Tell It Like It Is

This morning Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright is in the news again. They did a segment on him on Good Morning America. And the main attention is to a video that has surfaced of a sermon Wright gave in January. Fox News got it and here you can see it on Ben Smith’s blog at The Politico. It’s racially charged and will certainly get a lot of play, though I’m not sure there’s much in it that doesn’t come out of the sermon tradition of African-American Christianity with a 60s twist. Last week, Obama, who has denounced various of Wright’s statements, told a Jewish audience, Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” Watch it yourself and make your own judgments. For myself, when watching something like this, it is often difficult to distinguish between what I actually find offensive myself and what it is ingrained in me to believe others will find offensive. He’s certainly not doing Obama any favors by talking like this about Obama in the midst of this campaign. Particulars aside, the political relevance is to show Wright as angry black man; and to tie him to Obama.

If Obama’s the nominee, we will see no end of this kind of stuff. And there’s probably some small benefit of getting a preview. But the simple fact is that we wouldn’t be seeing this stuff now if it weren’t for the fact that this is the kind of campaign Hillary Clinton’s campaign has decided to wage — often directly and at other times indirectly by not reining it in in her supporters when it crops up on its own. Wright is news today because Ferraro’s been news yesterday. Are her comments racist? That’s a loaded, too copious, word. And there’ve been cases where the Clinton team has gotten a bum rap on these matters. What I do know, however, is that Clinton’s campaign and her surrogates have injected the subject of Obama’s race into this campaign too many times now for it to be credible to believe that it is anything but a conscious strategy.

Lincoln’s quote of Matthew 18:7 is instructive here: “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.”

It is insufficient to say that Republicans will do this in the fall so there’s nothing to be lost in hearing it now from Democrats. Because by doing this now, as a Democratic campaign, they are mainstreaming the message. If Obama is the nominee, when this emerges again, no doubt in a harsher, more rancid incarnation, it will come pre-approved by dint of a Democratic campaign’s imprimatur.

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