The Campaign Spot

The Controversy That’s Tough To Shake

A week and a half ago, ABC plays Jeremiah Wright’s controversial statements. It’s a political mess, and any candidate would want to put the controversy behind him as quickly as possible. Barack Obama initially says he hasn’t heard the controversial comments.

Friday night, he offers his more detailed response to Huffington Post and does some television interviews. The issue is not resolved; the buzz on the Sunday shows is that Obama faces a serious problem.
Monday, his campaign announces he’s giving a speech on race relations in America, and Tuesday he gives the speech. Some love it, some are left grumbling, but there’s one sentence that raises eyebrows, Obama’s statement that appeared to compare Wright preaching to his grandmother’s private comments that made Obama cringe.
The following day Obama is on sports radio, is asked about the grandmother comment, and he explains that she is “a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, well there’s a reaction that’s in our experiences that won’t go away and can sometimes come out in the wrong way.”
The campaign then has to explain what he meant by the phrase “typical white person,” insisting the American people know what he meant by that.
There are many challenges in talking about race, but one of them is that each major statement begets further questions, which require further statements, which begets further questions, which continues the cycle for another day. And each time, there’s a chance for a statement that comes out wrong, or alienates someone on the fence, or shakes the faith of an established supporter. I’m sure at some point, Obama would really like to talk about Iraq, or mortgages, or gas prices, or anything that doesn’t sound like he has to explain Wright as not that bad to white America.
It’s like the piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe when you exit the restroom. The more you try to shake it off, the more it stubbornly sticks to you. The only thing that removes it is when you put pressure on the other end; in this case, Obama is waiting for something, anything to come along and be a bigger story than Wright.


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