Last week's highly entertaining episode of the Jeremiah Wright Show didn't tell us anything new about the demagogic reverend. He stands by his sick notion that American foreign policy and jihadist terrorism are equivalent, his defense of Louis Farrakhan, and his wacky conspiracy theory that the AIDS virus was cooked up by the federal government.
But we did gain a new perspective on Wright's former parishioner, Senator Barack Obama. And it's not flattering. It took the Democratic frontrunner 20 years--and 50 days since videos surfaced of Wright's incendiary sermons--to discover that the man who helped him become a Christian, officiated at his marriage, and baptized his two daughters is a conspiracy theory-loving self-publicizer. What does that say about Obama's "judgment," on which he largely bases his claim to the presidency?
Worse, one of the main reasons for Obama's unequivocal split from Wright had nothing to do with the reverend's hateful ideology. You see, Wright had the temerity to suggest that Barack Obama is just another pol. "What I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciations of his remarks were somehow political posturing," Obama said. This only confirms Obama's reputation for being thin-skinned and self-absorbed. Go ahead and count the "I"s and "my"s in this passage from his news conference:
In some ways, what Reverend Wright said yesterday directly contradicts everything that I've done during my life. It contradicts how I was raised and the setting in which I was raised. It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I've worked on politically. It contradicts what I've said in my books. It contradicts what I said in my convention speech in 2004. It contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I've been saying on the campaign trail.
Obama's problem is that Reverend Wright is the same as he's always been. Indeed, during the first sermon Obama ever heard Wright deliver, the reverend spoke of a planet where "white folks' greed runs a world in need." Didn't that contradict how Obama was raised? Why wasn't he "outraged" then? In 2007 Reverend Wright referred to the "United States of White America" in one sermon and later presented a lifetime achievement award to Farrakhan. Didn't that run against "everything" that Obama had been saying on the campaign trail? Yet that year the Obamas gave more than $25,000 to Wright's church. Talk about contradictions.
It's not Wright but Obama who has changed. He has changed his position on his former friend time and time again:
* "These days, [Obama] says, he attends the 11 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity . . . every week. . . . His pastor, Wright, has become a close confidant." (Chicago Sun-Times, April 5, 2004)
* " 'Senator Obama is proud of his pastor and his church.' " (Obama campaign statement reported in the New York Times, April 30, 2007)
* "[Wright] is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things I don't agree with." (February 25, 2008)
* "I don't think that my church is actually particularly controversial." (March 2, 2008)
* "I can no more disown [Wright] than I can disown the black community." (March 18, 2008)
* "I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. . . . The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago." (April 29, 2008)
What is going on here? There are only two possible answers. One is that Obama has had a revelation. He says he gave Wright the "benefit of the doubt" until he watched the April 28 performance at the National Press Club. That shocked his conscience. The scales fell from his eyes.
But at the press club, Wright was simply repeating things that have been on cable news for weeks--statements that Obama said previously were a "caricature" of an otherwise impressive man. The difference between then and now is that Wright has "amplified" those statements--thus inconveniencing Obama.
The other answer is that Wright is correct. Obama is doing whatever it takes to appeal to 51 percent of the population in any given place at any given time. Early on in Chicago, an association with Wright gave Obama cachet in the community. Now that association is undermining his presidential candidacy. Therefore it must end.
Needless to say, this isn't the best message for someone running on a platform of "change." Which is why Obama has called the Wright affair a "distraction." It is anything but. In his own way, Wright has done his country a favor. He has deflated the balloon that was Obamamania. He has exploded the pretense that Barack Obama is somehow different from all the other talented, flawed, ambitious, vainglorious men and women who have sought the presidency.
--Matthew Continetti, for theEditors