Pastor’s rantings could sink Obama
THE NEWS TRIBUNE
If you pride yourself on speaking truth to power, it helps to speak actual truths. Speaking falsehoods to power doesn’t carry quite the same moral weight.
That’s the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s problem, which means it’s the problem of the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Sen. Barack Obama.
The Internet has already made Wright – Obama’s longtime pastor – famous for thundering “God-damn America” and equally inflammatory words from his Chicago pulpit. He and his defenders say these are snippets ripped out of the context of more nuanced sermons – and out of the context of “prophetic” preaching.
Now Wright is using this controversy to grab the national stage, and he’s not doing much to dispel the supposed distortions of his views.
On Monday, appearing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., he refused to retract his claim that 9/11 was “America’s chickens coming home to roost” – payback for such national crimes as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He praised the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, a vicious anti-Semite. He wouldn’t retreat from his repeated suggestions that the U.S. government invented the HIV virus to destroy black people.
What context could possibly justify such fabrications? AIDS first appeared in Africa in 1959, long before any scientist could have engineered a killer virus. There’s no evidence for Wright’s assertion that the government disseminated illegal drugs among blacks to herd them into prison. It flat didn’t happen.
This isn’t prophetic preaching. It is broadcasting malicious rumors, suspicions and crackpot conspiracy theories.
Wright increasingly looks like a mortal threat to Obama’s presidential campaign. People are asking why he remained affiliated with Wright’s church for so many years, and what that says about his own racial views. None of this is lost on the wary, working-class whites whose votes Obama needs to defeat both Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
In his extraordinary speech on race last month, Obama distanced himself from Wright’s wildest remarks but said, “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.”
But the disowning began Tuesday, with Obama condemning Wright’s speech Monday as “outrageous” and “ridiculous” and “a show of disrespect to me.”
Just weeks ago, Obama appeared to have an almost-clear path to the Democratic nomination in August.
Then last week’s Pennsylvania primary demonstrated that Hillary Clinton was still gripping his ankle like a pit bull. Now Obama’s got Wright clamped to his other ankle. The man who officiated at his wedding and baptized his children may also slam the doors of the White House in his face.