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Obama Stumbles...Again

The Illinois senator's problematic, "semi-gay" supporter.

5:50 PM, Oct 29, 2007 • By DEAN BARNETT
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MOST STANDARD READERS probably think the big campaign news of the days is Mitt Romney landing the endorsement of New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg. As an avowed
Romney supporter, I applaud this development, while simultaneously questioning its import. How many people who vote actually care about endorsements? As a deeper question, should people who care about endorsements even be allowed to vote? Regardless, the Gregg endorsement will give some media bigfoots something to talk about for the next few hours, and may even get Romney some "inevitability" buzz in New Hampshire; that would give him a matching set with his Iowa "inevitability" buzz. If he wins both impressively, he will be tough to beat.

But Senator Gregg booking passage on the SS Romney isn't the real political story of the day. Over on the Democratic side, gaffe-prone stumblebum Barack Obama has managed to find yet another pile of manure to plant his wingtips in.

In an effort to appeal to Democratic values voters (both of them!), Obama has been burning a path through the South in a manner reminiscent of William Tecumseh Sherman. Unlike Sherman, Obama didn't bring tens of thousands of revenge-minded troops with him, but one semi-gay and enormously popular gospel singer, Donnie McClurkin. "Semi-gay?", you ask. Sorry, but that's the best way I can think of to describe McClurkin's lifestyle. McClurkin used to be fully gay, until he was "cured" (his word, not mine) through prayer. Under the auspices of the Obama campaign, McClurkin has been headlining a concert tour in the South on the campaign's behalf.

Even if McClurkin just stuck to singing, his association with the Obama campaign would have been problematic. To virtually all progressives, as well as many conservatives, the thought of "curing" homosexuality is equal parts offensive and ludicrous.

Predictably, Obama's association with McClurkin isn't going over well in progressive circles. The blogopshere took notice of the McClurkin-headlined tour last week, and was universal in its denunciations. Trying to tamp down the rising flames, Obama attempted a characteristically maladroit gambit--he rushed onto the tour an openly gay white preacher to hopefully balance McClurkin's presence. He also lamely claimed that he has tried in the past to address "the homophobia among some black voters."

Things didn't work out particularly well for the Obama campaign at last night's stop in Columbia, South Carolina. Rather than sidestep the controversy, McClurkin embraced it. The New York Times's Katherine Seelye was there and reported:

The whole controversy might have been forgotten in the swell of gospel sound except Mr. McClurkin turned the final half hour of the three-hour concert into a revival meeting about the lightning rod he has become for the Obama campaign.

He approached the subject gingerly at first. Then, just when the concert had seemed to reach its pitch and about to end, Mr. McClurkin returned to it with a full-blown plea: "Don't call me a bigot or anti-gay when I have suffered the same feelings," he cried.


"God delivered me from homosexuality he added. He then told the audience to believe the Bible over the blogs: "God is the only way." The crowd sang and clapped along in full support.

Adding insult to injury for Obama's gay supporters, the gay white minister who was supposed to give the show some balance said but a brief prayer and then was heard from no more. For his part, Obama wasn't at the show and so was unable to repudiate McClurkin's speech, even if he was of a mind to do so. He did however send a videotaped message that preceded the show that said, "The artists you're going to hear from are some of the best in the world, and favorites of Michelle and myself." Showing the insight that has made the New York Times the gold standard in the reporting game, Seelye concluded, "The political implications of (McClurkin's) performance are not clear."