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March 17, 2008

The Wright Stuff

I understand what he meant. I mean, heard in fuller context, yes, I do get what he was saying: that this country should be concerned about God’s judgment for many of the choices made by our political leadership. But, often, the words we choose to deliver our message can get in the way of the message itself. Myself being no shrinking violet, I certainly understand the phenomena of hoof-and-mouth disease. What startles me, what really gives me pause, is when the megalomania which is an occupational hazard of the office of Pastor becomes so grossly rabid that one of these loudmouthed, self-absorbed onions would allow his own selfishness to destroy not only his own credibility but derail the most uniquely productive African American social movement of this generation.

The Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr, former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, the Chicago megachurch where the Obamas have been members for 20 years, is well-known for his fiery rhetoric. Until this week, he *used* to also be known for his keen intellect. It is that very intellect that convicts him, now, as being, sadly, another out-of-control blowhard. Too many of our pastors fall to the temptation of self, are overcome by the beguiling influence of fame. Yes, pastors are supposed to be strong leaders, decisive men of courage and vision. But, in my experience, the congregation typically goes way, way too far in praising these guys, their loyalty to and respect for their pastor becoming a kind of blind obedience and, ultimately, worship.

And this is what we get: a man so self-absorbed, so greedy for attention and so completely in love with the sound of his own voice, that his ego supplants his intellect to the most shocking and gross extreme of possibly torpedoing the first viable black presidential candidacy. All Reverend Wright had to do was keep his mouth shut. And he couldn’t do it.

God does not inspire us to be morons. God does not inspire us to put our own need for attention over the needs of others. Reverend Wright’s utterly ridiculous “God damn America!” rhetoric was not in any way inspired by God—although he could have simply said “God *judge* America,” but then he wouldn’t have been on tee-vee. Wright is a manuscript preacher, which is to say he writes his sermons out in length rather than preach from an outline. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume he had time to consider his words, to shape them, to marinate them. To let them sit for a few days. To consider his words very carefully, knowing one of his members was either running (or abut to run) for the Democratic presidential nomination. Knowing this full well, Wright chose those words to express an otherwise reasonable concept. He chose them. He did not blurt them out by accident. He can't possibly claim to have mis-spoken. Wright knew what he was doing, knew what was at stake, did it anyway. Should Obama win the nod, Wright will be the star of many 507 political action group ads. More likely, he has fueled the visceral ballast ("gut feeling") many Democratic superdelegates need to deny Obama the nomination.

George Will makes a good point, that Wright’s rhetoric strikes at the very heart of Obama’s strength, first in that he is post-racial or beyond using race as an issue, and that he’s beyond what will called “the acoustics of the 1960’s,” that he is not blaming America so much as holding its leaders accountable. Wright’s rhetoric (and, to a lesser extend, Obama’s wife Michelle’s) undermines those claims and traps Obama in the malaise of race and blame-America-first. Clips of Wright and Michelle Obama will most certainly be in high rotation, if not from the GOP then certainly from the swiftboat crowd.

In the end, I suppose I have to ultimately hold Obama himself responsible for this mess. Now the hunt is on to see which Sundays Obama attended over the past twenty years, and what nutty things this guy has said during the times Obama attended. There is bund to be a clip of Wright saying something ridiculous and Obama applauding. I’d be shocked if the GOP didn’t already have it. Obama *had* to know these clips were out there. For him to get broadsided by it (I presume, to some extent, in retaliation for the Ferraro flap) seems to me an amateur move on Barack’s part. The Clinton campaign is *bound* to say, “Do we really want a guy so politically naďve answering the red phone?”

I’m not sure this blows over. I’m not sure this goes away. And, as annoyed as I am with the good reverend, I think, at the end of the day, this one’s Obama’s fault. If he was even *contemplating* running for president, he should have left that church years ago.


Matt Adler:

My problems with this go a bit beyond the political. First, it simply isn't credible to me that Obama didn't know he held these views. Which would mean he went out and knowingly and repeatedly lied on national TV.

Second, I really need to know WHY he would stay with this guy for so long. Maybe there's a compelling backstory behind their bond. But the "he's like an uncle" and "he helped me to come Jesus" soundbites aren't sufficient for me. I really think he needs to get out there and explain the story behind this relationship. That could help me see why he accepts this other stuff.

Of course, if there is no compelling story, he's probably better off doing what he's doing now, which is just hoping it'll all just die down.


"hoof-and-mouth disease"

That's a lesson I learn daily, like I never learned it to begin with. Does anyone have thoughts on why the dems get stuck with stuff like this as if they are wearing a suit made of glue, while the repubs have far more relevant bones in the closet and get to skate? This stuff with Obama is pretty 'light' to me so far, McCain's turns and lapses in judgement surpass this, yet he isn't on the chopping block.

"seems to me an amateur move on Barack’s part."

I agree. This appears to be a concentrated news rush that might be rendered irrelevant should Obama face it head on and stick to the issues, while preparing for the next mudsling. We'll see...

Isaac Lawrence:

Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 18th) Barack Obama is going to give a major speech in Philadelphia addressing race and Rev. Wright and his comments.


Does anyone have thoughts on why the dems get stuck with stuff like this as if they are wearing a suit made of glue, while the repubs have far more relevant bones in the closet and get to skate?
Aww, you got me started.

First and foremost is the media. The right wing controls it because they OWN it. It's their echo chamber.

By and large, they use it to frame debates, not as right to left, but center to right, with the center masquerading as the left. So you will never see anyone as far to the left as say, Pat Buchanan is to the right regularly appearing on CNN. (I'm not up on Olbermann, maybe he is an exception. Even if he is THAT FAR to the left, he's vastly outnumbered by the George Wills and Ann Coulters and Glenn Becks.)

Then they get to whine about being picked on by the non existant "liberal bias" of the news.

So, was John McCain one of the Keating five? Who's the Keating Five?

Bush was a draft dodger, but if you do a story on it, it can cost you your career.

Second, the right is very well organized and fiananced by very deep pockets. For every George Soros there's a Joseph Coors and a John Olin AND a Richard Melon Scaife who's been spending way more for way longer. The left doesn't have the money to further the agenda that the right does, nor the long history, and therefore practice, doing it that the right does.

Rick J.:

Wow. That was one hell of a speech. (It's on YouTube and blows me away)


Ugh. I still have a hard time processing this 'right' and 'left' stuff...


According To Me

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