Mr. Obama for not repudiating Mr. Wright's views in stronger terms but also said that Mr. Obama "was right that race remains an unresolved problem in America on both sides."

There have been other efforts to stimulate a national dialogue on race. A commission on race relations was appointed in 1997 by President Bill Clinton with the historian John Hope Franklin as chairman. But that effort produced few concrete advances, and those who said they had been inspired by Mr. Obama's speech said a different approach was needed.