Chicago Sun-Times
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After "show of disrespect," Obama denounces Wright


WASHINGTON -- On Monday, a combative Rev. Jeremiah Wright noted -- with some smugness -- at a press conference here that Sen. Barack Obama "did not denounce me. He distanced himself from some of my remarks." Following what Obama called Wright's "rants" at that session, Obama -- with some anger -- denounced his pastor "very clearly and unequivocally" on Tuesday.

(This Lynn Sweet column is from the April 30 print Sun-Times)

Obama cut the cord with Wright, who retires in May as senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side, after Wright's first major encounter with the news media resulted in what Obama called a "spectacle" that was "appalling" and "a show of disrespect" to him and an "insult" to his campaign.

On Monday afternoon, Obama's strongest reaction was only that Wright "does not speak for me." But Obama had not seen the whole Wright session at the National Press Club or read a transcript. Once he did Monday night, an Obama aide said, he decided he needed to respond more forcefully on Tuesday.

There was a sense of urgency in trying to tamp down Wright because Obama faces crucial elections in Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday, and undecided superdelegates -- party leaders and elected officials -- whose votes he needs if he is to beat Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Within Obama circles there was concern whether Wright will come out swinging or sideline himself, prompted because Obama, at a hastily scheduled press conference in North Carolina, finally disowned Wright.

That was a move Obama very consciously decided not to do in March in Philadelphia, when he delivered a major speech on race and his relationship with Wright after a series of controversial remarks Wright had made in videotaped sermons surfaced. He said in that speech he could not "disown" Wright any more than he could "disown his white grandmother" who had some racist views.

Wright's fiery words created a crisis in the Obama campaign because he said in those sermons the U.S. government spread the AIDS virus, shared responsibility for the 9/11 attacks and in one quote that has been constantly replayed, said "God damn America."

Last February, Obama scrambled to cement support within the Jewish community after a magazine connected to Wright honored Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a decision that Obama strongly disagreed with. At the time, Obama downplayed Wright, saying he "is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with."

But given an opportunity to repudiate these remarks during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club -- following a non-controversial speech about the black church -- Wright only repeated them.

"His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church," said Obama.

Obama also said that he had given Wright the "benefit of the doubt" in his Philadelphia speech because of the "enormous good" he has done at Trinity.

"But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the United States' wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me, they rightly offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today. "

Obama also was angered at Wright's assertion that Obama criticized him in order to get elected and "he does what politicians do."

"At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough. That's a show of disrespect to me. It's -- it is also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign," Obama said.


The furor is not so much about Rev. Wright, whose words are not unique, and only a bit from the more extreme about Sen. Obama about not walking away from him years ago.

I do not think I am alone in thinking Sen. Obama should have said, when this first appeared, "I disagree with some of his views, but my respect for him and his achievements allows me to continue to hear his arguments." Instead, we heard "I never heard him say any of that," followed by "I never paid attention," through "I do not think his views unusual," to "I only knew this man twenty years ago for a little while, the last nineteen-plus years were just a dream."

His poll numbers were dropping, of course he denounced him.

Geraldine Ferraro was dismissed by Clinton, Don Imus was fired from his job...both after the publishing of 30 second sound bytes. Why has it taken Senator Obama this long to figure out the Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

Let's all be gratefull to Rev. Wright that he served...apparently the U.S. Marines. But that was decades ago.

Obama gives evidence of having being closely allied with Rev. Wright in more recent times, and Senator Obama needs to explain why it has taken him this long to call out Wright for what he my view...nothing more than a verbal bully and a con man using religion for financial gain from his generous congregation.

When Obama choose Rev. Wright church , he needed a church with influence, and he got it, until it turned on him. As a product of the Illinois/Chicago political arena, Obama got the exposure to other influential people some good , mostly bad and that to will come to haunt him. Obama is not naive, he knew well about the Reverend rhetoric. That is why he uninvited him to the announcement of his candidacy, but yet met with him in the basement of the Capitol for his blessing and made him part of his support group. Just like in choosing his friends (Ayers, Rezko and more) the were influential in the educational and political scene and capable to set him up money , even tained. Once they caused a problem in his campaign (the ultimate goal the Presidency) he disowns them. Two characteristics need by a President. trust and good judgment, Obama lacks both. He is unelectable, the Republicans see , why can't the American people!

I'm glad Obama finally spoke out against Reverend Wright's more controversial statements. This is the lesson that the Democrats have to learn if they are to win in November--answer any unfair attack immediately! I think John Kerry would be President today if he's fired back against the lying Swiftboaters hard and fast. I am more than willing to vote for Obama or Hillary, although Obama is my first choice because he did not vote for Bush's folly in Iraq.

The reason Obama did not vote for Bush's folly was because he wasn't in the position to cast a vote at that time. He has since then voted in favor of all the money requested by Bush for the war. At the time of the initial vote, the majority of Americans were clammering for retribution against the terrorists, elected officials are supposed to do what their constituents want. I am not saying that is right or wrong. I am trying to make the point of examining the context of the vote and what the timbre of the country was at that time. Hindsight is always 20-20.


Judith, How did the Swiftboaters lie? You libs are always looking for conspiracy. Just like you are blaming Hillary for what Rev Wright said.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 30, 2008 9:55 AM.

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