Politics & Policy

Wright and Wrong

Obama's angry pastor.

As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight to the death in Pennsylvania, we are in the midst of some exciting political times. Exciting for the political junkie — and already revealing to the discerning voter. Finally, a little of the glimmer is off the once-messianic rose that is Barack Obama. He lost the Texas and Ohio primaries and ever since has looked positively human . . . with a little help, yes, from Saturday Night Live of all places.

But it’s far from all laughs. If you’ve heard some of the chilling audio or watched some of the video from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a.k.a. Barack Obama’s pastor, you’ve seen some of the dreams of Hillary Clinton’s campaign realized.

Henceforth, it will be tough for media folk to fluff the pillows for Obama. For once, reporters are having to focus on some unpleasant truths — truths you already know about if you’ve been watching Sean Hannity’s Fox News shows or listening to his radio program. (Hannity has been ahead of the curve on investigating Wright’s colorful worldview and preaching; he interviewed Wright on Fox News in March 2007.)

This week, anyone listening to Rush, Sean, Mark, Laura, or Bill watching Fox News, or even reading ABCNews.com knows that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is bad news for Barack Obama. While Chris Matthews wasted a perfectly good rant on Thursday night’s Hardball on the poll that reports that 13 percent of Americans apparently think Obama is Muslim, that’s going to be the least of the Illinois senator’s problems once more people get a listen to Wright — the man who inspired the very title of his second, bestselling book, The Audacity of Hope.

And it was Sean Hannity who a year ago connected the obvious dots. From the embryonic stages of Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the Republican nomination, Romney’s lifelong Mormonism was seen by many media and political analysts as a potentially fatal issue. So how can the church of choice for the adult Obama family not be an issue — especially when the pastor is a radical, and clearly has influenced the thinking, the financial choices, and book title of Barack Obama, Democratic frontrunner and very possibly the next president of the United States?

When will Barack Obama have to give a speech in Houston assuring Americans he will not be at the ready command of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who peddles hate and anti-Americanism?

I like the idea of Barack Obama as much as the next American. But Obama as president isn’t a philosophical exercise, it’s a very real choice, one to consider carefully. And at the moment we know he’s contributed money to, voluntarily listened to, and publicly defended a cleric who peddles racial warfare. Obama’s even named Wright to his African American Religious Leadership Committee.

Wright fans the flames of racial animosity. Consider the way ABC (no arm of the vast right-wing conspiracy) reported it Thursday:

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.”

. . .

An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright’s sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism.

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.

Sen. Obama told the New York Times he was not at the church on the day of Rev. Wright’s 9/11 sermon. “The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification,” Obama said in a recent interview. “It sounds like he was trying to be provocative,” Obama told the paper.

Rev. Wright, who announced his retirement last month, has built a large and loyal following at his church with his mesmerizing sermons, mixing traditional spiritual content and his views on contemporary issues.

“I wouldn’t call it radical. I call it being black in America,” said one congregation member outside the church last Sunday.

Now, I wish John McCain hadn’t courted and accepted the endorsement of anti-Catholic evangelical pastor John Hagee to help him clinch the nomination, but McCain-Hagee and Obama-Wright simply don’t compare.  Hagee and McCain ain’t Wright and Obama. Hagee didn’t marry John and Cindy McCain. Hagee didn’t inspire one of McCain’s books. McCain didn’t choose to make Hagee a key part of his family life.

Obama has said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” I’m guessing he wasn’t specifically referring to Wright’s January 13 sermon in which he declared: “Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.”

Holy inappropriate, Obama! I’m a VRWC card-carrier, and I cringed.

Thanks to a recording of a Christmas sermon Fox purchased, we have a hint as to where Obama got the idea that he may be the Second Coming: from Wright, who compared Obama to the Christ child: “Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that.”

Wright continues, “Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.”

The more Americans hear this man who’s been an influential part of Obama’s life for two decades, the more they’re going to have the audacity to look beyond Obama’s inspirational milquetoast speeches, probing what makes him tick, what influences him, who advises him, what he believes. And not just on Sundays. It’s the Wright thing.


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