Barack Obama is going to have a lot to explain after it has been revealed that his pastor, Jeremiah Wright has engaged in some rather incindiary anti-American rhetoric:
Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor says blacks should not sing “God Bless America” but “God damn America.”
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is “inflammatory rhetoric,” including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.”
In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.
Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”
Sen. Obama is going to have to go a lot further than that. He’s going to have to disassociate himself with Wright and explain exactly why he never bothered to speak out against Wright’s rhetoric.
The answer to the latter, I suspect, is that Sen. Obama doesn’t necessarily disagree with Rev. Wright. His responses to this controversy have been rather specious—Obama’s campaign has said that “Sen. Obama does not think of the pastor of his church in political terms.” The problem with that statement is that Wright himself makes it clear that his sermons are political—and by their own content it’s blazingly obvious that they are designed to be political. Sen. Obama can’t claim ignorance and he can’t claim that he wasn’t paying attention to what Wright was saying all this time. Sen. Obama’s biography makes it obvious he’s had aspirations for higher office for some time now—when your pastor starts saying that the 9/11 attacks were examples of “chickens coming home to roost” would it not behoove a smart candidate to be on the record as denouncing those statements as soon as possible?
How big an issue this will become is unsure, and depends largely on how well the Obama campaign handles the issue—and given the Obama campaign’s past performance this could end up spiraling into a major scandal unless they start managing the press more adeptly.
What this incident exposes is that for all Sen. Obama’s rhetoric about racial and political healing, he comes from an atmosphere of liberal extremism and an atmosphere that is radically out of synch with the American mainstream. That may give him great appeal with the base of the Democratic Party, but it will be an albatross around his neck should he win the nomination.