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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reactions to Rev. Wright and Barack Obama Statement

1. MSNBC Reporter who attended Rev. Wrights Church has this to say:

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2. Obama Divorces Wright
Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish

That was a very impressive, clear and constructive re-framing of the core message of his candidacy; and a moment given to him by Wright. No one will ever be able to say that Obama threw his father-figure and pastor under the bus. We all know that the reverse happened. We also know that this clear repudiation of Wright's toxic, indeed "ridiculous" views on AIDS, 9/11 and permanent immiseration of people of color could not have happened unless Wright had made it necessary. Skeptics may wonder whether Wright actually deliberately did Obama a favor. I doubt it. But a favor it unintentionally is.

Maybe God does bring good out of bad. Maybe these racial and cultural divides can help us understand how better to move beyond them. Cynics may scoff - and certainly will. They will parse every nuance and try to paint Obama as another cynical, positioning pol. I don't believe it. He has more sincerity and integrity than the vast majority of politicians, more honesty, and more resilience in a very tough spot.

And today, we found that he can fight back, and take a stand, without calculation and in what is clearly a great amount of personal difficulty and political pain. It's what anyone should want in a president. It makes me want to see him succeed more than ever. It's why this country needs to see him succeed more than ever.

3. Obama rejects, denounces & disowns Wright
Brendon Loy, Irish Trojan in Tennessee

Obama basically said exactly what Andrew Sullivan said yesterday that he needed to say, so it's no surprise that Sullivan called Obama's remarks "a very impressive, clear and constructive re-framing of the core message of his candidacy. ... [T]oday, we found that he can fight back, and take a stand, without calculation and in what is clearly a great amount of personal difficulty and political pain. It's what anyone should want in a president." More reactions here, including this from Jonathan Chait:

His denunciation of Rev. Wright today seems to be pretty much a bullseye. Why did he let the story hang out there so long without a response? I don't know, but I do see a pattern here: Throughout the campaign, Obama has made very good tactical moves, but he's made them slowly. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has made a lot of mistakes, but she does grasp the 24-hour news cycle and she acts very quickly.

That's my impression, too.

Glenn Reynolds, however, is unimpressed. I expect that most on the Right will react similarly. But I'm not sure what else they want Obama to say. They can say, as Glenn does, that he should have said it sooner. Fine. But that's a weak criticism. "Better late than never" is a common expression for a reason. And, look, can we take a big-picture view of this, please? Even if you have a completely cynical opinion on Obama's transformation vis a vis Wright -- even if you don't believe him for a second when he claims he didn't realize until now that Wright was so radical and disgusting -- let's take a look at where we are now, as opposed to where we were a month ago or three months ago or 20 years ago.

Right now, at this very moment, we have an African-American candidate for president who commands overwhelming support within the black community, who has just explicitly and firmly denounced the radical and hateful nonsense that is all too often accepted and repeated without question within that selfsame black community. That's a very good thing. Wright will undoubtedly dismiss Obama's comments as, in Al Sharpton's words, "grandstanding in front of white people," but the truth is that Obama is speaking to black people, too -- he's speaking to everyone -- and he is sending a very clear message: enough with the bulls**t. Haven't conservatives been waiting for a black leader to do that for, like, forever?

This is the promise of the Obama candidacy, encapsulated and made real. Obama is urging blacks to leave behind, once and for all, the politics of conspiratorial victimhood -- the politics of Jeremiah Wright and, although Obama can't afford politically to say so explicitly, of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton -- and embrace the politics of unity and hope and, ultimately, self-empowerment.

You can parse his words and question his timing, and you'll find plenty to criticize. But ultimately -- again, big picture, people -- he's doing the right thing, and it's a very important "right thing." Either his heart's in the right place, or, if you want to be all cynical about it, he's pretending that it is, and his overall message demands that he continue to do so, which is almost as good. Either way, the Barack Obama who spoke today is the natural ally of anyone who has ever despaired over the blame-whitey victimhood culture within the black community. No, he's not quite channeling Bill Cosby. He wouldn't be in this position if he were. No, he didn't throw Jeremiah Wright under the bus last fall. It's a delicate and difficult tightrope he's walking. He's not perfect. But no one is, and Obama is trying harder than anyone else has, on this stage, ever before. Be reasonable!

I'm not saying how we got here is entirely unimportant, but I think recognizing where we are now is vastly more important. And I think it would be a shame if Obama is now effectively crucified by both sides: the political right (and its newfound ally, Hillary Clinton), for not saying this sooner; and radical elements of the liberal-black community, for saying it at all. Rightly or wrongly, the takeaway lesson, if such a two-front assault destroys him, would be that a black politician cannot succeed on the national stage, at least until the baby boomers die off. Conservatives ought not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (That's liberals' job!) Obama is doing the right thing here, and if he's a little late to the party, slap him on the wrist and then defend him against the coming Wright/Sharpton/etc. onslaught. And then beat him in November on security issues or whatever. But he's on the right side of this issue, and if he loses because of it, it will be a shame for everyone -- principled conservatives included.

P.S. My dad writes: "It's now expected that Wright ... will come back and further Diss the apostate. / This will be Good. Instead of Hillary & McCain running for President against Jeremiah Wright, Wright will be perceived as running against Obama. Excellent."

My dad, incidentally, says Wright is "evidently jealous" of Obama, but I think Cornhuskers may have hit closer to the mark when he said that Wright's ramblings confirmed a longstanding fear that the old-guard "civil rights leaders would fear that they are going to lose that 'white man behind the curtain keeping black people down' trump card" and would consequently go after Obama, knowing that "it's hard to preach this when the person sitting in the big chair at 1600 Penn is a black man." Further support for this theory: now Al Sharpton is coming after Obama, too.

This is good, as my dad said. If Obama is running against Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright, he'll win in a landslide.

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