In his March 18 speech in Philadelphia, Senator Obama said this:
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years. I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
I never understood the logic behind Obama’s statement that he can “no more disown [Wright] than I can disown the black community.” Why not? Were Wright and the black community synonymous in the mind of Obama (they are certainly not synonymous in reality)? In any event, Obama said what he did. It will be very interesting, then, to see what Obama does now, in the aftermath of Wright’s speech at the National Press Club earlier today, in which Wright did not back down an inch from his most incendiary comments and, in some respect, went even beyond them.
Reverend Wright is a torpedo aimed straight at the Obama campaign. It will be fascinating to watch how Obama handles it. But one thing he cannot do, based on the logic of his Philadelphia speech, is to disown Wright. Wright is, by Obama’s own testimony, a part of Obama himself, and a part of America. Obama’s words ensure that they are joined at the hip.
It remains staggering to think that Obama spent almost two decades under the leadership of this minister of hate. And now it seems as if everyone, even John McCain, understands that the Wright issue matters – and it seems to matter more and more every day.