The Times Turns on Wright, Alongside Obama
The Times' big political hitters Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny teamed up to deliver Wednesday's lead story: Obama denouncing former father figure, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in "An Angry Obama Renounces Ties To His Ex-Pastor."
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.
Nagourney and Zeleny provided moredetails of Obama's close connection to Wright that have previously only cropped up sporadically in the paper since the Times first highlighted Wright in an April 2007 story.
Mr. Obama became a Christian after hearing a 1988 sermon of Mr. Wright's called "The Audacity to Hope." Joining Mr. Wright's church helped Mr. Obama, with his disparate racial and geographic background, embrace not only the African-American community but also Africa, his friends and family say.
Mr. Obama had barely known his Kenyan father; Mr. Wright made pilgrimages to Africa and incorporated its rituals into worship. Mr. Obama toted recordings of Mr. Wright's sermons to law school. Mr. Obama titled his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention "The Audacity of Hope," and gave his next book the same name.
The editorial page joined in with Wednesday's lead editorial, "Mr. Obama and Rev. Wright," but made sure to parrot the liberal talking point of equating Wright with a prominent McCain supporter, controversial minister John Hagee, who has said inflammatory things about the Catholic Church and homosexuals.
"I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this," he said, adding that if Mr. Wright speaks out again, he will not represent the Obama campaign.
It was the most forthright repudiation of an out-of-control supporter that we can remember. We would like to say that it will finally take the racial charge out of this campaign. We're not that naïve.
It is an injustice, a legacy of the racist threads of this nation's history, but prominent African-Americans are regularly called upon to explain or repudiate what other black Americans have to say, while white public figures are rarely, if ever, handed that burden.
Senator John McCain has continued to embrace a prominent white supporter, Pastor John Hagee, whose bigotry matches that of Mr. Wright. Mr. McCain has not tried hard enough to stop a race-baiting commercial - complete with video of Mr. Wright - that is being run against Mr. Obama in North Carolina.
Acouple ofdifferences: Hagee was not McCain's pastor for 20 years, and none of Hagee's sermons provided the title of a McCain autobiography. Given campaign finance laws supported by McCain (and the Times) that prohibit such interference, it's unclear what the Times want him to do.
If Mr. Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, we fear that there will be many more such commercials. And Mr. Obama will have to repudiate Mr. Wright's outbursts many more times.
This country needs a healthy and open discussion of race. Mr. Obama's repudiation of Mr. Wright is part of that. His opponents also have a responsibility - to repudiate the race-baiting and make sure it stops.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.
Smiling, cracking corny jokes, mugging it up for the big-time news media - this reverend is never going away. He's found himself a national platform, and he's loving it.
It's a twofer. Feeling dissed by Senator Obama, Mr. Wright gets revenge on his former follower while bathed in a spotlight brighter than any he could ever have imagined. He's living a narcissist's dream. At long last, his 15 minutes have arrived.
So there he was lecturing an audience at the National Press Club about everything from the black slave experience to the differences in sentencing for possession of crack and powdered cocaine.
All but swooning over the wonderfulness of himself, the reverend acts like he is the first person to come up with the idea that blacks too often get the short end of the stick in America, that the malignant influences of slavery and the long dark night of racial discrimination are still being felt today, that in many ways this is a profoundly inequitable society.
This is hardly new ground. The question that cries out for an answer from Mr. Wright is why - if he is so passionately committed to liberating and empowering blacks - does he seem so insistent on wrecking the campaign of the only African-American ever to have had a legitimate shot at the presidency.