WASHINGTON -- Because John McCain and other legislators worry that they are easily corrupted, there are legal limits to the monetary contributions that anyone can make to political candidates. There are, however, no limits to the rhetorical contributions that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright can make to McCain's campaign.
Because Wright is a gift determined to keep on giving, this question arises: Can persons opposed to Barack Obama's candidacy justly make use of Wright's invariably interesting interventions in the campaign? The answer is: Certainly, because Wright's paranoias tell us something -- exactly what remains to be explored -- about his 20-year parishioner.
In Monday's speech at the National Press Club, Wright repeated -- decorously, by his standards, but clearly -- his accusation, made the Sunday after 9/11, that America got what it deserved. His Monday answer to a question about that accusation was: "Whatsoever you sow, that you also shall reap" and "you cannot do terrorism on other people and expect them never to come back on you."
As evidence that "our government is capable of doing anything," he strongly hinted that he has intellectually respectable corroboration -- he mentioned several publications -- for his original charge that the U.S. government is guilty of "inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color." But on Monday he insisted that he is not anti-American: It is, he said, Americans' government, not the American public, that is a genocidal perpetrator of terrorism. So, he now denies that America has a representative government -- that it represents the public. He believes that elections constantly and mysteriously -- and against the public's will -- produce a genocidal, terroristic government.
On Monday, Wright also espoused the racialist doctrine that blacks have "different" learning styles than do others. This doctrine of racially different brains, or of an unalterably different black culture, is a doctrine today used to justify various soft bigotries of low expectations regarding blacks, and especially black children. It has a long pedigree as a rationalization for injustices. Slaveholders and, later, segregationists loved it.
Obama should be questioned about whether he agrees about "different" learning styles. It is, however, predictable that journalistic and political choruses will attempt to suppress such questioning by suggesting that it is somehow illegitimate. The "daisy ad" and "Willie Horton" will be darkly mentioned.