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The Character Suicide of Rev. Wright

By Jack Kelly

The Reverend Otis Moss III has injected a little levity into the controversy over the revelation that Sen. Barack Obama's spiritual adviser is a foul-mouthed bigot. The news media, he said, are guilty of "character assassination" for printing and broadcasting excerpts from the sermons and speeches of his predecessor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

"Dr. Wright has preached 207,792 minutes on Sunday for the past 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ," Rev. Moss said. "It is an indictment on Dr. Wright's ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15 or 30 second sound bite."

Unfortunately for Rev. Moss and Rev. Wright, there are lots of sound bites from which to choose.

Blacks should sing "God Dxxn America," Rev. Wright said on one occasion. America got what it deserved on 9/11, he said on another. The U.S. government created the AIDs virus to kill people of color, he said on a third. This is the "US of KKKA," he said on a fourth. Trinity United Church of Christ offers many of Rev. Wright's sermons for sale on DVD. ABC News said it is difficult to find one in which Rev. Wright does not use profanity, like the crude sexual metaphor he used to describe Bill Clinton's relationship with blacks, or say something vicious about whites.
This was character suicide, not character assassination, said Web logger Ed Morrissey (Hot Air).

"It isn't the media that's delivering that message; it's the Reverend Wright himself," Mr. Morrissey said. "It doesn't count as assassination when the victim exposes his own character, and the media simply rebroadcasts the suicide."

The self exposure of Jeremiah Wright as a racist nutcase is a problem for Sen. Obama. His great appeal to black voters is, of course, that he is the first black with a realistic prospect of becoming president. He has that prospect because so many whites see him as a post-racial figure, someone who could bring us all together. But it's hard to reconcile Sen. Obama's soothing manner and rhetoric with Jeremiah Wright's racist drivel.

And it is hard for Sen. Obama to separate himself from Jeremiah Wright. Not only have Barack and Michelle attended his church for two decades, they were married by Rev. Wright, who also baptized their daughters. The title of Barack's second autobiographical book, "The Audacity of Hope," was taken from one of Jeremiah Wright's sermons, and until this controversy broke, Rev. Wright served on the Obama campaign's religious advisory
committee.

Sen. Obama's public statements with regard to his relationship with Jeremiah Wright have been, er, evolving.
"I don't think my church is particularly controversial," he told ABC News when the story first broke. But after his polling indicated a lot of Americans think "God Dxxn" America" and America got what it deserved on 9/11 are controversial, he mimicked Captain Louis Renault, the corrupt police chief played by Claude Rains in the movie Casablanca, who was shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in Rick's nightclub.

"I wasn't in church at the time these statements were made," Sen. Obama said in his damage control tour of the cable news networks. "I did not hear such incendiary language myself, personally...If I had heard them repeated, I would have quit."

This is parsing approaching Clintonesque levels. Sen. Obama is not saying he didn't know that Rev. Wright was spewing hate, just that he personally didn't hear him spew it. Ed Morrissey described this defense as "I sat in the pew, but I didn't inhale."

I don't think Barack Obama shares Rev. Wright's hateful views. I think theirs was more an alliance of convenience. As a half white guy who went to prep school in Hawaii and then to Columbia and Harvard law school, Barack's street cred on the South side of Chicago wasn't all that great. His affiliation with Rev. Wright's 6,000-member church gave him politically useful ties to the community he wouldn't otherwise have had.

But I don't know for sure. The controversy reminds us how little we really know about Barack Obama.

Many in the news media are as eager as Sen. Obama to have this controversy go away. But Jennifer Rubin thinks it's too late:

"Millions of voters go to church and synagogue and don't hear this sort of venomous talk, and would leave if they did," she wrote on Commentary's blog. "Everyone can ask themselves: If he went to Wright's church for 20 years, how likely is it that he heard this stuff, and what does his continued attendance say about him?"

Copyright 2008, Journal Press Syndicate


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