Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rev. Wright or Rev. Wrong?

In a speech today, Barack Obama tried to thread the needle between absorbing a lot of damage from Rev. Wright's controversial rants and abandoning his long term pastor and friend. It is extremely ironic that the biggest threat to the Obama campaign is coming - dramatically - from somebody who you would think would be very sympathetic to Obama's quest for the presidency and therefore would.... be quiet rather than loud and shrill.

Of course part of the deal here is that Obama to some extent must remake himself in an image more palatable to the white voters he'll need for a victory. I certainly don't believe Obama thinks the US Government is as dispicable as Wright seems to suggest in many sermons, but it's also reasonable to think that Obama is toning down his own left wing sensibilities to "fit in".

On the other hand I'm guessing that Obama has been for the most part very straightforward about his views in all this. His affection for Wright does not stem from a shared worldview, rather from a respect for the influence that leaders like Wright have had on the African American Community. Obama would probably prefer that people respond to reasoned, quiet reflection about the world. But they do not - many people respond to loud and irrational conspiratorial ranting filled with hyperbole and odd allusion. Wright is a master of this style and one can hardly fault Obama for paying attention.

Voters need to pay attention to what Obama says, not what Wright says. If Obama said "I agree with Wright" that would be news, but simply having an associate make some outrageous claim is not very worthy news.