Just before the Monday evening news, Barack Obama issued the meekest possible comment on Reverend Wright, saying the man doesn’t speak for him and that Obama understands how folks might be offended. (He spoke for only six minutes and took three questions, five less than he permitted at his “you had eight questions” Rezko presser earlier in the year.) Weak tea of this kind seems to be the campaign’s chosen approach, not merely a filler to get through the first news cycle.
There is evidently nothing Wright can say that would cause Obama to break, once and for all, with him. And no explanation comes to mind to help us understand how Wright concealed his world view from Obama for so long.
But the dilemma is not one easily resolved. If Obama took advice from an unlikely source and denounced Wright, what would be the explanation for the delay? What did he learn since the Philadelphia speech that changed his mind? And all those folks who demanded that Obama stand up to the trouble-making media and Vast Right Wing Conspiracy would be none too pleased.
Indeed, this is a problem entirely of Obama’s own making. By sticking with Wright and declining the first opportunity, which is always the best opportunity, to reject the hate-mongering preacher, he placed his bet that voters could be wowed and cowed by a high-minded speech on racial unity. That speech garnered some gushing reviews. But it may have turned out to be a fatally flawed strategy.
Even liberal pundits recognize the impact:
For Senator Obama, the re-emergence of Rev. Wright has been devastating. The senator has been trying desperately to bolster his standing with skeptical and even hostile white working-class voters. When the story line of the campaign shifts almost entirely to the race-in-your-face antics of someone like Mr. Wright, Mr. Obama’s chances can only suffer.Beyond that, the apparent helplessness of the Obama campaign in the face of the Wright onslaught contributes to the growing perception of the candidate as weak, as someone who is unwilling or unable to fight aggressively on his own behalf.
Who could have possibly guessed that that in the age of digital media everyone would be able to put all the pieces together and conclude that Obama’s post-racial rhetoric is utterly at odds with his experience in Wright’s church? Looks like the “21st century candidate” (Donna Brazile’s term) is turning out to be hopelessly 20th century.