The Wright Controversy: What We Learned
It seems that the Jeremiah Wright controversy has played itself out, that there (probably) will be no new startling revelations. We know that Barack Obama attended Wright’s church for decades, that he did hear some of Wright’s controversial sermons, and that he rejects them. We know everything to know about the Wright controversy. So what does it tell us about Barack Obama?
First, it tells us that Obama is untruthful. A key component of his immediate spin after the story broke was that he was unaware of the content of Wright’s sermons. Apparently, he realized that this sounded pretty thin, and by the time Tuesday rolled around, he was aware of everything that went on. That is, of course, a blatant contradiction. Obama lied, and given that his two stories completely contradicted each other, must have lied knowingly and cold-bloodedly.
Second, that Obama will not distance himself in any meaningful way from Jeremiah Wright. He condemned the comments, but not the man. He said that the comments were “wrong” and “divisive” (which is a little bit like saying that the Civil War was a divisive time. It was, but it’s quite an understatement), but refused to disown Jeremiah Wright. He was quite clear on that point.
Some on the left (and few on the right, like Andrew Sullivan*), think that Obama was right to refuse to disown Wright, that his support of Wright was an impressive act of political courage. I’m not quite sure why, and most of Obama’s defenders simply repeat how brave it was of Obama not to reject Wright, but I gather that the reasoning involves Obama’s grace and hope, and his “honest” treatment of race.
This is absolute nonsense. Wright probably has done a great deal of good. So have many people who were nonetheless despicable. George Wallace had some good small government ideals. Malcolm X spoke out against very real racial injustice. Joe McCarthy was correct to warn the nation of Communists.
That doesn’t change the fact that these people were a racist, a racist, and a liar (sorry, McCarthy was liar), respectively. Any good they may have done was irretrievably tarnished by their bad.
It is obvious that Wright’s hateful comments were not made because he maybe got a little carried away. When he claimed that the U.S. government made HIV, that the U.S. government would plant WMD’s in Iraq, and when he declared that 9/11 was the result of “chickens coming home to roost”, he obviously believed his statements. These are not just harmless eccentricities—if one believes that America had 9/11 coming, it would tend to influence one’s entire worldview.
Finally, Obama’s speech should remove any idea that Obama is a post-racial candidate. He grouped the entire black community with Jeremiah Wright. (“I can no more disown him [Wright] than I can disown the black community”). Apart from implying that all black people are crazy racists, Obama’s comments showed that he believes that blacks are one distinct segment of the population segregated from the population at large. If Wright’s church represents to black community (and I really hope it doesn’t), then black and white societies are separate, and can never be integrated together.
This concept is horribly offensive. In fact, it isn’t much more enlightened than George Wallace’s stand on integration. The idea that blacks must remain, for the foreseeable future, voluntarily apart from white society is dreadful. It would ensure bitterness and poverty. If this nation is to achieve racial harmony, the black community must join the white community, and the white community must join the black community, to create a single, joint culture. The idea that blacks and whites can form two distinct communities (which Obama evidently supports), would lead only to disaster.
*I know some conservatives consider Sullivan a crazy liberal. While he has some liberal tendencies, he is really more of a crazy conservative, the kind who supports Ron Paul.