THE BLOG

Reverend Wright's Wrong Timing

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

I do not presume to judge anyone else's method of worship. I do know bad timing when I see it and Reverend Jeremiah Wright's pre-primary media blitz seems designed, unintentionally or not, to benefit John McCain, while distracting from the real issues of the campaign (four-dollar gasoline, war, recession, health care, cronyism, the need to reduce in the influence of special interests...).

Barack Obama's response:

He does not speak for me; he does not speak for the campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks. But what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when that I say that I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I'm 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 [Wright's position] is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country. [snip] The fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate, is something that not only makes me angry, it also saddens me.

Senator Obama pointed out which of Wright's comments most angered him, including Wright's conspiracy theories on AIDS and other conspiracy issues, Wright's denigration of the U.S.'s fight against terror, his statement that Obama's denunciation of Wright's remarks was political posturing and Wright's claim that Farrakhan was an "important voice." To which Senator Obama responded that Wright's comments were: appalling, ridiculous, outrageous and offensive.

David Axelrod, Obama's chief campaign strategist, was asked by Chris Matthews about the Wright's 'speaking tour':

I must say it wouldn't be my first choice. I think Reverend Wright felt that he had been done a disservice in this process and he decided to go public and he did and, frankly, the news media was very eager to accommodate that. He had three hours on the cable stations last night and the coverage this morning and so he's gotten himself quite a platform.

Matthews replied that it was hard to understand why, after Obama had been so sensitive in the way he distanced himself "and yet in payment for that, the Reverend Wright goes on this book tour basically, to basically put it back in his face."

Axelrod replied that it is not about Senator Obama; that Reverend Wright was speaking for Reverend Wright.

Why is Wright doing it? Is it the Wright book that's coming out? Did he not like Barack Obama's thoughtful speech on race? Is he giving Senator Obama permission to completely disassociate from him? Or was it the way that the Senator disassociated himself from Wright's most outrageous remarks that prompted this response?

Is there any doubt now that Reverend Wright, regardless of his positions, falls into that curious corner of American politics of what-to-do-about-those-who-are-in-your-world-but-do-not-speak-for-you. This is unlike John McCain's unashamed courtship of Pastor John Hagee, despite Hagee's description of Catholicism as "a Godless theology of hate" and his statement that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment wrought upon New Orleans for a gay pride parade, because McCain actively sought Hagee's endorsement.

Are both Hagee and Wright now to be categorized as religious albatrosses in which there are no good solutions or resolutions? Because, make no mistake about it, if McCain, considering his association with Hagee, hangs Wright about Obama's neck, he is tightening his own tie with his hypocrisy.

If it comes up.

There is little or no discussion in the media about the McCain/Haggee or McCain/Parsley, etc..., connection, even though the Wright story is an excellent opportunity for the media to introduce and explore what both sides are doing along religious lines.

In fact, there's no discussion of McCain's gaffes at all. I'm not just speaking of Sunni and Shi'a (though that was bad enough). McCain just toured New Orleans. He said he'd have turned the plane around and would have landed there, not just flown over.

Why didn't he?

Wasn't George Bush with John McCain at the start of that tragedy, celebrating MCCAIN'S 69th BIRTHDAY on August 29th, 2005, the DAY when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Region?

It seems John McCain could have put down the cake and said, "thanks for the 'heckofa' birthday, Mr. President, now get yourself over to New Orleans."

He didn't and the media didn't ask him about it.

What does the media ask about? The 24/7 discussion among pundits today about what Barack Obama should do about Wright's emergence, with McCain trying not to look too gleeful when he contradicts his own promise of a more civil campaign and goes for the throat about Obama's former pastor, rather than the current one he's courted this election season.

Some pundits say Obama should have separated himself from Wright in '07, others say he should throw Wright under the proverbial bus now that Wright has brought his bombastic and ill-timed rhetoric to offer himself up as a surrogate, unintentional or not, for the Republicans.

I liked what Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker (on Chris Matthew's Hardball) had to say: "This is also an opportunity for Barack Obama to just declare: 'This guy has his own views, I have my own views and the American people are not stupid enough to confuse the two'."

To which Matthews replied: "I think he [Wright] has become his [Obama's] negative surrogate."

Lizza followed up:

There is no guilt by association. This guy [Wright] has one set of views, Obama has another set of views. If the views match up, then it's fair game. But the guy's [Obama] been in politics since the mid-'90s, he has a record in the State Senate in Illinois, he has a record in the U.S. Senate. He's laid out an agenda as a presidential candidate. Where does (sic) his views match up with Jeremiah Wright and why as journalists are we confusing the two? This seems totally unfair.

Jill Zuckerman of the Chicago Tribune responded that Lizza was "being a little high-minded because this is politics and his [Obama's] opponents are going to use this against him to raise questions in the minds of people who are undecided."

Lizza agreed.

Senator Obama does have permission now to say whatever he needs to about Reverend Wright and has referred to his "outrageousness" as having shocked him. He has expressed that "obviously, whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this." I think we can assume their association is unlikely to continue. I also think, and perhaps this is the cynic in me, that Reverend Wright is doing this for and about himself and will continue to do so as long as the media gives him a platform.

Senator Obama:

I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he [Wright] expressed. I believe that they are wrong; I think they are destructive and to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect his views to be attributed to me.

John McCain, on the other hand, thinks the endorsement he sought from John Hagee is just fine as it is and does not intend to disassociate himself from Pastor Hagee.

More on this topic at THE ENVIRONMENTALIST