Obama took action sooner than I thought he would. I’m glad for that. We should never have second-guessed Obama based on Wright and religion in the first place, since we, at the least, knew that Obama was not a brainwashed cult member, and we knew that Obama had no intention of establishing a theocracy. I certainly don’t have expectations that churches or ministers will be politically correct. Obama, at the outset, rejected anti-Semitism. Obama, right off the bat, expressed a very different view of America than what Wright put forward. Obama had every right to remain in that church, no matter what people might think of Wright. That Obama was being judged because of Wright’s words just made no sense, when Obama’s words were different. If there’s any evidence that someone was unduly influenced by Wright’s tirades against America, it’s Mrs. Obama. Her not-so-glowing characterizations of America have much greater potential for attracting legitimate criticism because she speaks as an Obama surrogate, whereas, Wright never did.
Watching the pundits last night, I can see that a number of them are willing to finally put this in the rear-view mirror, and the majority of them are now drawing a line that separates Wright from Obama.
And while a few conservative pundits, like Sean Hannity and Hugh Hewitt, are just too stubborn to abandon a flawed argument, I think most conservative pundits are eager to move on to other topics.
Clinton operatives, however, are still trying to milk the anti-Wright sentiments for all they’re worth. In particular, on Larry King, Lanny Davis, while conceding that Wright’s views are not Obama’s views, is still harping on what the whole episode reveals about Obama’s judgment. That’s just ridiculous. Obama said that Wright wasn’t vetted by his campaign. Before now, I didn’t know the campaign of any candidate, anywhere in the United States, was expected to vet the pastors of the candidates to make sure they were politically correct. If we did, Billy Graham might never have been invited to the White House by any President. Religion is a private observance that we have no right to police, so I utterly reject the view of Lanny Davis.
However, if the criticism of Obama that’s rooted in Wright’s rhetoric continues to linger, it will take the form of the narrative that Lanny Davis puts forward about judgment. Where Obama has truly turned the page is that I don’t think Wright will do any more damage to Obama than has already been done. Even if Wright continues to jump into the spotlight and say more outrageous things, they will no longer shadow Obama. Obama has cast off the shadow.
It’s clear to me that the people trying to do the most harm to Obama’s reputation aren’t Republicans. They are Clintons. Of course, the reputation of the Clintons is pretty bad, so that’s why they work so hard to sully the reputation of any opponent they face. Just look at the Bill Clinton administration, where the Clintons demonized women who, in the past, had been the object of Bill’s libido. Look at the demonization of Ken Starr. One can even look at the demonization of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It’s a credit to Barack Obama that the Clintons haven’t found enough information to use against Barack in their attempts to demonize him.
Behind the scenes, I think Clinton sympathizers did the bidding of the Clintons in setting the trap for Rev. Wright at the National Press Club. I think the Clintons seized an opportunity when they sensed that Wright loves being in the spotlight, and the more he was in the spotlight, the more he’d be robbing Obama of the spotlight, and the greater the likelihood that Wright might do serious damage to Obama. The interview with Bill Moyers was a walk in the park for Rev. Wright, and I think it made Wright a little more cocky by the time he spoke to the NAACP. The NAACP audience was not one that was going to be hostile toward Wright, so since that went fairly well, I think Wright was lulled into a false sense of security and an overconfidence in his own ability to play the media like it was his own violin. I think the Clintons had a hand in extending the speaking invitation to Wright, I think Wright was emboldened to accept the invitation because of his glowing self-assessment of the two prior speaking engagements, and I think that Clinton sympathizers at the National Press Club may have been egging Wright on with applause and laughter in the hopes that Wright would become more strident and say things that were more outrageous, and it worked. Rev. Wright lacked judgment, though, because if there is an audience that’s not going to embrace a religious perspective, it would be a room full of journalists. Why wouldn’t Wright know that?
Obama still has a lot of work to do. His body language during the press conference about Wright wasn’t leaderly. He clearly was agitated. His usual facile way with words escaped him. Clinton will try to propagate the narrative that she’s a leader, so as Obama needs to seize the spotlight, he also needs to epitomize power and leadership going forward in order to put the Clintons behind him. That’s the next page Obama needs to turn.