The audacity of Jeremiah Wright

Dateline: Wed 30 Apr 2008

As if this Democratic primary campaign hasn't been painful enough already, we now have the fallout from Rev. Jeremiah Wright: his remarks Monday to the National Press Club remarks and Barack Obama's final repudiation of his pastor of 20 years.

The New York Times today quotes Obama: "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," Mr. Obama said. "That's a show of disrespect to me. It's also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign."

How bad is it? Bad enough that "Morning Joe" Scarborough of MSNBC, a devoted Hillary Clinton backer, said this morning, with apparent sympathy, that he foresees nothing but "sunny days" ahead for Obama. There's a general consensus that Obama's reaction set the correct tone: he was typically unflappable but firm in his denunciation of Wright's nutty antics.

If not for the hypersensitivity of this race -- and the suggestion on some blogs that the Rev. Wright has been encouraged by Hillary backers -- this would not fundamentally be a big deal.

Why so? Because in the real world, many adults, and sadly some children, have experienced what Obama -- and his wife and children and others close to the family -- are now feeling: betrayal by a trusted pastor or priest.

We've all heard stories about the archbishop or the rabbi or the Baptist preacher who failed us. Usually the scenario is exactly what Obama is enduring. We put our trust in a vaulted person, we believe in their message, we are inspired by their example. But -- not invariably, but too often -- that person turns out to have the same human frailties as the rest of us. Sometimes, even moreso.

Wright's sin is one of pride. Gene Robinson of the Washington Post said the other day in a column that initially, he hoped Wright's early silence meant simply that the Chicago minister had "turned the other cheek," as Jesus would have us do. But his noisy spectacle at the Press Club proves that he is just another man -- and one who obviously loves the limelight, and who has no qualms about hurting a member of his congregation on the national stage. Or a presidential hopeful

Hillary said it first: "Shame on you!" But the shame is hardly on Obama; it is on this phony pastor.

Will this hurt Obama with voters? Obama himself said that remains to be seen. It shouldn't, though. What happened between the younger idealistic man and the older cunning minister is the stuff of life. Now move on, focus on the issues, and Go Barack!


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