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Obama Throws Reverend Under the Bus

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Why did Barack Obama denounce Reverend Wright yesterday, after weeks of resisting pressure to do so? He says he was appalled by some of the things the Rev said in a National Press Club speech—but I read the speech, including the Q&A portion, and nothing the Rev said rivalled the snippets of Wrightisms that started the whole brouhaha. In fact, I very much liked Wright’s speech. With charisma and humor he described the Black Church as following a theology of liberation and transformation, and compared the actions of his congregation—feeding the hungry, helping the poor and afflicted—with the actions of the U.S. administration. I couldn’t even object to his portrayal of Louis Farrakhan as an “important” speaker, though I’m sure he and I would disagree on just what we mean by important.

During the Q&A, Wright refused to be drawn into the issues of the election, or the personalities of the candidates. True, it’s somewhat grandiose for him to assume that attacks against him are aimed at the entire Black Church. Speaking on Democracy Now! this morning, Melissa Harris Lacewell of Princeton, an Obama supporter, pointed out that “Wright doesn’t stand in for the whole black spiritual experience.” That’s hardly a reason for Obama’s drastic act.

I keep thinking I must have missed something or other the Reverend said that went beyond the boundaries of acceptable liberalism. Maybe it was his refusal to rule out AIDS as a government conspiracy–but plenty of perfectly respectable people hold that view, and, considering the U.S. experiments on black men at Tuskegee that went on up until the 1970s, to suspect our government of medical mischief isn’t that big of a stretch.

It seems to me that Obama is simply being the quintessential politician. I suppose he’s felt uneasy ever since the Wright flap began, but to denounce him right away, in response to public pressure, would’ve made him appear wimpish. Now he’s decided he’d be well rid of this burden imposed by standards of loyalty–so he found something in Wright’s speech to jump upon, and made his break. I hope he feels relieved. I always do when I declare to my sister that I shall never speak to her again. I am not being disingenuous: just a few short weeks ago Obama claimed Wright as a member of his family.

On the same Democracy Now program, Adolph Reed, a columnist for The Progressive, asked the question that begs asking: “Why should we be debating a candidate’s relationship to his church in the first place?” Reed, definitely not an Obamista, is, like me, pessimistic about the election, and he made several trenchant comments, including that “People say they’ll vote for a black man, but the closer we get, the more reasons people will find, supposedly not racial, to not vote for him.”

Since Reed reiterated my current thinking, I went and read his May column in the Progressive, to which I direct your attention. It’s a sad probability but, as Reed said today, “The game’s over. Neither one of them will beat McCain.”

I’ve just gone and read several articles about the Reverend’s speech, including those listed below, considered relevant to my post by some invisible omnipotent automated generator in the technosphere. I’m truly stunned by the vitriol aimed at Wright. And bewildered. I suggest everyone hear it from the horse’s mouth, and read or listen to the speech itself, along with the Q&A session (I’ve linked it above). Then make up your own mind about Reverend Wright, Barack Obama, and the racist American media. I don’t love Obama. But so far,  I do like his Rev.


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