The [Wednesday] Papers
"Obama's relationship with Wright first became an issue in the campaign in mid-March when a video of inflammatory sound bites from the minister's sermons circulated and was widely broadcast," the Tribune reports today.
Well, not really.
"What follows is part of the Rolling Stone profile which led Obama, at the last minute, to drop Wright from a public role in his February 2007 kick-off speech. The piece was written by Ben Wallace-Wells:
"WALLACE-WELLS (2/22/07): The Trinity United Church of Christ, the church that Barack Obama attends in Chicago, is at once vast and unprepossessing, a big structure a couple of blocks from the projects, in the long open sore of a ghetto on the city's far South Side. The church is a leftover vision from the Sixties of what a black nationalist future might look like. There's the testifying fervor of the black church, the Afrocentric Bible readings, even the odd dashiki. And there is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a sprawling, profane bear of a preacher, a kind of black ministerial institution, with his own radio shows and guest preaching gigs across the country. Wright takes the pulpit here one Sunday and solemnly, sonorously declares that he will recite ten essential facts about the United States. 'Fact number one: We've got more black men in prison than there are in college,' he intones. 'Fact number two: Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!] There is thumping applause; Wright has a cadence and power that make Obama sound like John Kerry. Now the reverend begins to preach. 'We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional KILLERS. . . . We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God. . . . We conducted radiation experiments on our own people. . . . We care nothing about human life if the ends justify the means!' The crowd whoops and amens as Wright builds to his climax: 'And. And. And! GAWD! Has GOT! To be SICK! OF THIS SHIT!'
"This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr. Wright is not an incidental figure in Obama's life, or his politics. The senator 'affirmed' his Christian faith in this church; he uses Wright as a 'sounding board' to 'make sure I'm not losing myself in the hype and hoopla.' Both the title of Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope, and the theme for his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 come from Wright's sermons. 'If you want to understand where Barack gets his feeling and rhetoric from,' says the Rev. Jim Wallis, a leader of the religious left, 'just look at Jeremiah Wright.'
"According to Obama, Wright was dumped from the kick-off event because of this Rolling Stone profile."
Obama reiterated this at the Pennsylvania debate, referencing the Rolling Stone article in response to a question from his ABC moderators.
What Obama did yesterday - right or wrong - was a personal and political decision, but not one based on fresh outrage at Wright's controversial beliefs.
"What particularly angered me was his suggestion that my previous denunciation was somehow political posturing," Obama said.
I'm sure Obama felt personally betrayed - politically betrayed. But when Obama says Wright is not the same man he has known for 20 years, well, that strains credulity.
As the Rolling Stone article shows, this is indeed the same Wright - and that's what concerned Obama so much when he announced his campaign for president that he stuck Wright in a basement.
Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics has an excellent run-down in "The Anatomy of Wright's Disinvitation."
From the New York Times a year ago: "[Obama] had sampled various faiths but adopted none until he met Mr. Wright, a dynamic pastor who preached Afrocentric theology, dabbled in radical politics and delivered music-and-profanity-spiked sermons.
"Few of those at Mr. Wright's tribute in March knew of the pressures that Mr. Obama's presidential run was placing on the relationship between the pastor and his star congregant. Mr. Wright's assertions of widespread white racism and his scorching remarks about American government have drawn criticism, and prompted the senator to cancel his delivery of the invocation when he formally announced his candidacy in February.
"Mr. Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate who says he was only shielding his pastor from the spotlight, said he respected Mr. Wright's work for the poor and his fight against injustice. But 'we don't agree on everything,' Mr. Obama said. 'I've never had a thorough conversation with him about all aspects of politics.'
"It is hard to imagine, though, how Mr. Obama can truly distance himself from Mr. Wright."
From Carol Marin today: "This isn't the first time the campaign has waited out a problem, declining to take a controversy by the horns.
"It took a relentless chorus of Chicago media almost a year to finally get Obama and his people to deliver long-asked-for documents and answer what were, at best, incompletely answered questions about his former friend and now-indicted fund-raiser, Tony Rezko. He finally did so in March.
"There are judgment questions, fair ones, to be asked about Obama's past dealings with controversial people.
"On Tuesday, his answers about Wright were filled with a purpose and passion that seemed to have been lacking lately.
"But what those answers have yet to resolve is the matter of decisiveness, of acting quickly, speaking forcefully, and perhaps not waiting for overnight polling numbers or a full-blown disaster, to decide the next day's course."
The Beachwood Tip Line: Cut and paste.
Posted on April 30, 2008
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