The audacity of hate

ABC News reports that Barack Obama’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, says blacks should not sing “God Bless America” but “God damn America.” Wright thinks God should damn America for “treating our citizens as less than human” and “for [acting] like she is God and she is supreme.” Wright also told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism. Among the “terrorism” Wright thinks the U.S. has supported is “terrorism against the Palestinians,” by which he must mean Israel’s efforts to defend itself.
Wright has been Obama’s pastor for 20 years. He married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, The Audacity of Hope. Obama says he was not at the church on the day Wright blamed America for 9/11. “It sounds like he was trying to be provocative,” is the best Obama can offer on this one.
More generally, according to ABC, Obama has said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” This suggests that Obama considers Wright’s statements about America (that it treats its citizens as less than human and brought 9/11 on itself) defensible. Obama’s campaign aides are closer to the mark when they describe Wright’s comments as “inflammatory rhetoric.”
Obama has also said that Wright is “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” But who takes spiritual guidance from hate-spewing old uncles?
Wright isn’t just someone with whom Obama is friendly. To criticize Obama for having friends with controversial, or even abhorrent, views would constitute guilt by association. But Wright is Obama’s spiritual leader. To be sure, no thinking person always agrees with his minister, priest, or rabbi on political and social issues. But it’s unusual for a thinking person to retain an affiliation with a church whose leader attacks his country unless, at a minimum, that person considers those attacks not “particularly controversial.”
Obama should explain why he retained his apparently close affiliation with Wright and his church in more persuasive terms than he has to date. Otherwise, I think it’s reasonable to draw adverse inferences based on that affiliation, including the inference that Obama doesn’t quite measure up as a “post-racial” figure.
UPDATE: Fox News has just posted a substantial story on Pastor Wright along with some video of Wright in action. The video is worth watching, though Obama isn’t responsible for Wright’s statements about the Clinton.
FURTHER UPDATE: Here’s the video:



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