On Monday, the pundits said Rev. Jeremiah Wright threw Democratic Presidential frontrunner Barack Obama under the proverbial political bus with more lurid comments about the sad state of affairs in a place called America.
On Tuesday, Obama disowned his former minister and now the same pundits say the candidate tossed the preacher under the same bus.
Sure is getting crowded underneath that Greyhound.
Has Obama finally done right on Wright? Can he put the mouth that roared behind him? Or did his denunciation come too late?
The jury’s still out and polls are mixed.
Writes Ben Smith in Politico:
Sen. Barack Obama coolly denounced the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for his “appalling” words and for his personal and political betrayal Tuesday, a day after Wright seized center stage in the race for the White House and six weeks after Obama said he could no more “disown” his former pastor than he could his own grandmother.
Obama’s remarks were a second attempt to end perhaps the most damaging chapter of his political career — and strategists raised significant doubts about whether even Obama’s blistering words could immediately quell the crisis Wright has created for the Illinois senator’s campaign.
In the weeks since the Wright controversy first emerged, Obama has receded in the public eye, and his Hyde Park, Chicago, milieu — Wright, former Weather Underground bomber William Ayers and the San Francisco comments that made Obama seem distant from working-class Americans — has come to dominate his image and seemed to energize the flagging nomination hopes of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“When I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am, and anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign’s about, I think, will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country,” Obama said in a press conference called after a rally in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he was campaigning Tuesday.
Obama’s comments were triggered by Wright’s defense of what the candidate called “ridiculous propositions”: that the U.S. government created the HIV virus and that Louis Farrakhan is a great and important voice.
But underlying Obama’s words was a sense of personal betrayal by a man whom the candidate had given the “benefit of the doubt” in his speech in Philadelphia last month.
Last month, during a speech on race in Philadelphia, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) repudiated “in unequivocal terms” the explosive sound bites from his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., without denouncing him or repudiating their long relationship. In a confident address that discussed in an effective and intelligent way the impact of race on American life, Mr. Obama sought to put the rights and wrongs of the Rev. Wright into understandable historical context.
Yesterday was a different story. A downbeat Mr. Obama announced at a hastily convened news conference in North Carolina: “The person I saw [Monday] was not the person that I met 20 years ago.” Forcefully breaking from the Rev. Wright, Mr. Obama said: “The insensitivity and the outrageousness of the statements shocked me and surprised me.” He added that they contradict “everything that I’m about and who I am.”
We didn’t join the renewed and growing chorus calling on Mr. Obama to renounce the Rev. Wright after the minister’s all-about-me rant at the National Press Club on Monday, but the candidate’s motivation is pretty obvious. The Rev. Wright praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, said it was plausible that AIDS was a genocidal tool of the U.S. government to kill African Americans and proclaimed that attacks on him were an attack on the black church. He also delivered a deliberate poke in the eye to his former parishioner, suggesting that Mr. Obama’s conciliatory Philadelphia speech was nothing but politics. With each defiant utterance Monday, the Rev. Wright dug a deeper political hole for Mr. Obama.
Did Mr. Obama climb out of that hole yesterday? It seems to us that the whole sorry episode raises legitimate questions about his judgment.
Post Op-Ed columnist Harold Meyerson says Obama’s problems, and the problems faced by Democrats, go beyond his controversial former pastor:
The relationship between Barack Obama and the white working class is beginning to resemble that between Ahab and the white whale. In state after state (Ohio, Pennsylvania and now Indiana), Obama sets out to reel in his working-class quarry, and, in state after state, it eludes him. As Obama is still the likely nominee, many Democrats fear that come November, working-class whites will pull Obama and their party down to defeat.
Obama’s problem, and the Democrats’, goes well beyond the malignant nonsense of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Ever since the New Deal coalition was smashed on the reefs of race in the mid-1960s, working-class white support for Democratic presidential candidates has hemorrhaged. Though he won a plurality of the popular vote, Al Gore lost the white working class by 17 points in 2000; John Kerry lost it by 23 points four years later. Even though, as Ruy Teixeira of the Brookings Institution and Alan Abramowitz of Emory University demonstrated in a recent paper, the white working class is becoming an ever smaller share of the overall electorate, it will remain large enough through the middle of the century that the Democrats cannot afford to lose it by Kerrylike margins. But how, Democrats wonder, can they secure the white working-class vote?
In The New York Times, Jeff Zeleny and Adam Nagourney write:
Senator Barack Obama broke forcefully on Tuesday with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., in an effort to curtail a drama of race, values, patriotism and betrayal that has enveloped his presidential candidacy at a critical juncture.
At a news conference here, Mr. Obama denounced remarks Mr. Wright made in a series of televised appearances over the last several days. In the appearances, Mr. Wright has suggested that the United States was attacked because it engaged in terrorism on other people and that the government was capable of having used the AIDS virus to commit genocide against minorities. His remarks also cast Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, in a positive light.
In tones sharply different from those Mr. Obama used on Monday, when he blamed the news media and his rivals for focusing on Mr. Wright, and far harsher than those he used in his speech on race in Philadelphia last month, Mr. Obama tried to cut all his ties to — and to discredit — Mr. Wright, the man who presided at Mr. Obama’s wedding and baptized his two daughters.
“His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church,” Mr. Obama said, his voice welling with anger. “They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs.”