After more than a month of studied silence, the reverend has stepped into the public spotlight to defend his controversial remarks on race in America -- and make veiled criticisms of Sen. Barack Obama in the process. On Obama's repudiation of his incendiary statements, the minister had this to say: "He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician."
Obama reacted angrily to his former pastor's comments, calling them "a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth." Jonah Goldberg gleefully celebrated Wright's coming-out as "every bit as radical as his detractors claimed."
They're not the only ones with choice words about Wright's recent performances:
The Times' own Top of the Ticket blog asks, "Was Jeremiah Wright's speech set up by a Clinton supporter?"
... we should have been paying a little less attention to Wright's speech and the histrionics of his ensuing news conference and taken a peek at ... who was sitting next to him at the head table for the National Press Club event.
It was the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds ... an ardent longtime booster of Obama's sole remaining competitor for the Democratic nomination, none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. It won't take very much at all for Obama supporters to see in Wright's carefully arranged Washington event that was so damaging to Obama the strategic, nefarious manipulation of the Clintons.
Jeffrey Weiss over at the Dallas Morning News' religion blog wonders why pundits can't take Obama out of the equation:
After the NAACP speech, the all-news networks talking heads were mostly falling all over themselves to do political analysis about whether or not the speech would help or hurt Barack Obama, rather than attempt even a moment of thought about the meaning of what Wright actually said.
The Caucus over at the NY Times does a roundup of its own, observing:
Voices around the blogosphere say they’re tired of the media kerfuffle surrounding Barack Obama and his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., but they certainly keep writing about it.
They also say they’re sick of the expression “thrown under the bus,” but they keep using it.
For some Wright-Obama commentary with both local and international flavor, Ha'aretz's Shmuel Rosner invokes the "Bradley Effect," but also snarks at the minister's comments about Israel:
At moments he came off as mocking and somewhat vain, but made an effort to soften the hardliner perception his speech had left behind. He was also asked about his views on Israel. "Apartheid?" he asked, adding that Jimmy Carter used this term, not him.
Israel, Wright said, "has a right to exist". His only desire was that the Israelis and Palestinians live in peace. He made no reference to the sermon in which he connected the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the September 11th attacks, but he did make sure to emphasize his "Jewish friends". As it turns out, Jeremiah Wright also has a couple of those.
Daniel Nichanian at the Huffington Post compares Wright's position to one of the 2000 presidential election's most beleaguered political players:
Wright has no obligation to put Obama's interest above his own; dragged through the mud for news, the pastor has an opening to make people listen to him and hear the full context of his theology. Those who today profess themselves appalled that Wright would throw Obama under the bus miss the point that Wright does not think of himself as having any allegiance to Obama or to his election, just as Ralph Nader had no any allegiance to the Democratic Party making it hard to understand why 2004 was "a betrayal."
Wonkette agrees, in an offbeat sort of way:
He's blowing open the racial politics that Obama wants to close and claiming that Obama is insincere when he rejects Wright's "extreme sermons"; he's trying to balance a deserved self-defense with the collateral damage that that brings on Obama. He has an ego. Most importantly, he's just some old preacher and not Obama's surrogate father. He can say whatever he wants and Barry will just have to deal with it. Individual people have a right to defend themselves, and politicians have a right to disown them. That's all, goodnight.
While Sen. McCain had the plug pulled on the North Carolina Republican Party's ad highlighting the Obama-Wright connection, it seems the state party leaders will be getting the airtime they wanted for free.