Barack Obama needs to deal more forcefully with the viral video that’s going around of his pastor, Rev. Jerimiah Wright, suggesting blacks should sing “God Damn America” instead of “God Bless America.” As hilzoy notes , it’s not Wright’s anger that’s at issue:
I do not feel, myself, like lecturing African Americans about the precise level of anger they should feel towards this country, or the extent to which they should identify with it. My ancestors were not kidnapped and brought here against their will, nor were they enslaved, or sold away from their parents or children, or raped by their alleged owners as a matter of course, or branded, etc. etc., etc. Nor, once freed, were they subjected to what can only be described as terrorism for a century. The likes of me do not face persistent residential discrimination, and while, as a woman, I do face some discrimination in employment, I think it’s considerably milder than what African Americans have to deal with.
However, hilzoy goes on to point out exactly why Obama needs to more forcefully address other comments by Wright:
Obama has to continue to repudiate this view clearly and in no uncertain terms. Because whatever Rev. Wright actually meant, this is being portrayed as his blaming America for 9/11. And that’s just unacceptable.
… I think that some of the things he says (about Hillary Clinton) are true. But the overall point is not: Hillary Clinton has not been penalized because of her skin color in particular. It is: Obama doesn’t fit the mold, and Hillary Clinton does. He has faced obstacles; she has not. And that’s just blind to the very real effects of sexism in this country.
Moreover, unlike Rev. Wright’s other comments, these are explicitly about the Presidential race, and in particular about Obama’s opponent in the primaries. Since Rev. Wright has a role in Obama’s campaign, albeit an apparently honorific one, I think one has to see comments he makes about the presidential race in a different light, and hold them to a higher standard. For that reason, these comments are the ones that bother me most. They are, as I said, in some ways the mirror image of Ferraro’s comments, which I also found genuinely objectionable, and which made me think that Clinton should ask Ferraro to resign from her finance committee. I think the same here.
I’m certain Obama doesn’t share Wright’s more excessive claims, and I feel for the bind he’s in. Wright is about to retire and Obama doesn’t want to kick his ass on the way out the door. Obama has likened Wright to the old uncle who often says the wrong thing, which is actually kind of touching and has the ring of truth. And he’s right that the press is cherry picking quotes. But the situation is what it is: inflammatory and divisive, thus contrary to the central message of his campaign.
Update: Here’s an excerpt from a statement Obama just released to HuffPo:
Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he’s been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.
Let me repeat what I’ve said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.
That’s good enough for me.