OBAMA AND WRIGHT….Like most of the micro-flaps from the campaign trail this year, I haven’t had a lot to say about the Jeremiah Wright “God damn America” fracas. Mainly this is because I just don’t care very much about this kind of stuff, but it’s also because I haven’t really been able to make up my mind about it. In one way, Rev. Wright’s incendiary comments (here) ought to hurt Obama more than those from some ordinary supporter since Obama’s relationship with Wright is both long and deep. In another way, though, they should hurt him less. After all, which is worse: the very human desire not to humiliate a longtime friend because he occasionally crosses a line (Obama and Wright), or the cynical courtship of a powerful endorsement even though you already know the person in question has some odious public views (McCain and John Hagee)? I’d lean toward the latter, but, needless to say, nobody asked me and it appears that the rest of the country doesn’t agree.
In any case, aside from the surprising fact that this affair has lasted longer than three news cycles, what’s struck me the oddest about the whole thing has been the timing. Why now? Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ have been on the radar screen for months, discussed on blogs, listservs, talk radio, and Fox News. So why did it suddenly become a national media storm now? It probably isn’t the result of campaign oppo stuff, since that would have been a lot more effective and helpful a couple of months ago. And the sermons themselves date back years, so it’s not as if the material just recently became available. So what triggered it?
And why didn’t Obama have a more vigorous defense ready when it did hit? It’s not as if he didn’t know Wright was an issue just waiting to explode in his face. After all, he disinvited Wright from his campaign launch last year, and you don’t do that unless you know the guy is going to raise questions that you’d just as soon not answer that day. But if you know that, then you also know you’re going to have to answer those questions eventually. Every sign suggests that he should have been ready for this.
Unfortunately, neither of those questions is likely to ever get answered, but it does look as if Obama is finally going to address this controversy in a serious way. In a reprise of John Kennedy’s big speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the pope, Obama plans a major speech on Tuesday about “not just Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign.” Should be worth a listen.