Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama responded to an invitation from Barbara Walters to appear on The View this morning, taking on Republican Elizabeth Hasselbeck, while fielding questions from a sympathetic Joy Behar, Barbara and Whoopie Goldberg.
First on the agenda, Senator Obama responded to the controversy surrounding recently-retired church pastor Jeremiah Wright. Obama is taking fire for remaining in the church after the pastor's controversial antics: as early as 1993, Wright called for the primarily African-American congregation to sing, "God Damn America," rather than God Bless America, as well as placing responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks squarely on the United States itself.
Obama is on the record as "categorically" denouncing any rhetoric "that disparages our great country." His impassioned speech on racial relations, as Hasselbeck noted, "crossed party lines," and won many undecided supporters over, calling for an open-minded, inclusive discussion of the issues.
Still, the shadow of Wright's legacy hangs over Obama's head, and as he has remarked before, "I can no more dismiss this man [Wright] than I can my white grandmother." Barack's outspoken and independent wife, Michelle, didn't help matters when, in February, she passionately cried out during a campaign stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, "For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." No doubt her words were intended as praise for her husband's success; however, her poorly-worded comments only sparked outrage over what many saw as further denigration of America.
In addition, continuing to attend Wright's church for 21 years suggests to many a tacit approval with Wright's divisive sentiments; opponents argue that Obama only distanced himself from the pastor when the relationship was brought out into the open.
This morning on the View, Obama weighed in with, "I'm not vetting my pastor. I didn't have a research team during the course of 20 years to go pull every sermon he's given and see if there's something offensive that he's said." Obama went on to say that the picture the news media has given the American people is merely, "a snippet of the man."
Obama also went on to address what he considers the three major focal points of his presidential campaign:
Removing our military force from Iraq "as carefully as we carelessly went in."
Putting forth a bill that will "allow every family to receive affordable health care."
Dealing with the nation's economy. Earlier this week, Obama railed against Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain for taking, as he put it, "a sit back and watch" approach to the failing economy in the midst of what analysts say is an economic recession. Obama denied that he would, as McCain suggested Tuesday, raise taxes. Instead, he plans to "remove tax breaks from the richest Americans", who, he points out, don't need the breaks as much as the average worker needs to hang on to his house.
After Barack's stint on the view, Sherri Shepherd, former comedienne and survivor of the infamous "flat earth" discussion in which she disavowed evolution, declared herself won over by Obama's appearance and declared herself willing to campaign for him.
Hopefully, after facing down all this controversy already, the Senator is savvy enough not to take her up on her offer.