The Corner

Why the Wright Problem Won’t Go Away

I’ve got a new piece up on the Jeremiah Wright problem that remains for Barack Obama:

If voters believe that Obama fundamentally rejects Wright’s views, they might question Obama’s judgment in remaining close to Wright for 20 years.  But if voters believe that Obama secretly agrees with Wright but is putting on another face to win an election, then all is lost.  “People could ask why somebody with good judgment would take so long to do this,” a Democratic strategist told me Monday night.  “But that’s certainly better than the subtext being that Obama is an angry black man, because if he’s an angry black man, then he simply cannot win, period.”

By the way, I’ve gotten a few emails from people who think that perhaps I’ve been too hard on the New York Times news pages for failing, in all this time, to report that Wright once said, “God damn America.”  Perhaps there’s some sort of stylebook prohibition, they say.  So I looked to see if the paper had ever quoted anyone saying “God damn America.”  And indeed it had, not so long ago, in a January 6, 2007 front-page story headlined, “Hanging Images Make Hussein a Martyr to Many in Arab World,” about how the execution of Saddam Hussein had hurt American standing in the world:

Here in Beirut, hundreds of members of the Lebanese Baath Party and Palestinian activists marched Friday in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood behind a symbolic coffin representing that of Mr. Hussein and later offered a funeral prayer. Photographs of Mr. Hussein standing up in court, against a backdrop of the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem, were pasted on city walls near Palestinian refugee camps, praising ‘’Saddam the martyr.’’

’’God damn America and its spies,’’ a banner across one major Beirut thoroughfare read. ‘’Our condolences to the nation for the assassination of Saddam, and victory to the Iraqi resistance.’’

So there.  The Times news pages have quoted someone saying, or writing, “God damn America.”  As for the simpler formulation “God damn,” there are dozens of examples in the Times, including a quote from the aforementioned Saddam Hussein pronouncing, “May God damn the Jews!” at an Arab summit in 2001.  So apparently it’s not a stylebook matter.

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