The Denver Post editorial board; April 30, 2008
Just six weeks ago, Sen. Barack Obama said he could no more disown his former pastor than he could disown his own white grandmother.
Until, of course, he did.
Obama finally (and firmly) disavowed the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright this week. But the moment came only after sensing his presidential bid could be undone by the simmering controversy.
In March, in his eloquent speech on race in America, Obama defended his pastor as a man of otherwise good deeds. While poignant, his original defense of a man he’s known for two decades made Tuesday’s political stiff- arm reek of desperation politics.
Obama’s handling of this mess not only calls into question his judgment, but eventually could strike at the core of whether he’s fit to be president.
As late as Monday, after Wright again suggested the U.S. government invented AIDS to eliminate minorities and defended the bigotry of Louis Farrakhan, Obama seemed to shrug it off. But by Tuesday, after video of Wright’s new rants played in what seemed like an endless loop on 24-hour news channels, Obama the politician finally emerged.
“The insensitivity and the outrageousness of the statements shocked me and surprised me,” Obama said. Wright’s rants, he continued, contradict “everything that I’m about and who I am. . . . The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.”
Does Obama really expect Americans to believe that it was Wright, and not the prevailing political winds, that changed overnight?
He could have diffused the situation had he been more straightforward at the very beginning. Instead, the senator has struggled to explain away his relationship with Wright for months, and it’s only raised more questions for voters about who Obama surrounds himself with and who might have his ear as president.
Both Obama and Wright have dismissed the notion that the reverend was his “spiritual mentor.” Yet Wright officiated at Obama’s wedding, baptized his two children, and one of his sermons inspired the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Knowing the fiery reverend was a political liability, the senator uninvited him from the official launch of his presidential campaign. Yet he prayed privately with him moments before his announcement.
Now we’re supposed to actually believe that Obama was surprised by Wright’s views?
This dust-up got personal Monday when Wright implied Obama quietly believes in Wright’s views and suggested that Obama’s speech on race last month was nothing but politics.
Obama, trying to win over some of the white, working-class voters who have been casting their ballots for Hillary Clinton, was just doing what politicians do, Wright said.
The senator may not have been doing what politicians do with his artful speech on race last month. But when Obama tossed his one-time friend under the bus Tuesday, he was definitely doing what politicians do.
Our parents teach us at an early age that we will be judged by the company we keep. That’s true in life, but especially in politics.