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Obama’s Trouble Persists By: Jamie Weinstein
North Star Writers Group | Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Jeremiah Wright is back in the news again, and this time no one can blame the media for making news of him. In fact, this time Wright has consciously chosen to put himself in the media spotlight.

On Friday night, PBS aired an interview between Wright and Bill Moyers. On Sunday night, CNN televised Wright's speech to an NAACP event in Detroit. If we didn't get the point that the man wanted publicity, on Monday morning Wright gave a speech at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Now, in making these speeches and participating in Moyers' interview, Wright has sought to fight back against those who he claims have taken his words out of context. Probably just as important, the pastor is stoking interest for his forthcoming book. What he doesn't seem particularly concerned about is how his media blitz will affect his church member, Barack Obama, who has a very real chance of becoming the next president of the United States. 

Reading through Wright's speech to the National Press Club, I was especially struck by the pastor's defense of himself – not because his defense was compelling, but because he was defending himself against a charge I am not aware anyone has leveled against him. He argued that African Americans have different cultural traditions, and while his charismatic style may be different than what most white Americans experience in their churches, it is by no means inferior.  He went on to say that those criticizing him were not really attacking just him, but the black church in general.

"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," he preached to the National Press Club. "This is an attack on the black church."

Who in the world has criticized Jeremiah Wright (and, somehow, the black church by extension) because he has a charismatic preaching style? I am not aware of a single person.

What Wright has been criticized for is his disgusting remarks blaming America's actions for the attacks of 9/11. What Wright has been taken to task for is his insane suggestion that the U.S. government tried to commit genocide against black people by manufacturing the HIV virus. What Wright has been lambasted for is for preaching "God damn America."

These are not questions of style. They are questions of substance.

"Black preaching is different from European and European-American preaching," Wright said at the Press Club. "It is not deficient; it is just different. It is not bombastic; it is not controversial; it's different."

Again, Wright is attacking a straw man. Earth to Reverend Wright: No one has suggested your preaching style is deficient or inferior. It is the substance of your words. It is the venom in your language. It is the anger that it manifests. 

And, of course, when questioned on the substance, Wright doesn't do a good job of handling it. The accusations are "taken from sound bites," he says, and the people who make the charges "have never heard my sermons," he explains. But in what context is "God damn America" understandable? Sorry, no context necessary.

Wright's media coming out party just makes Barack Obama's task more difficult. Obama is striving to prove that he is represented more by the unifying rhetoric he employs on the stump than his controversial and radical associations. Wright merely represents the tip of the iceberg.

Besides Wright, Obama still must to do more to explain his friendship with the unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers. Obama's defense to date is that at the time Ayers was committing his crimes, Obama was just eight years old. This might be the weakest excuse I have ever heard.

So what? Ayers remains unrepentant for his actions. It doesn't matter if Obama was eight or 88 when Ayers committed his crimes. The Illinois senator has made a conscious decision as an adult to associate himself with a person who acted violently against the American government. Worse still, the man with whom Obama is friends doesn't seem to regret his actions. 

Topping it all off, of course, is Michelle Obama's comments that America is "just downright mean" as a country and that she had never been proud of America until her husband's campaign. The impression all of this leaves on many voters is unsettling. At best, Obama is tainted by the fact that some of his closest companions express a radical ideology where America and Americans are seen as the bad guy. At worst, these associations lend credence to the idea that Obama, too, deep down shares some of these radical views. This is not the type of impression one wants to make going into a presidential campaign, especially when your opponent has a storied history of defending America and its values.

As the presidential race moves on, Obama clearly still has much to answer for. Whether he likes it or not, Wright, Ayers and the gang are not going away anytime soon.


Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.


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