Often, opportunity only knocks once. You’ve got to listen, hard, to understand what you’ve been offered, and it’s easy to let the moment pass you by while you weigh alternatives and options. If you’re Barack Obama, you need to find a way to distance yourself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who is turning into an albatross around your otherwise soon-to-be-Presidential neck.

Today, Jeremiah Wright himself gave Senator Obama that opportunity. A lot of Americans were willing to cut Obama some slack and consider that maybe the several seconds’ worth of highly offensive remarks Wright has been caught on tape saying were either taken out of context or that they needed to be understood in a larger context, the context of Black rage and anger over sustained historical inequities with their roots in slavery, and in the context of teaching and social activism as part of Black religious traditions. “Maybe,” some were saying, “maybe it’s okay to use hyperbole in that sort of setting, and let’s take a look at the bigger picture to at least try to understand what was going on.”

But if it’s sort of, not-really-but-kind-of-anyway okay to preach “God damn America” in a church while sermonizing about racial inequality, it’s something else entirely to go to the National Press Club and give the talk thta Rev. Wright did today. It’s not okay, can never be okay, to take to the mainstream airwaves and simply billow hate, racism, bizarre conspiracy theories, and some downright embarassing ignorance. Which is why Obama has an opportunity here.

“Friends, I heard Rev. Wright yesterday at the National Press Club. I was dumbstruck. Absolutely astonished by what I heard. You’ve got to understand, this was a man I looked up to. This was a man who’s said and done things that I found inspirational.

“But to see him like that! To hear him say things like that! Things no educated person should possibly think. Things so obviously false and wrong that they defy imagination.

“After hearing him yesterday, I was sad. I was sad because I realized that, whether I win this nomination or not, whether I win this election or not, I can’t go back to his church. He’s proven that he’s a man who won’t learn, who won’t be part of what it takes for America to move forward. Even after all of this political mess we’ve been through, he hasn’t learned anything from it. So I can’t have that man be my pastor after that.

“One day, whether that’s in two years or eight, I’ll be going back to Chicago. And when I do, I won’t be going back to Rev. Wright’s church.

Think it would work, Readers? If he said something like that, would you believe that he had really divorced himself from this nutjob? I know I would feel a lot better if he did, if only because Wright now very clearly deserves it.

Why should Obama throw Wright under the bus now, when he refused to do so before? The correct answer is not “better late than never” but instead “Because now Wright has gone so far over the line and in so public a way that failing to disown him really will hurt.”

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. How about 125 a week to be his speech writer ala Arthur Kennedy in “Elmer Gantry”?

  2. An oddly harmonious association — Arthur Kennedy’s character was not a believer, and was sometimes critical of Gantry but also sometimes rushed to Gantry’s defense. Which is exactly how I feel and behave towards both religious believers and candidate Obama.I’d need quite a bit more than that, though, to be on staff to put words in Obama’s mouth for real. No, I’ll leave that sort of thing to the true believers and confine my remarks to these pages. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind being as good-looking as Arthur Kennedy was.

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