Commentary Magazine


Who Is This Man?

In an interview with Major Garrett Friday night on Fox News, a clearly uncomfortable Barack Obama acknowledges that he regularly attended and contributed to Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity Church of Christ. Garrett gets him to acknowledge that at the start of his presidential campaign he was aware of “one or two” of the objectionable comments (it would be nice to know which ones, and why those were insufficient to alert him to Rev. Wright’s noxious views), yet still put Wright on his religious leadership committee. Obama admits after a follow up question that if he heard the statements “repeated” at the time he would have left the church. (Again, he would have needed lots of these comments to convince him that something was askew?) Indeed, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Obama was aware of Wright’s controversial views.

Some may think this is all a right-wing feeding frenzy, but it is worth noting that ABC news started the news cycle with the clips of the Wright sermons and that Obama spent his Friday night on no less than three cable news network shows. It is foolish to think this is a story that won’t live on for awhile. If you think liberals are concerned, you are right, as the comment sections on a number of blogs confirm.

All of this leaves one wondering. Was Obama really clueless about the septic nature of the man he knew, his mentor, for thirty years? (If so, you have to wonder about those touted people skills.) Or, more likely, was this someone trying to have it both ways- ingratiating himself with Chicago’s African American community and now squeamish about being tagged with the views of one of its most famous preachers?

As if that were not enough, part of Obama’s Friday night “bad news dump” included an extensive interview with the Chicago Tribune in which he revealed that Tony Rezko has raised a quarter of a million dollars for him during his political career. Once again he pleads a mistake in judgment. He says, “The mistake, by the way, was not just engaging in a transaction with Tony because he was having legal problems. The mistake was because he was a contributor and somebody who was involved in politics.”As for the land deal (in which Rezko bought an adjoining lot next to the home Obama purchased), Obama denies in the interview that there was a connection between the two transactions, but then allows “perhaps [Rezko] thought this would strengthen our relationship, that he was doing me a favor.” Yeah, perhaps. (Obama also concedes there was yet another lapse in judgment when he wanted a fence to be erected between his house and the lot, and Rezko paid the cost.)

If nothing else, all of this confirms the Clinton team line: maybe we don’t know Obama so well after all. Is he really the racial healer he makes himself out to be? (As Rod Dreher put it, “Obama’s deep personal connection to the Rev. Wright challenges that assumption, and makes people wonder who Obama really is, and what he really believes in — and whether or not he can stand up to racialist demagogues and special-pleaders.”) Or, maybe the real issue is that he is hopelessly naïve and cannot assess the character and motives of even those closest to him.