2008: The Year of Denouncing and Repudiating

The Baltimore Sun

Summing up, let me just say that I reject, repudiate, renounce, denounce, dismiss and utterly regret 2008.

In fact, I categorically denounce any person or statement that disparages or causes distress to any living creature on this great planet or that serves to divide us from any other planet in this universe - or any other - and such creatures as, therein, may reside.

That being said, it is still nevertheless true that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein.

I mention this not to cause trouble, because I categorically renounce trouble, but to cite one of the many odd utterings that defined 2008 as The Year of Denouncing and Repudiating.

Despite our professed respect for walking the walk, talking the talk is the real deal-breaker, as the past year has made clear. It is now required that anyone seeking public office be prepared to denounce any and all who have ever said anything remotely offensive to anyone. This is potentially quite a long list.

It is also a rather odd exercise, a sort of redemption-by-proxy whereby the innocent confessor, having committed no offense other than to enjoy an endorsement or association, seeks absolution through repudiation of the "guilty" party.

"If you don't like my friend, I don't like my friend."

Thus Mr. Obama sought and was granted redemption by leaving his church and distancing himself from the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his spiritual adviser for two decades. More important than the content of a 20-year history was the denunciation, though even that sometimes isn't enough. Judgment, as always, is in the eye of one's opponent.

Sen. Hillary Clinton challenged Mr. Obama's denunciation of Louis Farrakhan, saying that Mr. Obama should have rejected the Nation of Islam leader's endorsement. Mr. Obama said fine. He would "reject and denounce" if that would make Mrs. Clinton feel better.

And then he made her secretary of state. And she did feel better.

Sen. John McCain also had to rebuke unfortunate friends, including Ohio talk-radio host Bill Cunningham and Texas televangelist John Hagee.

Mr. Cunningham couldn't resist repeatedly mentioning Mr. Obama's middle name before a McCain appearance. After the rally, Mr. McCain expressed regret for "any comments that may have been made about [Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama], who are honorable Americans."

Mr. McCain also was forced to reject Mr. Hagee's endorsement after learning of the minister's comments that Adolf Hitler was actually fulfilling God's will by advancing the Jews' return to Israel. Mr. Hagee repudiated the repudiation, saying that his comments were mischaracterized.

Next the Council on American-Islamic Relations insisted that Mr. McCain repudiate the endorsement of the Rev. Rod Parsley, an Ohio minister who has said that Islam is "an anti-Christ religion that intends through violence to conquer the world." Mr. McCain caved under pressure and rejected his endorsement as well.

With no one left to denounce or repudiate, the American electorate repudiated everything else. Not just Mr. Bush's presidency and the GOP, but America's benighted past. Mr. Obama is Repudiation Personified.

Human Rights Watch wants Mr. Obama to repudiate the Bush administration's counterterrorism measures. The Taliban wants Mr. Obama to repudiate Mr. Bush's "warmongering" policies.

Given a likely future rich in such demands, Mr. Obama might consider creating a Department of Repudiations to evaluate requests and make recommendations.

Alternatively, the president-elect could denounce denunciations on demand and repudiate repudiations as the impotent posturings of a pandering past. He could punctuate his point by, say, inviting a controversial, divisive evangelical minister to deliver the inaugural invocation.

Oh, wait.

Kathleen Parker's syndicated column appears regularly in The Baltimore Sun. Her e-mail is kparker@kparker.com.

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