The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.
Smiling, cracking corny jokes, mugging it up for the big-time news media — this reverend is never going away. He’s found himself a national platform, and he’s loving it.
It’s a twofer. Feeling dissed by Senator Obama, Mr. Wright gets revenge on his former follower while bathed in a spotlight brighter than any he could ever have imagined. He’s living a narcissist’s dream. At long last, his 15 minutes have arrived...
The thing to keep in mind about Rev. Wright is that he is a smart fellow. He’s been a very savvy operator, politically and otherwise, for decades. He has built a thriving, politically connected congregation on the South Side of Chicago that has done some very good work over the years. Powerful people have turned to him for guidance and advice.
So it’s not like he’s naïve politically. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Forget the gibberish about responding to attacks on the black church. That is not what the reverend’s appearance before the press club was about. He was responding to what he perceives as an attack on him.
This whole story is about Senator Obama’s run for the White House and absolutely nothing else. Barack Obama went to Rev. Wright’s church as a young man and was blessed with the Christian bona fides that would be absolutely essential for a high-profile political career.
Faster than anyone could have imagined, the young Mr. Obama became Senator Obama and then the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then came the videotaped sermons and the roof caved in on Rev. Wright’s reputation. Senator Obama had no choice but to distance himself, and he did it as gently as he felt he could.
My guess is that Mr. Wright felt he’d been thrown under a bus by an ungrateful congregant who had benefited mightily from his association with the church and who should have rallied to his former pastor’s defense. What we’re witnessing now is Rev. Wright’s “I’ll show you!” tour.
Obama appears unwilling to let Wright succeed:
"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Obama told reporters at a news conference...
"The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago," Obama said of the man who married him...
Obama said he heard that Wright had given "a performance" and when he watched tapes, he realized that it more than just a case of the former pastor defending himself.
"What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for," Obama said.
In a highly publicized speech last month, Obama sharply condemned Wright's remarks. But he did not leave the church or repudiate the minister himself, who he said was like a family member.
On Tuesday, Obama sought to distance himself further from Wright.
"I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia explaining that he's done enormous good. ... But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS. ... There are no excuses. They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced."
"At a certain point if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally and then he questions whether or not you believe it — in front of the National Press Club — then that's enough," Obama continued.
In his Philadelphia speech last month Obama couldn't openly repudiate Wright without risking a negative reaction from voters, especially African Americans, would see him as an ingrate, willing to cast aside people who've become inconvenient. Now, however, as Wright goes around the country performing as a caricature of what many white voters will perceive as "The Scary Black Man," Obama has an obligation to repudiate Wright. Failing to repudiate Wright risks allowing the GOP (and until then presumably the Clinton campaign) to use Wright as the Black proxy with which to scare off white voters. White people who aren't solid GOP voters aren't personally scared by Obama, but they could be scared away from Obama if they're afraid that as President he'll bring a bunch of "Scary Black Men" along with him in to the White House.
As long as Wright continues to blab, Obama not only has the obligation to repudiate him, he has the opportunity. This afternoon, he took advantage of the opportunity.
Comments are closed on this story.