Jonah, I don’t mean to get dug in as a Wright defender, of all roles, but I still think it makes a kind of sense for Wright to do what he is doing. To take your points in order:
1) Well, Wright presumably doesn’t see what he is doing as merely preening for the cameras. Remember, I am trying to look at the trade-offs involved for him from his point of view. Remember, as well, that Wright does not think highly of black people whom he considers to have sold out–and distancing yourself from him surely counts as at least a partial selling-out.
2) I think you may be too, er, pessimistic about how many people Wright can reach. If he appeals to a tiny fraction of the millions of people listening to him for the first time, he can increase his followership quite a bit. I don’t think this guy, for example, represents a large percentage of the population. But it’s a big country. Also, Wright thinks highly of his own persuasive abilities. It is true that if he decided that he is a jackass whom no one will follow it would make no sense for him to speak up, but given that he does not make that assumption his course of action seems to me to be a reasonable one.
3) Or maybe Obama won’t become president anyway, and Wright will be a footnote. Or he does become president, and has moved so far away from Wright that nobody pays him attention any more–because they will be paying more attention to, say, Obama’s visits with heads of state and his health-care plan.
4) I don’t think Wright considers those of his defenders who have minimized his message to be doing him any favors. I’m sure he does not feel that he owes them anything. I’d bet he finds it infuriating that the ideas he has spent his life promoting are being distorted.
Those ideas are of course inconvenient to Obama and therefore to liberals who have pinned their hopes on him. But that’s not the reason that they’re bad ideas, or a reason for him to downplay them.