Obama and McClurkin: Two for Which Road?

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 2:28 PM EDT

Under siege by the seemingly unstoppable Sen. Clinton, is Senator Obama's campaign heading toward incoherence?

The same man who's worked hard, even bravely, to bring open but tolerant religiosity to Democratic politics, who ventured into Christian, hard right territory for an AIDS conference at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback church, who underwent a public AIDS test there to help de-stigmatize the disease in black eyes and who surely has heard about the black church's newfound dedication to combatting AIDS - that guy is barnstorming with Donnie McClurkin, gospel star, pastor to the black elite and crusading homophobe? What on earth is he thinking? Like Bill Clinton in his day, Obama is supposed to be the smartest, most intellectual guy in the bunch but this move is dumb as a rock, transparent as Britney Spears' clothes, cynical and desperate. Times are hard for a former super star whose best case scenario now is to argue sloppy staff work.

The normally restrained commentator, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, has lost it over this move and I can't say I blame him, though I'm too busy being confused to move on to anger. Hutchinson notes:

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama ripped a page straight from the Bush campaign playbook with his announced upcoming three date barnstorm tour through South Carolina with notorious gay basher, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The Grammy winning black gospel singer's last effort on the political scene was his song and shill for Bush's reelection at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Obama has hitched his string to McClurkin's high flying gay bash kite in part out of religious belief (he purports to be somewhat of an evangelical), in bigger part because he's falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton with the black vote in South Carolina and everywhere else, and in the biggest part of all because he hopes that what worked for Bush's reelection will work for him. Enter McClurkin. He's black, he's popular, and gospel plays big with blacks in South Carolina, especially black evangelicals, and many of them openly and even more of them quietly loathe gays.

Perhaps like this minister who also practices restorative, religious 'therapy' to cure gays who said in defense of McClurkin: "Telling any child that he or she is born gay and cannot change is a death sentence. Gay activists and their blind allies in the mental health, medical and educational professions have blood on their hands for condemning young people to a life mined with such suffering and disease."

So, this guy is sharing a stage with this guy?

If McClurkin doesn't suddenly come down with a sudden "schedule overlap" and 'voluntarily' cancel this appearance (he's not singing at all of them), we'll know that Senator Obama still isn't quite soup yet. If he was smart enough to distance himself from his controversial minister and to even quit smoking, let's see if he's smart enough to get himself out of this one or if he's going to pander to black intolerance.