Sunday, March 16, 2008
So how to think about the quite estimable Rev. Wright, the now not-so-close adviser to Sen. Obama? Well, take two poles out of play: I doubt it's the case that Obama shares many of Rev. Wright's particular views (e.g. that AIDS was brought on by "Whitey" to get the black man) but neither do I think that he's entirely immaterial to our evaluation of Obama. Very few of us churchgoers agree entirely with our pastors and sometimes we may even stay at churches where the pastor makes us grind our teeth on a weekly basis. But being a part of a church that's so powerfully centered around the personality of a particular pastor for *20 years* has to suggest that Obama at the very least didn't feel all *that* uncomfortable with Wright (and here I'm assuming that he's basically lying when he says that he wasn't aware of Wright's controversial statements - even if he didn't know anything about those particular statements, it beggars the imagination to suppose that Wright hadn't said similar things in his presence) and, what's more, he felt comfortable enough about the church that had his two daughters there and continued to tithe pretty well. That Obama didn't suppose that Wright would be a problem for him and his campaign also speaks a great deal to Obama's real blindness about Wright - and how extreme his statements sound to most Americans. And that's the real problem here: to the degree that Obama continued to play up his association with his church and Rev. Wright, it at the very least shows that he thinks Wright's noxious statements are not outside the pale, regardless of whatever damage control he's begun. It's not unlike Edwards' willingness to nod and look thoughtful when the 9/11 "Truthers" would go on about the government's complicity with terrorist attacks. (Note that Bill Clinton, in contrast, has been pretty forceful in slapping down the wackadoos...). Neither really believes that crap, but their willingness to allow it into the national conversation is troubling, to say the least.