Rev Irene Monroe

If Obama can throw his pastor under the bus, what will he do to us?

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | March 19, 2008 10:42 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, James Meeks, Jeremiah Wright, The Trumpet

When the religious narrative you tell about your life to the American public is revealed to be vastly different than the one you actually lived, you have more than a credibility problem - you have a dilemma as Obama is finding out.

And the dilemma is not just that Obama's religious narrative is fictitious, but so too is the media spin on his pastor.

While the moral high ground to address the public's shock with Rev. Jeremiah Wright's condemnations on America's foreign and domestic polices appeared to be Obama's address on race, Obama actually ran aground with many African American Christians by anchoring the public's outrage and his fear of losing the presidential bid on the back of one of this nation's most revered African American ministers.

"He's used Jeremiah, and Trinity is his strongest base. He handled the media abysmally, and the uncle reference was demeaning. Many of us said we saw it coming," a member from Trinity told me in anonymity not to have the press come after him.

Rev. Wright was the man who brought Obama to Christ, presided over his nuptials baptized him and his daughters, and was the inspiration for his bestseller, The Audacity of Hope.

And while Obama has now denounced Rev. Wrights' incendiary remarks, after twenty years of hearing them, suspicion nonetheless still surfaces about his professed faith as a Christian.

Although religion came to Obama late in life, and he was reared in a non-religious household, his religious convictions, - "he say?" - were formed during his 20s at Trinity while a community organizer working with local churches on the South Side of Chicago.

As a central, powerful and revered institution within the African-American community, the Black Church captivated Obama's attention. He says he came to understand "the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change." However, how much Obama really covets the power of the Black Church for his own political aggrandizement, rather than for its religion, now raise questions in the minds of many black Christians since his address.

While MSNBC talk-show host Tucker Carlson was the first to publicly suggest Obama's faith is "suddenly conspicuous," suggesting that Obama has only recently begun addressing his religious background as part of "a very calculated plan on the part of the Democratic Party to win" religious voters in the 2008 presidential race, the suspicion is now looming even larger.

If Obama, however, is indeed using religion to win votes, he unfortunately placed himself in a difficult quagmire - not only with LGBTQ and liberal voters, but also by still being a member of Trinity. Why? Because he worships in a conservative black church within a liberal denomination. And Trinity is provisionally opened to the idea of same sex marriage.

In July 2005, the UCC General Synod overwhelmingly passed a Resolution of Marriage Equality. But in August 2005, Wright spoke against the Synod's position causing my LGBTQ parishioners to leave.

"Please tell me what is going on here? Why does it appear we are under attack? Maybe I am reacting, but this seems to be even from the folks we admire in the church that black same-gender loving issues are not important. We are still seen as gay and white," stated a gay member of Trinity.

In the church's magazine The Trumpet his article "Maybe I Missed Something!" shows how LGBTQ issues are not a priority in his present-day prophetic social gospel intended to ameliorate the social conditions of all God's African-American children.

"While our denomination grappled with how to address that human problem, the denomination also, at that Synod, voted to ordain a homosexual. Guess which item made the newspapers? Maybe I missed something!"

And in his closing tirades on the issues, Wright stated this: "Are 44 million Americans with no health care insurance less important than 'gay marriage'? Why aren't Black Christians in an uproar about that? Maybe I am missing something!"

When the article came out in light of the United Church of Christ's stance on ordaining and marrying LGBTQ people, it was disheartening for many to know that Pastor Wright broke rank with his liberal denomination to stand in solidarity with a more conservative Black Church position.

"Folks were very hurt by his remarks he made in the Trumpet article. I wanted to know where he really stood with us on same-gender loving issues. The chair of the same-gender family wrote him if the church will address black heterosexism and black homophobia. He said we have done that over the thirty years and that his sermons should speak for his support on these issues. In his articles he said he was not putting same-gender loving person's down. Just showing how society only appears to be focused on those issues and not the issues that impact Black issues. I reminded him I am a black female out lesbian. I do not choose to be one or the other which is all of my being," stated a lesbian member of Trinity

I wonder now how much of Obama's views on gay civil rights are shaped by Trinity? Or, if not, does he use those Christian views to avoid giving us our full civil right?

Or perhaps Obama is playing us as much as he has played his pastor?!

So it is also not surprising when Obama appeared on CNN's "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer, Obama stood where his pastor does on the issue.

"Well, I think that marriage has a religious connotation in this society, in our culture, that makes it very difficult to disentangle from the civil aspects of marriage. And as a consequence, it would be extraordinarily difficult and a distraction to try to build a consensus around marriage for gays and lesbians. What we can do is form civil union that provide all the civil rights that marriage entails to same-sex couples. And that is something that I have consistently been in favor of. And I think that the vast majority of Americans don't want to see gay and lesbian couples discriminated against when it comes to hospital visitation and so on."

Many African American Christians are now suspecting Obama of using the "race card" to win their votes, at the expense of pitting their interests against gays.

For example, when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama campaigned at the Salem Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side. It's the 22,000-member black mega-church of Rev. James Meeks, who has called homosexuality an evil sickness. Outside of the hallowed walls of church the Rev. James Meeks is State Senator James Meeks.

Obama knew to pander to his base.

When news first got out about Wright's Afrocentric theology and Sunday sermons that disparagingly speak ill of whites and Israel, Obama began immediately to distance himself. Yet these same sermons were not a problem for Obama when they were spiritually nurturing him into becoming a public figure. Now Obama will no longer continue to speak and write about the special relationship with his pastor, because it has run afoul of his ambitions.

In explaining his relations to the media about Wright, Obama described him as a crazed uncle we all have in our family. And in his address Obama stated that he "can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother."

However, I beg to differ.

There is a distinct difference between the biological family you are born into and the church family you choose to worship with.

And so too is there a distinct difference between telling the truth to the American public and telling us a lie.

If Obama can throw his pastor under the bus, what will he do to LGBTQ voters on his way to the White House?

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mmmmmm, mmmmmm, mmmmmm! this is a complicated situation for someone in public office, or for someone running for public office. reverend wright's condemnation of injustice supported by an overwhelmingly white power structure is not wrong, can never be wrong...because it is correct. on the other hand, obama - as a leader - needs to remind americans to put aside our past and our differences if we are going to go forward together. sooooo ... is he really throwing the rev under the bus? or just his choice in words? in the end, the entire world needs to focus less on our differences and more on our similarities. we need to work together to make the world a better place for our chidren and for their children. it is time to say enough, and come together. or.....

we can always kill each other....

I don't think Obama threw his pastor "under the bus" at all (that phrase is so overused). He started to do that when he distanced himself from the guy, but his speech yesterday explained how he can associate with a guy with Wright's views. And a number of African American Christians (like myself) were taken aback that such a minister would stand in the pulpit and use language like he did.

And I believe he referred to him as an "old uncle" who sometimes says something crazy, which is definitely true given the clip we saw from the December sermon.

Thank you, Rev. Monroe. I could not have said it better or more thoughtfully or with better evidence and clarity.

Thank you.

I think you are expecting a little too much from the guy.

After all he is still just a slimy politico douchebag, just like Clinton, McCain, and most everyone else seeking or in public office.

It was a good speech, as far as speeches go, and he did not "throw his pastor under the bus" as you so eloquently put it. He repudiated his more strident remarks, but he stood with him as a man of faith. It was actually a speech that needed to be made for quite some time, since race has always been an issue in this election, just like gender is as well.

Who and what someone is, can be as important as what they say. This has been true since georgy(washington that is.) took the oath of office way back when.

Rev. Irene has reached a new low for her intellectual dishonesty here.

To use the phrase "throw under the bus" implies some sort of offense or injury. It is difficult to understand how Jeremiah Wright has suffered as as result of Obama's remarks. Indeed, as ABC News reported, he and Obama had discussed more than a year ago that their may be a need at some point for the candidate to distance himself from his pastor, and Wright said he understood and that was fine.

Instead of throwing Wright under the bus, Obama has chosen to stand by his pastor, contextualizing his remarks while making it clear that he doesn't agree with him. And he's advanced the national discussion on race in a unprecedented way for a presidential candidate.

I am curious if the author of this piece has watched Obama's MLK Day speech from Ebenezer Church in Georgia? In that speech, Obama brings up homophobia and its ills in front of a socially conservative, all African-American audience.

He has done the same thing at numerous other Black churches. This fact, in and of itself, is enough to debunk the entire article written above. However, the author's problem with Obama seems to stem from the fact that he won't commit to this incendiary and politically scalding wedge issue.

Reverend Monroe, which is more important to you - ending the Iraq War or fighting the battle for homosexuals to have a symbolic union? The pressing and use of this issue drove Conservative Evangelical turnout to all-time highs in 2004. The same could presumably happen in 2008.

Senator Obama has stated that he supports full civil rights and shared rights for homosexuals. But that's not enough, is it? The full monty of marriage is desired, despite the fact that it would have absolutely no bearing on any legal right, and would simply be a symbolic victory.

Indeed, the real question is this: Can the LGBTQ community avoid throwing Obama "under the bus" because he advocates for every issue that is important to said community except for the label said community wishes to apply to the issue?

No candidate is perfect. No candidate is going to deliver a panacea to everything that ails America. We have today, though, a transformational candidate that has the possibility to change the way the business of politics is done. If one is willing to sacrifice that candidate for a single issue that is more of a semantic than a substantive difference, I could only think that the selfishness being employed is the very same kind of selfishness leading to the destruction of this great country.

I think Obama stuck by Wright a lot more than I and many others expected him to. It's unfortunate that we expect people to denounce others, as if we're assuming from the start that they agree, but Obama's speech got around the tit-for-tat of this all and addressed the subtext of those who replay Wright's message over and over and over.

I feel compelled to respectfully disagree with some of your points, Rev Irene. Emphasis mine below

Although religion came to Obama late in life, and he was reared in a non-religious household, his religious convictions, - "he say?" - were formed during his 20s at Trinity while a community organizer working with local churches on the South Side of Chicago.

As a central, powerful and revered institution within the African-American community, the Black Church captivated Obama's attention. He says he came to understand "the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change." However, how much Obama really covets the power of the Black Church for his own political aggrandizement, rather than for its religion, now raise questions in the minds of many black Christians since his address.

While MSNBC talk-show host Tucker Carlson was the first to publicly suggest Obama's faith is "suddenly conspicuous," suggesting that Obama has only recently begun addressing his religious background as part of "a very calculated plan on the part of the Democratic Party to win" religious voters in the 2008 presidential race, the suspicion is now looming even larger.

Okay - what does when Obama came to Christ have to do with anything? As a minister, does it matter when it happens or that it happens? If it doesn't matter, why bring it up as if it's a smear? Are you holding his earlier non-religious background against him? Do you doubt that people can have genuine conversions or is the power of Christ to transform lives limited to non-politicians or those who accept Jesus before the age of 18?

I'm going to assume that as an African-American minister, the Black Church does not captivate your attention for it's power to spur social change. After all, that would be coveting the power of the Church for "political aggrandizement rather than for its religion." Since I know you as a powerful voice for social change, I'd rather assumed that you were also using the Church to forward Christ's love over condemnation. Does this mean you're also the power-grubbing user you're painting Obama to be?

And finally, Tucker Carlson? Tucker Carlson!?! Tucker Carlson has become a good bellwether of when a Democratic candidate has "a very calculated plan"? Don't gays and lesbians, women, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, pro-choicers and environmentalists all have a "calculated plan" according to Carlson? Or was he too busy bragging about beating up a gay man to include all segments this time? Using Tucker Carlson to prove a point about a Democrat is like using Richard Nixon to testify against wire-tapping.

And finally the one that set my teeth on edge... I apologize in advance for any stridency in my tone on this one...

There is a distinct difference between the biological family you are born into and the church family you choose to worship with.

While I understand what you're attempting to say with this argument, your choice of wording is an underpinning to the religious right argument that our families are not biological and therefore unworthy. I am reminded of one of our most popular posts about a gay couple that were separated by one man's mother after he had a stroke. She "claimed" his wrecked shell of a body afterwards with the courts awarding custody since she was "biological" family and his lover of almost 30 years wasn't.

As queers we form our own unique families. Jerame is not biologically related to me. We can't get married. "His" daughter is not my biological daughter. Does this mean I'm less worthy in your eyes than her biological mother that allowed her to be systematically abused? Her biological relationship makes her better than me? How absolutely and completely disgusting! Paige has done several of the same crazy things that my "biological" niece has done. Yet, I'm supposed to condemn Paige while excusing my niece? That's simply ludicrous.

Suffice it to say that I'm extremely disappointed in this post. (Not that you need my approval by any means!) In the past, I've seen you tackle Obama with dignity and grace. In my opinion, this time you've stooped to the same tactics that the right wing uses to demonize our community.

Flag on the play Rev. Irene!

Sen.Obama was in a no-win situation going into this speech. Here's a han whos been trying to avoid getting caught up in race getting whacked upside the head by it.

The speech was probably on of the best on race since Dr. king's 'Letter From A Biremongham Jail' and to say it was throwing Rev. Wright 'ynder the bus' is strecting things a bit too much.

If you really want to know what being 'thrown under the bus 'feels like, walk in my pumps as a transwoman.

I'm tired of people on the Democratic side of politics demanding ideological purity from our candidates. The bottom line is that we need a Democart in th White House period, end of story.

We have Supreme Court seats that will open. We need someone to appoint federal judges that won't have an anti-GLBT anti-civil rights anti worker bias built in. We need somebody that will break he corporatist grip on Washington, and frankly Hillary ain't that person.

Rev Monroe,

I have HUGE respect for you.

I have read your columns with great admiration for years.

I have been Blessed to attend your workshop at the Witness Our Welcome conference.

I will always be interested in your insights and the wisdome you share so eloquently so often.

But I must tell you now that I am deeply troubled by what seems to me to be an excessive focus on finding fault with Barack Obama.

You write commentary and commentary after commentary basically making the same points about his character.

Some time ago you wrote me that you agreed that there were troubling racial games being played by the Clinton campaign and that you would be writing on that as well.

But if you wrote on that I missed it.

If in all the racially charged uproar about Jeremiah Wright and Ferraro and all the rest ALL you seem to focus on is finding another angle for faulting Obama for the same things you have faulted him before THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG.

There is SO MUCH MORE to the story and so much more you could offer us.

Your beautiful pieces on the Loving Case and Tituba are two examples of how much you can teach us all.

Those things are truly a gift to us.

But at this point I sincerely believe that yet another commentary from you faulting Obama is really just something I am tempted to tune out.

I am a great admirer of Jeremiah Wright. I have attended a revival he led in DC. He preached the installation of the pastor of my own church. I have two of his books. I have friends who are longtime members of Trinity, where not all members share the views on Obama you quote. And I am myself a member of the United Church of Christ - whose general minister has strongly defended Wright and Trinity.

As such, I by no means think that Obama threw Wright under the bus. To the contrary, he REFUSED to do just that. His approach was wise , and brave, and most of all LOVING. I for one am not at all concerned about how Obama will treat "us" given his treatment of Wright. Indeed, he has shown himself to be a man of great character, courage and compassion. My faith in him is only strengthened by his speech yesterday.

You do him, Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ a disservice with your continued effort to find a way to criticize and condemn Barack Obama for anything and everything.

Obama deserves better and I believe you have so much more to offer than this endless and unbalanced animosity.

Wishing you Holy Week Blessings...

Yours in Christ,

Deacon Keener

Michael Bedwell | March 19, 2008 4:19 PM

"In that speech, Obama brings up homophobia and its ills in front of a socially conservative, all African-American audience."


Are we NEVER to be cleansed of these myths? Is fact and reality ever to be suffocated by Obama's hagiographers?

First, Jim, the audience wasn’t “all” African-American, and how do you know, whatever their color, they were all “socially conservative”? Because most were black? Blacks in Atlanta? Atlanta where King’s window, Coretta, often spoke in favor of LGBT rights? And how do you KNOW, “he has done the same thing at numerous other Black churches?” Because you heard him? Because you heard him or others claim that he has. Where’s your proof? I've asked others repeatedly to provide it and none ever have.

Here is exactly what Obama said in Ebenezer’s new sactuary: “We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.” Nothing more. NOT “homophobia” by name, and none of “its ills” except as they were an implied part of the divisions he referenced in our society.

Bravo for him! But because it was NOT explicit, because he did NOT say, “homophobia is WRONG,” as he has done so often so well, all the way back to his days at the Harvard Law Review, he cagely left it up to his listeners to decide the implications of his words. And that includes the ability of homophobes to hear it as just a fresh variation on their already moldy, self-justifying, sanctimonious “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

Obama has, in fact, used the word “homophobia” itself on some occasions. He did at Howard University but soley in the context of it being an obstacle to fighting AIDS. He never said it was wrong in its own right; that it was bigotry. And later he washed away the good of even what he had said by a “frat boy moment” joking—to roars of laughter from his mostly black audience—that he didn’t want anyone to think he’d had his HIV test with a man.

The problem is that one need look no further, as Rev. Monroe documented, for how little his alleged aggressive support for LGBT equality has accomplished in his personal pastor, Rev. Wright. One need look no farther than another close friend of many years, another spiritual advisor, the Rev. & Sen. James Meeks who ran for Illinois governor on an antigay platform, continues to describe being gay as “an evil sickness,” and voted against Illinois’ LGBT rights bill. One look no farther than the Rev. Donnie McClurkin who after hearing that Obama “disagreed” with him about gays STILL used the stage that Obama had paid for to screech, “God delivered me from homosexuality!”

After a year of reading his speeches, watching videos of them, the closest I have ever seen him come to actually advocating AGAINST homophobia and FOR LGBT rights except in the context of an interview or a debate or other question and answer format [just as Sen. Clinton and the Dem candidates that have dropped out, have] was in Beaumont, Texas, last month. Even then it was only after being asked, but he does deserve credit for saying that, “...people should be treated equally on the basis of sexual orientation,” and denouncing hatred.

If he had done more of that he would deserve the credit he has falsely been given and maybe Wright and Meeks and McClurkin and countless unnamed others would not still be just as homophobic as they were before they ever met Barack Obama.

Bil, what you've apparently missed is that Rev. Irene has consistently spouted right wing talking points in her attempts to smear Obama.

She's been citing that same nonsense from Tucker Carlson at least since April 2007:

And on this very site last October:

Unlike some others, Rev Monroe does not engage in endless criticisms of Obama in order to prop up the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Indeed, I do not believe I have ever seen an endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Rev Monroe.

But when it comes to "throwing folks under the bus" I think it is widely agreed that the Clintons are Olympic champions at the sport . Just ask Lani Guinier or Jocelyn Elders - two brave, outspoken African-American women who got kicked to the curb by the Clintons when they became inconvenient. Or, for that matter, in consideration of the underbus toss of our entire community through DADT and then DOMA , I think we are already well aware of the Clintons skills in the game of selling us out.

Rev. Irene Monroe | March 19, 2008 7:20 PM

If religion did not play such an important role in a presidential candidate’s bid for the White House, this conversation would not be happening. But given the collapsing of church and state since Bush has come into office, the lines of private and personal barely exist. And with the collapsing of these two spheres, how and where and why a presidential candidate worships or not is unfortunately predicated on his or hers delectability- which brings us to my recent piece about Obama.

My piece about Obama is more about race than it is about religion because its how a particular strand of black theology, the minster, Rev. Wright, who preaches it, and how one of his parishioners, Obama, are caught up, in a pernicious game of race-baiting instigated no doubt by the right-wing media. And the game has drawn both Obama and Rev. Wright in it where neither of them wins. And if one is perceived to have won it is done at the destruction and denigration and denouncement of the other.

Obama’s speech on race was brilliant not only it his elocution of it but of the difficult topic he had to address. He spoke about race from a much wider lens than we hear in our everyday discourse . And he’s one of the few people of color that gets it that white people too are pained by our country's legacy of racism. However where he fell short in his speech is that he done it at the expense of feeding into the media’s portrayal of Rev. Wright as a demagogue. And while he denounced Rev. Wright’s statements, with attempts to contextual their origins, he played into the race-baiting nonetheless, at the expense of exonerating himself of any culpability of being associated with Wright that make Obama look like the good guy and Wright the bad one.

While it is true that Obama may have missed some of Wright’s sermons, it is impossible for him to miss them all. And if he did, when he joined the church, was baptized and married in it Obama attended classes that explained the church's mission, theology and its set black values.

Black Theology is a liberation theology in that is looks at black suffering from the lens of the Exodus narrative where Moses leads the Israelites out of Egyptian oppression. Black Theology also look at the prophets in the Bible and their jeremiads about injustice. One jeremiad many of us know is the Amos text we heard Martin Luther King utter when he said “Let justice roll down like a mighty stream.” And with these biblical prophets like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah they all speak about God’s wrath, God cursing or damning a people or a nation as we see in the Exodus narrative where God cursed Egypt with several plagues. Wright’s homilies follows the tradition of the biblical prophets that were woefully misunderstood. But I am not also saying that all that is Black Theology is good. It’s myopia around gender issues and LGBTQ civil rights is just some of the reasons why I am not a proponent of it, which is why my essay first and then book “How the Black Church Endangers the African American LGBTQ Community” will soon be out.

Rev. Wright is problematic on the above mentioned issues, which is why I lifted up the voices of two of his LGBTQ parishioners in this piece. However, in this media frenzy to discredit Obama’s electability Wright has been the sacrificial lamb for our country's needed public discourse on race while excusing Obama of his active involvement with Trinity until he ran for office. And like any politician- black or white- they know in order to win the black Christian vote you go to the black church. Where Obama got caught is that he didn’t think his involvement with supposedly an Afrocentric church would weigh in so heavily on his electability. And because it does he has done it at the expense of throwing Wright under the bus.

Dear Rev. Irene,

I don't agree with this particular post, but in an effort to share some peace and positivity today (the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq), I just want to say thank you for all of the other beautiful posts you have shared in the past. I really respect your viewpoint and appreciate everything I've learned from you.

Peace and blessings,

Rev. Monroe,

How many voices do you have talking to you in your head right now.

In a single commentary attacked Obama for shamefully throwing his pastor under the bus AND attacked him for shamefully not shunning him for his controversial sermons. Huh?

As a gay Christian (and UCC member) I often enjoy and appreciate your commentaries but this one was WAY off base.

I suspect that it wasn't driven by religion (as some have claimed), or by race (as you have claimed), but more likely because of your devotion to Senator Clinton.

It's a shame that political partisanship within a single party could drive a respected ordained minister to go on a blind, biased rant that looks, at least from where I sit (at least in tenor and tone) very much like the Wright sermon that you yourself find so appalling.

All of this Democrat on Democrat hate is so sad and it’s getting really old and tiring.

Jim?? the "full monty" of marriage?

do your homework, please. it's not just a symbolic use of words. it is a legal entity that has thousands of legal precidents.

separate is never equal.

I would love an end to the war in Iraq. Obama has promised permanent troops, along with Clinton.

I would love real public education. Health care. I care about a lot of issues.

but don't scold me for wanting equal rights in this country. you may be happy with an entirely new institution created for you, like a separate fountain, or separate hospitals...I am not.

that doesn't mean I don't care about other things. As Rev. Monroe said in her piece, she is all things at once and not separate.

Rev Monroe,

Thank you for you elaboration of your original post. I appreciate your praise of Obama's speech on race as "brilliant " and your acknowldgement of the challenges he faces and the " pernicious game of race-baiting instigated no doubt by the right-wing media " . I am aware that Jeremiah Wright has not had a spotless record in terms of LGBTQ folks - though I have talked with some folks at Trinity and Wright's stance on marriage equality is more complex that is reflected in your characterization. But I also know that Wright and Trinity UCC have done and great deal of good in this world.

I do not share your conclusion that Obama sacrificed Wright in his speech. I believe Obama genuinely disagrees with certain of Wright's statements. It is hard to publicly go against someone who has been one's Pastor for two decades. Obama was clearly reticent to forcefully condemn the statements from Wright he differed with . The current assault on Wright and Obama of course forced him to finally be very public and very clear about his differences with Wright. There are those who fault Obama for not doing this sooner. Yet at the same time there are others who will say that even saying what he did Obama betrayed Wright.

I believe he took the right course - being very clear about why Wright is wrong on some points but refusing to be pushed to disown Wright or end his relationship with Trinity UCC. I find the care he took in making this distinction and claiming Wright as family to be deeply touching. And, more importantly, he went beyond just the issue of his relationship with Wright to use this as a teachable momement to talk to a large audience about race in ways that rarely happens anywhere.

I am very glad that you have acknowledged Obama's merits and his challenges, even if we do not agree on your conclusion.

I am also glad that yet again - no matter how others may try to use your posts and no matter how some assume you are a Clinton booster - AT NO POINT do you mention your support for Clinton.

I can only assume that you are not even investing energy into criticizing / challenging Clinton. With Obama at least you acknowlege the good things and the obstacles and yuo show by your attention that he is worth confronting/challenging to better live out the promise of his campaign for LGBTQ folks and All God's Children.

May God Bless you for that and for all you do for all of us !

Michael Bedwell | March 19, 2008 9:09 PM

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bummmmpppppppy night. By which I mean much of the following could reverse in a few days and reverse again after that and....

“New Gallup Poll Daily tracking finds Hillary Clinton with a 49% to 42% lead over Barack Obama in national Democratic voters' presidential nomination preference. ...

[John McCain] holds a statistically significant lead over Obama, 47% to 43%, in registered voters' preferences for the general presidential election. That is the first time any of the candidates has held a statistically significant lead since Gallup Poll Daily tracking began reporting on the general election race last week. McCain's 48% to 45% advantage over Clinton is not statistically significant, but it is the first time he has had an edge over her in Gallup Poll Daily tracking.”

“CBS Poll: Gender Matters More Than Race -
Voters Say Woman Candidate Faces Slightly Bigger Barriers To Presidency Than A Black Candidate

Voters are slightly more likely to say that a woman candidate faces more obstacles than a black candidate when it comes to presidential politics even as they see racism as a more serious problem for the nation overall, according to a new CBS News poll. Thirty nine percent of registered voters said a woman running for president faces more obstacles while 33 percent said a black candidate does.

When it comes to the 2008 presidential election, voters say Hillary Clinton has been judged more harshly because of her gender than Barack Obama has because of his race. Forty two percent said Clinton has been judged 'more harshly' and six percent said she has been judged less harshly because of her gender. Twenty seven percent said they think Obama has been judged 'more harshly' because of his race while 11 percent said he has been judged less harshly.”

Time out here folks as a white southerner I have probably heard more Black preachers than most of you. This kind or rhetoric is more or less common especially around election time. So its no biggie a bit embarrassing for the candidate yes and the Reverend got sent to the wood shed for a time out not totally dumped. He will be back im sure especially if Senator Obama wins in November. So kick back and relax the next primary is not till April so this is the silly period when pundits and other assorted talking heads have to much time on there hands aint politics grand?

Obama bouncing back
by kos
Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:13:21 PM PDT
I noted over the weekend that the Wright controversy had taken a chunk out of Obama's national numbers in Rasmussen's tracking poll. Early indicators are that the speech may be sending him back up.

Obama Clinton
March 19: 47 42
March 18: 45 44 -- Obama's speech
March 17: 46 44
March 16: 47 44
March 15: 46 45
March 14: 50 42
March 13: 48 41 -- Wright hits news
March 12: 47 42
March 11: 48 41 -- Mississippi
March 10: 46 44
March 9: 45 47
March 8: 45 46 --Wyoming
March 7: 43 49
March 6: 43 48
March 5: 43 48
March 4: 44 46 -- OH, TX, VT, RI

This is a four-day rolling average, so each day gives us a 25% fresh sample. You can see that in the drop of Obama's numbers after the Wright controversy hit the scene. It was first reported on last Thursday (13th), got wide airing on Friday (14th), then four days later, on the 18th, it hit its lowest point of the week.

That means that only about a quarter of this sample size is post-speech. We'll have a much better picture of its impact in the next 3-5 days.

Also, kind of funny that Obama got a bigger boost out of winning Wyoming and Mississippi than Clinton did out of winning Texas and Ohio. Though I'm being facetious. In reality, Clinton's bump in the poll was more an artificial response to her victories March 4 than a substantive shift in support, so she was bound to come back down to earth anyway, with or without her subsequent defeats.

Hillary's Nasty Pastorate


[posted online on March 19, 2008]
There's a reason Hillary Clinton has remained relatively silent during the flap over intemperate remarks by Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. When it comes to unsavory religious affiliations, she's a lot more vulnerable than Obama.
You can find all about it in a widely under-read article in the September 2007 issue of Mother Jones, in which Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet reported that "through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as "The "Fellowship," a k a The Family. But it won't be a secret much longer. Jeff Sharlet's shocking exposé The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power will be published in May.
Sean Hannity has called Obama's church a "cult," but that term applies far more aptly to Clinton's "Family," which is organized into "cells"--their term--and operates sex-segregated group homes for young people in northern Virginia. In 2002, Sharlet joined The Family's home for young men, forswearing sex, drugs and alcohol, and participating in endless discussions of Jesus and power. He wasn't undercover; he used his own name and admitted to being a writer. But he wasn't completely out of danger either. When he went outdoors one night to make a cell phone call, he was followed. He still gets calls from Family associates asking him to meet them in diners--alone.

The Family's most visible activity is its blandly innocuous National Prayer Breakfast, held every February in Washington. But almost all its real work goes on behind the scenes--knitting together international networks of right-wing leaders, most of them ostensibly Christian. In the 1940s, The Family reached out to former and not-so-former Nazis, and its fascination with that exemplary leader, Adolf Hitler, has continued, along with ties to a whole bestiary of murderous thugs. As Sharlet reported in Harper's in 2003:
During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand "Communists" killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise.

At the heart of The Family's American branch is a collection of powerful right-wing politicos, who include, or have included, Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, John Ashcroft, James Inhofe and Rick Santorum. They get to use The Family's spacious estate on the Potomac, the Cedars, which is maintained by young men in Family group homes and where meals are served by the Family's young women's group. And, at The Family's frequent prayer gatherings, they get powerful jolts of spiritual refreshment, tailored to the already powerful.
Clinton fell in with The Family in 1993, when she joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. When she ascended to the Senate, she was promoted to what Sharlet calls the Family's "most elite cell," the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia's notoriously racist Senator George Allen. This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, The Family's publicity-averse leader, that he is "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."

Furthermore, The Family takes credit for some of Clinton's rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing "religious freedom" in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics.
What drew Clinton into the sinister heart of the international right? Maybe it was just a phase in her tormented search for identity, marked by ever-changing hairstyles and names: Hillary Rodham, Mrs. Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and now Hillary Clinton. She reached out to many potential spiritual mentors during her White House days, including New Age guru Marianne Williamson and the liberal rabbi Michael Lerner. But it was the Family association that stuck.
Sharlet generously attributes Clinton's involvement to the under-appreciated depth of her religiosity, but he himself struggles to define The Family's theological underpinnings. The Family avoids the word Christian but worships Jesus, though not the Jesus who promised the earth to the "meek." They believe that, in mass societies, it's only the elites who matter, the political leaders who can build God's "dominion" on earth. Insofar as The Family has a consistent philosophy, it's all about power--cultivating it, building it and networking it together into ever-stronger units, or "cells." "We work with power where we can," Doug Coe has said, and "build new power where we can't."

Obama has given a beautiful speech on race and his affiliation with the Trinity Unity Church of Christ. Now it's up to Clinton to explain--or, better yet, renounce--her long-standing connection with the fascist-leaning Family.

"If Obama can throw his pastor under the bus, what will he do to LGBTQ voters on his way to the White House?

Well, if the entirety of 'LGBTQ voters' does something as inflammatory as his preacher has done, then perhaps we'd deserve it.

As much as I oppose HRC's HRC's candidacy, I understand how some might come to a different conclusion than I have. But this brand of Obama-hate is approaching the border of the bizarro world.

I have to say that in the real world, we will not get a fully LGBT-supportive presidential candidate. Yes, it is disappointing. Wright may have said some over-the-top things, though only selected clips are shown - where are the full transcripts? I have to think that Trinity UCC is moderate in the black community, given that there is an institutionally recognised LGBT ministry that doesn't involve ex-gay ideology. It isn't as LGBT friendly as the Fellowship (Bp. Yvette Flunder's organization of black inclusive churches). But it isn't the usual COGIC or Natl Baptist church either. As a lesbian, I feel far more "under the bus" with HRC's unfortunate affiliation with The Family (see comment 22 - her affiliation has been reported since 2003).

I feel that Obama did a good job in addressing race in his speech. The topic is one of the least honestly discussed issues in politics and daily life.

The Question Hillary Clinton Won't Answer
By Frederick Clarkson Mon Dec 17, 2007

Way beyond the faith wars of the moment -- the pandering to interest groups, the posturing to the press -- there is a permanent war for influence waged by those seeking power via the spiritual lives of our political leaders.
It's something that rarely surfaces and the media is loath to report. Some pols enter this arena with their eyes open, some probably not. One of the competitors is a shadowy, religious right group known as "The Family". Targets for recruitment include both Republicans and Democrats. A few years ago journalist Jeff Sharlet went undercover to learn about the machinations of this secretive network -- and his findings were published in Harpers magazine: Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats.

In a follow-up article last fall in Mother Jones, Sharlet and Kathryn Joyce detailed the involvement of Senator Hillary Clinton in this group. She refused to talk with them about it.

Here are excerpts from the Harpers article:

the Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February in Washington, D.C. Each year 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations, pay $425 each to attend. Steadfastly ecumenical, too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can "meet Jesus man to man."
The group plays a behind the scenes role, in facilitating relationships between world leaders:

During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand "Communists" killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise. "We work with power where we can," the Family's leader, Doug Coe, says, "build new power where we can't."
At the 1990 National Prayer Breakfast, George H.W. Bush praised Doug Coe for what he described as "quiet diplomacy, I wouldn't say secret diplomacy," as an "ambassador of faith."

Suffice to say, there is much, much more in this ground-breaking article that will more than raise eyebrows -- and go a long way to helping to illuminate some dark corners of why things are the way they are Inside the Beltway.

The question of how a pol's religion influences their politics and policy ideas is legitimate, as Mitt Romney recently acknolwedged, as did John F. Kennedy before him. Barack Obama has sought to explain how his faith informs his public life, and the Democratic candidates subjected themselves to grilling by religious leaders in a forum organized by Jim Wallis of Sojourners.

Personally, I view inquiries into people's private religious views as offensive and unnecessary. But when candidates make religion a central part of their identity, it is reasonable for people to inquire about what that means to someone seeking public office, and cerntainly anyone putting themselves before us to be the most powerful political leader in the world. It is also incumbent on any responsible candidate to explain their involvement in secretive, organizations -- of whatever nature they may be.

For the most part, the public discussion of the relationship between faith and politics has been pretty superficial. And maybe that is as it should be. For all the crap about the alleged secularity of the Democratic Party, there has been no candidate in my memory who has not pandered to religious constituencies, and drawn heavily on members of his own religious tradition to support his candidacy. Religion, for better or worse, will alway be part of our political currency.

One of the current crop of Democratic "faith gurus," Mara Vanderslice has always maintained that a pol's public articulations of how faith informs their life and politics should be "authentic." Whatever our other differences, I agree with that.

One of the problems with pols making a big show out of religion, as the framers of the Constitution well-understood, is that whether or not that faith is authentic or inauthentic, or the whether it is a matter of degree, is difficult for anyone to say. That is one of the many reasons why religious tests for public office and religious oaths were specifically banned in Article 6. Who can judge the authenticity of a polititian's faith? And how will a politician know when he or she has abused their faith for political gain, such that they maybe no longer even know what they believe? Should we care? I am not sure. But it is healthy, I think to raise the question since the public political faith wars are well underway.

But back to our story.

Less well known, is that covert faith wars are always being waged Inside the Beltway as a way of accessing and manipulating elected and appointed government officials, military leaders and more. One such influence network is The Family. Back in September, Jeff Sharlet and Kathryn Joyce reported in Mother Jones on Sen. Clinton's longtime involvement in The Family. The authors wanted to ask her about it -- but they were rebuffed.

While I have no problem with pols expressing their faith, and explaining how their faith relates to their public life, they do not get to hide when they are asked about the details. I am rather surprised that more has not been made of this.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will probably vote for Obama or Edwards, but am not active in anyone's campaign. In the past, I have also criticized Senator Obama for secular baiting in a recommended diary here at Talk to Action and at Daily Kos (I am pleased to say that he has since vastly improved his approach to these matters) and diaried about the Mother Jones article when it first came out.

My interest is, as most readers probably know, the way that the religious right functions in American politics. In that regard, I view Sharlet and Joyce's article as an important piece of journalism that Democrats -- and everyone -- should consider while choosing who will be our candidate for president. At the very least, I think Senator Clinton owes us an explanation for her involvement in this group which -- sorry Hillary fans -- cannot be construed as merely a Bible study or prayer group. Nor does it have anything to do with the utterly mainstream United Methodist Church of which she is a longtime member. But there is more to candidate Clinton's faith and its role in her political life than the UMC.

Here are a few excerpts:

Clinton's God talk is more complicated--and more deeply rooted--than either fans or foes would have it, a revelation not just of her determination to out-Jesus the gop, but of the powerful religious strand in her own politics....
Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection.

When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian "cell" whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat.

Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan.

The Fellowship isn't out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.

This is in line with the Christian right's long-term strategy. Francis Schaeffer, late guru of the movement, coined the term "cobelligerency" to describe the alliances evangelicals must forge with conservative Catholics. Colson, his most influential disciple, has refined the concept of cobelligerency to deal with less-than-pure politicians. In this application, conservatives sit pretty and wait for liberals looking for common ground to come to them. Clinton, Colson told us, "has a lot of history" to overcome, but he sees her making the right moves.

The article makes clear that although Clinton is deeply involved in this murky group, she is not a religious right ideologue. She remains firmly pro-choice, for example. But on a number of issues detailed in the article, she is also firmly, and disturbingly in the religious right camp in ways that no doubt bring joy to those seeking to errode the wall of separation between church and state.

But the senator's project isn't the conversion of her adversaries; it's tempering their opposition so she can court a new generation of Clinton Republicans, values voters who have grown estranged from the Christian right. And while such crossover conservatives may never agree with her on the old litmus-test issues, there is an important, and broader, common ground--the kind of faith-based politics that, under the right circumstances, will permit majority morality to trump individual rights.

Michael Bedwell and Sara Whitman,

Thanks for your thoughtful responses to my comment. I will try to respond to your comments in the best way I can.

Michael, you are correct, the audience was only overwhelmingly African-American. There was, indeed, a smattering of white folks there. I judged their social conservativism based on their reactions to Obama's statements, and with no other evidence. I confess I am no expert of Georgia or majority-black churches. Your knowledge about the subject and various characters associated with Senator Obama is vast, and I will not contest it on factual grounds. I could offer explanations, but I do not think they would satisfy you, so I will only offer this:

Barack Obama is an exceptionally intelligent man. He believes in equality, and he believes in justice. Gay marriage is a political hot potato that, for a number of reasons, faces many roadblocks in many places in America. In some states, it now faces Constitutional roadblocks. Unfortunately, due to this climate of intolerance, "marriage" is not possible as a goal.

I support any type of marriage between any type of person, and, frankly, my opinion is that the state has no place in the institution of marriage. This brings me to Sara's comment.

I will be frank. I believe the insistence on the semantic title of "marriage" is hurting the fight for equal rights under the law. I understand that, right now, the only way to obtain those equal rights is through equalizing marriage for all folks. However, it is possible to extend those "marriage rights" to any people that wish to be joined. I understand that it isn't "marriage" in the eyes of the state, but the rights would be the same. Would that not accomplish the goal? Is the title of marriage more important than the rights conferred by such a union?

That was the point I was trying to make. Let's face it: there are many folks in this nation that, for whatever reason, find homosexuality wrong. I don't condone or support that viewpoint, but I must recognize its common place in society.

Obama is willing to broach the subject among those that disagree, which is more than I can say about the other candidates. Whatever you want to say about Obama's statement at Ebenezer, it was still a politically courageous act.

In summary, I understand your concerns. I don't believe the political climate is one that, on a national level, would support marriage for homosexuals. I do believe that the conferring of civil marriage rights is possible. From there, we can work toward the full recognition of the institutional name.

I agree, separate is not equal, and it never will be. I want the same thing as you, but I urge you not to abandon Obama because he understands the political reality of this nation. In short, would it please you more to have Obama advocate for gay marriage rights and lose, or would it please you more to have Obama work for as much equality as he possibly can and win?

We have the opportunity to change the political climate and measure of discussion in this country by electing Senator Barack Obama. That opportunity does not exist with other candidates, in my opinion. I believe the election of Obama would speed the cause of full equality, by any measure, for LGBTs. That's why I support him. I hope you will join me.

And by the way peeps, Hillary only won the POPULAR vote in Texas. She was clobbered by Barack in the caucus portion of the Texas Two-Step.

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Rev Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Call to Renewal and God's Politics has an outstanding commentary out today about Barack Obama's Tuesday speech on race in America. The commentary is called "It's Not About Him Now--It's About Us" . I applaud Rev. Wallis' point that it is up to all of us to rise to the occasion and take some responsibility so that we as a nation may move forward in the ways Obama suggests we must.

On a hopeful note, the New York Times has a story on people who are in fact rising to the challenge Obana has presented us with:
"Groups Respond to Obama's Call for National Discussion About Race"

God Is Indeed Good- ALL THE TIME !

Holy Thursday Blessings...

Michael Bedwell | March 20, 2008 6:38 PM

Eli, Eli, how the worm can turn. Someone repeatedly accuses another of being "anti-religion" when there is no evidence of that and now attempts to lynch Sen. Clinton for how she chooses to follow her own religious beliefs. Endorsement and promotion of these fascistic hit pieces, the lowest yet, is shameful in its ridiculous wholesale moral equating of Sen. Clinton and the Senate prayer group with another different group entirely. But you picked the perfect week. For this isn’t just "guilt by association," it's crucifixion by association. McCarthyism lives, and it’s operating from deep inside the Obama Borg, evangelized by those who claim to be followers of Jesus.

From “The Atlantic Monthly, November 2006:

“Clinton has also displayed a subtler touch in the Senate than anyone could reasonably have expected, making especially good use of the ever-dwindling opportunities for casual commingling of members of the opposing parties. The Wednesday-morning prayer group is one. Another is the congressional delegation (“CODEL,” in Hill jargon), on which members travel together.

One spring Wednesday, a few months into the term, Senator Sam Brownback’s turn came to lead the prayer group, and he rose intending to talk about a recent cancer scare. But as he stood before his colleagues Brownback spotted Clinton, and was overcome with the impulse to change the subject of his testimony. ‘I came here today prepared to share about this experience in my life that has caused great suffering, the result of which has deepened my faith’, Brownback said. ‘But I’m overcome now with only one thought’. He confessed to having hated Clinton and having said derogatory things about her. Through God, he now recognized his sin. Then he turned to her and asked, ‘Mrs. Clinton, will you forgive me’? Clinton replied that she would, and that she appreciated the apology.

This repentance fostered an unlikely relationship that has yielded political bounty. Clinton and Brownback went on to cosponsor one measure protecting refugees fleeing sexual abuse, and another to study the effects on children of violent video games and television shows.”

If you can’t summon the humility to ask for forgiveness, Deacon Keener, might we at least ask you to put away your hammer and nails?

Obama has narrowed Clinton's lead to 2 points in the latest Gallup poll

Obama is now 2 points behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in Gallup's daily "tracking poll" of Democratic voters.

She leads 47%-45% -- less than the poll's +/- 3 percentage point margin of error. Gallup says it surveyed 1,227 Democrats and voters who "lean" Democratic from Tuesday through Thursday.

Over the past two days, Clinton's advantage has narrowed from 7 points to 5 points and now to 2.

Gallup writes that:

Clinton moved 7 percentage points ahead of Obama in Gallup's March 19 report and sustained a significant 5-point lead on March 20. Her gains were coincident with the controversy over Obama's former pastor and "spiritual mentor," Rev. Jeremiah Wright. However, the surge in Democrats' preference for Clinton that Gallup detected earlier in the week has started to move out of the three-day rolling average, and the race is back to a near tie. It is possible that Obama's aggressive efforts to diffuse the Wright story, including a major speech ... have been effective.

If standing up for Rev. Wright with an intelligent and thought provoking speech in the face the the media orgy that was attacking Obama (for Wright's words) is throwing him under the bus... Heck, I want to be thrown under that bus!

Clinton doesn't even WANT a full repeal of DOMA. That's akin to DRIVING the bus.
Hillary Clinton's judgmental remarks about the Rev Dr Jeremiah Wright and her presumptuous remarks about where Barack Omama should or should not worship , ironic in view of Hillary's own controversial religious bedfellows
Donna Brazile on Hillary throwing Jeremiah Wright under the bus