Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama Addresses Controversy Over Controversial Pastor

At the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Barack Obama sounded very "political" on the subject of his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

In a speech today in Philadelphia, Democratic front-runner Barack Obama defended the words of his long-time pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

More or less.

Obama, who has finally begun to feel the heat of a campaign in which he is now the clear leader, had come under fire for comments made over the past several years - particularly in the wake of 9/11 - by the man whose words, Obama said, "expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country."

Wright, who has been a controversial figure in the pulpit of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ since becoming pastor in 1985 has stunned many in recent weeks by his comments over the pulpit. A random sampling making the news services do have an inflammatory tone:

"The government gives [black Americans] drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America'. No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people." Wright went on, "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye."

Last Sunday, outside the church, an unnamed member of the congregation defended Wright saying, "I wouldn't call [his comments] radical. I call it being black in America."

Quoted on ABC News.com, Bill Burton, a press spokesman for the Obama campaign said, "There are things [Wright] says with which Sen. Obama deeply disagrees. But now that he is retired, that doesn't detract from Sen. Obama's affection for Rev. Wright or his appreciation for the good works he has done."

Wright announced his retirement from the pulpit of the Chicago church last month.

Last week, at a Chicago fundraiser just outside the Cabrini-Greene housing projects, Obama supporter Frank Kulle told Pamela Jones, a reporter for the CBS television affiliate in Chicago, "I suppose some people will listen to it, and I think the candidates have to be tested in some way and this is just part of rough-and-tumble politics."

And in this time of political testing, Barack Obama took to the rhetoric of politics, neither embracing nor condoning the rhetoric of the man considered the candidate's spiritual mentor.

"[Wright's words] expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America." And in the same speech:

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."

In a March 11 letter to the New York Times - a response to an earlier interview of him - which Jeremiah Wright stated was, "...one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years.", the man at the center of the controversy called his spiritual protege, "...a man who was a devout Christian... whose Christianity was not just 'in word only'."

With the Pennsylvania primary now just two weeks from today, the time of Barack Obama, politician, is at hand. Will today's attempt to disarm a political bomb before it went off be Obama's last? Or with the big finish of the race for the nomination give Hillary Clinton and her camp the opening they've been looking for by the time the August Convention rolls around?

Only time will tell.

Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday

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